Hark the sonic boom

For workplaces to be fit for purpose emergent technology in audio, such as voice assistants, AI, ML and biometrics must be fully embraced, urges Jesper Kock, Vice President Research and Development at Sennheiser Communications.

Voice assistants have burgeoned and emergent audio technology continues to drive the evolution of the workspace, with developments moving at pace as AI, voice assistants and biometric technology become more widespread. “Our workspaces and the way we work have undergone a dramatic transformation, from an increase in open plan offices to developments in technology, most notably UC and voice assistants,” stated Kock. “Millennials and Gen Z will soon make up the biggest part of the global workforce, and this segment requires more flexible working options and technology that will suit their lifestyles. By 2022, almost half of the workforce will be more mobile. It is also clear that audio technology will play a crucial role in facilitating a more flexible working environment for workers.” 
That voice assistants have become a powerful lubricant of workplace convenience and ease of connectivity is a given, observed Kock. “Research indicates that by 2023 there will be eight billion digital voice assistants in use, up from 2.5 billion at the end of 2018,” he added. “It’s clear that more and more enterprises will be focusing on integrating their own sonic strategies, adopting voice assistive technologies across B2B touchpoints. This in turn will catalyse productivity, efficiency and connectivity.” 
Satisfaction at being able to do most tasks with the sound of your voice has already rendered conventional working practices obsolete, according to Kock. “Long gone are the days of being stuck to your keyboard, staring at your computer screen for hours on end,” he said. “This scenario has been replaced by a world where you can work anywhere, and do most tasks with the sound of your voice. The potential for AI voice assistants is endless, they’ll be able to control everything in the office, from reminding you of meetings, organising calls via your contacts and call history, record your calls, initiate a video call, read case notes – the list goes on. These emerging technologies are already driving efficiencies.” 

The benefits of biometrics will dramatically improve people management and HR systems in all sectors
It would be a big mistake to underrate the wider trends around audio solutions using AI and ML technology, believes Kock, and in proving the point he nodded towards the introduction of audio software that recognises environmental changes which, he says, will become essential to employees in open plan offices, for example. “This means audio tools will be able to recognise environmental interferences such as disruptive noise and deliver responsive solutions,” he stated. “The audio tools will also be able to learn which sounds we might want to omit, such as background noise, and which sounds we need to hear, such as traffic during a commute.”
Although these technologies enable employees to work remotely and on-the-go it must be remembered that in the age of an always-on culture employees need to know how to switch off to maintain their work-life balance, observed Kock. “The emergence of biometric technology in the market could be the solution,” he stated. “Biometrics will help employees become more comfortable in the tech driven future workplace. Biometric monitoring could be used for anything from ensuring people are sufficiently active during a working day, taking breaks from their desks and taking long enough lunch breaks, to monitoring their tone of voice and stress levels in conference calls. These solutions will help both employers and employees intervene and react before stress impacts the quality of performance and encroaches on their work-life balance. Ultimately, a happy workforce is a strong one and the benefits of biometrics will dramatically improve people management and HR systems in all sectors.”
It holds that 2020 will catalyse a ‘trailblazing decade’ in terms of technology in the workplace, according to Kock. He believes that innovation to date and its integration into day-to-day life will burst through the gates next year. “These developments will not only enhance work performance and productivity but also radically improve employee health and wellbeing, which is increasingly becoming the differentiator for employees in this competitive landscape,” he stated. “The innovations we’re already seeing in audio AI, voice assistants and biometric technology are in their infancy, but they are already providing solutions to the demanding requirements of the modern workforce.”

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