The surge of smart mobile devices has accelerated the adoption of personal assistants for business users. Below, Tom Minifie, Chief Technology Officer for AVST, answers questions about the growing trend of virtual personal assistants in the workplace.
Firstly, how do you define a “virtual personal assistant” for the business user?
Simply put, virtual personal assistants help workers to be more efficient and productive. Easily accessed through a phone call or a smart phone application, these assistants support a business user with day-to-day activities from the simple to the complex: taking calls, taking messages, checking calendars, scheduling appointments, locating information, sharing status, delivering requested data, anticipating the needs of a user, and making decisions – these are just some examples. They use a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations and perform actions.
What’s the reason behind the surge of interest in virtual personal assistants?
There are several factors. Certainly, the worldwide adoption of smart mobile devices and the associated apps, coupled with a growing mobile workforce that includes an increasing number of tech-savvy people, is accelerating the need for personal assistants in the business landscape. Think about the mobile workforce’s varying degrees of remote access to enterprise data, communications, status indicators, etc. The ability to access that information and make use of it via a virtual personal assistant – on the fly – is a game changer. It’s a hands-free, voice-activated technology that does the work for you.
What about security concerns?
Security is always a concern. When looking for ways to make data more accessible and usable, companies must also look for ways to do so in a safe and secure manner. A virtual personal assistant is intended to be integrated into your business life with access to your preferences, contact information, and status. In addition, efficient and effective virtual personal assistants for business users successfully leverage telephony, instant messaging/presence, conferencing, calendar, enterprise data, mobile devices, email – but they must do so in a secure and compliant manner using standard IT network security techniques.
AVST’s Atom is a virtual personal assistant. Can you talk about that product?
Atom™ brings location-based services, federated presence and a multi-lingual speech interface to the workplace. For example, Atom knows when a user has arrived at the office, at home or anywhere in-between, and can deliver calls to a preferred device. The product is built with mobile features including unified messaging, hands-free speech access, single number reach, mobile number protection, location-based services and a native mobile client for iPhone® and Android™. It lets users manage business calls, messages, contacts and presence status. Atom’s built with the world's leading speech recognition engine from Nuance®, which uses voice commands to manage business activities, such as "Call John Smith," "Get new messages" and "Get my calendar for today." Atom is in sync with business calendars, and notifies callers about events, such as "I’m in a meeting and will be back at 10 a.m." Atom also keeps an eye on instant messaging presence and will not send calls to a device when set to “Do not disturb.” Atom connects to the cloud, delivering unified messaging to multiple email systems (premise-based and public cloud) including Microsoft® Exchange and Office 365, Lotus® Notes®, Google™ Gmail™, Novell® GroupWise® and any IMAP4 compliant e-mail system.
Why did AVST enter the virtual personal assistant market?
At the time of Atom’s formal launch, personal assistants for business users were basically non-existent. Through personal assistant applications like Apple's Siri, consumers were already familiar with voice automated assistance. At AVST, we drew on our 15+ years of experience in delivering speech-enabled personal assistant applications for the enterprise and added location, context and presence.
Where is Atom being utilized?
In addition to enterprise, healthcare, education and government are key markets. [READ: City of Baltimore implements Atom.]
What are the takeaways on the subject of virtual personal assistants?
First, the new era of “contextually aware” personal assistants is dawning. “Who, what, where, when and why” will be known to personal assistants and the technology is helping users leverage the information instead of drowning in it. Second, the technology is already being used — think Apple’s Siri, Google Now or Microsoft’s Cortana. Your workforce is using it — and they expect it on the job, too.
By its own account, the U.S. government admits that it has made some very costly IT mistakes. Instead of the remarkable technology advancements witnessed in the private sector, the U.S. Government’s Office of Management and Budget declares on its own website that it “largely has missed out on that transformation due to poor management of technology investments, with IT projects too often costing hundreds of millions of dollars more than they should, taking years longer than necessary to deploy, and delivering technologies that are obsolete by the time they are completed.”
According to the U.S. government, federal officials are working to reverse the poor track record, with the goal being to “make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with government, while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars.”
What happens to the existing technology that government has already implemented? Rip it all out and replace it? At what cost?
“Rip and replace” is a difficult proposition for federal, state and local government agencies. Public scrutiny and political chasms over expenditures dictate that technology investments must be judicious and carefully planned according to budget cycles.
Companies delivering IT-centric unified communications solutions to government that bridge legacy infrastructure to an IP-enabled future are well positioned. AVST is the only unified communications company in the world that delivers a software platform that allows hundreds of disparate technologies to all work together. With AVST’s CX-E unified communication platform, existing call control solutions, email systems, mobile devices, presence engines/instant messaging, business applications and data infrastructure can all work in harmony to deliver maximum productivity to a rapidly mobilizing workforce. Simply stated, no other unified communications platform delivers a higher level of interoperability.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), as well as CMAS in California, Ohio State Schedule, NY OGS, COSTARS and PEPPM in Pennsylvania already have contracts in place with AVST to ensure streamlined purchasing of AVST’s best of breed UC solutions for government and educational institutions. Such contracts can take months to procure and they require strict adherence to guidelines set forth under federal and state laws.
Government turns to AVST because its unified communications solutions allow agencies to maximize their existing and future communications infrastructure investments. Over the course of the last 30 years, more than 15 million users – including major government agencies, top hospitals, leading universities and multinational companies worldwide – have been leveraging AVST’s CX-E platform to help advance their business communications, improve their productivity and maximize their customer satisfaction.
In the government sector alone, AVST has more than 1,400 federal, state and local entities using its CX-E solution; more than 1,100 educational institutions are also using the platform. And those numbers are increasing on a weekly basis.
During the last week of May, AVST will be in Austin for the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) Connect Technology Expo. Texas DIR is one of the many strategic government and educational contracts AVST has in place. As we meet with IT and purchasing staff from the various Texas state and local agencies here, we are looking forward to sharing our case studies and best practices for rolling out AVST’s world-class UC solutions; and, as importantly, educating these agencies on how they can optimize their current infrastructure while delivering advanced UC capabilities to their workforce by partnering with AVST like so many other government agencies worldwide have already done.
Looking to enhance corporate productivity and cut costs? Increasing business process efficiency by integrating communications with information is arguably the most powerful result that IT can deliver to any organization.
Customers will discover how to unlock the full power of the CX-E platform. If you're considering AVST, you'll learn how CX-E can dramatically improve your enterprise's productivity by communication-enabling business processes today.
Receive "Investment Protection" with AVST! Protect your current TDM and IP-PBX telephony infrastructure all while upgrading your legacy voicemail system to a next generation unified communications solution. With 30 years of innovation and over 15 million customers worldwide, AVST is ranked as the #1 voicemail system most used, according to Voice Report's national PBX survey.
Don't miss this all new webinar to discover how to:
Tune into the AVST blog where AVST thought leaders and industry experts discuss issues and offer opinions pertaining to the communications marketplace.