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digital assistantsThe one thing made clear this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is that digital assistants will soon be everywhere. Google, for example, used to the conference to showcase how Google Assistant with challenge rival digital assistant software from Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Apple by being embedded into a broad range of devices, including smart displays from JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony.

End users will be able to invoke the artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that Google has embedded in those displays to verbally interact with any number of applications, starting most commonly with a unified communications platform. Google even showed an instance of its digital assistant technology being embedded in car.

All told, Google says Google Assistant technology has already been embedded in 400 million devices worldwide, a number it predicts will increase exponentially in 2018.

In fact, the market research firm Tractica estimates more than one billion people will be using digital assistants in the enterprise by 2025. There were already 145.2 million unique active users of digital assistants in the enterprise worldwide in 2017, estimates the research firm. Tractica forecasts that this segment of the software industry alone will be generating $7.7 billion in annual revenue by 2025. Over time, just about every piece of software or device will come with a built-in digital assistant technology in one form or another.

Digital assistants in managed services

Managed service providers need to keep a close eye on how digital assistants transform the way end users expect to engage with any IT service. Digital assistants are providing a new experience in terms of how end users engage with consumer applications. It’s only a matter of time before they expect to have the same type of experience using business-to-business (B2B) applications. That shift is likely to drive a massive wave of application upgrades over the next two years. SAP is already working on infusing these types of capabilities into its applications.

At the same time, MSPs will need to transform how they engage with end users as well. IPsoft already infuses digital assistants in managed services it provides based on technology it developed. IBM is making similar strides using the IBM Watson platform. It won’t be too long before the first tier of IT services provided to an end user are all managed via digital assistants. In fact, for every end user that prefers to engage with a human, there’s another that would prefer to be able to resolve their issues without having to engage with a real-life person at all.

Obviously, the rise of digital labor is going to have a profound impact on the cost of IT labor. Even complex networking tasks are now starting to be automated using bots.

Put it all together, and it’s clear that digital labor is about to become a core element of any managed services portfolio. The challenge is figuring out exactly where that line between man and machine now lies. The cost of implementing advanced AI technologies is considerable. But, compared to the cost of labor today, it’s already apparent that MSPs that don’t use these capabilities will find it increasingly difficult to compete.

Photo: Denys Prykhodov/

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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