Expect more A.I. in Apple's iOS enterprise future

The IBM/Apple deal is opening new possibilities in AI

Apple, IBM, iOS, Siri, iPhone, iPad, IBM Watson, A.I., enterprise
Credit: IBM Press Image

Expect smarter enterprises following IBM’s recent deal with United Airlines. The deal means the airline will be making more use of Apple’s mobile solutions, with numerous new apps for different purposes. I caught up with Heidi Fillmore, Executive Partners, Travel & Transportation Apple + IBM Product Lead.

How does IBM characterize its work with Apple?

“More than two years ago, Apple and IBM set out to change how people work and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Fillmore.

“Both Apple and IBM are uniquely positioned to create mobile apps that go deeper than basic employee tasks. It’s a complete mobile platform for business transformation.”

IBM and Apple announced plans to work together to develop sophisticated apps for enterprise users in 2015. The partners have moved forward rapidly since then. There are already over 100 industry apps for iOS and these are in use across hundreds of enterprises. Together, Apple and IBM are building a strong bridge into the lucrative enterprise IT market.

That’s interesting – but we’ve not reached the pinnacle of what’s possible just yet.

“We continue to expand the partnership to deliver the next evolution of made-for-business apps, including powering apps with IBM Watson for better decision making,” Fillmore explains.

“We’re also now seeing the conversation shift from wanting a single app to creating multiple apps customized to their unique needs.”

Mobile at Scale

United Airlines is just one client, but it already has 50,000 iOS devices deployed across its business. They are used for everything from flight maps to customer services and ticketing. As the usage case develops, enterprises like United Airlines are recognising the need to develop focused apps for slightly different parts of their business. It's to enable rapid deployment of such solutions that IBM has introduced what it calls “Mobile at Scale for iOS”.

This is "designed for clients looking to invest in a digital transformation project that enables large enterprises to quickly and efficiently deploy multiple high quality iOS apps over several years,” Fillmore said.

The solutions can make use of data analytics. This means that employees working with one of these apps on their Apple device can use real-time data-driven insights to help them make better decisions.

“The focus across our entire portfolio - whether it be an airline mechanic, an airport agent, a pilot or a flight attendant, is to leverage analytics to serve up the next best action or information to allow the employee to be more proactive and less reactive. For passengers, that could be serving up the next best flight in the event of a disruption, or seat or product based on your preferences and previous history.”

Watson and the iOS enterprise

Apple’s work on Siri is arguably more focused on consumer needs.

While it seems inevitable we will see Apple’s AI extend into health, travel, become laced within numerous apps, and can look forward to the introduction of powerful new smarthome features later this year, for enterprise users Watson remains a compelling solution.

That’s OK, because IBM and Apple intend bringing enterprise users the best of both AI’s: Siri on the iOS device will be supplemented by cognitive functions within the enterprise apps.

“We are actively working cognitive into our portfolio to include a number of Watson capabilities that will take our apps to the next level,” IBM’s Fillmore explained.

“These include natural language capabilities, richer personalization insights, deeper business insights all based on cognitive so our apps just get smarter over time as the system learns.”

IBM is already capable of integrating IBM Watson within MobileFirst for iOS and custom-built iOS apps. “For example, we can integrate IBM Watson capabilities including speech interaction and natural language processing for conversation for a more interactive mobile experience that lifts employee productivity,” Fillmore said. (And you can also look forward to Watson AI in Apple Watch).

What next?

While the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has been hugely successful, it has now been years since Apple applied significant innovation to the Mac.

However, with Macs already known to be cheaper to run than PCs, and the big enterprise push from Apple and IBM, it seems highly probable that as and when Apple introduces new Macs they will receive a lot of interest among enterprise users. After all, where iOS goes today, a Mac can follow tomorrow. As can an iPad Pro.

I suspect we will be hearing much more about Apple, the enterprise, Macs, iPads and Apple in A.I. in the coming weeks.

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