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Yesterday from the Microsoft Build event we started to hear more about Microsoft’s answer to the personal digital assistant.  Everyone is taking this seriously and we are finally starting to see the emergence of intelligent assistants which interact with other apps and data on the phone (see my December 2013 post).  This for me is the key to these tools being accepted by enterprises and in turn increasing the productivity of their employees.  The challenge for us as employees is we’ll have to be more productive, if we don’t then our peers will!   Tom Austin, of Gartner, has predicted that 51% of information workers will be impacted in some way by Smart Machines, including personal digital assistants, by 2020.  To paint a picture:

How susceptible is your job to computerization? According to Frey and Osborne, 47% of all current U.S. jobs are at risk over the next two decades because they consist primarily of tasks that can be automated in that time period.

Moving back to the enhancement of these technologies … I now hope that the developers of solutions that containerize data on devices for enterprises will enable data flow to the personal digital assistant.  The augmentation of that data with the data in the public domain (maps, traffic, weather, other sensor based data) will provide us with much better information on which to make decisions about our activities.  Here are some thoughts on integration points for us to watch for:

  • Microsoft already support voice control of calendars in Exchange with simple interactions like “I’ll be late” resulting in messages being sent to attendees.  Well that voice interaction could be integrated to Cortana (or Siri or Now).  But the digital assistant itself could simply inform everyone while you concentrate on driving through congestion or parking your car.
  • Travel applications could see that travel approval for a trip has arrived, know your preferences, provisionally book travel itineraries for your approval.
  • Interact with beacon services in offices to guide you to appropriate working areas for the tasks you need to perform that day.  Automatically group people together who have a similar aim that day.

There will be thousands of other use cases but I’m pleased Microsoft, and I’m sure Apple and Google, are on this journey.  Its going to be exciting to see how this matures.