Siri, Cortana Are Listening: How 5 Digital Assistants Use Your Data - InformationWeek
Data Management
07:06 AM
Michelle Maisto
Michelle Maisto
The Real Impact of a Data Security Breach
Aug 02, 2017
In this webcast, experts discuss the real losses associated with a breach, both in the data center ...Read More>>

Siri, Cortana Are Listening: How 5 Digital Assistants Use Your Data

Learn more about how digital assistants including Amazon Alexa, Facebook M, Google Now, and Apple's Siri are rewriting the rules around data privacy and sharing.
1 of 11

(Image: Сергей Хакимуллин/iStockphoto)

(Image: Сергей Хакимуллин/iStockphoto)

In August, Facebook introduced its new digital assistant, M, to a limited number of users, whose response was unlike anything Siri or Google Now had faced. People were flummoxed over whether M was actually an artificial intelligence (AI) win for Facebook or if there was a human on the other side of the screen.

The answer: Both.

A tremendous amount of learning is involved in AI, and Facebook's new baby was taking its first wobbly steps, with adult supervision. A Wired profile explained that M used AI to field the initial response to every question, but that a person approved or adjusted every answer before it went out. With every adjustment or implied thumbs up, M learned and got a little better at answering on its own.

There are a few key things happening that speak to the bigger picture of big data and analytics today, when a technology like M -- or Cortana or Alexa -- can do something like send your mom a bouquet on Mother's Day.

One is that the software is learning processes and finding out how to make connections. Because thousands of other people have made the same requests, it's already made corrections and figured out efficiencies that have nothing to do with any individual user, but rather the learning that can come from the enormous datasets being created when thousands or millions of people are contributing data points.

[See 10 Productivity Hacks to Kick-Start Your Day.]

Another key thing that these assistants are learning about each of us is how to better sell to us.

Still another is that we consumers are getting increasingly used to the idea of sharing data, like our credit card number, our mom's name and address, and many other data points that we may or may not realize can be of value to an algorithm and a company like Facebook or Apple.

That willingness, along with our understanding of the larger value we receive in return, will drive a similar and inevitable shift within enterprises, as each of us in our professional roles needs difficult questions answered, such as knowing whether we'll meet a sales forecast, or tasks accomplished, such as thwarting hackers.

Enterprises, particularly in regulated industries like government and healthcare, are increasingly understanding and embracing the benefits that come with sharing data and contributing data -- in secure ways -- to create larger datasets that can reveal critical and otherwise unavailable insights.

This first wave of digital assistants may be all it takes to warm consumers to the concept and push more enterprises beyond legacy, pre-Internet thinking about data, how it should be treated, and what it can make possible.

In the following pages we take a look at digital assistants from five of the largest tech players and how they're using your data to perfect their AI. Take a look and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Rising stars wanted. Are you an IT professional under age 30 who's making a major contribution to the field? Do you know someone who fits that description? Submit your entry now for InformationWeek's Pearl Award. Full details and a submission form can be found here.

Michelle Maisto is a writer, a reader, a plotter, a cook, and a thinker whose career has revolved around food and technology. She has been, among other things, the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise Magazine, a reporter on consumer mobile products and wireless networks for ... View Full Bio

1 of 11
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Ninja
3/10/2016 | 9:46:42 AM
Already there
So far i have not found a need to use these "assistants". I find that most of the information I will ask for has a widget on the Today screen or some other app that i can be sure of getting the correct information. It is fun to ask Siri what last night's Yankee score was, but i get all that now.
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
IT Strategies to Conquer the Cloud
Chances are your organization is adopting cloud computing in one way or another -- or in multiple ways. Understanding the skills you need and how cloud affects IT operations and networking will help you adapt.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll