"We started with a chatbot as a means of communication that they feel comfortable with. We don't want to send an SMS or an email. So any time, anywhere and take one step into the customer's comfort zone [...] The conversation is the key to the customer, they're not interested in the technology but the chat."
Catling talks about the next phase of AI being proactive: "The next step for AI is when the AI system actually rings you, sends you an email, sends you a message." He gives the example of the AI recognising that 300 jazz fans are arriving at the hotel and suggests that the hotel books Jamie Cullum to play a concert there that weekend. "That's where this, the next time we get together, I hope we will start to see as well."
Similarly, Jordi Escale, CIO for the Government of Catalonia said that his reaction to being invited to an AI Summit was: "That's a new thing. I don't have great examples or results, we are just thinking about it."
Escale is considering the opportunities of AI in conjunction with IBM Watson already, including the impact on services in government such as "traffic control and autonomous vehicles".
"We are actually starting and defining projects around the possibilities of those technologies. In safety, I can't speak too much, but real time facial image recognition and number plate recognition for the police," he says.
Nicola J. Millard, group head of customer insight and futures at BT on the other hand says that BT has been using some form of AI inside the company for decades, especially in its contact centres. "I was hired into BT back in 1990 off of the first wave of excitement about AI and expert systems and I was all too happy to look at how we can apply neural networks into businesses."
The headline sponsor for the summit, IBM, is arguably among the most advanced tech vendors aiming to to get AI capabilities into the hands of business customers.
David Schatsky from Deloitte spoke about how IBM is finally shifting away from simplypointing its AI capabilities at gaming. First there was Deep Blue defeating Garry Kasparov at chess in the 1990s, and then Watson defeating Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings at US game show Jeopardy in 2011. Not to mention Google's AlphaGo beating Lee Sedol at the Chinese board game Go earlier this year.
Schatsky said: "Most of us don't work in the gaming industry, so my question to start is how we translate these undeniably important achievements to the world the rest of us live in and create value for the business. That's why we are here and what I have been able to piece together so far is that it is a journey and we are going to go on it together."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.