Being quick off the mark can often gain businesses a competitive advantage. Entrepreneur and founder of QuickBlox, Nate MacLeitch, certainly seized such an early-adopter opportunity to transform one of his company’s existing communication platforms by integrating AI.
Read on to find out more about QuickBlox and how their collaborative work on our Simulation for Digital Health (SimDH) programme led to the innovation of Q-Consultation Lite – an online open-source video consultation platform designed for healthcare professionals.
QuickBlox is a customer centric communication platform as a service (CPaaS) that provides a range of tools and services for building secure, real-time communication and collaboration features into applications.
It offers a comprehensive set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Software Development Kits (SDKs) that enable developers to easily integrate various AI and communication functionalities, such as instant messaging (chat), voice and video calling, push notifications, and file sharing, into their applications.
They have offices in UK, Ukraine, India and USA and work in a broad range of sectors including healthcare, finance, recruitment/HR, social networking, e-commerce and education.
Embracing AI early for service innovation
The groundbreaking launch of ChatGPT, an advanced generative AI model, alerted QuickBlox of a tremendous opportunity to innovate Q-Consultation Lite.
They had already begun to add a standard chatbot to the platform, however, the shattering success of ChatGPT demonstrated the immense potential of integrating powerful AI capabilities into real-time communication apps. They swiftly realised the transformative impact it could have on enhancing user experiences and satisfaction rates, improving communication efficiency and adding more personalisation.
Specifically for Q-Consultation Lite, an AI-enhanced communication tool would provide attuned and personalised responses in real-time, revolutionise patient-doctor consultations, streamline customer support services, and empower professionals across the sector with additional expert knowledge, transcription services, and real-time consultation summaries.
The scene was then set for the partnership with SimDH to take a new and exciting direction.
Being part of SimDH
QuickBlox enrolled in SimDH, run by South Bank Innovation (SBI), in September 2022 to learn more how the NHS works with new technology providers and to innovate on Q-Consultation Lite.
Q-Consultation Lite is an open-source video chat software designed to meet the needs of healthcare professionals by offering virtual meeting rooms, in-app chat, file-sharing and video calling.
Nate explained: “Through our collaboration we explored the idea of adding a chatbot to enhance Q-Consultation Lite’s functionality. The timely launch of ChatGPT in November 2022 opened our eyes to the tremendous opportunity of integrating AI into our video consultation platform, as well as communication apps more generally.
“With the help of a student from London South Bank University's School of Engineering, working under the close supervision of Dr Muddesar Iqbal, together we built “Quick-Bot.”
“While chatbot building platforms already exist, our new Quick-Bot platform offered something fundamentally new by providing tools to integrate AI-mediated, real-time communication between humans. Regular chatbot platforms only allow you to build chatbots to communicate with humans.”
A closer look at Quick-Bot
Using Quick-Bot in a healthcare app will mean a patient can speak with an AI-powered chatbot that vets their questions and provides knowledgeable personalised responses, but then can also make way for the patient to speak directly with a doctor.
Not only that, a doctor, while communicating with a patient, can simultaneously rely on AI to craft their responses, provide additional expert knowledge, transcribe audio conversations in real-time, and summarise the consultation.
With Quick-Bot users and developers will be able to create and train it to be an ‘expert’ in a particular field. Quick-Bot, along with Q-Consultation Lite (which can also be customised), can support a variety of use cases where AI enhanced chatbots are required. For example, with patient-doctor consultations, customer support services, professional consultations, e-commerce etc.
Success in the making
Collaborating with SBI has presented significant advantages for QuickBlox.
Nate said: “Through our partnership, we were able to reiterate on our existing software product discovering fresh ideas and expertise to enhance it with chatbot and AI features.
“We gained access to a talented engineering student who actively contributed to the development of Quick-Bot. Furthermore, SBI provided valuable media exposure, including a press release, social media posts and mentions, and this case study which will significantly amplify our brand visibility and reach.
“Our time on the SimDH programme may have come to a close, but our work together doesn’t stop there. We have planned a hackathon in the autumn of 2023, involving over 20 participating universities worldwide. This will be a unique opportunity for us to engage with a diverse pool of talented individuals to foster innovation and expand our network even more.
“Our partnership with SBI has certainly provided invaluable support and resources that has propelled our business into a new phase of innovation.”
Commitment to collaboration
With only 12 weeks of collaboration time and high expectations, dedication and effective communication were two of the crucial ingredients for success.
QuickBlox found they had to balance managing the company’s busy operations and substantial customer base with allocating sufficient time and resource to attend seminars and participate in collaborative activities. Additionally, key team members worked in different time zones adding another complication.
Despite these potential obstacles, everyone was fully committed to maximising the potential by engaging daily and actively embracing alternative methods of engagement, such as virtual meetings and online communication tools.
Nate believes: “Collaboration between academic institutions and commercial organisations is crucial as it fosters innovation, facilitates knowledge exchange, and drives societal and economic progress.
“Academic institutions bring cutting-edge research, theoretical expertise, and access to specialised facilities, while commercial organisations offer practical environments, industry-specific data, and market insights.
“I feel that this form of collaboration ensures that research findings are translated into practical applications, addressing real-world challenges and meeting industry needs.”
The future for QuickBlox
Beyond the SimDH collaboration, QuickBlox is poised for exciting growth and innovation. They have made a strategic commitment to expand their focus beyond standard real-time communication software and embrace the integration of AI functionality into existing platforms and products.
By doing so, they aim to facilitate AI-enhanced human communications, revolutionising how people interact and communicate in various domains.
QuickBlox’s vision involves creating a comprehensive suite of user-friendly AI plugins, making it effortless for developers and businesses to seamlessly integrate AI into their chat applications. This will democratise access to cutting-edge technology, enabling a wide range of industries to harness the power of AI and enhance their communication experiences.
Their trajectory is one of forward-thinking, paving the way for a world where AI becomes an integral part of everyday conversations, driving efficiency,, and improved user experiences.
If you add to this Nate’s devotion to prioritising customer feedback and continuous iteration, then Quickblox are all set to achieve their ambitions.