An Innovator’s Guide to Contextual Intelligence and Robotics

We are the ‘click and buy’ generation and these days, everything is getting personalized. In a series of articles on contextual intelligence and robotics, I want to give you insight in the state of the technology and it's application. To start off: what exactly is contextual intelligence?
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I have an annual travel insurance. It is not that I travel a lot, but it gives me the flexibility to come and go whenever I want. It saves me the trouble of ordering a new travel insurance for every vacation and it guarantees me that I am always insured. You could say that it provides me with the suggestion of freedom to travel.

But isn’t it strange that I need to take an annual insurance, just to avoid the hassle of ordering a new insurance every time I want to travel? And what about my coverage? Should I choose worldwide coverage just in case I want to travel outside of Europe? And why do I have to pay for the days that I am not traveling?

"I demand a personalized product that automatically adjusts itself too. And I only want to pay for what I use."

Although the concept of products like annual travel insurances seem to be based on providing customers the peace of mind they are looking for, they are in fact very much centered around the product concept of the insurance company. What I would want from my insurance company is to automatically switch my travel insurance on when I leave the country and change the coverage of my insurance when I leave Europe.  I can in all honesty no longer accept an insurance company that just offers me a number of standard products: I demand a personalized product that automatically adjusts itself too. And I only want to pay for what I use.

It’s All About ‘Me’

One of the trends we see in technology development, is that everything is getting personalized. The Internet of Me is a typical result of this development. The reason is obvious: we are overwhelmed with information and find it hard to distinguish between what is relevant for us and what is not. We are the ‘click and buy’ generation, we don’t want to go through long bureaucratic processes by reading instructions and filling in forms. Instead we want the product or service that we need at the right place and the right time and tailored to our context. And we want it now!

With intelligent systems bridging the last mile between the digital enterprise and the physical world, organizations can really start offering customers the personalized results they expect from them. Look for instance at the developments in the field of the Internet of Things (IoT), where a connected world of smart devices has opened up and is merging virtual and real worlds together. Well known examples of IoT in our homes are the Nest Learning Thermostat, Philips Hue-Smart Home Lighting and smart security cameras that warn us when something is happening in our homes. But what about a coffee machine in the office that uses facial recognition to recognize you and automatically serve you your favorite brew? The technology is already there and ready to be used widely.

‘Me’ Technology for a Highly Personalized Experience

If enterprises want to offer such a highly personalized, context-driven experience, they need to change the way they look at processes and technology. Traditional approaches won’t work, as they are too much focused on the one size fits all principle. Enterprises should look at ‘Me’ Technology instead:  intelligent ecosystems in which smart devices, content and data analytics engines are working together, integrated with decision-driven process engines. I call this Contextual Intelligence, a term first coined in psychology. 

  • Contextual Intelligence is the practical application of knowledge and information to real-world situations. This is an interactive goal-driven process that involves both adapting to and modifying an environment to accomplish the desired goal.

To me, Contextual Intelligence is about systems that know and act based on available data. Look at it as a navigation system that automatically calculates the best route towards a goal and adapts it based on the actual contextual information. It is a robotized system focused on only one thing: offering personalized actions and automating them as much as possible.

What Does This Mean to ‘Me’?

Now, let’s go back to the point of view of the consumer again and translate this to the example that I used in the opening of this article. Using a system that knows my location and acts upon that, insurance companies could offer me a flexible travel insurance that:

  • Is configurable with my smart phone, for instance to schedule upcoming vacations in my own country;
  • Automatically activates my insurance when I cross a border;
  • Adjusts my coverage when I leave Europe and enter an another continent;
  • Communicates with a fully automatic back office system at the insurance company that changes my settings and updates me of any relevant changes.

Of course this is just one example of using contextual intelligence to robotize processes and making them more customer-centered. But think of what this technology can do to make cities cleaner and safer, how it can be used to increase the safety of field engineers or what about increasing the quality of our increasingly longer lives? I am currently involved in various projects in these areas and my observation is that the number of practical applications for this technology is growing by the day. In my next blogs I will address the application of contextual intelligence in these areas with more hard core innovative concepts and real-life examples.

What Can You Expect of This Series of Articles

This is the first entry in a series of articles around contextual intelligence and robotizing processes. In this series I want to provide you with more insight in the state of the technology and the application of it for various purposes. My goal is to inspire you to think about its potential and its possibilities within your own context.

What developments can you identify in a world in which technology is becoming more and more personalized? Is your organization responsive enough to cope with rising customer expectations? Get involved and leave a comment. If you would like to know more about contextual intelligence and how to shape it, please get in touch. Interested in the field and would you like to discover your career opportunities? Contact our recruiter.

 

Enjoyed this article? Check out the other publications by Kees van Mansom:

  • It is often said that it is not the end goal that counts, but the journey towards it. Unfortunately, this is not true for automated processes. Kees van Mansom breaks down how you can get the most out of intelligent automation, without losing the end goal out of sight in 'Why Intelligent Automation is a goal-driven journey'.
     
  • In 'Robotic Process Automation: Do robots dream of a personalized world?' Kees van Mansom elaborates how to cope with the rising customer expectations and the need for organizations to offer their customers a highly personalized, context-driven experience by implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Author: Kees van Mansom