Just like the Alexa in your kitchen, smart office devices exist to make your day-to-day job easier. Gartner predicts that 25% of workers will use digital assistants every day by 2021, and it's no surprise why when you consider a digital assistant can recoup 36% of your time every day.
A cornerstone of any smart office and the heart of your operations is the smart office assistant. Smart office assistant devices are consumer devices equipped with an enterprise OS or skills. They're tailored for use in an office environments, and can act as a gateway to the rest of your office-connected IoT devices.
To help you decide on the smart device that suits your smart office concept and your current infrastructure, here's our guide to the top 3 smart office assistant devices you should know about. Whilst each have their strengths and weaknesses, all of them are guaranteed to ease the stress of your workday.
Amazon Echo Show (Alexa)
The Echo Show is a perfect choice for adding smart office technology to your meeting rooms. Video conferencing in meeting rooms is a breezy experience, and it's incredibly easy to interact with your Assistant with your voice or via the in-device screen. If you use other smart office devices in your meeting rooms, such as thermostats or smart lights, these can also be controlled directly from the Echo Show.
It's important to note that details about the Alexa for Business service are still a bit scant. Whilst trawling through the Alexa for Business website reveals some information about pricing and resources, it's not exactly transparent; signing up for the service directs you to create an AWS account, and the set-up process - especially creating your own skills - seems complex.
Built-in video conferencing
Works with existing meeting room infrastructure
Works with a huge range of IoT devices
Few enterprise-oriented Skills available
Echo Show device running the Digital Assistant skill
Amazon Alexa-enabled devices come with a rich range of features for the office out-of-the-box, such as managing and joining meetings, reminders and to-do-lists. The Amazon Echo Show takes this functionality to the next level with the addition of a touchscreen and video camera.
In terms of device support, Alexa is stealing the show - Amazon reckons it works with over 60,000 devices on the market right now, so chances are, if you use any Internet of Things devices in your office - your Echo Show will work with it.
By adding the Digital Assistant skill to your Echo Show devices, you can automatically connect all of your existing business apps to your Alexa devices. In meeting rooms, you can then simply ask Digital Assistant anything - from your organization's PTO policy to the latest company news - and get an instant answer.
Amazon Echo Show showing approvals on the Digital Assistant skill
For Echo Show devices in personal office spaces, users can log in to their Digital Assistant to get real-time notifications from their connected apps, manage workflows and approvals, start leave requests and get AI-powered answers. This makes getting work done quicker, easier and better - freeing up valuable time to focus on more complex tasks.
The main drawback of Echo Show's Alexa is the lack of available enterprise skills. The Alexa skill store doesn't include many enterprise skills by default, so there's still a vast number of enterprise apps that can't work with Alexa out of the box (though if you're integrating with a number of business applications, a skill like Digital Assistant makes the process extremely simple).
Lenovo Smart Display (Google Assistant)
Best for the home office or smaller business, the Lenovo Smart Display brings the power of Google Assistant into your office environment. With it's touch screen display and video calling functionality, the Lenovo Smart Display is packed with features designed to make your workday easier and save you valuable time.
Built-in video conferencing
Works with a huge range of IoT devices
Only supports video calling through Google Duo
Few Google Actions available, and they're hard to install
Google Assistant Digital Workplace Action
Out of the box, the Lenovo Smart Display supports all the typical functionality you'd expect from a smart assistant - creating meetings, reviewing your schedule, making notes, etc. Google Assistant does throw a few unique actions into the mix. Telling Google Assistant to 'remember that our customer is staying at a hotel downtown' then later asking 'where is our customer staying?' will remind you.
Google Assistant works with a wide variety of IoT devices, and the number is growing rapidly. The smart office devices you already use can be controlled through the Lenovo Smart Display via your Google Assistant, and the on-screen controls make it a doddle to turn on lights, adjust volumes and turn up the AC.
Although the Google Home Hub does come with a touchscreen and built-in camera and microphone, the video conferencing capabilities aren't great. The Home Hub uses Google's Duo app for video calling, which has a habit of being flaky.
Out of the box, Google Assistant doesn't work with a great number of business applications. In fact, only recently support was added for GSuite - so you can access your Google Calendar and other Google Apps directly from Google Assistant. If you need more than that, you'll need to find an Action for Google that supports your application.
Manage workflows and approvals on Google Assistant devices with Digital Assistant
Fortunately, Google Assistant integrates seamlessly with Digital Assistant, so you can put all of your business apps and enterprise data directly at your fingertips. Digital Assistant can connect to all of your existing apps; so creating help desk tickets, starting leave requests and managing your approvals is as simple as asking Google Assistant to speak to your Digital Workplace.
Apple Siri Devices
Apple devices are hugely popular in enterprise, with over 70% of mobile devices used for business being Apple devices. Siri, Apple's virtual assistant, comes included on nearly all modern iPhone and iPad devices, as well as desktop and laptop computers. It's likely that employees who use Apple devices at home already use Siri for personal use - but it can also be a valuable tool in your smart office technology tool belt.
Good personal productivity tool
Can't trigger actions in other apps (yet)
Poor support for Internet of Things devices
Access applications like Digital Assistant through Siri
With Siri, the menial parts of managing your workday can be made simpler. Creating meetings and managing your calendar, making notes, setting reminders and searching for information online is quick and simple - just ask Siri to do something.
While Apple doesn't have the same focus on enterprise productivity like Amazon does, Siri is a great tool for boosting your personal productivity, especially if you're not always sat at your desk. With voice control, it's easy to achieve common day-to-day tasks with little effort, and without having to stop what you were already doing.
Even in the office, by connecting your Internet of Things devices to Siri, you can create one hub to lock the door, adjust the thermostat or turn on a light - all from one device in your pocket.
Siri uses the HomeKit framework to speak to other smart devices. As of right now, the number of supported smart devices is fairly limited, so unless you're using Phillips Hue lightbulbs, you might find that Siri can't speak to some of the devices in your smart office.
For some, this is a dealbreaker. But Siri still has the potential to dramatically boost your workplace productivity - or at least, it will soon. Digital Assistant is the equivalent of Siri for your enterprise apps, but it can work alongside Siri, too. iOS 13, the latest version of Apple's phone operating system, introduces Shortcuts - an easy way to trigger actions and create routines.
iOS 13 automation with a smart assistant for work
By setting up Shortcuts, you can trigger your Digital Assistant through Siri, then speak to your Digital Assistant from your iOS devices with the app. Right now, this feature is in beta, but Shortcuts could create a variety of opportunities for smart office automation. Hopefully by then, more devices will support HomeKit, but Siri is definitely one to watch in the smart office technology race.
While there's still no one-size-fits-all voice assistant (especially for enterprise use), the best fit for your organization is the one that checks all the boxes for the enterprise functionality you need, the devices you want to use in your smart office, and your existing office devices.
If you want to bring the future of work to your office right now, the Echo Show powered by Alexa is going to be able to provide an immediate boost to your workplace productivity. Right now, it's got the most advanced feature set for enterprise use-cases out of the box, and works with the greatest number of smart devices.
The Lenovo Smart Hub isn't far behind, with Google Assistant making rapid advancements in their assistant's AI; but the device form factor isn't suitable for every office. Right now, Siri is at the back of the pack, and is probably a better choice for a personal productivity tool - but with how dramatically technology evolves year-on-year, make sure to watch this space for future developments.