Cisco gives its UC a spark of intelligence with $125m MindMeld acquisition

MindMeld is an aritificial intelligence company that specialises in creating human-like conversational interfaces. Cisco thinks that tech will improve its Spark suite.

The key buzzword with this acquisition seems to be ‘conversational interfaces’, which seems to be a techy amplification of ‘conversation’. Being able to communicate with machines in the same way we do people is a hot trend right now thanks to things like Siri and Alexa, but we’re not there yet and they secret may lie in more AI.

Within AI you have things like machine learning, natural language processing and dialogue management. Get these right and you can potentially create a conversational interface that is not only the equal but surpasses human interaction, which if you think about a typical human interaction shouldn’t actually be that difficult.

This all comes under the general heading of automation. The development of machines to replace people at places like call centres is one of the main focuses of automation these days. This is a particularly cruel twist of fate for people who currently work in such places as many of them only do so because automation made other low-skilled job opportunities obsolete, but what can you do?

One of Cisco’s most successful areas of diversification – and there have been many failures – has been business communications, including unified comms (UC), collaboration, IP phone terminals and teleconferencing. Much of this is embodied by its Spark suite and it’s into this that all the MindMeld cleverness will be injected.

“The workplace of the future is one powered by AI,” said Rowan Trollope, SVP of Cisco’s IoT and Applications Group. “This is a significant step toward making that workplace a reality. Integrating MindMeld into the Cisco Spark platform will transform how users interact in Cisco Spark Spaces, Cisco Spark Meetings, and Cisco Spark Care.”

The $125 million Cisco is spending in this makes it a relatively small acquisition by Cisco’s historically profligate standards, but it’s still big enough to be considered significant. You can read more of Trollope’s thoughts on the move, including his own youthful forays into programming, here.

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