IBM and Salesforce join forces to create hybrid AI

Einstein and Watson combine to offer firms better insights about customers

IBM and Salesforce are set to combine their AI platforms in a partnership promising greater integration options for companies wishing to leverage the emerging technology.

The partnership was announced alongside news that Salesforce has integrated its Einstein AI into its Intelligent Customer Success platform, as well as the release of Einstein Vision, a set of APIs allowing developers to add image recognition services to their CRM apps.

IBM will also integrate Watson APIs into Salesforce's Intelligent Customer Success platform, allowing companies to draw upon the customer insight of Salesforce's Einstein and the structured and unstructured data provided by Watson, which includes weather, healthcare, financial services and retail.

"The combination of Einstein and Watson will make businesses smarter and our customers more successful," said Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff. "I'm thrilled to form an alliance with IBM - no company's core values are as close to Salesforce's as IBM's. It's the best of both worlds."

The combined platform promises to deliver greater accuracy in its predictive insights for customers, providing "smarter, faster decisions across sales, service, marketing, commerce and more". One example is using local shopping patterns, weather and retail industry data provided by Watson with the customer shopping preferences of Salesforce, allowing retailers to automatically send highly personalised advertising to store visitors.

"Within a few years, every major decision - personal or business - will be made with the help of AI and cognitive technologies," said Ginni Rometty, president and CEO of IBM. "This year we expect Watson will touch one billion people - through everything from oncology and retail to tax preparation and cars."

"With today's announcement, the power of Watson will serve the millions of Salesforce and Einstein customers and developers to provide an unprecedented understanding of customers," added Rometty.

Chief among the integrations seems to be IBM's ability to provide detailed weather services. The Weather Company, an IBM affiliate firm, will be the backbone of a new Salesforce component known as "Lightning", providing essential weather data to customers and businesses. An example of this may be an insurance company leveraging Watson weather data to inform customers potentially at risk of severe weather.

Speaking to IT Pro, head of Salesforce UK, Gavin Mee explained the partnership is "about delivering smarter business decisions and greater customer success".

"All our customers now automatically have Einstein built into their Salesforce implementations, and now we're augmenting that with Watson. We're seeing a lot of interest in AI and predictive intelligence among our customers and consumers in general."

"We're also continuing to develop Einstein," added Mee. "Einstein capabilities are now live across right across our platform and we've also just announced Einstein Vision, a set of powerful new APIs that allow developers of all skill levels to bring image recognition to CRM and to build AI-powered apps fast. Over the next few months we'll work together to build a go-to-market plan that drives awareness and uptake of these new solutions."

Through IBM's Bluewolf, a consultancy firm formerly owned by Salesforce, the company will be able to sell consultancy services across Salesforce and IBM businesses, to customers looking to adopt solutions powered by cognitive AI.

The integration is expected to finish before the end of the year, at which point the pricing for its various components will also be announced.

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