The rise of AI-driven user experiences at Enterprise Connect 2019

March 29, 2019
Fraser Park, VP Strategic Alliances and Partnerships at Huddly

Fraser Park, Huddly VP Strategic Alliances and Partnerships, keeps an eye on what is happening in the world of video collaboration. He shared with us his thoughts on the big trends that came out of Enterprise Connect this year.

Enterprise Connect 2019 was, as usual, a wonderful event to get a clear view of the direction of the collaboration industry. The keynotes had a consistent theme of platform-level Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) aimed at creating new productive customer experiences (CX). The expo floor showed growing innovation and collaboration between the hardware manufacturers and platform partners to deliver those experiences to edge devices in customer meeting spaces.

The human element in AI

I attended the keynotes from Microsoft, Google, and Cisco, with each showcasing the use of AI and ML to deliver meeting functionality such as real-time transcription and translation of voice during a call and the ability to then capture that content for later use. Interestingly, all of these technology leaders highlighted the “human” element in their messaging, driving home the idea that AI and ML functionalities are designed to enhance human interactions and not to replace them.

Using AI to create collaboration solutions

The Google keynote, delivered by Rany Ng, Director of Product Management, provided an overview of how G Suite can provide a seamless productivity experience whether for meetings, voice, in the office or on mobile. Google showcased their vision of how to make connecting people easier and booking meetings including rooms simple for the end user, using the combined functionality of Meet, Voice, and Calendar, along with their AI platform. This, coupled with the move to deliver Google Assistant into meeting spaces in 2019, certainly puts Google at the innovation forefront of our industry. When considering collaboration solutions, Rany also recommended that customers should ask to understand the AI roadmap of the platform. This was another indication that the key platform players in our industry see the use of AI as critical to creating better, more productive collaboration solutions for their customers.

Google Hangouts Meet hardware kit components
Microsoft Keynote, Enterprice Connect 2019

Driving greater productivity in the workplace

The Microsoft keynote delivered by Lori Wright, GM for Office 365, was very focused on the rapid development of their Teams platform and showcased new enhancements to drive greater productivity in the workplace. The product demonstrations included translation, transcription and a very differentiated inclusion of digital and analog whiteboard content from meetings. They also announced some significant improvements to the video platform and group chat functionality to provide parity with some of their industry competitors in both segments.

The full list of the 8 announced updates can be found at the following excellent blog from Tom Arbuthnot:

Serving contextual meeting experiences with AI

During the Cisco keynote, Amy Chang, SVP Collaboration Technology Group talked about “Cognitive Collaboration”, the ability to deliver much more contextual meeting experiences for their customers. Their plan is to use AI to serve content to meeting participants by leveraging the database platform built by Accompany, the company founded by her and acquired by Cisco.

Cisco also showcased people identification and the use of smart framing and people counting in the meeting room as their key hardware showcase in the keynote. At Huddly, we already offer both people counting and Genius Framing via our award-winning new Huddly IQ camera. Good to see this functionality becoming a showcase for others in the industry.

Other trends: Voice and Contact Center

The other big trends at the show were voice and contact center – still critical pillars for the collaboration story. In Voice, we had announcements from Google, Amazon, and Zoom, with each looking to add enterprise-grade voice services to their collaboration portfolios. For customer contact, we saw continued improvements from the big platform companies Twilio and Amazon, along with new partnership announcements such as the partnering of Zoom Phone (previously Zoom Voice) with both Twilio and Five9. Again, the messaging across all these areas was consistent, with a focus on simplification, flexibility and delivering unique and innovative CX.

Delivering workplace innovation through AI integration

On the expo floor, hardware providers were showcasing new form factors and early-stage AI to deliver workplace innovation for their customers. A number of vendors were showing auto framing of participants in meetings, including Huddly in partnership with Crestron at the Zoom booth. Others were showcasing the integration of intelligent assistants into their hardware, including Poly who have integrated Alexa for Business into their Trio audio device. Amazon also announced an API for Alexa for Business to control meeting room scheduling platforms.

Crestron Flex B160

The future is AI on the edge

The challenge for our industry over the next period will be to understand how best to use the intelligence available at each layer of the collaboration experience (platform, application and edge device) to deliver the most productive solutions to truly change the way workplaces and people collaborate and interact. At Huddly, we have a unique capability to deliver AI to our edge device in order to provide fast, accurate and secure experiences for our customers. We look forward to working with our platform partners to continue our innovation and leverage this intelligent edge capability to further enhance the rapid development of functionality being driven from their platforms and applications.

And finally, a thank you

As always, we thank our key strategic partners at the event; Google, Crestron, Zoom, Microsoft, and Avocor for their continued partnership and collaboration.

Thank you also to the organizers of Enterprise Connect 2019 for once again creating a wonderful event for innovative discussion, partnering, and understanding where our industry is moving both this year and into the future.

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Fraser Park
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