Although voice-activated assistants like SIRI and Microsoft Cortana are making life easier for consumer use, they are still limited in their business use, in particular interacting with business systems. However, IFS has designed an app that lets users control its programs via voice.
Now IFS has designed a mobile app called the Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA), which lets the user control IFS Applications by their voice, via a smartphone or tablet.
The app is a product of IFS Labs, IFS’s in-house think tank tasked with finding new ways companies can push the boundaries of what ERP systems can and should do—often leveraging the world of consumer technology as inspiration. Having looked closely at Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, IFS Labs director Martin Gunnarsson led the design of the IPA for people who want to search for data and update data in IFS Applications, only using their voice.
IFS Labs has built the solution on standard technologies for voice recognition available through web services provided by Google and Microsoft.
It uses a standard device SDK for Speech to Text (STT) and Text to Speech (TTS). The infrastructure for fetching data from IFS Applications is built on IFS cloud infrastructure.
Two major benefits of this technology are that the user doesn’t need the normal logon procedure to access the ERP system, and doesn’t need to know where to find the information – one simply asks for that information.
IFS sees a range of use cases, which include:
· Field technicians or engineers can update and report jobs on the go even while their hands are busy with the job or they are wearing protective gloves. IFS has some customers with over 2000 service technicians. If they can save 15 minutes per day per technician, they can enjoy significant cost reductions.
· People are sometimes unable to use their hands, for example when stuck in traffic. It is estimated that people spend the equivalent of several days per year in traffic jams. This is time that could be put to more productive use without compromising road safety.
· Some users are simply attracted to the quick and easy way that voice control offers to search information in an ERP system (think Google Search for ERP).
· A sales person who is on their way to a customer and wants to run a quick check for any business updates can do so quickly on the move.
According to IFS, the driver for uptake of this technology will not be typical ERP users, because they are used to working with a traditional screen and keyboard.
Demand will come from the next generation of users who habitually interact with social apps through smart devices, where voice is used for navigation. IFS expects this technology to become mainstream in a few years’ time. The barrier to adoption is user behaviour rather than technology, and this is changing steadily.