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Smart speakers are coming to work

Smart speakers are usually thought of as home-based technology. You might ask your smart speaker about the weather, train timetables, what’s on TV, or to play the radio or your favourite tunes but smart speakers also have a place at work, and their capabilities can already go far beyond telling you when your next meeting is. The likelihood is that smart speakers are going to become a more frequent sighting in the office. So, how might they be useful at work?

There is much truth in the belief that technologies we like to use at home get taken into the workplace either by stealth because workers want to use them, or officially because bosses see their value. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that smart speakers are making their way into the office. Indeed, Amazon has had a development platform for Alexa specifically for workplaces since late 2017.

There are lots of things you can do with your voice through a smart speaker that can help you work more smoothly and efficiently. Here are some examples:

  • Join a local meeting by voice rather than physically being present
  • Join a conference call
  • Make a voice or video call
  • Answer a voice or video call
  • Schedule meetings
  • Set up reminders
  • Find out which meeting rooms are free and book one
  • Give verbal instructions to a range of applications

There is nothing here that you could not do through the more traditional method of sitting at your desk and tapping a few keys but with a smart speaker it is all so much faster. Working with your voice, using normal language, is just much more convenient.

Getting computers to understand normal language is very tricky. Language is complicated, and what we humans manage to do in a split second takes phenomenal powers of understanding and interpretation but computers are getting better at understanding normal language – or what’s called in tech-speak Natural Language Processing – all the time.

A smart speaker, armed with the right back-end technology (such as an Alexa Skill), can make a pretty good job of helping with a lot of mundane, time consuming, tedious office tasks, like checking your schedule or making a call. Add in a platform that allows offices to develop their own personalised apps – such as an app which knows about meeting rooms, when they are free, and allows people to book them – and you’ve got a recipe for accomplishing a very wide range of tasks by voice.

Of course, smart speakers aren’t necessarily appropriate for all office environments. A quiet open plan office will have its silence shattered if everyone starts jabbering at a smart speaker, and it starts jabbering back but in the right environment, and with the judicious application of headsets in environments that want to retain some peace and quiet, smart speakers really do have the potential to be useful assistants, saving us time and helping us be more productive.

Alistair Robbie

About Alistair Robbie

Alistair Robbie is the regional marketing manager at Nuance for the Dragon Professional & Consumer (P&C) division within Healthcare. He is responsible for the UK, Ireland and Benelux territories and has numerous years of marketing experience within the IT industry focusing on channel and field marketing. In his spare time, Alistair enjoys keeping active through running, playing squash and the gym as well as enjoying music, drinking wine from Chile and eating Mexican food!