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Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc in southwest Florida yesterday with winds of 150 miles per hour knocking out power to millions of residents. The near-Category 5 storm is called one of the strongest storms to hit the United States in decades. But officials say artificial intelligence (AI) is a new weapon in the fight to keep the lines of communication open during a disaster and also to better predict the intensity of hurricanes in the future.
As emergency helplines, hospitals and utility call centers are inundated with calls, talking with a voice robot during a time of anxiety and fear can help, Sourabh Gupta says , CEO of augmented voice intelligence platform Skit. (He added that Skit was not being used as an aid with Hurricane Ian.)
“Voice AI is able to drive efficient, context-specific conversations with customers, without requiring human intervention,” Gupta told VentureBeat. “In a sensitive or dangerous situation, voice AI can be used to provide customers with crucial information in real time, answer questions and redirect the most complex calls to a human agent.”
Voice AI is faster and more efficient than more traditional interactive voice response (IVR) technology at delivering time-sensitive information and redirecting incoming calls to the right party because it can handle human-sounding two-way interaction with customers, Gupta said.
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The digital voice agent also sounds natural and empathetic, Gupta said. “Due to the agility of the technology, new use cases and conversational flows can be easily added through the platform on an ongoing basis.”
Augmented voice intelligence platforms like Skit are designed to help companies modernize their contact centers by automating and improving voice communications at scale. “By enabling preventative, intelligent problem solving and seamless live interactions, we help businesses in all industries streamline their contact center operations, reduce costs and improve the customer experience,” said Gupta. .
The platform can be easily integrated with other apps and offers detailed metrics and analytics, according to Gupta. It supports natural-sounding multilingual conversations that can be hyper-personalized depending on the use case and customer, he added.
Skit’s digital voice agent “can handle an unlimited number of incoming calls simultaneously, eliminating wait times, which can be especially frustrating when needed,” Gupta said. “By handling the most common customer queries, the digital voice agent increases the containment rate of the contact center and redirects the most complex calls to a human agent.”
It doesn’t eliminate jobs, Gupta said. “Voice AI is designed to lighten the workload of customer service employees and augment their work, rather than fully take over their work. We anticipate that AI will improve existing products, help organizations and employees maximize productivity by improving accuracy and simplify existing processes.”
Gupta claimed that voice AI will “advance customer service and the customer experience as a whole” and will actually help create new kinds of jobs.
“For example, the Skit digital voice agent helps automate non-productive calls, freeing the workforce to focus on higher value tasks,” he said. This creates better opportunities for human agents to focus on more important and diverse functions.
Using AI to stay ahead of the storm
Before there is a weather emergency, AI is also being used to develop forecasting models that can help predict more accurately when, where, and how hard hurricanes may hit.
In 2021, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed a model to better predict hurricane intensity in the near future and under future climate scenarios. The team used deep learning techniques to develop the model, which can, on average, more accurately predict hurricane intensity than models used nationally – running on a commercial laptop, according to PNNL .
The researchers provided information to algorithms capable of detecting relationships between hurricane behavior and climatic factors such as heat stored in the ocean, wind speed and air temperature, PNNL said. The algorithms then form predictions about the path a storm may take, how strong it may be, and how quickly it may escalate.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that hurricane intensity will increase, on average, by 1% to 10% in a warmer future, bringing with it greater destruction, according to models that project two degrees Celsius of global warming. So being able to predict where a hurricane will hit and how strong it will be could make all the difference in evacuating the right people at the right time.
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