The end user, instead of IT, now frequently drives technology adoption. When consumers buy technology for their homes or for personal use, they soon expect to be able to use similar technology in the workplace—and IT needs to be ready. We saw this trend start with the iPhone and we’ll see it continue as new technologies and devices emerge.
What are some of these emerging technologies and devices? I believe that IT is already feeling the pressure from employees to support general-purpose bots and job-specific intelligent agents, as well as IoT devices that they can wear or embed in the office.
The definition of the digital workplace is expanding beyond traditional devices (PCs, tablets and smartphones) to include intelligent agents and IoT devices. Employees will want to interact with both of these to get their jobs done more efficiently.
The most common intelligent agents are general-purpose ones (such as Alexa, Siri and Cortana) that can provide a wide range of information regarding travel, weather and news for business employees. However, we are seeing the rise of job-specific agents trained specifically to improve the productivity of a high-value business role (e.g., Watson Drug Discoveryi used by a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company or Searidge Aimee AIii that can help air traffic controllers improve airport efficiency and safety). And we are also seeing the general purpose bots evolve to provide business specific services (such as Alexa for Businessiii and Cortana Skills for Enterpriseiv).
Smart devices are showing up in the office in the form of smart peripherals such as webcams, biometric scanners for building access, smart conference rooms that configure themselves for each meeting based on attendees, wearables that extend access to smartphones, smart personal health devices and even the smart self-driving car that becomes a mobile office while on the road.
Many of the above are already available for consumers, and we’ll soon see them in the enterprise. We saw something similar happen with the smartphone. Shortly after iPhones became available, executives brought them to work and demanded that IT connect them to corporate email, calendar and contacts. This trend – technology adoption frequently driven by the consumer instead of by IT – is now the standard. I expect this trend to continue with IoT and intelligent agents. IT will soon feel the pressure from employees to support IoT devices and intelligent agents in the workplace.
In supporting these new tools, IT faces two challenges: enablement and security.
The first challenge is obvious: Enablement. How can IT enable intelligent agents and IoT within the enterprise and integrate them with other enterprise systems?
Users often consider the second challenge, security, as an afterthought. How can IT make sure that the intelligent agents and IoT devices can be monitored, managed and secured? This is easier said than done.
Traditional workplace devices (PCs, tablets, smartphones) come with management platforms such as Microsoft System Center, Intune, and Workspace – one to secure and enable nearly every type of PC and smartphone. However, no single management platform exists (today) that can manage and monitor every type of intelligent agent and IoT Device. Instead, each intelligent agent and IoT vendor provides its own management platform with varying levels of service.
Complicating this further is that many IoT devices do not even have a designed-in mechanism to update their firmware with security updates. As a result, when someone discovers a security flaw in those devices, the business must decide whether to live with the security risk or throw the devices away. This is hardly a sustainable model.
The good news is that the Unisys Digital Workplace Services group is actively investigating the technologies that IT will need to enable and to secure these IoT devices and intelligent agents. Beyond that, we are ready to provide a broad range of training and support to end users when they need help with these new technologies. We provide true omni-channel support for your employees as well as a range of in-person support options – from walk up Tech Cafés to remote support via augmented reality to self-service IT vending machines. Find out more at https://www.unisys.com/offerings/digital-workplace-services