Chatbot – the name does not truly encompass everything this emerging technology promises. Companies around the world are racing to a future in which chatbots replace communication platforms, current apps, search engines, and browsers. Part of the movement to make artificial intelligence (AI) mainstream, these bots may soon be incorporated into all large-scale technology solutions. Is there a place for chatbots in transportation management systems (TMS)?
Apple’s Siri is the most recognizable chatbot on the market. She has been helping people find restaurants, get directions, and check the weather since 2011. However, her natural language processing (NLP) capabilities were a large roadblock in further development. Creating technology that adjusts to languages, accents, speech patterns, and intonation has proven difficult. Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook are just a few among the many companies worldwide who have been racing to improve NLP technology. The last year has proven fruitful and thrust the bot movement into the spotlight.
Another contributing factor in the chatbot revolution is a growing disinterest in downloading apps. People are purchasing and retaining fewer apps every day. The chatbot would effectively replace individual app interfaces with one uniform user interface (UI). Rather than opening Yelp to find a restaurant nearby, Google Maps to get directions, Facebook Messenger to let friends know, and text messages to alert the one friend not on Facebook, a person would interact with the chatbot alone.
The long-term goal is for these systems to recognize all aspects of the user’s life and remember them. One all-encompassing medium would access voice recognition, facial recognition, photos, social media accounts, business accounts, e-mail, texts, phone calls, and every app on the market. This would revolutionize the way people operate in the business and private sectors.
Though allowing for just one UI, chatbots will not replace all other technologies. The bots still need sources of information. However, to remain relevant, many tech companies will have to rebuild products from the ground up. What does this mean for TMS?
The Bot in TMS
Chatbots will provide businesses with the opportunity to streamline client interactions further. A shipper could ask its chatbot for an update on a delivery while he or she is out of town. The chatbot would pull up a TMS dashboard, locate the shipment, and provide a status report. Similarly, the bot would recall previous conversations with the carrier, so the user could remember the promised delivery date. The shipper would then be able to call the carrier with any questions. At no point during these transactions would the user need to touch a device.
It is likely that the future holds chatbot integration with TMS solutions. However, chatbots will be unable to replace the underlying technology and software that make TMS effective.
When Will Chatbots Launch?
The bots may be coming, but their true arrival is not imminent. AI technology, though advancing every day, is not yet in a place to make the full chatbot experience a reality. Many companies at the forefront of bot development are still using humans to fill gaps in algorithms because chatbots cannot yet be trusted without some monitoring. Until the bots’ AI and NLP abilities are reliable, they will not be able to support the all-encompassing experience users are seeking. There is no doubt they will someday change the way people interact and do business, but it may take some time.