The deal means Salesforce users will become the latest to have IBM’s Watson AI technology available in their workplace
IBM and cloud customer relationship management (CRM) company Salesforce have announced plans to combine their respective artificial intelligence systems, Einstein and Watson, as part of a deal to deliver joint products for advising decision-makers and improving customer contacts.
The companies said late on Monday that the deal would target the sales, service, marketing and commerce sectors, amongst others.
The partnership means users will be able to draw on Watson, which sifts through large amounts of structured and unstructured data to find information relevant to a particular task, from within the Salesforce Intelligent Customer Success Platform, which already uses Salesforce’s own Einstein technology.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) for Watson will allow Salesforce users to draw on data from inside or outside the company, such as local shopping patterns, weather and retail industry data in order to put together personalised email campaigns, for instance.
Also under the deal IBM’s The Weather Company is to provide a component called Lightning on the Salesforce AppExchange that will furnish weather data, which could for example be used to automatically send relevant policy information to customers at risk of being affected by weather events.
IBM said it would also create data integration products allowing Salesforce users to bring together on-premises and cloud-based data within the Salesforce Intelligent Customer Success Platform. The companies said this would allow the unification of client financial data including investments and risk profiles with financial trends and public macroeconomic information to advise on better financial decisions.
IBM said it would create a new practice at its Global Business Services unit and its consulting subsidiary Bluewolf to help clients deploy the combined products.
The deal continues IBM’s policy in recent years of shifting away from its historic focus on on-premises systems and focusing on faster-growing areas such as cloud computing and machine learning.
IBM has already adapted Watson for use in fields as diverse as automobile research and medical diagnoses.
It also underscores the degree to which cloud-oriented companies such as Salesforce have displaced former IT industry leaders such as IBM, whose fortunes were built on selling on-premises hardware and services such as PCs, servers and mainframes.
“With today’s announcement, the power of Watson will serve the millions of Salesforce and Einstein customers and developers to provide an unprecedented understanding of customers,” said IBM president and chief executive Ginni Rometty.
“The combination of Einstein and Watson will make businesses smarter and our customers more successful,” said Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff.
The companies said the integrated artificial intelligence capabilities, the Lightning component and Bluewolf’s integration offerings should be available in the second half of this year, with IBM’s integration suite for Salesforce planned to launch at the end of this month.
IBM and Salesforce compete with Microsoft, Google, Apple and others who have also made substantial investments in artificial intelligence-based technologies – with Google claiming to have even manufactured its own custom processors for AI.
Meanwhile, Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the US government, amongst others, have warned of the risks of AI-powered being used to rapidly put human staff out of work, with the WEF predicting last year AI could lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years.
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