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UC Expo: Ford becomes early adopter of Cisco’s “cognitive collaboration” tools

Cisco has signed up Ford, Splunk and Procter and Gamble to trial a new range of “cognitive features” on its Webex collaboration platform, Amy Chang – the company’s collaboration chief – revealed at UC Expo on Wednesday.

Some of the key cognitive tools trialled by the American multinationals were acquired from a startup, called Accompany, that Chang founded with fellow ex-Googlers in 2016, and sold to Cisco last year for $270m (£209m).

The tools, which are in the process of being embedded into Webex, enable video conference participants to read profiles of those they are speaking to based on a range of online sources, including LinkedIn profiles and news articles.

“It’s a very different way of looking at collaboration,” said Susan St Ledger, the head of field operations for software firm Splunk, in a pre-recorded video. “It brings the information to you. You don’t have to run 20 different Google searches and you don’t have to go to LinkedIn.”

Alan Boehme, the chief technology officer of Procter and Gamble, said the company hosts around three million meetings per year and that video is the best way of bringing people together. “There are information grids within corporations that have to be unlocked,” he added. “It takes technology such as the cognitive collaboration tools to do that.”

Cisco has also developed facial recognition that can identify meeting participants and a virtual assistant which learns who the user is referring to. “It looks at the people in your own organisation (via the company directory) and scans your Webex Teams spaces to see who you talk to most to make its best guess,” Cisco said in an announcement in March.

Cisco’s Chang, who has sat on the boards of Procter and Gamble and Splunk according to her LinkedIn profile, said the companies’ feedback had been critical in developing the platform. The people insights tool is already available at no extra charge to Cisco’s Webex customers in the US.