• October 30, 2018
  • By Marydee Ojala Marydee Ojala, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc
  • Article

Killer Apps, Sweet Spots, and Silver Bullets for KM

Got your time machine ready to travel? The flux capacitor is working? The TARDIS is waiting and the blue phone booth is properly positioned? Scotty’s been notified to set the FTL engines for warp speed? OK, good. Now set the dial for 1979 and the place for Cambridge, Mass. Look closely and you might see Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston working on VisiCalc, cramming its code into an Apple II, and forming Software Arts Corporation. A bit later that year, you’ll notice Dan Fylstra’s firm Personal Software begin marketing VisiCalc. Trivia note: VisiCalc is the shortened version of “visible calculator.”

It truly was a game changer. The precursor to Lotus 1-2-3 (you need to travel forward in time to 1983 for that one) and to Microsoft Excel, VisiCalc opened up spreadsheets to anyone with a personal computer. Keep in mind that in 1979, the personal computer wasn’t a common item; few people owned one and most people didn’t see why they should own one. The trade press dubbed VisiCalc the “killer app” and companies have been searching for the next killer app ever since. It wasn’t so much the killer app for manipulating numeric data as it was for making the personal computer something that everyone actually saw value in owning. It really signified the Dawn of the Personal Computer Age.

It’s been almost 40 years since the term “killer app” first appeared. Now that we have computing power on our phones and watches, it seems quaint to remember that personal computers were once considered exotic. If we could take our time machine 40 years into the future, I wonder what technologies we think are exotic today will be commonplace by then.

Artificial Intelligence Killer Apps

Anand Subramaniam, SVP of Marketing at eGain, has some thoughts about today’s killer apps. His involve artificial intelligence (AI). One has to do with virtual assistants, which Subramaniam notes can also be called chatbots, avatars, virtual agents, or concierges. Just imagine a machine that can understand natural language, answer customer questions, give website tours, push relevant webpages toward customers before they ask, and engage customers at many levels. These assistants can be activated to text or by speech and can handle multiple languages.

Chatboxes are in use today, but most of them are constrained by being unable to answer complex questions. Easy questions, like store opening hours or whether a customer can buy a product in a particular color, are no problem. More complex questions, perhaps something like explaining Doctor Who’s concept of the extradimensional vortex, would be beyond them. Come to think of it, even the most advanced of virtual assistants probably couldn’t provide that explanation, since it’s a fictional construct. Back in the real world, apply eGain’s AI reasoning technologies and the assistant can learn to ask intelligent questions that will lead to excellent problem resolution.

Other killer apps associated with AI involve decision making. Taking a flexible approach that accommodates incomplete or ambiguous information and comparing past decision making scenarios results in better decisions. AI also lets companies use the synergy created by related technologies to discover the “who, what, when, and how” of customer engagement. AI killer apps hasten companies’ digital transformation efforts.

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