IoT devices have changed the way we live. Now, they are reshaping work.
There’s a lot of hype around IoT devices. But the hype is about to get real. The technology that we use to help us at home has made its way into the office. And it’s about to change the way we work in monumental ways.
Most of us start our work days by logging in and pulling up our calendars to see where we need to be. Then we open our inbox and wade through email to see what we need to do. Then we start navigating multiple apps to complete mundane tasks like filing expenses and approving time off. Then we begin searching for the information and insights we need to do our real work. It sucks up the bulk of our time and leaves us feeling frustrated and unproductive at the end of the day.
But work is about to get simpler and smarter. And we will be more engaged and productive as a result. IoT devices are no longer confined to our kitchen counters and nightstands. They’re on our desktops and conference tables and embedded in our digital workspaces. Now when we log on, we don’t have to search for anything. The most pertinent tasks and insights we need to focus on are automatically delivered to us in an intelligent feed on the devices we prefer to use — our phones, laptops, tablets and even smart watches. With the click of a button, we can execute mundane tasks in seconds. And it’s all delivered in context with intelligence, so we can focus on meaningful work and create value.
It’s exciting stuff, but according to James Bulpin, senior director of engineering at Citrix, we haven’t seen anything yet. I recently sat down with James to get his take on what the future holds when it comes to IoT devices and the future of work.
Steve Wilson: IoT devices have certainly changed the way we live. And while things have been painfully slow on the work front, they seem to be picking up speed. What’s driving this?
James Bulpin: Artificial intelligence-powered, voice-controlled IoT assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and Cortana are already commonplace in many homes. This popularity is building pressure to integrate virtual assistant functionality into enterprise technology, as well, which will significantly reconfigure and enhance the employee experience. By 2021, Gartner, Inc. predicts that “25%of digital workers will use a virtual employee assistant on a daily basis. This will be up from less than 2% in 2019.”
Wilson: How we will we interact with our IoT devices at work?
Bulpin: Currently, the relationship between humans and IoT devices, such as virtual assistants, is predominantly a transactional one, relying on simple voice commands like “Alexa, tell me the weather forecast for this afternoon.” However, the AI and machine learning that power IoT devices is progressing rapidly, and in the near future, things like virtual assistants will be far more than just a voice or chatbot interface. In fact, the virtual assistant is likely to become a pervasive form of intelligence across the workplace that can surface through all digital platforms and resources, including data and apps, helping individuals to accomplish their daily tasks more efficiently.
Wilson: So are they going to put us all out of jobs?
Bulpin: Such innovation will always trigger some concerns over the technology’s impact on people and their job security and the demand for skills. But it’s more likely that IoT devices will make work a better experience for everyone. Workers will always face certain limitations due to our personal capacity for work or mental processing power, for example. IoT devices can help people and organizations to do and achieve things they couldn’t otherwise. Eventually, we envisage the creation of a level playing field between workers and their devices, built upon a relationship of mutual trust and collaboration, where the device undertakes more routine tasks for the individual, allowing them to focus on delivering their best work.
Wilson: How do you see the IoT market evolving?
Bulpin: The natural-language processing of voice recognition technology is growing steadily in sophistication, and eventually, conversations between an individual and their devices will be peer-to-peer, indistinguishable from human-to-human conversations.
Beyond this, the next logical step is for IoT technology to have the ability to understand human gestures. We’re already exploring the potential of gesture-recognition technology in all its forms, which will enable devices to interpret priorities and passion points, for example by identifying when human gestures have become more animated. Gestures could include pointing, eye gaze, and arm movement.
And before long, they will begin to independently solve problems and make proactive suggestions for workers. They will have the ability to calculate an individual’s workload, perhaps suggesting when to take a break, as well as to highlight the tasks that should be prioritized or delegated. By this point, workers may come to appreciate that IoT devices might even know “best” based on analysis of previous behavior and patterns.
Wilson: So it really is all about augmenting employees and empowering them to use their special skills to do meaningful work and create value.
Bulpin: Exactly. Ultimately, the IoT devices will help an individual to organize their work or tasks to keep them productive, while also understanding their personal capabilities. They may also begin to take on some monotonous, repetitive tasks to assist workers further, allowing them to spend more time engaged in high-level thinking, creativity, and decision-making, making it possible to focus on the best, more interesting work, most of the time.
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