Skip To The Main Content

Digital Assistants for Business


Friday March 23, 2018

In just a few years, digital assistants have become common place in homes, with adults and kids asking alarm-clock-sized devices about the weather, their favorite songs and much more. This week, IBM announced its own take on the trend with Watson Assistant. Like the others, Watson Assistant combines artificial intelligence, the cloud and the Internet of Things (IOT) to help users. In contrast, Watson Assistant is meant for other companies that want to build voice-activated virtual assistants in their own products.

“Want your hotel’s rooms to remember a guest’s preferences for air-con? Or your car’s dashboard to be controllable via voice interface? IBM’s message to companies is: We can help you build that,” writes James Vincent for The Verge.

IBM promises Watson Assistant will strengthen consumers’ connection to the brand through the experience, serve personalized experiences made possible with continual learning, and protect data to ensure secure and personalized interactions.

This last point is especially relevant this week given the recent Cambridge Analytica and Facebook breach. “If you start running the entire world through Alexa, it’s an enormous amount of data and control to give to one company,” IBM’s Vice President of Watson IOT Bret Greenstein said.

Vincent writes that instead of pooling information on users’ activities across multiple domains, each integration of Watson Assistant keeps its data to itself.

This week, at THINK 2018, IBM’s business and technology event, HARMON demonstrated how it used Watson Assistant to create a digital cockpit experience in a Maserati GranCabrio. Other companies using Watson Assistant include Airwire, Munich Airport, Kaon Media and The Royal Bank of Scotland.

“Delivered through the IBM Cloud, Watson Assistant can be infused in to a new set of industry-specific applications, including two designed for automotive and hospitality, which businesses can white-label and brand as they chose,” writes Kareem Yusuf, general manager, Watson IOT for IBM on the IBM THINK blog. “Automotive manufacturers can now offer the smart assistant experience in their vehicles, and hotels can offer guests a smart assistant experience in their rooms.”

Digital supply chains

Taking a step back, how could supply chains and business overall be transformed by the resources IBM is combining for Watson Assistant: artificial intelligence, the cloud and the IOT? Consider the definition of IOT that appears in the APICS Dictionary: “An environment in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. This allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems.”

Supply chain professionals must constantly balance between using the best practices that exist today and anticipating the trends that will transform the field tomorrow. APICS has resources that can help you maintain equilibrium. Start on the APICS website by browsing publications and research topics.Take your knowledge to the next level by beginning your APICS certification journey. You can determine which APICS certification is right for you by trying out the education selector.