UiPath is considering launching its own conversational AI platform

Robotic process automation (RPA) company UiPath may debut its own platform for creating AI agents or bots both for customer-facing services and to carry out backend processes, chief product officer Param Kahlon told VentureBeat in a recent interview in San Francisco.

UiPath, a company that raised $225 last fall at a valuation of $3 billion, added Microsoft Bot Framework functionality as well as an integration with Google’s Enterprise Dialogflow last summer.

Microsoft Bot Framework and Dialogflow bots are available alongside hundreds of industry-specific automated workflows and machine learning integrations in the UiPath Marketplace. UiPath is currently evaluating customer feedback and its own assessments about bots currently available on its platform before making a choice.

“Initially our point of view was that we don’t want to go create our own sort of conversational experience, because there’s enough that exist out there. Some of our customers have said that, ‘Hey we don’t have our own and we want to get an end-to-end solution from you,’ so we may decide to build some things that can own the end-to-end experience as well,” Kahlon said.

The creation of a reliable conversational bot platform can be a serious undertaking, one that many companies — from Salesforce to Oracle to a number of startups — have already launched. However, UiPath sees a conversational AI offering as essential in order to connect traditional enterprise apps with new enterprise apps that prioritize conversational communication, Kahlon said.

“As a new generation of apps is coming and is more conversationally focused, what we are focused on is helping to bridge the connection between chatbots and legacy [enterprise] apps,” he said. “What we can do is have our robot talk to the chatbot.”

“We may more likely just take a dependency on something like Microsoft’s Bot Framework or Google’s Dialogflow and create that and offer that as an interesting part of our solution as opposed to creating something from scratch. That’s more likely what we’ll do,” he said.

Kahlon expects 2019 to be a big year for robotic process automation. Following UiPath’s funding round last fall, competitor Automation Anywhere raised $300 million, and earlier this week Kyron brought in $40 million.

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“A lot of money is being invested by venture capitalists in this industry, and there’s large expectations for growth, and also there’s much more awareness of RPA in 2019 than we’ve seen before,” he said. “2019 is going to be more about how do we scale, you know, how do we take the two processes that we put and now turn it on to 20 or maybe 200 processes?”

To help organizations manage a multitude of robots, UiPath will look to enhance its Orchestrator tool.

“We’re making significant investments in improving the monitoring aspects of the robots, that you can get reports, alerts, and subscribe to different kinds of alerts and deal with the exceptions on a regular basis,” he said.

Also this year: UiPath will begin an initiative to train a million students at universities and schools on how to automate workplace tasks like invoice processing or the handling of conversations with customers. The initiative was first announced at a ceremony in Bangalore, India earlier this year.

UiPath’s customer base has grown from less than 500 at the start of 2018 to 2,600 customers in 2019. Customers include the United States Army, Autodesk, and Equifax, as well as many companies in India, Japan, and other parts of the world.

Unlike some tools that help people deploy artificial intelligence, UiPath isn’t made for data scientists but for office workers with no IT background to automate their own work processes.

“We believe that in the context of knowledge workers and white collar employees, 20 to 50 percent of work that they do on their computers is repetitive sort of work that can easily be automated, and we’re going to give the tools to these employees to be able to automate the work,” he said.

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