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Behind the scenes of tomorrow’s customer experience

Behind the scenes of tomorrow’s customer experience
(Image credit: Shutterstock.com)

A patient receiving life-saving support in a speeding ambulance and a customer buying a dress may not appear to have much in common. Yet in both situations, you can be sure the organisation serving those individuals is focused on delivering an exceptional level of service. 

For the ambulance staff, that’s about reducing the time to treat to increase the time to live – it’s that simple and critical. For the retailer, the challenge is less dramatic but, within its world, no less significant. How do you sustain your business’s livelihood in an industry of zero second chances, one that’s historically hit first and hardest by the surrounding economy and where miscalculation and intense competition topple even the giants?

About the author

Richard Bennett, Head of Industry Strategy and Solutions, EMEA, VMware.

In our hyper-connected digital world, where 335 million applications run across billions of devices, the user experience has become everything. It is the single most important factor that’s defining and differentiating organisations. 

That’s easy enough to say, but how does the magic happen? How are virtual reality, augmented reality, 5G, drones and robots transforming the experiences we have with the organisations in our lives? We’ll read about the imminent AI overhaul of healthcare and the new retail revolution, but less about the incredible complexity lying just beneath the surface of these amazing user experiences. 

Organisations could be relying on a dozen different cloud computing environments, even more, to deliver the innovation they need. So, how are new technologies being brought together across private, public, hybrid, telco and edge clouds? How can organisations cope with all the data travelling between them, while ensuring our most sensitive information remains safe and secure throughout? 

Let’s look behind the scenes of the next generation user experience.

Reducing the time to treat to increase the time to live

Returning to the ambulance, by way of example, where the patient’s wellbeing depends on how quickly he or she can receive the right treatment. The challenge to this has always been locating the critical data, accessing and processing it safely to add context, and using this information to determine treatment.

Today, there’s an invisible journey of data making this happen. An emergency call is received and its data logged by the local health authority within its own private cloud, who then schedules an ambulance based on the patient’s address and the nearest available vehicle. Information moves to a different organization, the ambulance group, for dispatch. 

This is all about speed – how quickly an ambulance reaches the patient. Once the patient is in the ambulance and travelling, data moves to a public cloud – the vehicle becomes a 4/5G connected hotspot, transmitting data via a telco network to the private cloud of the destination hospital. During transport, accuracy is utterly critical – get the right information, to inform the right treatment upon arrival.

In the near future, the secure and real-time journey of data across different cloud environments will push healthcare further to the edge, significantly reducing the time to treat to increase the time to live. Picture ambulance staff equipped with mobile devices continuously connected to A&E so, as data is inputted in the vehicle, the hospital immediately receives and processes this to locate the right available staff and monitor the patient’s wellbeing. 

Real time data

Real-time heart data could be displayed graphically on a hospital screen, so surgeons in the hospital can pre-diagnose and respond quicker when the patient arrives. Then picture a specialist surgeon in the hospital, with a virtual reality headset providing computer game like immersion into the ambulance itself, who can guide the triage doctor in the ambulance through time-critical surgery as the vehicle journeys through a city.

This is on the horizon. Antibacterial technology will sterilize the ambulance for surgery, but the real enabler is the movement of data. Essential compute power will reside in the ambulance itself, which becomes an edge device. Sensors on the patient and staff devices send data via an unbroken 5G connection, a telco cloud, to the private cloud of the hospital.

The richness and ability to secure this connection across different clouds, enables augmented remote surgery and provides information. These are the most valuable things to give a waiting surgeon – time and accurate context – and could well make the difference between life and death.

Tomorrow’s consumer reality for retail

It isn’t a matter of life and death in retail but delivering an equivalent level of exceptional service, faster than the competition, will be the difference between success and failure for companies in the sector. Consumers won’t care how it happens but they will care about the speed, reliability and quality of service they receive.

Again, this relies on the speed and security of the data’s journey behind the scenes. Tomorrow’s retail store, for example, will autonomously know what’s in stock and reorder products based on context – ensuring enough BBQs for the first summer heatwave, for example. How? Data will travel from IoT enabled shelves recording stock levels within a retail store’s private cloud and, combined with data journeying back and forth from a public cloud to access the likes of Google Weather, move to the private cloud of the main distribution warehouse – where the BBQs are – to ensure more are delivered to the specific store in time for the sun.

Elsewhere, a consumer will spot a dress online and use augmented reality to layer this onto an image of themselves, to see how the dress looks and feels, while AI in the website pinpoints the perfect size. Data from the retailer’s private cloud travels over public cloud to the private laptop and wi-fi, before travelling to the private cloud of the delivery warehouse. Here, a robot will be notified to collect the dress and transport it to a drone – an edge device equipped with sensors – which then communicates via a public cloud to a GPS system to navigate the skies and deliver the product, quite literally, to the consumer’s front door.

Autonomously optimizing delivery routes in this way, based on live traffic data, ensures quicker packages and customer satisfaction, and efficiencies at scale by completing more deliveries per day.

Faster, faster, safer

In the past, faster tended to be less secure – there was a balancing act between the speed at which data could be processed and the security of it. It was too complex to have it all. The above examples are only possible because that relationship has become harmonious and simplified: the rapidly moving ambulance cannot afford to be hacked, just as the consumer’s instantaneous financial transactions cannot be compromised.

What’s required is one software foundation that can power the business applications, services and experiences transforming the world, across any cloud, without complexity and risk. Cool new technologies themselves are not the point – bringing these together in the different environments that they need, with intrinsic security from the very outset, is what’s powerful. And it is the ability to manage all of this at speed, that’s transformative.

For those organisations that are curious and invest to get this right, the rewards are immense – more personalized services for consumers and better sales for retailers, a higher standard of care and faster recovery for patients. It is the future of customer experience and it can only be achieved by focusing on the magic behind the scenes.