Cognitive computing is rapidly becoming an everyday part of our lives and halfway thought 2017, we are seeing even more of the cognitive revolution (i.e. Artificial intelligence (AI)machine learning, and data science) just starting to be leveraged for franchises. We are at the point where it can now be applied to your business to drive numerous efficiencies and make your organization work smarter and faster.

Here are my predictions for the many ways in which you will encounter cognitive technology.  With the hard work of companies like Google, IBM, Salesforce, and my lab, we are already in the midst of this new revolutionary age.

Point 1: You’ll experience cognitive customer service

Most e-commerce applications and SaaS platforms now include chatbots that pop out automatically, make recommendations and otherwise make your customer experience more seamless and satisfying. If you haven’t encountered cognitive chatbots in your online shopping experience already, you’re almost certain to in 2017 and it will continue to evolve to brick and mortar.

This is just ONE way cognitive computing will impact customer service.  From ordering at a drive-thru, making recommendations to buyers based on personal data…the opportunities to get your customer what they want, before they even know it, will be there this year and beyond.

Point 2: Franchises will begin to move to cognitive appliances & equipment

Within our lifetimes, everything will be created with AI, machine learning, and natural language processing capabilities.  This year you’re likely to personally interact with AI-driven apps embedded in wearables and other devices. Or you may have already use Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or a Watson-enabled chatbot in your daily use of personal consumer electronics.  So, what does this mean for your franchise?  Smarter Coffee makers, smarter ovens, smarter diagnostics on car repair.  OEM’s are pushing to make all products smart to help you with customer service, maintenance and purchases based on real data.

Point 3: You’ll use a cognitive productivity application

I couldn’t imagine going a day without my “real” assistant, but there is a huge upswing in the use of intelligent-tech personal assistants to help you and your business.  Even if you somehow manage to avoid intelligent-tech personal assistants, the productive applications your company uses currently will start to evolve.  Many enterprises will either retrofit their existing productivity applications with cognitive capabilities or acquire new services that natively embed these capabilities.  If you aren’t looking at this right now, you should be!

My AI Lab has already built cognitive functions for human resources platforms, employee engagement software, office productivity, procurement, collaboration, messaging, and other business apps. In addition, franchises in all industries will develop their highest-priority strategic applications using AI, machine learning, and virtual assistant technologies or they will find the right partner who can.

Point 4:  You’ll engage in a cognitive crowdsourcing initiative to train your staff

The cognitive revolution depends on a steady flow of training data (images, voice, video, natural language text) that has been assessed, tagged, labeled, and otherwise chosen by human beings. More of this training data, which is essential for building and refining the machine learning algorithms that underpin all cognitive computing, will come from crowdsourcing training communities that operate 24/7 throughout the world. In 2017, more HR and hiring managers will participate in these crowdsourcing initiatives for the first time. Train the best staff, for what they need, when they need it.

Point 5: You’ll find a cognitive partner to make your organization smarter

The words artificial intelligence & cognitive will start to get thrown around in every strategic discussion your company undertakes.  So, franchises will need a strong partner that understands the franchise world as well as the tech space. Cognitive only works when you have the right data and can let the application get smarter by learning your business every day.

Smart tech is enabling franchises, from a wide range of industries, to work and build the right enterprise solutions.  They are developing sophisticated products that incorporate natural language processinganalyticsembedded deep learningconversational chatbotsembodied robotic cognitioncomputer visionautocaptioningemotion analyticsgeospatial contextualizationsituational awareness, and other sophisticated cognitive features.  The right partner knows your business and cognitive tech.

Point 6: You’ll start giving your AI partner more data to think more on your behalf to provide the right operational solutions

Why will you be so willing to share your data?  Solutions for marketing to your local community, peak hour staffing, supply chain logistics, equipment maintenance and repair, even a virtual manager.   Imagine walking into your location each week and having the marketing plan, staffing and supply orders all done based on past trends and real-time structured and non-structured data?  Using weather, event information, traffic pattern data, your sales and your competition’s sales.   All of this can be found in a sea of data and now used to make your organization be smarter.

It’s an exciting time for franchises.  While the big boys in Silicon Valley are creating AI for us all on the consumer level, select organizations are building targeted cognitive solutions to help your specific industry.  Stay tuned for more.  It’s just the beginning.