Salesforce smartens up its AI capabilities with IBM

A partnership brings Watson to clients, in addition to the launch of image recognition for its existing Einstein platform.

Salesforce and IBM have announced a new partnership that promises to bring insights from two different AI platforms into a single marketing cloud.

The global partnership will see insights from IBM’s Watson AI platform integrated into Salesforce’s CRM platform to work with its AI, Einstein.

By integrating the API directly into Salesforce products, Watson’s predictive insights based on structured and unstructured data (which includes weather, healthcare, financial services and retail information) can be combined with Einstein’s insights based more on CRM data.

The partnership will facilitate a number of other new products and services for Salesforce customers. A component powered by IBM-owned The Weather Company will be added into Salesforce’s AppExchange, providing current and predictive weather data and insights to relevant business decisions. The company says this could allow an insurance company, for example, to send safety and policy info to customers potentially affected by upcoming severe weather events, or let hardware companies prepare supplies for those needing to do repairs.)

Through IBM’s “Application Integration Suite,” Salesforce customers can also integrate on-premise data with cloud data, and deploy it directly within the Salesforce platform.  Application Integration Suite integration is expected to be available by the end of March, with the other services arriving at some point in the second half of 2017.

If the offering can deliver as promised, it will have effectively created a one-stop shop for data-driven professional consulting by combining the different approaches to leveraging AI.

Salesforce also announced the launch of Einstein Vision, bringing image recognition capabilities to its AI platform. On the consumer-facing side, this would allow clients to provide their customers with visual search capabilities to find products to best suit their preferences. But internally, it can also use brand detection to analyze user-generated images online and measure things like reach, brand integrity and ad campaign ROI. The company also says it would give sales reps the ability to evaluate product issues before a technician is sent out into the field, or determine which B2B leads are most likely to buy products by analyzing things like the interior design and layout of its locations.

“More than 1.2 trillion photos will be taken in 2017 and each of these images contain valuable insights that can unlock new potential for business– everything from inventory level and product quality, to consumer trends and customer preferences,” said Richard Socher, chief scientist at Salesforce, in an email to strategy. “Leveraging these visual clues allows companies to enrich sales leads, automate service case resolution and optimize marketing campaigns.”