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Firms Team Up To Advance AI in the Enterprise

Move over, Siri and Tay, and make room for a new female virtual agent set to invade the enterprise: Amelia.

Things are happening fast in the new world of artificial intelligence (AI) development, and a new industry partnership just announced today aims to help enterprises adopt the complicated and potentially game-changing technology with Amelia.

Accenture, a professional services consultancy, is teaming up with IPsoft, an autonomic and cognitive computing specialist that invented Amelia, "to accelerate client adoption of artificial intelligence to improve business outcomes and create new growth opportunities for their businesses."

The importance of AI in the enterprise -- along with ancillary technologies like machine learning (ML) and cognitive computing -- was highlighted recently by no less than Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in keynote addresses at their respective developer conferences. Their companies are helping to spearhead AI programming, with early efforts centered around bots, or chatbots, or virtual agents. These put AI to use to mimic humans responding to simple interactions like customer inquiries or Web searches.

In fact, news recently broke that students in an online college course -- studying AI, in fact -- were helped by a virtual AI teaching assistant, with none the wiser.

The new Accenture/IPsoft partnership -- called Accenture Amelia -- might help company developers blur the lines even further by leveraging the latter company's virtual agent expertise. Amelia is the name of IPsoft's flagship service, introduced as "your first digital employee" on the company's site. "Amelia is a cognitive agent who can take on a wide variety of service desk roles and transform customer experience," the site says. "Just like a human, she communicates with customers using natural language."

Amelia, a Virtual Agent from IPsoft
Amelia, a Virtual Agent from IPsoft (source: IPsoft)

Expanding a years-long partnership, Accenture and IPsoft are targeting Amelia first at the banking, insurance and travel industries.

"Artificial intelligence is maturing rapidly and offers great potential to reshape the way that organizations conduct business and interact with their customers and employees," said Accenture CTO Paul Daugherty in a statement today. "At the same time, executives are overwhelmed by the plethora of technologies and many products that are advertising AI or cognitive capabilities. With our new Accenture Amelia practice, we are taking an important step forward in advancing the business potential of artificial intelligence by combining IPsoft's world-class virtual agent platform with Accenture's broad technology capabilities and industry experience to help clients transform their business and operations."

The partners said some companies are already leveraging the program, listing the following use cases:

  • A global oil and gas company trained Amelia to help provide a prompt and more efficient way of answering invoicing queries from its suppliers.
  • A European bank completed a rapid deployment of Amelia within the IT function, successfully equipping the cognitive agent to take action only 45 days after project start.
  • A large U.S.-based media services organization taught Amelia how to support first line agents in order to raise the bar for customer service.
  • A global bank successfully tested Amelia's ability to support its network of mortgage brokers by providing guidance on policy details.

Accenture said the burgeoning industry is ripe for further development, citing research firm IDC's prediction that that the global market for content analytics, discovery and cognitive systems software will increase from $4.5 billion in 2014 to $9.2 billion in 2019. That's in addition to its own research, which it said revealed that 70 percent of enterprise executives are making significantly more investments in AI and adjunct technologies than they were two years ago, with 55 percent indicating they plan on using ML and embedded AI.

"Accenture has embraced Amelia's unique capabilities as a pillar of its technology suite for artificial intelligence, and we believe this will be transformative for clients in every industry," said Chetan Dube, president and CEO of IPsoft. "We are at a turning point in seeing CEOs take the decision to adopt true digital labor as their differentiation strategy. By equipping Amelia with Accenture's deep industry knowledge, technology skills and ability to scale, we can together help enterprises realize the full potential of artificial intelligence technology as it reaches maturity."

The move furthers Accenture's stated intention to expand its AI research and development efforts, announced last November. "Artificial intelligence will disrupt businesses and industries on a global scale, and we see this shift going well beyond deploying analytics, cognitive computing or machine learning systems in isolation," Daugherty said at the time.

It also furthers the relationship between Accenture and IPsoft, which began collaborating on AI way back in early 2014, announcing the Amelia-centric partnership in December of that year that led to today's announcement.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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