Kathy Gibson reports from Gitex – The alignment of broadband availability, lower computing cost, increases in speed, processing power and storage have created a perfect storm for artificial intelligence (AI) to head into the mainstream business world.

Omar Javaid, chief product officer, and head of partnerships and alliances at Avaya, points out that AI is not new, but the convergence of technologies – combined with developments in generative AI (GenAI) and large language models (LLMs) – have propelled it into prominence.

As the person responsible for charting the future development of Avaya’s product portfolio, Javaid is firmly focused on incorporating GenAI use cases into the contact centre platform.

“There is a tremendous amount of interest in GenAI from our customer base,” he says. “We have been talking about AI for decades, but the convergence of technology vectors means it has become real now.”

Avaya and its customer are at the nexus of human interaction, accessing and collecting a massive amount of personal information, which is why the company yesterday announced the inclusion of GenAI into its solutions.

“All of this customer data, from a range of sources, can now be used to build interesting use case models,” he says. “The new technologies like LLMs are being used to create better experiences and products.”

It is still early days for GenAI-based solutions, Javaid stresses, but there are already promising signs that the technology will go a long way to augmenting solutions like AI-power chatbots and agent assist tools.

“What is different now is the level of investment in GenAI and LLMs from major companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft among many others.

“There has been a tremendous amount of investment which is now creating another wave of interest and more investments.”

Customers are also more aware of the potential for GenAI and expect it to be part of their experience, Javaid adds.

Despite being mainstream for less than a year, the levels of interest and investment mean that viable commercial solutions are already available today. They may not be widespread, but they are working.

At Avaya, the mantra of “innovation without disruption” means that the company continues to develop its existing platforms, while adding new services and functionality in collaboration with partners and customers.

The company’s classic range of on-premise products, addressing unified communications, unified office, and the contact centre platform are still maintained and upgraded.

The cloud-based platforms, both the repurposed on-premise product and a born-in-the-cloud solution, are likewise updated and enhanced without the need for customers to lift and shift their installed systems.

“So in the near-term, we are 100% focused on the core products, both classic and cloud, but there is plenty of opportunity to add AI services. It’s a vector where we can do interesting things,” Javaid explains.

Avaya is also continuing its investments in spatial computing, which Javaid believes holds a wealth of potential. The company last year started embedding augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) into its solutions and technological advances are driving their adoption.

The new wave of technologies coming on to the market will have its biggest impact in the area of customer experience, says Ahmad Helmy, who looks after this at Avaya.

“All of our new products include a GenAI technology capability,” he says. “We add the tools to our platform so that customers can use them to design customer and agent experiences.”

What is key for future development, he adds, is how GenAI can be embedded into all parts of the process to enable truly modern business cases.

Today’s contact centre is a long way from the early voice-only installations that many still associate them with. “The software that we work with is complicated,” Javaid points out. “The contact centre is really more than ERP (enterprise resource planning) software in that it is integrated and stitched into many other systems.”

And now AI is making those capabilities more effective, bringing information from various sources together to ensure the customer or agent gets the best possible service, adding capabilities and insights that weren’t possible before.

As AI advances to the next phase, or artificial general intelligence (AGI), the AI model will be engaged and present in every step of the customer experience, Helmy adds.

This raises the spectre of privacy, which is something companies like Avaya are very conscious of. “As systems develop that ability to learn and to create content, vendors need to ensure that customers are given the tools to monitor and manage their data privacy. End users must be guaranteed the right level of privacy, security, and ethics when they use AI-based systems.”

The big AI adopters are likely to be bigger enterprises that have to comply with privacy and ethical regulations, Helmy points out, so vendors will invest in making their solutions compliant.

It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, Javaid agrees. “People always say they want their data to be private, but then they share it freely. And regulators are almost always behind in things like this.

“But Avaya is in the business of providing enterprise software to companies in heavily regulated industries, with a legal liability – so they have to take it seriously. So we are investing in ensuring privacy and ethics are built in.”