Adoption of virtual assistants (VAs) to support quotidian tasks is becoming more and more common in the consumer realm — users today are already well-acquainted with the likes of Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana.
These technologies have now begun to migrate to the business world in order to facilitate superior office organisation and task management. Faced with an increasingly saturated Virtual Assistant (VA) market, deciphering which technologies represent real opportunities for end customers and which are currently too immature to warrant attention, can prove a challenge for businesses. Yet a well-informed decision on VA adoption can have big business impact.
Innovation within the personal technology space is ubiquitous, and a large percentage of companies have established digital initiatives linked with personal performance and behaviour. These initiatives will in turn enable personal technologies to take a central role in driving and supporting digital business. Personal technologies should be employed by organisations to support the end customer’s digital-business-outcome-driven use cases.
With this in mind, here are the 10 most effective technologies that technology leaders should begin to incorporate into their roadmaps and strategies.
1. Machine learning/Artificial intelligence
Machine learning (ML) is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI), and functions by extracting knowledge and patterns from a series of observations. This technology is also deployed in industrial and commercial industries to automate processes and identify patterns.
ML is a rapidly evolving technology with a diverse range of potential business applications, from digitisation (improvising efficiency by automating tasks) to business function optimisation, which includes fraud detection and identifying customer behaviour patterns. Crucial to the successful application of ML is the quality of the input data as well as regular system maintenance.
2. Virtual assistant
Awareness of VAs is steadily increasing. While some developers are repackaging their consumer VAs as a business offering, others are creating new enterprise-specific VAs altogether. The opportunities that VAs pose for businesses include instant responses and access to information that will increase productivity and improve client interactions. Nevertheless, companies are advised to tread cautiously and adopt VA technology with diligence in light of legitimate technical and security concerns currently surrounding the field.
3. Immersive technology (AR/VR/MR)
Immersive technology has the potential to change how users and employees interact with physical and digital environments and their devices. This particular technology mixes the real world with the digital, but is currently in the nascent stages of the development process. Potential business applications include employee training, as well as maintenance and repair across a variety of industries, such as design and healthcare. However, business should heed caution and ensure they can distinguish between fact and the hype surrounding this new emerging technology.
4. 3D printing
3D printing technology offers the possibility of creating a near-infinite range of objects in a wide variety of materials. The technology has already enjoyed mainstream success — as such, it will continue to undergo rapid growth and development. 3D printing will allow organisations to reduce product cycle times and create one-off products, including medical implants. The technology will also offer unique aerospace applications, such as creating more lightweight components. While there are concerns about trade secrets and IP in this field, new printer models and materials are constantly emerging.
5. Location ssensing/tracking (of things and people)
Location sensing/tracking technologies offer organisations the capability to track the position of people or things, creating business applications that link digital objects to the physical world. Currently, there are around 25 of these such technologies in existence — all with varying degrees of accuracy and pricing. Enterprises are faced with a wide variety of business opportunities for consideration. These technologies offer a variety of business opportunities: from location-aware car insurance to real-time usage and tracking for medical machinery in hospitals. It should be caveated that customer consent and data privacy are the main concerns surrounding this particular technology, and are more than capable of causing significant and even irreparable brand damage.
6. 3D cameras
Latest advancements in 3D camera technology enables depth in images, allowing business to measure objects and utilise 3D content for logistical planning purposes, as well as gesture and facial recognition. With the adoption of this technology, businesses will have the potential to streamline their processes. However, once again, organisations must be conscious of the difference between tangible possibilities and hype. In addition, enterprise-level 3D camera solutions can currently be prohibitively expensive.
7. Biometrics authentication
Biometrics authentication relies on the inherent and unique biological features of a user to facilitate facial or iris recognition. Microsoft has developed Windows Hello, which requires a 3D camera and recognises faces and fingerprints; these solutions are more secure than passwords or PINs. Different biometrics technologies vary in how far along they are in the development process — while some are still in the early adoption phase, others (such as fingerprint or voice authentication) have already reached relative maturity. Adopting and applying biometrics technology could allow more streamlined mobile purchasing and more effective building security. Essentially, any organisation with scope to employ faster and easier authentication would benefit from biometrics.
Wearables span a wide variety of technologies, from mature wristbands to first-generation virtual reality (VR) headsets. As such, wearables offer potential business opportunities across several industries — from medical smart patches to mobile payments to industrial repairs. Device selection is only one part of the wearables process, and businesses should first consider how they fit within the digital business.
Already available at varying levels of maturity, chatbots are conversation interface and automation tools. While enterprises will encounter no difficulty when finding a platform, there is very little standardisation across products. Chatbots boast a range of applications: replacing human service assistants in call centres and carrying out simple internal tasks such as scheduling. Given the fragmented and immature nature of the chatbot market, businesses should consider their selection a tactical decision that could change in the future.
10. Wireless power
Wireless power — which enables wire-free charging of electronic devices — is currently available in two forms. Power harvesting gathers power from environmental sources (such as light or heat), while wireless charging allows users to travel without cables. The majority of consumer devices do not yet support wireless charging, and it is seldom an essential aspect of a digital business offering. Nevertheless, adoption of wireless power can render processes more convenient and effective by increasing battery life. It can also — in a few specialised verticals, such as electric car charging — transform the industry.
Annette Jump, Senior Research Director, Gartner
Image source: Shutterstock/Vasin Lee