A World with Chatbots and AI

With recent technological advancements in chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI), neuro-linguistic programming, machine learning, internet of things (IoT) and web speech APIs, it is now possible to streamline interactions between computer and human languages more effectively. Everyday practically we see a Google Home or Alexa add on social media and on television, and this widens our vision about its application. So let’s have a glimpse on it.

A brief about chatbots

A chatbot is a service that people interact with via a chat interface. You can ask questions using your voice or by typing in the same way you would ask a person. The chatbot will usually respond in a conversational style, and it may carry out actions in response to your conversation (for example, order something for you). It often runs inside a popular messaging application, such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, or SMS. It answers your question, rather than directing you to a website.

Can the applications be replaced with Chatbots ?

To the end user, it may appear that systems of Chatbots like Alexa have replaced software applications (apps) when we ask them to book meetings in our calendars and purchase train tickets for us. In reality, they will encapsulate the apps and sit on top of them. While we may see fewer app icons on our smartphones, we will still need apps in the background for fulfilment and as data repositories.

Why should we discuss about chatbots ?

Eventually, the goal of a futuristic chatbot is to be able to interact with users as a human does. As the saying goes, “the best interface is no interface.” Voice chat is trending with the introduction of smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod, etc.

How chatbots can help Small/Medium businesses ?

Bots are a glimpse into the future of business, and they have powerful implications on the business ecosystem. They have several advantages:

  1. 24×7 availability – A bot exists digitally unlike a human being, and can thus be pressed into service continuously without any interference.
  2. Highly Customisable – Bots are capable of carrying out a wide array of tasks because of their inherent flexibility.
  3. Affordable and Powerful – In the current scenario, chatbots can be developed for a small amount. Many options already exist, with the most popular being Facebook’s Messenger bot.
  4. Saves Resources – Employing a chatbot to handle basic customer interactions can free up valuable human resources without a decline in productivity.

Types of Chatbots –

  1. One operates based on a set of rules. It can only respond to very specific commands. If you, as the user don’t use the right command or words, the chatbot doesn’t know what you mean.
  2. On the other hand the other type uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide the best response. We’ll call these AI-powered chatbots.The AI aspect in a chatbot is based on machine learning. It is known as Natural Language Processing; it has the proficiency to understand a conversation and mimic human speech. An artificial intelligence (AI) agent in a chatbot achieves the goal through the ‘sense-think-act’ cycle.

How Chatbots can Revitalize Customer Engagement for SME’s?

Broadly Chatbots powered with AI can be used for two purposes:

  • For Enterprise – Today’s chatbots are powerful personal assistants. They can call an Cab, place a lunch order, make a hotel reservation, order office supplies when you get low and even help manage your calendar. Let’s face it, just scheduling a single meeting can take 15 minutes or more and when you add up how many meetings you schedule, it’s a significant time commitment for a small business.
  • For Consumers – Chatbots provide better service to users. Mainly in these following ways:
    • Quick Response time – Compared to a human being, a smart computer program will answer queries much quicker. This, coupled with an AI chatbot’s machine learning and multi-tasking abilities make it a highly efficient virtual assistant that can revolutionise customer interaction metrics.
    • Improved Conversions – Chatbots can study past search data and offer more personalised shopping options via retargeting. The AI is constantly learning, and it can pull up multiple options that will be more appealing to the user based on their search history and captured data points. This can lead to increased conversions for you in the long term.

How does Chatbots improve ROI?

Some instance where bots have worked out really well and undoubtedly have cleared the points regarding ROI as they turned out to be a boon in the industry.

  • Chatbots in Finance Industry- Chatbots found their way into the Finance industry as a virtual assistant within Mobile Banking Apps. Bots act as a platform were customers can make the payment of Bills, and transfer and deposit funds. According to a survey done by Abi AI, one of the top most IT firm could save 360,000 hours of manpower by deploying bots which helped them analyse complex legal contracts faster than a human could do.
  • Chatbots in Restaurants and Retail Industry- The idea of introducing chatbots in restaurant and the retail industry proved to be a smart one, as it has been helping famous food chains in reducing the order time of the customers considerably. Bots also help in saving several employees working hours as well, which in turn made them more efficient.

Blockchain – Bubbling Trend

“Blockchain” is one of two “B” words that are all the fuming lately — the other being “Bitcoin.”

While Bitcoin is grabbing most of the headlines, many people are mistakenly lumping “cryptocurrency” into the same category as “Blockchain.” True, the two are certainly related, but they’re not one in the same.

What is blockchain doing?

Blockchain, helps us imagine a world in which contracts are embedded in digital code and stored in transparent, shared databases, where they are protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. So, a blockchain is simply a digital ledger, much like what’s above your chequebook in your wallet. By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Blockchains use cryptography to process and verify transactions on the ledger. Encryption and coding improve transparency, efficiency and trust in information-sharing.

What makes blockchain unique and really cool?

Instead of some company having it stored on a server somewhere waiting to be hacked, the blockchain exists decentralised. This means anyone running a full node( a special type of wallet that hosts the block chain essentially) from their computer at home is storing every transaction that has ever occurred on that blockchain. Its network lacks centralised points of vulnerability that computer hackers can exploit. We all rely on the “username/password” system to protect our identity and assets online. Blockchain security methods use encryption technology.

