Since introducing its Einstein AI platform a few years ago, Salesforce has built AI into more and more of its tools. At this year's Dreamforce conference, for instance, the CRM giant announced new tools for customizing voice assistants and for incorporating AI into contact centers. The new capabilities showcase how Salesforce is progressively making work easier for its customers -- albeit in incremental steps. To give Dreamforce attendees a more forward-looking glimpse into its product capabilities, the Salesforce Research team demonstrated some of its breakthroughs in areas like conversational AI and natural language generation. Their research is focused on building an AI-driven world so far only found in sci-fi, said Salesforce Chief Scientist Dr. Richard Socher.
With the imminent release of Salesforce Einstein, you no longer have to be a data scientist to build artificial intelligence (AI) -- or at least the machine learning (ML) variety of it -- into your CRM applications. Einstein will allow Salesforce administrators and business users, as well as developers, to bring features such as smart image identification or policy automation to applications. In building these capabilities directly into its applications, Salesforce has gone further than other vendors' AI services, including those from Microsoft, IBM, Google and Amazon, which target developers and data scientists. By packaging up AI so that it can be harnessed using "clicks not code," Salesforce aims to "democratize AI just as we democratized CRM," says John Ball, Salesforce senior vice president and general manager of Einstein: There aren't enough data scientists in the world to build predictive models for every company. So [Einstein] is built right into the [Salesforce] platform.
The driver in a car accident takes a picture of the damaged vehicle and sends it to an insurer for a coverage quote on the spot. A hat retailer uses data analytics to tweak its marketing formula and more than 60 percent of recipients suddenly open their messages in an email campaign. A hotel guest checks in and issues voice commands to an in-room personal assistant, ordering a rental car from the guest's preferred company that shows up outside the lobby a half-hour later. Is this the future of artificial intelligence, or is it a mad vision of computers run amok? In fact, these are all actual use cases presented during Dreamforce 2018 in San Francisco this week (pictured), and they underscore a theme that occupied much of the conversation among 170,000 attendees.
Salesforce has quietly been amassing talent in the artificial intelligence domain, most recently with the acquisition of MetaMind this week, a company working on deep learning for automated image recognition. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has backed the Palo Alto, California-based startup almost from the beginning, participating in an 8 million venture round in December 2014 along with Kholsa Ventures. The deal follows a number of other buys by Salesforce of companies including machine learning startup PredictionIO, data science for enterprises company MinHash, and a "smart" iPhone calendar app called Tempo AI that automatically added context such as contacts and documents to calendar items. Salesforce has also hired away some of LinkedIn's data science talent. Forrester Research principal analyst Mike Gualtieri told InformationWeek in an interview that Salesforce is keeping pace with consumer-focused Internet giants like Google and Facebook with these acquisitions.
Salesforce's Einstein artificial intelligence platform will be the centerpiece of the company's Dreamforce conference and company executives have been teasing out details in recent weeks. First, CEO Marc Benioff outlined Einstein on the company's earnings conference call. And then Einstein's direct executive team carried out a demo that highlighted features and where the AI platform would be first used (think lead scoring and sales predictive analytics). Here's what you need to know about an AI platform that Salesforce customers will be pitched shortly: Salesforce's plan is to infuse artificial intelligence everywhere through its clouds. John Ball, senior vice president and general manager of Einstein, said the company won't have a separate AI product.