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Gupshup partners with Cisco on chatbot app for Spark

Gupshup has partnered with Cisco in building a chatbot app to help Cisco Live attendees get event information in Spark.

LAS VEGAS -- Messaging platform provider Gupshup has partnered with Cisco in building a chatbot for the networking company's cloud-based Spark collaboration application.

Gupshup, based in Mumbai, India, debuted the chatbot app Monday at the Cisco Live conference. Live attendees using Spark can get event and venue information for the conference from the Gupshup chatbot.

Gupshup provides cloud-based development tools for building, testing and deploying chatbots. Its tools take advantage of published APIs to let developers create bots for a variety of platforms, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Slack and HipChat. Gupshup also provides analytics on user activity and conversations.

Chatbot apps make data retrieval easier

A chatbot is a program that can respond to questions as if it is another participant in a chat room or messaging platform. The chatbot app provides an easy way for users of collaboration applications to get information without leaving the environments. For example, a salesperson in a Spark room with a customer could have a chatbot retrieve product information directly from the corporate database.

Within Spark or another collaboration platform, a chatbot app would appear as just another participant. However, its purpose would be confined to retrieving specific information, making the application useful without requiring complicated artificial intelligence on the back end, said Gupshup co-founder and CEO Beerud Sheth.

"A chatbot is just a software program that can send and receive chat messages," Sheth said. "You don't need a lot of artificial intelligence for it. You don't even need a lot of natural language capabilities."

Chatbot apps work best when confined to narrow purposes, Sheth said. Trying to cover too many tasks through complicated artificial intelligence risks disappointing users.

"You want the bot to have just enough capabilities to accomplish the task," Sheth said. "It's not necessary for every chatbot to be intelligent."

Gupshup pricing is $1 per 1,000 API calls.

Redbooth bot for project management

In other Spark news at Live, collaboration vendor Redbooth announced that it had integrated its project management platform with the Cisco service. Redbooth customers who also use Spark can employ natural language commands to manage Redbooth-powered projects and tasks from within Spark rooms.

Team members within Spark can use the Redbooth bot to get answers to a variety of questions, such as, "What's happening today? Show me what my team is working on and what's urgent?" according to Redbooth, based in Redwood City, Calif.

In March, Cisco said it had invested $150 million in a fund to help developers use Spark APIs to build custom applications. Rival Slack announced an $80 million developer fund late last year.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, Cisco had a 16% share of the overall enterprise collaboration market, which includes on-premises or cloud-based voice, UC applications, telepresence, email and social networks, according to Synergy Research Group. While Cisco led the overall market, Microsoft held a "strong lead" in hosted and cloud-based products, Synergy said.

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