Why Bot Growth Isn’t Letting Up, Continues to Improve Efficiency and Profitability

March 12, 2018

BY TARA MATAMOROS CARTER


In rock climbing, sometimes you simply have to stop climbing, cam your foot into a pod and look down at how far you’ve come. In that brief, quiet moment, you can take stock of what you’ve learned on the rock face so far before you chalk up and plot a path through your next ascent. In the same way, now is a good time to pause and review the exhilarating climb of bot capabilities over the past few years and scope out where they are most likely headed in the years ahead.

A Brief History of Bots

The story of bots begins with their ancestors, the friendly robots of the last millennium. The term robot itself is only a century old, invented by a Czech playwright based on the Slavic word “robota,” which means “slave labor.” Considering its origin adds an extra layer of irony to all the recent talk about the arrival of our “robot overlords.”

Robots are meant to serve humanity (hopefully not literally) by eliminating tedious, dangerous or exhausting workloads. In that way, robots can be seen as the heirs of the first Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, when metallic machinery and steam power replaced animal power for the most taxing physical labors.

This indescribably massive break from the past reshaped the world into a network of manufacturing centers inside rapidly expanding cities. That expansion has never ceased. Next came specialized machines for assembly lines in the 19th century, followed by computers, the internet and the containerization of logistics in the 20th century.

Bot Market Share Trends and Growth

We are now in the midst of a fourth Industrial Revolution in the 21st century, propelled at rocket speeds by a new generation of robots and bots, which are really the streamlined, online, AI and emerging technology equivalents of their clunky, anthropomorphic cousins from last century.

Although Eliza in the 1960s has been credited as the earliest chatbot, bots as we know them today truly emerged along with the birth of the web in the early 1990s, including Google's proto-bot search algorithms.

Bots have already taken over in some ways. In early 2015, the top bot-based messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Viber) surpassed the big four social networking apps (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) in global active monthly users:

BI Intelligence

Bots Across Industry Verticals

Here’s a quick overview of where bots stand in 2018:

  • At least 10,000 companies are developing or using bots for customer care.
  • Harris Polls indicate that 37 percent of Americans would be happy to make a purchase using a chatbot.
  • Juniper forecasts that chatbots will save businesses $8 billion per year by 2022, up from $20 million in 2017. Increased chatbot usage has resulted in the launch of many startup tech firms, following the lead of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Telegram (key companies in the chatbot industry, as they continue to expand the four main technology and platforms for chatbots: deployment channels, third-party chatbots, companies that provide the technology for building chatbots, and native bots.
  • Grand View Research forecasts that the global chatbot market will reach $1.23 billion by 2025, showing a compounded annual growth rate of 24.3%. Additionally, 45% of the global chatbot market of end users prefer primarily communicating over chatbots for customer service interactions. Although chatbots can be applied to many business segments, such as service, payments, and marketing, they certainly have the majority of the market share when it comes to revenue.
  • Surveyed Oracle senior marketing, strategy and sales executives showed that 80% are currently using chatbots or plan to incorporate them by 2020. Additionally, 48% already use automation technologies with another 40% planning to implement said technology by 2020.

Any doubt about chatbots has clearly been squashed, as companies that have not yet embraced more innovative technology are feeling the pressure to integrate to improve efficiency and profitability.

Bots are Redefining Industries and Sectors

Chatbots for customers get a great deal of coverage, but bots in general are also redefining industries like:

  • Wellness – where emotion-sensing bots are helping people deal with stress.
  • Eldercare – where support-bots are helping seniors stay mentally sharp and socially engaged.
  • Education – where students already rely on Study Bots to help them navigate the higher education experience.
  • Manufacturing – where firms of all sizes are investing $250 billion for smart manufacturing bots in 2018.
  • Real Estate – where bots can alert property seekers to new listings in the area, along with advice on loan options that are relevant to specific buyers.
  • The Public Sector – where swarms of micro-bots can clean out 95 percent of the lead from polluted water and “parasitic bots” clean the air of Hong Kong.
  • Aerospace – where NASA engineers are planning to deploy bots to build 3D printed homes on Mars before astronauts arrive.

Naturally, this doesn't mean that all bots are being used for the public good. Bots, like other tools throughout history, serve the goals of their wielders, which eventually leads to abuse and conflict until there can be adequate oversight and public agreement on terms of use.

The prime example of that is the developing story of how bots controlled by malicious agents have shaped the national dialog in a number of ways, changing our collective understanding of what truth means in a world of crumbling authorities.

Successive Waves of Bots

PwC UK projected the future of bots is arriving in three waves:

  1. The algorithmic wave – Happening now, this includes chatbots, analytics applications and the automation of heavy computational tasks.
  2. The augmentation wave – In the decade ahead, higher administrative functions and decision-making will be handled by dynamic bots that communicate regularly with their human counterparts and conduct independent statistical analysis of unstructured data.
  3. The autonomic wave – Arriving by the mid-2030’s, bots will be our care-takers, solving problems we don’t understand dynamically in real time, driving our cars, controlling the planet’s tightest resource bottlenecks, and ushering in a future we can only dimly perceive right now.

Like electricity and then the internet, bots are likely to disappear from our conscious awareness in the years ahead as they integrate themselves into everything we touch and everywhere we go, both in cyberspace and in the real world. We won't really notice them anymore because they will function as extensions of ourselves.

BY TARA MATAMOROS CARTER
AI, CHATBOTS, EMERGING TECHNOLOGY, BOTS