Categories: Customer Experience

Technology milestones: The story of five key technologies and their impacts on 2023—and beyond.

From its primitive origins to the latest breakthroughs, every technology has its key milestones. Here’s a brief history of five critical technologies we rely on daily.

The five key technologies we’ll be discussing are:

  1. Voice communication
  2. Text communication
  3. Chatbots and AI
  4. Processing and computing
  5. Cloud platforms and as-a-service delivery

Just over 30 years ago, Neil Papworth sent the first SMS to Richard Jarvis at Vodafone. So ground-breaking was the occasion that Jarvis’ Orbitel 901 mobile phone didn’t even have a keypad, meaning he couldn’t reply.

And less than a decade earlier, the internet was born in the form we know today. These milestones go to show that in our fast-paced world of technological change, it’s worth taking a step back every so often to realize just how far we’ve come.

Why? Well, other than just basic curiosity, milestones can help us visualize how the future will look and allow us to plan for the next big developments. And just like the birth of the modern internet, it also serves to remind us that today’s most innovative technologies often have roots going back several decades.

2023: A milestone to never forget technology milestones

The same thing is said each year but 2023 will genuinely be a pivotal milestone year for technology developments. From OpenAI to IBM’s 1K+ qubit quantum computer, this year is already shaping up to be a seminal period for technology.

In this blog, we’ll look at the five most important technology milestones and explore their origins for clues of how they’ll develop throughout 2023, and further into the future.

1. Voice communication

The first mention has to go to what’s made every subsequent technology innovation possible: the humble telephone. Ever since Alexander Graham Bell made the world’s first phone call back in 1876, telecommunications have steadily developed and inspired people to push the boundaries of how we communicate.

Within a century, people were communicating across the globe—even in the world’s remotest parts—thanks to satellites and a highly-developed network of undersea and overland cables.

Fast-forward to the 1980s and 1990s and people’s lives were once again transformed by mobile cellular technology, allowing them to make phone calls independent of a fixed landline.

Rapid developments in broadband and cellular technology in the 2010s have given way to voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP), and it’s now a prime channel for business-customer interactions.

Also replicating the personal touch of voice channels can be difficult using messaging-based communications. That’s why advancements such as speech recognition, voice biometrics, and sentiment analysis have made it possible to simplify and enrich voice communications in line with customers’ growing expectations.

2. Text communication

With SMS already three decades old and the origins of email going back even further, it’s awe-inspiring to consider how far text communication has come. Today, we live in a world of instant messaging, where anyone with a connected device is just milliseconds away.

Because of the boom in social media and messaging apps, consumers began to desire greater convenience and smoother experiences. For example, rather than sitting on hold waiting to speak to a contact agent, most customers now expect instant messaging through WhatsApp, Apple Messages for Business, Instagram, Messenger, and even public-facing social media channels.

Instant messaging has also been an important milestone that’s paved the way for automated business customer interactions powered by natural language processing, natural language understanding, and AI.

What started as the ability to have richer peer-to-peer communications with messaging apps like WhatsApp offering engaging messaging experiences, has evolved into a powerful ecosystem for business-to-customer relationships. The combination of application-to-person (A2P) messaging, customer support interactions and end-to-end customer journey automation means there are endless use case opportunities, including building a shopping cart, placing orders, scheduling car service appointments, booking and managing travel itineraries, and much more.

Messaging is steadily making its way into existing customer journeys and playing a key role in evolving customer communication patterns. Calls to action are moving from the traditional ‘click to call’ or ‘visit our website’ to ‘click to chat’ or ‘chat with an agent’ – benefiting both customers and vendors.

3. Chatbots and AI

While the first chatbot can be traced back to 1966, artificial intelligence (AI) was first discussed as a concept a whole decade earlier. But it wasn’t until the late 1980s that truly independent computerized thinking, human interactivity, and machine learning became intelligent enough to enter mainstream use.

By the late 2000s, chatbots started entering customer-facing services. A prime example was Alaska Airlines’ Ask Jenn, which offered virtual travel agent services. As one of the first virtual agents, it was met with some skepticism in the media. But its mission was quickly taken up again by Expedia’s virtual customer service agent in 2011.

When we think about milestones though, the chatbots and AI we recognize today really took off when Facebook Messenger allowed developers to install chatbots on its platform in 2016. It was a complete game-changer for customer communications, allowing intelligent, automated virtual agents to handle customer queries 24/7/365, with the ability to hand off more complex cases to human agents—saving significant time and money.

It’s no surprise that within the first year of Facebook’s launch, 100,000 chatbots had been created on the platform—including Domino’s ordering chatbot, which allows customers to order a pizza delivery with just a few words or an emoji.

And the latest milestone in the evolution of advanced chatbots and AI is none other than ChatGPT. Using machine learning algorithms to generate human-like responses, ChatGPT is able to answer a wide range of questions and prompts, making it a valuable tool for customer communication, language learning, and more.

4. Processing and computing

While AI is already critical to countless technology operations, its capabilities are limited by processing power. But with the invention of quantum computing, this is all set to change.

Pioneered by Google in 2019, quantum computing can perform calculations in seconds that would take the world’s most powerful supercomputers decades. And with IBM’s release of Condor this year, the ramifications for computing will be significant. This includes cloud technology, where people can access the power of quantum through the cloud without the associated costs of buying a quantum computer.

We’ve come a long way from the first commercially produced microprocessor—the Intel 4004—in 1971, but the developments we’ve seen over the last decade demonstrate the sheer pace of acceleration we now take for granted.

For example, the cloud-based innovations we all rely on today—such as software-as-a-service (SaaS)—have only been made possible through significant advancements in computing, processing, and storage.

Whatever the future holds, it’s clear to see that the latest advances today will be far surpassed in a couple of years.

5. Cloud platforms and as-a-service delivery technology milestones

Once upon a time, matching a customer’s name, account number, and any related correspondence was a drawn-out, manual affair, often resulting in errors and a disjointed customer experience (CX). This all changed when entrepreneur and technologist Tom Siebel created the first customer relationship management (CRM) system—offering a single source of truth for customer communications and any other related data that could improve CX. And in the 2000s, the ability to analyze customers in granular detail and at scale in the cloud was introduced – revolutionizing the way companies interacted with their customers.

These key technology milestones paved the way for the cloud-based “as-a-service” technologies that now dominate our daily lives. From software to virtual machines, as-a-service delivery has transformed everything.

Take CX, for example. Due to the leaps in cloud technology development, communications-platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) now offers anywhere, anytime, automated customer communications in a single platform—through any channel, and on customers’ terms.

And with new features and services being developed all the time, it’s a technology trend that’s only going to develop in its sophistication and capabilities. Watch this space.

A brave new world made possible by a pioneering past technology milestones

Whatever the future holds, history shows us that the pace of technological change is only set to accelerate. Navigating this change is best supported by the right partner—one who truly understands customer needs and has the agility to keep pace with changing communication needs.

For example, Webex Connect is a CPaaS platform designed to transform the future of customer interactions—making every touchpoint count, from voice and text comms to chatbots and AI, and unifying CX for all.

If you are interested in learning more about Webex Connect, click here. Or, to speak to us directly, get in touch with our team of experts.

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Published by
Tanuj Goyal

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