The idea of an assistant that can schedule meetings and arrange a calendar, order lunch and remind you that you need to leave the office before 4:30 on Thursday to make it across the city to dinner with colleagues doesn’t seem too extraordinary–until you learn the assistant isn’t a person at a desk, but rather a virtual assistant (VA).
While consumers are increasingly familiar with a range of VAs including Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, these technologies have begun to migrate from consumer to business.
With all the personal technology currently available, it can be difficult for businesses to decipher which represent an opportunity for end customers and which are too immature to warrant any attention. But these technologies can have big business impact.
“There is a lot of innovation happening in the personal technology space, and many companies have a variety of digital initiatives linked with personal performance and behaviour. This will enable personal technologies to play an immense role in driving and supporting digital business,” says Annette Jump, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “These personal technologies should be used to support the end customer’s digital-business-outcome-driven use cases.”
Gartner selected 10 technologies that technology leaders should incorporate into their roadmaps and strategies.
Gartner selected 10 technologies that technology leaders should begin to incorporate into their roadmaps and strategies.
1. Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence
Machine learning (ML) — a subset of artificial intelligence — extracts knowledge and patterns from a series of observations. This technology is also utilised in industrial and commercial industries to automate processes and identify patterns. It’s a rapidly evolving technology with digital business opportunities ranging from digitisation — improving efficiency by automating tasks — and business function optimisation, including fraud detection and spotting customer behaviour patterns. However, success or failure is tied to the quality of the data and continuous maintenance of the system.
2. Virtual Assistant (VA)
Awareness of VAs continues to grow. Some companies are expanding the consumer VAs into the business world, and others are creating enterprise-specific VAs. For businesses, opportunities include instant responses and access to information that will increase productivity and improve client interactions. However, very real technical and security concerns surround VAs, so companies should tread cautiously.
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 technology mixes the real and digital worlds, but is very early in the development phase. Potential business uses include training for employees and maintenance and repair across a variety of industries, such as design and healthcare. However, businesses should ensure they aren’t swayed by the hype surrounding the technology, which is still new and emerging.
4. 3D Printing
3D printing offers the ability to create a nearly infinite array of objects in a variety of materials. The technology is mainstream and will continue rapid growth and evolution. It will enable organisations to reduce product cycle times and create one-off products, such as medical implants. It will also offer unique opportunities in aerospace to create components that are more lightweight. Concerns exist about trade secrets and intellectual properties in this field, but new printers and materials are constantly emerging.
5. Location Sensing/Tracking (of Things and People)
Location sensing/tracking technologies offer an ability to track the position of people or things creating business applications that link digital objects to the physical world. About 25 of these technologies exist currently, with varying degrees of accuracy and price point. Enterprises have a wide range of options to consider. These technologies offer a variety of business opportunities ranging from location-aware car insurance to real-time usage and tracking for medical machinery in a hospital. Customer consent and privacy are the main concerns and hold the potential for significant brand damage.
6. 3D Cameras
This technology enables depth in images, allowing businesses to measure objects and use 3D content for logistical planning and gesture and facial recognition. The technology has a potential for streamlining business processes, but is also surrounded by hype. Additionally, enterprise-level solutions can be prohibitively expensive.
7. Biometrics Authentication
Biometrics authentication uses inherent biological features unique to each user and include technologies such as facial or iris recognition. Microsoft has Windows Hello, which requires a 3D camera and recognises faces and fingerprints. They are more secure than passwords or PINs. Some biometrics technologies are still in the early adoption phase, but others, such as fingerprint and voice authentication, are quite mature. Biometrics technology could enable more streamlined mobile purchasing and better building security. Essentially, any application that could employ faster, easier authentication would benefit.
Wearables span a wide variety of technologies, from mature wristbands to first-generation VR headsets. As a result, wearables offer potential business opportunities in many industries — from medical smart patches to mobile payments to industrial repairs. Device selection is only one part of the wearables process, and businesses should consider how they fit into the digital business first.
Chatbots are conversation interface and automation tools, available in a wide range of maturity. Enterprises will have no difficulty finding a platform, but there is little standardisation across products. Chatbots can be used to replace human service assistants in call centres and can be used internally for scheduling and simple tasks. The fragmented and immature market for chatbots mean businesses should view selection as a tactical decision that may change in the future.
10. Wireless Power
Wireless power, which enables electronic devices to be charged without using connecting cables, is available two ways: Power harvesting, which gathers power from environmental sources such as light or heat, and wireless charging, which enables electronics users to avoid carrying chargers or remembering to charge their phones. Most consumer electronic devices don’t support wireless charging, and it is seldom an essential part of a digital business offering. However, it can make processes more convenient and effective by increasing battery life and, in a few specialised verticals, such as electric car charging, change the industry.