Back in 2017, we saw Amazon launch its Alexa for Business service which continues to grow in capabilities for both at-home and in-office use.
Whether via Logitech’s Zoom integration for Alexa device owners, Microsoft Cortana’s repositioning as a productivity assistant linked to office software, or the slew of audio tech start-ups targeting the remote collaboration niche—voice and audio tools are continuing to be integrated into all things ‘work.’
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing in this field. Salesforce’s Einstein voice assistant was shut down earlier this year ostensibly due to increased competition from Microsoft and Amazon in the enterprise arena. Despite this, other enterprise players such as Oracle continue to invest in stand-alone assistants.
Although Microsoft and Amazon are building enterprise solutions for businesses, it is unlikely that they will be one-size-fits-all. We foresee a need for customized assistant technology that is tailored to an organization’s needs and vocabulary. Einstein may have missed the mark here, but we expect others to push onward. Considering the complexity of many companies, assistants will need to be able to understand specific requests, act on unique data sets and rules, and respond contextually to the process they are assisting with. Big tech companies’ voice solutions will likely stick around, but they may be integrated as a part of a larger holistic, bespoke assistant configuration for many businesses vs. being used as the stand-alone solution.
As more and more work and collaboration takes place over platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc., we expect that new voice and audio integrations will be pushed by mainstream platforms and upstarts alike to try and bridge the gap between remote working and in-person collaboration. Being able to quickly set-up meetings, share documents, provide comments on files, share information with a group, or verbally navigate software are all invaluable ways voice technology can contribute to the remote work experience. Although many startups are currently tackling aspects of this today, these tools have yet to gain widespread adoption. However, once layered directly on top of tools workers already have in their everyday routine, things can change.
As companies and organizations return to their workspaces, it will not be the same as when they left. As some who have returned to offices have already found out, new precautions around shared spaces and surfaces are now requirements. We see voice beginning to play an essential role in removing friction points around the physical workplace. From opening doors to managing conference room technology to enabling hands-free kitchen areas, the technology has potential to change how workers interact with their environments.