Should CIOs Start Listening To AI Or The Other Way Around?

CIOs need to understand the power of having AI listen to what we say
CIOs need to understand the power of having AI listen to what we say
Image Credit: Mike MacKenzie

As the person with the CIO job, you need to understand the impact that the importance of information technology will have on your company. One of the most important of these new technologies will be artificial intelligence (AI). The number of different things that can be done with AI is amazing. One area that has not been getting a great deal of attention, but which should, is what happens when an AI enabled device listens to you. As humans, we can tell a lot about someone just by their voice. It turns out that so can an AI enabled device.

CIOs Seek To Harness The Power Of AI

CIOs want to know how their workers and customers are feeling right now. The problem is that they have never had a way to go about doing this. Things may be changing. Today’s artificial intelligence promises to figure that out simply by listening to your voice. A range of businesses, health-care organizations and government agencies are starting to explore new systems that can analyze the human voice to determine a person’s emotions, mental and physical health, and even height and weight. This technology is already used by call centers to flag problems in conversations. Now doctors are starting to test it as a way to spot mental and physical ailments, and the people with the CIO job are starting to tap it to help them vet job applicants.

So, what is making all this possible all of a sudden? The answer is increasingly powerful machine-learning methods. AI systems have the ability to measure tone, tempo and other voice characteristics and compare them with stored speech patterns that have been identified as happy, sad, mad or any number of other emotions. The science of vocal analysis has been around for decades; however, now cheaper computing power and new AI tools such as Google’s TensorFlow library of code have made it possible to build more-ambitious projects.

AI is expanding into a number of different fields. The AI technology can get even more powerful when used in combination with computer vision in a field known as emotion AI or affective computing. An example of this is when a voice system in a car might be able to tell if a driver is yawning, while a visual system could see if the driver is nodding off. Research firms think that emotion AI may even spread into consumer products. The prediction is that by next year 10% of personal devices will have emotion AI capabilities. We will be seeing this in products such as wearables that are able to monitor a person’s mental health and videogames that adapt to a user’s mood.

The Challenges Ahead For AI

CIOs need to understand that emotion AI must overcome a big hurdle before it is permitted to go mainstream: It turns out that, not surprisingly, people are uncomfortable with it. In survey findings that were released last year, 52% of more than 4,000 respondents in the U.S. and U.K. said they didn’t want their facial expressions to be analyzed by AI. Just to complicate things even more, 63% said they didn’t want AI to be constantly listening to get to know them. For AI to work properly, it has to collect a great deal of data. Consumers are rightly concerned about their privacy. About two-thirds, 65%, of the respondents believe AI may destroy their privacy.

Currently people are very skeptical in general about AI. When it comes to emotion AI, that’s even more personal and more reason for people to be skeptical. CIOs who are used to working with systems that are always correct need to realize that the systems aren’t perfect. The best AI systems achieve little more than 85% accuracy. The person with the CIO job has to accept that it’s not an exact science right now. Additionally, the people who are developing the AI technology don’t know whether it will ever be exact. The good news for CIOs is that it’s getting closer.

A good example of how AI technology can be used by CIOs to improve how their company operates has to do with humanizing call centers. There are 7,400 call centers in the U.S. employing more than three million people. A number of these companies have deployed AI software as a way to keep their agents sharp and customers happy. The AI system analyzes conversations between agents and customers, tracking in real time the way they interact. As calls come into a center, they are streamed to the AI system, which evaluates hundreds of data points—speech rate, tone and more. The software analyzes the voices involved in each call. If agents are pausing before they answer a questions, it could indicate they’re distracted. If customers raise their voices, it could be a sign that they are frustrated.

When the AI system detects a possible issue with a call, it sends a notification in the form of an icon or short message to the staffer’s screen. It is a suggestion that the agent take the time to recognize and acknowledge the caller’s feelings. The system’s main goal is to coach the agents, to get them to be more confident, more engaged and more empathetic. The accuracy of the call-center product varies by where it’s used, such as a customer-service center, sales department or claims-management unit, and what behaviors it’s monitoring in each of those areas. Overall the product has an average accuracy rate of 82%.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs are tasked with the challenge of trying to stay on top of emerging new technologies. One of the hottest new areas is artificial intelligence (AI). It is anticipated that AI is going to become a part of just about every aspect of IT over time. One of the areas where AI is being adopted right now has to do with voice recognition. This area deserves some attention from CIOs because the impact of voice enabled AI systems may be very great in the not so distant future.

Today’s AI enabled voice systems can listen to people and determine how they are feeling. This functionality has become available because of increases in computing power that allow voices to be analyzed. Emotional AI is a function that uses the analysis of a person’s voice and their physical state to determine how they are currently feeling. This technology is not currently trusted by many people. One area where voice enabled AI technology is being used by CIOs is in call centers. AI programs listen to agents and customers and can make recommendations to the agent to help a call go better.

There is no question that AI will soon become a part of just about every device and application that we use. CIOs need to understand this and they have to start to prepare for this eventual future. The biggest challenge that AI is going to present us with is that it will cause change. Generally speaking, people tend to not like change. CIOs are going to have to find ways to convince people that adding AI enabled voice devices to how they do their jobs will work out for the best for everyone involved.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
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Question For You: Do you think that CIOs have an obligation to let people know that AI products are being used?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The future holds a lot of promise for the person with the CIO job. The cities in which our company operate are becoming more and more connected as the smart city of tomorrow starts to arrive. However, it turns out that there is a downside to this brave new world. As cities become more connected, the opportunity for the bad guys to use this connectivity to do bad things starts to increase. If our company is going to be operating in this type of smart city, then CIOs need to understand the importance of information technology and the risks that will come with it.