Can 'things' be social?

What will be the impact of IoT and AI to the customer experience, today and tomorrow?

techy connected cloud
Credit: istock

Everyone has some concern about the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) on our human job force – it’s in the news everywhere. But, what if it goes beyond jobs? What if it completely changes the meaning of other aspects of our lives and businesses that we haven’t thought much about yet? Like, how we communicate socially and who, or what, we interact with in a social network. What if this current generation of social media networks and apps is the end of social media as we know it? What if you logged into Facebook and the toaster in your kitchen had “liked” your latest update?

Social media could be simply boiled down to a collection of networks where content is posted, observed and reacted to. Today, humans are behind those activities. But with the fast, continuing growth of an internet of things (IoT), there is no doubt there will be networks where “things” are posting messages, being observed and reacted to.

Consider this scenario: You go to Amazon.com and purchase a new toaster, which is promptly delivered for free by drone in the next 2 hours. You unpack your new toaster, place it on the kitchen counter and plug it in. Using the Amazon app on your phone, you give the toaster access to your home wifi signal so it can automatically report issues in case it breaks and start a warranty return process. The toaster promptly sends out a signal that it’s online and working perfectly. The AI-based system at the toaster’s manufacturing company recognizes the toaster is online, sends a message back to confirm the warranty is registered and ties the id of the toaster to your account with all the information they were given about you in the transaction with Amazon.

One morning you wake up, place your two slices of bread in the toaster and verbally tell it to toast to a medium crispiness, but nothing happens. You unplug it and plug it back in, but it’s broken. Annoyed, you take a quick pic with your Instagram app and add a sarcastic message about how the day is already starting off great - the brand new toaster is broken!

The AI system at the toaster’s manufacturing company immediately receives your message. Their system knows you have an Instagram account because at some point previously you synced Amazon with Facebook in order to receive last minute deal notifications in the Messenger app. Since your toaster made that first connection with the AI system, it’s been following your public updates, filtering out anything that doesn’t have to do with toasting bread. The second your picture was posted about how great your day is starting off, the AI system sent a message to it’s toaster friend to see how things are going. A message was sent back in response saying it’s not doing well and needs to be replaced. The AI system checks the warranty status and immediately schedules a replacement toaster to be sent out on the next drone - expedited, because it sees you’re recognized as a VIP shopper.

Moments after having just walked out the door of your house, you get a push notification on your mobile that your kitchen toaster just "liked" your update. A second later it’s followed by a message sent through Facebook Messenger from the AI “agent” apologizing for the trouble this morning and says a new toaster will be delivered within the next 2 hours. It will be waiting for you when you get home. Have a great day, please shop with us again.

Sound scary? Awesome? A mix of both? One thing it’s not, is far off in the future. Today’s world is filled with businesses needing to make a customer service process more efficient. The innovations being made using AI to fulfill IoT strategies in R&D labs today will ensure these efficiencies.

While drones and the FAA and 2 hour deliveries from the air still have a ways to go before that piece of the story is here, but the rest of it is possible with technology in the market today. Today.

So, can “things” be social? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe we should ask: what CAN'T be social?

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

NEW! Download the State of the CIO 2017 report