by Zeus Kerravala

Digital transformation on full display at GITEX 2018

Oct 24, 2018
Artificial IntelligenceDigital TransformationMobile

The Dubai Police Department and the city's Road and Transport Authority explain how they're using digital technology to transform customer experience.

smart city iot digital transformation networking wireless city scape skyline
Credit: Getty Images

As is the case with most tech shows today, digital transformation was front and center at last week’s GITEX technology show in Dubai — the largest such conference in the Middle East. Not only did vendors demonstrate their enabling technologies, but govenment agencies showcased the technology they are using.

For most organizations, the top area of focus for digital technologies is improving customer experience. In fact, countless studies indicate that how businesses deal with customers will determine whether they are the market leader or laggard, as digital technologies create new experiences that drive loyalties, cut costs and enable things previously impossible.

To help organizational leaders put together a strategy on how to improve service, unified communications (UC) and contact center (CC) vendor Avaya, commissioned Davies Hickman Partners to complete a global study of 8,000 global consumers. As part of its show activities, Avaya analyzed the data and highlighted eight key findings for SuperServe (companies that want to excel in customer service) organizations:

  1. Consumers want differentiated services, underscoring the need to prioritize customer experience in digital transformation.
  2. New voice technology has grown in popularity, requiring organizations to build strategies around voice assistants.
  3. Omni-channel accelerates customer experience transformation. Organizations need to integrate interactions across all channels, including voice, video, chat, and messaging.
  4. Predictive services are in high demand. Such services enable companies to anticipate customer and employee need using technologies such as artificial intelligence.
  5. Personal data needs to be protected, meaning digital services can’t be at the expense of privacy
  6. Faster and smarter voice interactions are vital. Superior customer contact centers will need to be able to quickly resolve complex or empathy-based interactions.
  7. Video drives a human touch. Greater understanding is achieved when video is used for human or customer interactions.
  8. Employees want the latest technology. This will enable them to interact with customers and co-workers better.

The summarized data was certainly interesting and provides a strong, high-level look at customer experience today. What specificially are organizations doing to implement those strategies into their digital plans? Several of the region’s leading organizations shared their initiatives with me, includng the Dubai Police Department and Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority.

Dubai Police Department’s digital strategy

The Dubai Police was represented by Brigadier Khalid Nasser Alrazooqi, director and general manager of AI for the Dubai Police. He told me that one of the stated directives from the government is for the Dubai police to provide excellent customer service. Dubai has exploded in growth, and safety is obviously critical to its continued attractiveness as a tourist hotspot, but it can’t be at the expense of great customer service. To meet this goal, the Dubai police has several initiatives underway, including the following:

  • Mobile application. The Dubai Police Department has a rich mobile app for citizens to use. If a resident requires assistance, the police can be contacted via voice, messaging, or video. For example, if an accident occurs, the app can be used to alert the police and a message sent back saying an officer is on their way. The app shows location information, as well, so the officer knows exactly where the person is and the person needing help knows when the officer will arrive. 
  • Voice-enabled smart agent. Self-service has become a more important strategy for companies of all sizes, as it saves on people resources. The Dubai police built a voice-activated AI called “Amna” that is built on a combination of Avaya and Nuance technology. There are over 200 nationalities in Dubai, and one of the key roles is for Amna to be able to converse with people in up to six different languages. Citizens can call Amna to open cases, pay fines, or make inquiries.
  • A robot has been built, complete with a touchscreen, a camera for facial recognition, and Amna voice AI. The robot is meant to be deployed into crowded areas, and its mere presence makes people feel safer. Dubai has a very low crime rate. Keeping it that way requires more eyes and ears in more locations, and it would be very expensive to hire officers to be on every corner, so the department will use robots when it can’t use officers.
dubai police robot Zeus Kerravala

Dubai Police Department robots will be deployed to areas officers are unable to go.

  • Autonomous police station. This is an office on wheels where a resident of Dubai can call and have the completely unmanned police station come to them.  Once it arrived, the individual can then enter the station, file a report, talk to Amna, or interact with an officer via video. The app could be, used but in many cases, paper needs to be printed and documents signed; the mobile station can accommodate those use cases.
  • Smart glasses. The police force is experimenting with smart glasses that can help quickly identify people and if there are any outstanding issues. I tried them on and looked through a number of people. When the glasses spotted a suspect, the image projected on the smart glasses with a notification of why the person was suspected.
  • Video-based crime prevention. This is not a recreation of the pre-crime division from Minority Report, but the Dubai crime prediction process is just as sophisticated. There are over 65,000 cameras in Dubai, and the police monitor the feeds and analyze the data to predict if a crime will occur. If they think there’s a high probability, officers are dispatched. Tourism is Dubai’s #1 industry, and it’s critical to ensure everyone feels safe all the time. Knowing where to send officers has reduced the already-low crime rate.

Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA) digital initiatives

Like the Dubai Police, the city’s Road and Transit Authority (RTA) has a strong focus on providing excellent customer service by enabling people to use city services easier.  Ahmed Mahboub, executive director of customer service for the RTA, said Dubai is expecting 25 million visitors for the World Expo in 2020, so automation and self-service needs to play a key role because they can’t hire enough people to meet that big a spike in people. To help with that, they have developed these top initiatives:

  • Fully omnichannel contact center with self-service. The RTA has implemented Avaya’s contact center solution that enables callers to perform many tasks via an interactive voice response system (IVR) designed to handle most simple queries. For those that can’t be answered by the automated system, the caller can opt to speak to a live agent. One of the challenges with Dubai is that the majority of residents are from other countries, making language servicing difficult. The RTA is experimenting with real-time translation capabilities, so a caller can speak in one language and the agent in another but both will hear responses in their native language. Also, the RTA is experimenting with bots to answer queries that come in through messaging services.
  • Video kiosks. These are similar to the Robocops used by the Dubai Police, but they are used to answer questions regarding city services. This could be things like bus routes or other transportation options.
rta smart parking app Zeus Kerravala

Dubai’s RTA smart parking reservation service

  • Smart parking reservation service. Through an app, people can look for, pay for, and hold a parking spot even before they leave their house. A tap of the finger brings up a map of the city, enabling the citizen to search for a parking spot nearest to where they are going. They can then choose the time they will arrive, enter their license plate, and pay for it, and the spot will be held. This can greatly reduce congestion in the city, as people will no longer need to drive around looking for parking spots.
  • Autonomous street cleaner. This is a fully autonomous vehicle that is outfitted with sensors and self-driving capabilities, enabling it to move around the city and pick up trash without requiring a human driver.
  • Autonomous taxi. A driverless taxi was the most ambitious of all the RTA’s initiatives, but the goal is to have them up and running by 2020. At the booth, the organization had on display a Mercedes taxi fully equipped with LIDAR, camera, rear radar, and sensors. The project has been in test mode for about two years, but the RTA appears on track to have it ready for 2020.