Bots are an emerging area of innovation. Essentially bots are pieces of software that use natural language interface for queries, instructions and tasks. They can do everything from checking the balance of your credit card account to giving praise based on company values. Small startups to large companies such as Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are making bets and big investments on bots. Some think that bots are the next major technical innovation leap after mobile apps, that being integrations across applications.
Integrations across applications
The concept of bots is not new and they have existed in many forms over the years. Remember Clippy the Microsoft Assistant from the previous decade. Siri the familiar voice on iPhone is another example of a bot that can create a reminder, show photos from your last vacation or find a good Mexican restaurant nearby. There are different types of bots – chat bots (ex: Slackbot, Facebook Messenger Bots), device bots (ex: Amazon Alexa), data bots (ex: Webcrawlers) and a number of others.
If bots are not new, then why is there such hype about bots these days? Slack is a good example of the current hype surrounding bots. Slack raised money at a $3.8 billion valuation that was largely due to bots. Slack is over run with bots, many nice and useful bots. You can see an unofficial list here.
Microsoft recently introduced the Microsoft Bot Framework, which enables you to build and connect bots. Facebook has introduced the Messenger Platform to build bots. IBM is investing in cognitive computing with IBM Watson to enable highly intelligent bots.
There are three main reasons for the recent rise of bots in the market today:
- Anyone can build a bot is a matter of minutes, in fact, it is much easier than building and deploying a mobile app
- Improvements in natural and contextual interaction technology, including new advancements in Cognitive/AI technology
- Infiltration of bots into the corporate workspace as Mini Digital Workers
Actually, there is just one underlying enabler for the rise of the bots, it is the rise of APIs. As APIs have been built and proliferated, bots have grown. Easy to use APIs, and the variety of functions that have been enabled by APIs, have enabled and simplified the development of bots. With APIs, bot developers are able to use a few simple methods and some scripting code to develop integrations across applications and deliver new functionality. Bots essentially are small integrations across applications leveraging their APIs to deliver specific functionality. For example, Microsoft Cognitive Services delivers powerful APIs that can add natural human interaction style experiences (emotion, speech, vision, linguistics, etc.) powered by Artificial Intelligence capabilities to any bot.
New uses of APIs with bots, and APIs enabling new integration use cases, are an exciting market opportunity for API management. These new use cases with bots require stronger API security and API governance. They also place additional demands on scalability and availability of API management solutions.
Will bots revolutionize the world the same way that mobile apps have done? They have the potential to do this, but only time will tell how successful bots will be. What is clear is that they are proliferating and will play an essential and important role in the future.
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