The basis for this are the so-called public and private “keys”. A “public key” (a long, randomly-generated string of numbers) is a user’s address on the blockchain. Bitcoins sent across the network gets recorded as belonging to that address. The “private key” is like a password that gives its owner access to their Bitcoin or other digital assets. Store your data on the blockchain and it is incorruptible.

How is transparency and incorruptibility maintained?

The blockchain network lives in a state of consensus, one that automatically checks in with itself every ten minutes.  A kind of self-auditing ecosystem of a digital value, the network reconciles every transaction that happens in ten-minute intervals. Each group of these transactions is referred to as a “block”. Smart contracts are “conflict-free” ways to exchange money, property and shares or anything of value via Blockchain. These contracts define the rules and penalties for each agreement and also enforce obligations automatically. Two important properties result from this:

  • Transparency data is embedded within the network as a whole, by definition it is public.
  • It cannot be corrupted altering any unit of information on the blockchain would mean using a huge amount of computing power to override the entire network.

Who and where all will the blockchain be used? Some instances –

  1. Finance: – Currently, finance offers the strongest use cases for the technology. International remittances, for example. The World Bank estimates that over $430 billion US in money transfers were sent in 2015. And at the moment there is a high demand for blockchain developers.

  2. Health Care: – An example: MedRec, an MIT-backed initiative designed to be a digital family history of medical records, uses Blockchain to create for patients a family medical history that can be passed down from generation to generation. MedRec was implemented using Ethereum blockchain and uses that technology’s smart contracts to execute scripts on the blockchain.

  3. Music World: – Myceria’s Blockchain-based platform has created a way for musicians to push smart contracts for the sharing of free-trade music, ensuring that profits go back to the artists. These contracts allow artists to sell directly to consumers without the need for labels, lawyers or accountants; and royalties are paid out automatically.

  4. Human Resources: – San Francisco-based company, Bitwage. Bitwage operates on a Blockchain-based payroll system to facilitate cross-border payments through Bitcoin. This allows the company to pay employees, contractors, even vendors, worldwide in their preferred currencies. What Blockchain can do is simplify the process and eliminate these middle men, making investment in the technology attractive.

Any instance of Benefits achieved?

By adopting Blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) the tech giant is investing in enterprise systems that leverage cloud infrastructure. The launch of this service in February of 2016 helped create opportunities for IBM to transition to cloud services and to use them to build custom blockchains for its customers.

Why will blockchain transform the global economy?

Similar to how the internet changed the world by providing greater access to information, blockchain is poised to change how people do business by offering trust. The benefits of blockchain for business are numerous, including reduced time (for finding information, settling disputes and verifying transactions), decreased costs (for overhead and intermediaries) and alleviated risk (of collusion, tampering and fraud).

Security during development A Wise or Otherwise Decision

Web application security, cyber theft and cyber ransom are some of the most trending security topics in the internet these days. Despite the large number of antivirus companies and security professional out there, still the approach towards this is reactive and this common trend is indicating that the engagement of offensive security mind-set needs an increase of several magnitudes.

All security attacks pose risk to the business and risk can be mitigated with awareness and it holds good for security incidence also. When software developers get education on security which intern enables them to detect and protect their application in advance, when this happens to some extent application can be marked as protected. Though definition of Protected application is the matter of debate in security community as the how protected application is depends on who is attacking and who essentially is providing the protection. Real security would be implemented completely only when developers will be involved from the step one. Without the actual workforce involvement our assumption of having vulnerability free software systems seems very unrealistic.

When developers are writing code they are more interested in the problem solving and logical progression, they don’t want to lose the time in deployment process, most of the J2EE certified application servers when they run on development mode, time taken to publish the changes keeps everything on halt. personally have experienced this in WebLogic, WebSphere. In reality businesses exist to make money, none of them exist specifically to maintain security and fortify them with latest security systems.

2 things have been overlooked in the software development industry generally, one thing is the rapid feedback cycle, developers waste lots of time in deploying and executing their code than in coding, unfortunately there are not many products which facilitates real time deployment and security testing, we must admit that there are few but those too are not supported for every platform, these solutions have long way to go. Another problem that I could think of is vulnerability detection at the time of software development. These things are really fundamental to secure software development cycle and most importantly they should be open and free. Open source community needs to put some serious thought on this area which I feel is overlooked from long time.

Having the development time security detection not only reduces the cost and saves time but it also infuses security vulnerability awareness among developers. Lack of security specific understanding among developers is growing concern of product managers, additionally it enhances time to market your product.

Once we are successful in infusing this thought of writing secure code into the mind of developers, cost of security testing and remediation would eventually become negligible. Training programs that promote this goal will help us realize the positive outcomes shortly. All of sudden making them mandatory might sound like an order and creating compliance verses engagement problem. Management should handle this problem carefully. Initiatives which are started with sole aim of promoting secure coding practices should be fun to learn and implement. This seems the only way of achieving cent per cent security in software development cycle.

Bottom line is run time security issue detection and rapid feedback cycle is the demand of hour and software industry and open source community need to come up with serious plan of implementing and building frameworks where secure coding practices can foster and result into protracted software systems.