Cisco aims to put bots at centre of conversation with Gupshup collaboration

(c)iStock.com/Thomas Vogel

Cisco has announced a partnership deal with Gupshup, an San Francisco-based bot platform provider, aiming to improve enterprise collaboration with bot development capabilities for developers integrated into the Cisco Spark cloud service.

The move, announced at the Cisco Live conference earlier today alongside another partnership with API.ai, a similar provider in the space, will allow developers to build bots for enterprise users of Cisco Spark, creating customisable user experiences and theoretically enhancing the Cisco Spark experience in the process. Beerud Sheth, CEO of Gupshup, argues that this is just the beginning for enterprise collaboration. “I expect virtually every business website and app to be converted into a bot,” he tells Enterprise AppsTech. “Bots will become the front end for ERP, HR, CRM, and all other enterprise systems.

“Just by chatting with a bot, users will be able to apply for leave, submit a sales update, approve a request, report an equipment failure, check inventory levels, look up product details and much more,” Sheth adds. “No more web browsing or app downloading – just send a message and let the bot deal with it. It’ll be that easy and instant.”

It is certainly a bold claim – practically killing off the web and apps as we know it in one instant. The case for the prosecution is through innovative tools such as x.ai, an NYC startup whose bot, a personal assistant called Amy, helps seamlessly schedule meetings. The case for the defence is that while bots have long been more than capable on a simple admin scale, put them in a more sophisticated situation – such as what is envisaged in Microsoft’s ‘conversation as a platform’ vision where not just yes/no meetings but entire conversations are brokered – and the conversation becomes, well, robotic.

AI can only go so far right now, but Sheth argues that in time both options are viable. “I expect to see both kind of bots being popular: functional bots as well as intelligent ones,” he explains. “The right amount of intelligence a bot needs depends on context. Sometimes, too much intelligence raises user expectations and inevitably leads to disappointment.”

Giving a real world example, Sheth argues that if he were ordering fast food – and naturally, no disrespect to fast food employees – he ‘[doesn’t] need an intelligent conversation – I just want to order combo #2.’ “In many cases, less is more,” he adds. “Most websites and apps are just functional, not intelligent, yet very useful. Similarly, functional bots will be popular, even preferred, in many cases.”

Cisco contacted Gupshup after being impressed by the platform, and suggested the integration with Spark’s messaging app. While this is not new for Sheth – Gupshup is already integrated with more than a dozen such apps – the partnership with Cisco was keenly fought given their ‘massive reach’ in the enterprise.

Yet the timing of this release seems key, according to the Gupshup chief exec. “In the last year, bots have gone from vision to reality,” he says. “Most messaging apps have opened APIs enabling bots to potentially reach billions of users.

“Developer and investors are investing time and money which will lead to rapid improvements – but a lot remains to be done. Tools and bots need to get better still; bots need to gain wider user adoption; business models have to be figured out.

“We’ll get there soon enough,” adds Sheth.

 

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