As smart speakers and connected devices gain momentum in consumer markets, they’re also making inroads among business users interested in increasing convenience and efficiency within their workplaces.
Devices such as Amazon’s Echo, Google Home and others are coupling advances in voice recognition, natural language processing (which helps computers understand the way people speak) and artificial intelligence to help business owners complete, and automate, a growing number of routine tasks.
These devices are increasing in popularity and usefulness as voice begins to replace keyboards and touch screens as the primary way we interact with computing devices in our homes, workplaces and vehicles. Just as phone- and tablet-based applications such as Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana increased the acceptance of voice commands for mobile users, speaker-based voice assistants are becoming more popular in business settings.
The main advantage driving the growing acceptance of voice-based assistants is that speaking commands or text is significantly faster than typing the same words on a physical or virtual keyboard. You’re also less prone to making typing mistakes, and if you’re entering a voice command, you don’t have to touch a device – as long as you’re within shouting distance, you can control a device across the room.
Another advantage is voice services are increasingly being integrated into a variety of cloud applications such as Salesforce, SAP SuccessFactors, Ring Central and others – allowing companies to leverage investments they’ve made in those platforms.
To increase small business acceptance, vendors are offering bundles of voice-controlled devices that can be connected and managed via a central console. The idea is you place some devices in shared locations, such as conference rooms, lobbies or kitchens, and others at individual workstations.
While the number of ways business users are taking advantage of voice-controlled devices continues to expand, some of the most popular uses include:
- Managing calendars – With voice commands, it’s easy to add or edit meetings or other events to personal or shared calendars.
- Reminders and tasks lists – Need to do a task at a specific time? Want to track the next steps on a project? Your voice assistant can remind you of what’s next or what’s important.
- Launching video conferences – It’s easy to integrate a calendar and video-conferencing software so you can begin with a simple ‘start meeting’ command without having to fiddle with software before every meeting.
- Ordering office supplies – If you’re running low on printer paper or other important supplies, a simple voice command to order more can help rectify that. Amazon’s Echo devices default to shopping on Amazon, of course, while Google Assistant offers more options.
- Tracking packages – If you’re waiting for the order you just placed, or need to track a package you’ve sent to a customer, you can ask your voice assistant to track its whereabouts.
- Getting around town – If you need directions to a meeting, your voice assistant can provide an overview of your directions, and, more importantly, an estimated arrival time based on current or expected traffic. While not as precise as your in-car GPS, you’ll at least have an idea when it’s time to leave.
As the devices gain broader business acceptance, their uses are likely to expand. A device may not replace a human assistant completely, but for a growing number of business users, they can make the workday a little easier.
The views expressed herein are those of Dave Pelland, as of the date above and are subject to change. This publication is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a recommendation for any specific insurance product or service. Information has been collected from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been verified for accuracy. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Bryn Mawr Trust, its directors, officers, affiliates, and/or any/all of the contributors to this site. It does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described herein and assume no liability for your use of this information.