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Verint Systems buying artificial intelligence firm for $51M

The Verint Systems building at 330 South Service

The Verint Systems building at 330 South Service Rd. in Melville, shown in 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Melville software maker Verint Systems Inc. is buying a maker of virtual assistants powered by “conversational artificial intelligence” for up to $51 million.

Verint will buy Spokane Valley, Washington-based Next IT Corp. and its affiliate Next IT Innovation Labs LLC. Next IT has made chat bots used by Amtrak, Alaska Airlines, the U.S. Army and other clients. Conversational AI lets computers communicate with people in ways that feel natural and improve over time.

The deal calls for Verint, a maker of software used by corporations to monitor and manage call centers and by governments to identify terrorist and criminal communications, to pay $29.5 million in cash plus up to $21.5 million in cash based on Next IT’s future performance.

Verint announced the deal after the close of stock trading Tuesday. Shares of Verint closed up 5 cents to $41.45 Wednesday. The stock sold for $35.35 a year ago.

“We believe that Verint’s ongoing innovation in artificial intelligence technologies — such as machine learning, robotics and natural language processing — positions us for accelerated growth by helping organizations modernize their customer engagement operations,” Dan Bodner, Verint president, chief executive and chairman, said in a statement.

Verint, whose $1.1 billion in revenue during fiscal 2017 ranks it among Long Island’s 10 largest public companies, had 5,100 employees worldwide as of Jan. 31.

Verint makes software and provides services used to collect and analyze streams of data received via voice, video, social networks, email and other channels for banks, insurance companies, health care providers and other businesses.

About two-thirds of its revenue for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31 came from its customer engagement business, including call centers.

In a November speech at Stony Brook University, Bodner lauded artificial intelligence as a technology that could have a “very big impact” on the future of customer service.

A June 2017 report from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research said that pure artificial intelligence, which seeks to build machines with intellectual abilities “indistinguishable from . . . humans,” remains years away.

By contrast, “pragmatic AI” already is in use at Amazon.com and Netflix to recommend products, Facebook to tag photos and Waze and Google Maps to direct drivers to their destinations.

The Forrester report said that AI will enhance the skills of human customer service agents, letting them focus on “interactions requiring deeper insight and analysis.”

Requests for comment from Next IT were not immediately returned.

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