UPDATED 13:00 EST / DECEMBER 03 2019

shukla-nayyar AI

In the new bot economy, cloud robotics and AI transform work and society in far-reaching ways

As the calendar reaches its last month in 2019, the bot is hot.

Research firm Tractica LLC has forecast that a combination of cloud-computing and robotic hardware, software and services will propel global revenue in the cloud robotics field from single digits to in excess of $170 billion within the next five years.

This is about a lot more than having robots deliver concierge services or burritos. Bots are having a major impact on how over 1-billion active Instagram users channel posts to reach target audiences. And “Grinch bots” are reportedly dominating online traffic to retailer login pages this week to elbow out human shoppers for the best deals.

The popular TV series “The Blacklist” even devoted a recent episode’s plotline to the use of artificial intelligence for murdering a scientist who was seeking to use computers that would harm the future of human life.

Farfetched? Perhaps, but when bots start showing up on TV screens and controlling holiday spending, attention must be paid.

“We are getting to a point where there is a bot for everything and a digital worker for everything,” said Mihir Shukla (pictured, left), chief executive officer of Automation Anywhere Inc. “That’s the first way you’ll look for getting work done in the new bot economy. It will transform how we work and how we think of work.”

Shukla spoke with Peter Burris (@plburris), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the BMC Helix Immersion Days community event in Santa Clara, California. He was joined by Nayaki Nayyar (pictured, right), president of digital services management at BMC Software Inc. Burris also spoke with Sanjay Srivastava, chief digital officer of Genpact in a separate interview. They discussed a recent partnership between Automation Anywhere and BMC, the growth of data in driving robotic adoption, the importance of governance, and consumer preference for instant gratification. (* Disclosure below.)

An augmented workforce

The rapid rise of the bot economy has been fueled by the concurrent growth of technology firms like Automation Anywhere and BMC. Shukla’s company, which is focused on robotic process automation, or RPA, recently secured its second major investment in less than a year. Venture investment in AI-enabled and workflow software has grown tenfold, to over $5 billion, since 2016.

Meanwhile, BMC was acquired by KKR & Co. LP last year in a deal reportedly valued at $8.5 billion. It was KKR’s largest acquisition since the financial crisis in 2008.

In March, the two companies announced a strategic partnership that integrated Automation Anywhere’s intelligent RPA platform with BMC Helix, a cognitive service management solution.

“You plug into BMC Helix and behind it you have an augmented workforce of chatbots, RPA bots, human beings doing what they’re best at and giving a far superior customer experience unlike any other,” Shukla said. “The beauty of this is when humans and bots work together. That is happening now, and that’s the future of the service industry.”

Meeting the tech tsunami

The scenario of humans and bots working together may indeed be less a marriage of convenience and more one of necessity, because cloud robotics is poised to impact an expanding range of jobs.

A recent paper for the Brookings Institution by Stanford University economist Michael Webb found that knowledge workers, such as market analysts and physicists, could soon be affected by the expanding bot economy. Webb based his research on a natural language processing algorithm that analyzed noun and verb pairs found in AI job descriptions and patents.

Newsroom bots are also on the rise. Bloomberg LP relies on AI and an automated system to analyze thousands of earnings reports. The tool allows the financial news service to publish headlines and articles in seconds rather than hours. Heliograf, an in-house AI system used by “The Washington Post,” won a top prize last year for its ability to “successfully automate the creation of articles based on compiling data in templates.”

Driving this kind of innovation is data, a massive amount of information being generated by an explosion of connected devices. An estimated 5 billion people currently wander the planet carrying mobile computers in their pockets, and that’s only the beginning.

“What we are all experiencing is a tech tsunami,” Nayyar said. “What everybody is trying to figure out is how to manage this explosion. It’s humanly impossible to do it all manually, you have to augment it with intelligence.”

Challenge of governance

Confronted with the need to effectively manage vast amounts of data, businesses are turning to solutions such as RPA and AI for automation of tasks across the enterprise. Workers are now both digital and human, but there is a key workplace difference which comes into play.

A recent report published by Accenture PLC and TheCityUK on the use of AI in financial services within the United Kingdom recommended the development of an ethical AI framework to guide decision making. And a major reason is that governance will be critical to making sure the bots don’t go off the rails.

Genpact’s Srivastava makes this important point in a description of his own office. If he shows up for work one day and sees that half of employees in his office are gone, that’s pretty obvious. But how clear is it to the enterprise that bots are functioning properly when automated processing is being done in multiple environments, especially at the compute distributed edge?

“Fast forward to an environment where we have digital workers,” Srivastava noted. “In that world, understanding which of my AI components are on and which are off is really being able to understand that governance. Innovation must be at the edge, it’s where the rubber meets the road, but governance has to be at the core.”

Perhaps the most significant change of the past five years has been a shift from robotics as represented by a clunky mechanical device to a service-driven commodity, purchasable in much the same way that users seek and download an app to a smartphone.

This is the essence of Automation Anywhere’s Bot Store, where users can find enterprise grade, ready-to-deploy intelligent automation. In October, the company disclosed that it had recorded over 100,000 downloads since the store was launched less than two years prior. Top choices ranged from email and speech-to-text conversion to bots for spreadsheets and analyzing image content.

In the new economy, it’s “see bot, buy bot,” and a customer goes away happy.

“The last 20 years of digital technologies from companies like Amazon, Google and Netflix have created this mindset of instant customer gratification,” Shukla explained. “Once your end consumer begins to do that, we as businesses no longer have a choice, the writing is on the wall. What these new platforms are doing, like BMC Helix and Automation Anywhere, is delivering that instant gratification.”

Watch the complete video segment below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the BMC Helix Immersion Days event. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the BMC Helix Immersion Days event. Neither BMC Helix, the sponsor of theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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