“Hey Cortana, remind me to contact Bill at Acme to set up that sales meeting.”

More business people are relying on their voice assistants and AI chatbots to help them save time and effort, according to market research firm Spiceworks. After surveying more than 500 technology professionals throughout North America and Europe, they found that 40% of large businesses and 15% of smaller ones will now be using voice-assist technology to improve their business efficiencies.

Voice Search

Right now, Microsoft Cortana is the most commonly used AI assistant for businesses, at 49 percent – and 14% of businesses are using AI chatbots, with their Microsoft collaboration tools like Slack and Teams. This is probably because it’s so accessible and is integrated into Windows 10. Apple’s Siri isn’t far behind at 47 percent – it’s integrated into iOS and macOS.

Some of the tasks respondents use voice assist for include:

  • Voice-to-text dictation
  • Employee calendar management
  • Customer service purposes
  • Helpdesk management tasks
  • Sales and marketing

New Players in the Business Voice-Assist Marketplace.

Integrating voice assistants in the enterprise market is unleashing new use cases for the technology. In November 2017, Amazon launched their Alexa for Business platform, which lets businesses to create their own Alexa skills.

IBM recently launched their Watson Assistant for businesses. They plan to license it to enterprises so they can build customized, interactive tasks into their own products and services. The Watson Assistant is more focused on customization and privacy than are Google and Amazon. This might give IBM a competitive edge in the business marketplace.

Watson allows for better-tailored voice interactions and eliminates the need for a universal wake-up word like “Hey Siri” or “Alexa.” Plus, you can train the assistant using your own datasets. This makes it easier to set actions and commands.

The Watson Assistant also gives each user control over their personal data. It doesn’t pool users’ information and allows each person to control which Watson-powered devices and applications can access their data via the IBM cloud. The technology then learns and remembers each user’s preferences.

IBM is introducing their Watson Assistant to hotels, hospitals, banks, offices, restaurants, connected cars, and more. They’ve partnered Harmon where they’re using the Watson Assistant in a Maserati concept car. The Munich airport is also using IBM’s Watson Assistant to power a robot that provides directions to travelers. And Chameleon Technologies is using it to control temperatures in homes based on residents’ daily schedules.

What Voice Assist Will Demand from Your IT Professionals.

As voice assist becomes increasingly mainstream in the workplace, IT departments will face many challenges. As it stands now, the various forms of voice assist, machine learning and artificial intelligence operate on multiple platforms, operating systems, apps, and hardware. This will make it difficult to harness their potential without considerable investment in resources and expertise.

Not only will IT professionals need to have a complete grasp of its functionality and how to integrate it with networks and legacy systems, but they must also define and implement strategies for using it, and provide training and education for an entire pool of users in the enterprise.

As voice assist becomes more interactive and “personal,” IT professionals will need to combine their technical skills along with strategic and interpersonal capabilities to achieve greater success.

Adoption of the technology is moving slowly but is predicted to pick up as the power of voice achieves a new level yet to be discovered. Those businesses that stay informed and ready for and prepared for change will be better positioned to take advantage of its benefits. Some of these benefits include increased productivity and sales, more and better innovations, improved collaboration, and the ability to increase global market share.

Deep Learning

Voice assistant providers are improving recognition capabilities through the power of deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence (similar to facial-recognition technology). Deep learning goes a step farther than machine learning that is based on algorithms and historical data.

It will be able to predict a pattern of speech based on previous content without training by compiling vast amounts of data from the Internet. Voice assistants will be capable of taking meeting notes with much more accuracy. And, they’ll be able to identify different voices in a room to transcribe who said what.

Deep learning will be better at translating foreign languages. Imagine how this could fuel the growth of a global business, and the ability for more seamless collaboration. Right now, voice assist is a bit “robotic,” but eventually it will be more conversational in tone and respond more accurately due to deep learning.

But, Don’t Fire Your Administrative Assistant Just Yet.

Those who aren’t using them say it’s because they don’t see a use for them, that the cost is holding them back, and they worry about security issues. They also worry about technology distracting their employees and that it could negatively affect productivity.

Although voice assistants and chatbots are helpful in the workplace, the technology still needs improvement. 59% said that it can misunderstand requests and 30% said that it is inaccurate when executing commands. And, 29% said that it can’t distinguish their voice from others.

Other than using them for simple tasks, voice assist has yet to become widely used in the workplace. If you have a lot of employees in one area, the technology won’t work for you. It has difficulty deciphering commands with there are simultaneous conversations taking place. But, as the technology improves, more will be willing to use it.

Is your business ready to meet the demands that voice assistants and future technology advancements will surely bring? If your small or mid-sized business is struggling to manage your existing IT systems, or you can’t keep up with IT security concerns, it’s time to consider partnering with a Technology Solutions Provider. In this way, you’ll be prepared for what’s coming next in the world of voice-assist, and other technologies that can help you better compete in your marketplace, improve productivity and ultimately your profitability.

Author: Joe Martin, Date: 2018-06-17

Compunet InfoTech Inc.

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