When Smart Speakers Take Over the Workplace

Google Home in my kitchen. Now I want it in my office at work.

Google Home in my kitchen. Now I want it in my office at work.

I love my Google Home device.  It sits in the kitchen and gets plenty of attention. It keeps timers going so dinner doesn’t get burned in the oven, tells me my estimated traffic time to get to work each morning, makes calls when my phone is in the other room, orders products for me when I ask it to, settles debates with family members over dinner, and even tells me jokes when I am in the mood for a laugh (did you know you can even play Mad Libs on the Google Home?!?!?).  During the Christmas weekend, I even had the Google Home play some soft fireplace sounds in-between a variety of of Christmas music playlists.

For devices like the Google Home and the Amazon Echo, however, the home is just the starting point.  The next big market will be the workplace.

I am not sure if 2018 will be the year for this, but in not to long, I envision a Google Home-type device on every desk in the workplace.  For the first time ever, every corporate employee will have a personal assistant.

The results of this will have so many efficiency benefits.  You get to your desk, you say “hi” to your assistant, and voice commands will handle a variety of tasks throughout the rest of the day.  For example, here are some of the things I envision your assistant could do for you, all simply by telling it to do these things, perhaps even before you fire up your laptop…

  • “Send Nick an email to tell him I will have the presentation deck done by the end of the day.” (Through machine learning, your assistant would compose the email in your tone of voice)

  • “Schedule a meeting with Sarah for later this week to discuss the new content strategy plan.” (The assistant would look for open times on both your calendar and Sarah’s, as well as find an open conference room, so you don’t have to!)

  • “What were our revenue numbers for last quarter compared to last year?”

  • “Send the leadership team the completed presentation deck in PDF format.” (Your assistant knows the file you are referring to because it has been helping you with the presentation all week)

  • “Create a spreadsheet with all the online sales transactions from last week.”

These are just a couple of examples, but honestly, the sky is the limit.  The machine learning, knowledge graph, and cross-system communications are getting so good now that this is only a matter of time.  Why should us humans have to spend time pulling data into a spreadsheet, or waste time scheduling meetings all the time when these systems and devices can easily do it for us?

While I want 2018 to be the year smart speaker devices start making their way into the workplace, there are plenty of hurdles to jump.  There is infrastructure (most notably security concerns) and software barriers to get past.  I see Microsoft and Google best positioned for this space, since they have a good foothold in the workplace from a data and software (or webware) perspective.  But I wouldn’t count out a companies like Amazon or Oracle (their enterprise database systems could prove valuable in a product like this) or any of the countless startups that could build an industry around this space.

There are a number of services out there that tackle different parts of this scenario, like X.ai, which uses artificial intelligence to help schedule meetings for you (love this service, by the way).  So now we just need all the different pieces to come together.

I really, REALLY want this to become a product and service of the workplace, and would love to hear from others who have thoughts, ideas, or know of existing companies who are working on this type of project.