Smartphones will be in the hands of a quarter of the world population by 2017, according to forecasts from the likes of eMarketer. As a result, businesses of all sizes will have growing needs for mobile applications, including solutions that automate tasks such as managing calendars.
Lowdownapp is one such app for the enterprise market: It promises to organize your smartphone calendar based on your individual needs using artificial intelligence (AI).
Smart Search, Better CRM?
Lowdownapp, a mobile software and technology consultancy firm headquartered in London, this week announced a customized version of Lowdown mobile app for enterprise clients.
Lowdown fuses together a slice of the calendar built into the mobile device with a custom-built narrow AI engine to speed delivery of information. It's faster than search, Forbes reported, and enables the app to bring together real time data from a variety of publicly available, Internet-based information sources, including public profiles on social networks, and deliver it to users in a "clear and uncluttered" mobile view.
Lowdownapp CEO David said that shortcut has the potential to boost productivity. Business professionals spend an average of 1.5 days per week in meetings and dedicate 0.5 days a week to preparing for them, he said. The Lowdownapp can save two hours of preparation time — a saving of 12 working days a year, he boasted.
"The combination of contextually relevant data and the beautifully crafted user interface streamlines the time and effort users require to research people and companies in advance of meetings," he said, adding that the new customized version can "go one giant step further, interfacing with internal data sources to provide organizations with a mobilized front-end to their internal applications."
Peggy Anne Salz, mobile authority and chief analyst at MobileGroove, a research and consulting firm focused on mobile search, contextual marketing and business transformation, said the capability to connect with both publicly available information sources and internal data sources has the potential to vastly improve customer relationship management (CRM). Lowdown can not only bring context to meetings accessing "the digital breadcrumb trail of posts and updates across social networks," but also tap internal databases "to provide enterprise users with fresh and relevant data about customers and colleagues, thus amplifying the ability of the organization to deliver truly customized service and marketing," she explained in a statement.
Lowdownapp has received funding from several UK angel investors and was chosen in October as the first-ever UK investment from the Indian Angel Network, Asia's largest angel investor network with over 300 investors across 10 countries.
Lowdownapp isn't the first attempt to market an AI-based personal assistant. Many of the big names in tech are starting to invest in AI-based apps.
Microsoft launched Cortana as a personal assistant for Windows Phone. Google bought out AI startup DeepMind for $600 million and IBM's Watson (named after IBM's first CEO Thomas J. Watson) is being used in the medical field to make connections between scientific literature and drug information to help doctors treat cancer patients.
Facebook hired Vladimir Vapnik to push along the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab. Vapnik is a pioneer in using algorithms for machine learning purposes, and these algorithms can even help us discern what is appropriate to share on social media. (Ever have one of those nights?)
Artificial intelligence-based apps are already making an impact in the consumer market — personal assistants such as Siri are a huge success among consumers. But the potential is great in the enterprise space, too, which has a lot of things that need to be organized.
Show Me The Money
Some of the functions AI apps could serve in an enterprise setting include natural language recognition (very useful for multinational companies), image recognition (for security companies) and the automation of data analysis, which could help businesses cut labor costs.
Perhaps that's why AI startups attracted so many investors in 2014. This year alone, 170 startups are expected to get on board with AI. Already, leading venture capital firms in Silicon Valley have announced plans to invest in AI, including Khosla Ventures and Greylock Partners.
Khosla Ventures has raised $1 billion and Greylock Partners invested in rental service Airbnb, which is valued at almost $10 billion. With backers like these, AI startups should have the financial muscle they need to succeed.
“When the idea is big enough and edgy enough, it’s either madness or genius,” said Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and also a partner at Greylock Partners. “What you are trying to figure out is which one it is.”
Given the need to organize so much content and contextualize it using artificial intelligence that needs to be specifically tailored to each user, the idea may look like madness. But it is desperately needed in the enterprise space, therefore also making it genius.
Why Is AI Getting Huge?
AI is growing in large part from the information explosion fueled by big data in 2014. Per minute, Facebook users shared 2.5 million pieces of content, Twitter users sent out 300,000 tweets, Instagram users post 220,000 photos, YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content, Apple users download 50,000 apps, 200 million emails are being sent, and Amazon is generating $80,000 in online sales.
That's a lot to organize, and killer AI-based apps are necessary to clean up all this content and put them into context. Part of the fueling of information growth explosion is mobile devices, which can be used anywhere, anytime with a data connection — you don't need to be tethered to a desktop or even a laptop to use it.
Content clutter also costs money. According to Newstex, five exabytes (that's 5 billion gigabytes) of content were created between the beginning of the world and 2003. In 2013, five exabytes of content were being created daily. Newstex estimates that content searches costs companies $14,000 and 500 hours per worker — a cost of $28 an hour per worker. Artificial intelligence can help businesses save money, both big and small, which is why apps pertaining to the contextualization of content using AI also has a financial benefit.
Aaron Frazin, co-founder and CEO of Charlie, a Chicago-based startup, said calendars take center stage because they are remote controls to your life. Charlie has released an app that compiles one-page summaries of people that the app users are about to meet with, then emails these notes to the app users ahead of the meeting.
“Applications that connect into the calendar allow users to regain control of their busy lives,” Frazin said, “and that’s why the competition for the calendar is heating up...an application that cannot 'read' and 'understand' user context is just not going to make it.”
Organizing so much information is not only a technical challenge: It's also a legal one. Lowdownapp, for instance, is being sued for the use of the word “HERE,” which is its name for an app used to check into locations.
HERE is also the brand name for Nokia's mapping and navigation apps. "Nokia has been using the HERE brand in relation to location-based apps and services since 2012. Its use by Lowdown for an app which offers location based services risks confusing customers and impacting on our brand, so we've asked them to use something else,” a Nokia spokesperson said.
Lowdownapp has agreed to change the name, but not without a few words of resistance. "As a small start-up trying to deliver value to users we don't think a multi-billion dollar company will be affected by this," said Lowdownapp CEO Senior. "Life is hard enough without Goliaths squashing Davids. Maybe they should focus on creating a better mapping service than Google or Apple than squishing a minuscule business."
Artificial intelligence-based apps are going to play a huge part in the business market much like personal assistants such as Siri are doing in the personal and consumer market. Since executives have so much content to organize and so little time to do it in, it should make a much bigger impact in the enterprise space as it cuts down on costs and not only organizes but puts into context a lot of the content that is sitting around on an executive's smartphone.