used with permission from Tektonika (HP)

Voice assistant concept on laptop and smartphone screen

After years of hype, artificial intelligence has wedged itself firmly into our everyday lives, and thankfully, it’s not the dystopian science fiction nightmare we all feared—at least, not yet. Instead, households today reverberate with commands like, “Alexa, play Beyoncé,” “Hey Siri, send a text to Mom,” and “OK Google, who won the World Series in 1976?”

Anyone following voice assistant trends will tell you that nearly every major tech brand has thrown its hat into the ring, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung. In spring 2019, even Facebook confirmed it would be releasing an AI-powered voice assistant for Portal and Oculus, according to The Verge, though the launch date has yet to be determined. And you can expect challengers from emerging AI markets in Europe and Asia.

AI has secured a foothold in our homes, our cars, and the literal palms of our hands. Consumer voice assistance trends show no sign of slowing down, and what about AI in the workplace? Here are some ways you can expect voice assistant trends to develop in business settings over the next few years and some security considerations you’ll need to make as we prepare for AI’s next wave.

Is AI sophisticated enough for the workplace?

Given the types of tasks they can help you accomplish, modern voice assistants are poised to become our administrative saviors and significantly cut down on workday tedium. So why is the role of AI in the workplace relatively limited?

While the technology has grown more impressive in recent years, there are still plenty of issues that need to be resolved. For example, according to data from Spiceworks, 59 percent of IT pros say that their voice assistants often fail to understand their requests or recognize certain nuances of human dialogue.

However, given that enterprise AI implementation grew 270 percent in the past four years, according to Gartner, it’s wise to prepare for an AI-powered future.

Current voice assistant trends

Here are a few ways businesses are leveraging AI in the workplace today:

Speech-to-text dictation

Whether you’re stuck in rush hour traffic or standing in line for your morning latte, AI-powered speech-to-text allows you to dictate notes and compose emails quickly and easily when sitting down at a keyboard isn’t an option. This can save time, promote efficiency, and enable interaction with the digital world even when your hands and eyes are busy.

Calendar management

Voice assistants can read your daily agenda, help to schedule meetings (and invite attendees), or even fetch directions to off-site appointments. These features help users stay aware of their obligations and avoid double-bookings and missed events.

Email management

Email remains one of the most popular forms of workplace communication—and one of the biggest time-sinks. It’s no surprise that inbox management is becoming a popular application of the business voice assistant. Users can have emails read to them and delete, star or archive messages through voice commands.

AI security risks to consider

You’re probably not shocked to learn that 29 percent of organizations who haven’t implemented AI in the workplace cite security and privacy concerns, according to the Spiceworks report. As artificial intelligence voice assistants become more prevalent, IT professionals will be responsible for keeping them secure.

Here are a few points to consider as you implement voice assistants for your workforce:

Accidental eavesdropping

We’ve all heard unsettling stories of voice assistants mishearing wake commands and sending data to random contacts. While this could wreak havoc in private life, the consequences could be even greater if an AI tool were to send proprietary information or other valuable, sensitive data to the wrong person.

Always-on mics and cameras

Most AI-powered smart speakers leverage always-on microphones to ensure that they can be woken easily when you need them. While this feature can usually be switched off, the presence of mics that are always listening and cameras that are always watching could quickly become a security catastrophe if a bad actor were to gain access to the feeds.

Interaction logging by AI companies

Even if your security is airtight, can you trust that all the data you’re providing to a device is being adequately protected by the manufacturer? When you’re choosing a provider, it’s essential that you check their security, storage, and privacy protocols.

Unsecured endpoints

Every device in your environment represents another opportunity for hackers to access your network. Given how much valuable data a voice assistant can provide, this kind of tool might be a cybercriminal’s first target, whether they’re seeking to steal data or recruit a botnet. As always, it’s critical that you ensure all tech within your company is highly secure. For example, outdated printers could provide an easy entryway for hackers who wish to hijack your AI devices.

So far, we have only witnessed the beginning of AI voice assistants in the workplace. Over the next few years, IT leaders can expect this rapidly advancing tech to bring plenty of benefits to their environments—and risks too. By staying aware of potential security issues and taking all the necessary precautions, you can help your organization to deploy voice assistance and other useful AI-powered solutions safely.