With businesses looking to ensure COVID-safe working conditions, the use of voice and contactless interfaces could help provide safer ways of carrying out daily work tasks.
A recent report by 451 Research states that technology generally will play a crucial role for businesses continuity post-lockdown and that in the past 2 years (in the U.S.) there has been increased interest in the use of voice interfaces in the workplace, with voice-activated interfaces and digital assistants being among the top disruptive technologies that organisations were looking to adopt. The report also highlights how, in the past year there has been a growing number of speech-enabled devices designed specifically for the workplace, such as desk phones, meeting room equipment and hearable devices. Also, voice-enabled intelligent assistants have been integrated with meeting room equipment and team collaboration workflows.
Now, in the post-COVID-19 business environment, the report concludes that:
- These technologies and integrations could become particularly valuable in making the workplace safer and more contactless and help to retain the necessary physical distancing for those who are required to return.
- The need to provide a safe workplace will see organisations accelerating digital transformation initiatives, driving adoption of voice interfaces, biometrics, and real-time communications.
- Voice user interfaces, real-time communications and location management services will be used to help support frontline workers as well as helping organisations to further automate their operations.
Some of the examples cited in the report of those who currently use voice technology and who could benefit from using more of it include frontline workers such as nurses and doctors, first responders, factory workers, grocery store employees, drivers, and food and grocery and delivery gig workers.
It should be remembered that the report is U.S. based, where integrations of voice-enabled intelligent assistants with meeting room equipment and team collaboration workflows deployed in the workplace began around three years ago, and where intelligent assistants e.g. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri are ubiquitous for the average consumer. Also, in the U.S, Amazon has been active in expanding its Alexa for Business that uses voice commands for e.g. managing meetings and controlling conference room devices.
Some of the challenges that businesses in the UK face in addition to the market conditions and making the office/workplace physically safe on a daily basis are how they offer good service levels with many staff still not back at the office and how they can quickly and affordably take advantage of the benefits of technology to make things work and remain competitive.
With social distancing looking as though it will need to be in place for many months to come, yet with many returning to workplaces in the UK after becoming used to working remotely (facilitated by technology), there is now an expectation that (and a necessity for) workplaces to change in order to maximise safety for the users of all work buildings.
Ways that businesses in the UK could operate safely, embrace technology, and move forward could include:
- Making more use of Alexa for Business, Microsoft’s Cortana, biometrics, and chatbots with AI for speech recognition.
- Workers continuing to make use of as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom, and using simple chatbots and other speech-based technologies e.g. voice-to-text transcription.
- Making even greater use of the Cloud.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Just as governments have to balance public health with the economy, most businesses will need key people to return to their premises and will already be at least in the process of physically creating an environment, working routines and policies that ensure maximum safety within available guidelines.
The realisation by many managers and their employees that technology can successfully be quickly mastered and used to keep critical parts of the business going during lockdown looks likely to contribute to serious consideration being given to the use of more technologies such as voice and contactless technologies going forward.
Due to COVID-19, however, in the UK, the FCA has announced that to help merchants who have been severely affected by the crisis, the enforcement of SCA has been delayed until 14th September 2021. Many businesses are currently struggling to make sure they survive, and although it’s good news that an extra form of compliant, frictionless authentication looks likely to be available in time via NatWest (maybe others to follow), the focus, for the time being, is likely to be keeping the lights on.
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