Cisco has acquired AI Startup Mindmeld for $125 million. The Natural Language Understanding (NLU) solution will be integrated into the Cisco Spark platform. With this move Cisco enters the voice assistant battle for B2B applications. Cisco’s Vice President of Corporate Business Development Rob Salvagno commented in a blog post last week:
[MindMeld has] become an industry leader in AI, providing natural language interfaces for such use cases as shopping online, ordering products or contacting customer support. At the core of MindMeld’s technology is a powerful machine learning platform that is able to ingest customer data and create a highly accurate and customized natural language model, tailored to each company’s industry and requirements.
Is Cisco Entering the Voice Assistant Market?
Cisco makes devices and the Spark collaboration solution. Would a voice assistant with a strong NLU be a nice complement to the company’s product portfolio? Of course. Voicebot has written previously about both B2C and B2B voice assistant solutions. With the acquisition of Mindmeld, Cisco is now better positioned to challenge Microsoft Cortana in the business productivity voice assistant segment. Microsoft made several announcements last week at its Build developer conference and many focused around Cortana and its Teams productivity solution. This solution along with Microsoft’s Skype competes directly with Cisco Spark.
Cisco is famous for its networking devices, but it has also made communication devices such as phones for a decade. In addition to incorporating Mindmeld into the Spark services, you can image the company coming to market with a smart speaker that business users can employ to make phone calls and send messages by voice similar to the new Amazon Alexa calling and messaging features launched last week.
The Mindmeld technology has a lot of potential with Cisco behind it. Cisco has even more potential with a voice assistant for its collaboration solutions. May is a busy month for AI and voice assistants and we are only half-way through. We have seen big announcements from Amazon and Microsoft, Cisco acquired Mindmeld and word leaked Friday that Apple had acquired Lattice Data for $200 million. More to come with Google I/O kicking off Wednesday.