Curtis Peterson is Senior Vice President of Operations at RingCentral, a global provider of enterprise unified communications and collaboration solutions.
Mr. Peterson was recently involved as a speaker at Big Data LDN, which was held in London in November 2019.
What is your background and how did you get involved in RingCentral?
Shortly after completing my studies in Computer Engineering, my career took me into business communications. While I saw an emerging trend in the software-based delivery of business communications, I knew I wanted to be at a company that controlled its own Intelectual Property (IP). RingCentral stood out to me and looked like a company that had the brightest future—and I wasn’t wrong. I haven’t looked back since I joined RingCentral in 2010.
You were a speaker at Big Data LDN. What was your speech about?
Within big data, there is a large pool of untapped information. Especially in the data that is embedded in media and communications—including voice, chat, and social media channels people use. My session at Big Data LDN focused on exposing this wealth of data and explored how AI can be used to leverage voice to text transcription and topical analysis. Ultimately, by making communications data accessible in a single, giant pool, we can use AI to enhance what we respond to first and what we discard—simplifying all communications.
What are the challenges and opportunities in the Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) sector, and how is AI currently being leveraged?
According to Gartner, by 2022 the UCaaS sector will mostly be focused on business communications delivered by the cloud. The challenges associated with this are not actually technological in nature—the challenge is whether UCaaS businesses are capable of fulfilling this huge demand. There is still a lot of technology that must be retired—approximately 400-500 million seats worldwide are on-premise, and only about 18 million have been converted. There’s a long way to go, and while this presents lots of opportunities, it’s also a challenge for the UCaaS industry.
AI in UCaaS can and will help to improve collaboration across businesses. For example, right now, AI-powered collaboration tools can be leveraged to find relevant documents based on past information and have them ready for meetings – employees save time, and efficiency is boosted. Whilst AI in UCaaS is still in the early stages of implementation, the future certainly looks bright.
AI will make everything in business communications much easier, meaning it will reduce our workload. Scheduling meetings, reviewing meetings, highlighting topics discussed in meetings—all this will be simplified and take out hours of work.
Who are RingCentral’s customers and how do you create value for them?
We work with any business that needs to communicate and are working with a number of customers across various industries, including AXA, the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Coursera, NHS Professionals, and Orange Group, to name but a few.
I believe RingCentral creates value in two ways. Firstly, we make communications easy for customers. Communications used to be hard—it was controlled exclusively by one company, who offered a solution that didn’t encompass the wide-ranging needs of a business. But now, it has become much easier, with many companies providing competing products that are hosted in the cloud.
Secondly, we cater to the needs of a multi-generation workforce. The concept of a single, landline number no longer exists, and younger generations are communicating across more channels than ever before. There is also no longer a single place of work. By integrating features like voice, video and chat into a single platform, we are able to encourage a more diversified workforce and cater to flexible ways of working.
What challenges do RingCentral’s customers face, or will they face in the future, that RingCentral can help them overcome?
Staying relevant in business communications is a major challenge for our customers—they constantly have to adapt to a changing and fast-paced environment. Which means RingCentral must deliver a multi-modal platform that’s always relevant, and is as easy for businesses to use as any of the consumer apps available today.
We spend a tremendous amount of operating budget on research, development, and innovation. In fact, if a customer signs up on a Tuesday afternoon, it is likely that RingCentral will have been updated and made even better by Wednesday morning. It is this level of adaptability that our customers need.
For me, the most interesting application of AI in business communications is in speech detection—going from simple word recognition to correcting entire phrases is impressive.
What are the most interesting applications of AI-based technology such as facial recognition, body language analytics, speech analytics or sentiment analysis that you see emerging in the business communications industry?
The promise of AI is huge, but the reality is that today, some types of AI work well, and some do not. For example, AI does a good job deciding what movies you would like to see on Netflix or what items to buy next on Amazon.
But for me, the most interesting application of AI in business communications is in speech detection—going from simple word recognition to correcting entire phrases is impressive. AI is also becoming more competent in sentiment analysis that’s accurate to underlying speech. While sentiment analysis has been around for a while, combining it with today’s emerging text-to-speech engine means you get an impressive overview of the topic of a conversation and its sentiment.
AI assistants are also very exciting, as they’re soon going to have the ability to anticipate our needs and fulfill them without the need to give them instructions. Bots and video assistants can be leveraged for things such as task reminders, starting and stopping a conference call and more. In the past, some assistants have been seen as annoying, especially in the consumer world—but if you have a narrow and driven focus on what occurs in a business, then they will become more widespread and appreciated. While this particular space of AI is emerging, it is certainly an area to watch.
How do you see AI technology impacting the world of business communications over the next 5 years?
AI will make everything in business communications much easier, meaning it will reduce our workload. Scheduling meetings, reviewing meetings, highlighting topics discussed in meetings—all this will be simplified and take out hours of work. AI will allow businesses to pull out actionable intelligence from a range of communications, without any human input.
AI will also drive globalisation in business communications. It will be used for translation, pulling out key follow-up actions from meetings in the local language, and encourage workforces to hire remote workers from all corners of the world, working fluidly. I am honestly excited by the future direction AI technology will play in the world of business communications.