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Are You Ready for Connected Devices in the Workplace?

Amazon, as it often does, is making news. The company has announced an Alexa for Business platform as an extension to its voice-activated virtual assistant software. This platform is said to have the capability to handle a myriad of business needs, from managing an employee’s daily itinerary to monitoring inventory. This development appears to reflect the natural evolution of the underlying technology, as well as a slight pivot as Apple, Google, and Microsoft are saturating the consumer market with their own connected devices.

So what does this mean for you, aside from being another step closer to having an entity such as HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey running the workplace? Connected devices have been in the consumer sector for years now, and the technology has been widely accepted, especially by younger employees. A recent study by Gartner marked 2017 as the first year that the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices—8.4 billion—outnumbered the world’s population of 7.6 billion. And the number of IoT devices are only growing. Businesses may face pressure to adopt such platforms in order to remain competitive and strive to adapt to the needs of younger employees who will one day become leaders.

This transition is aided by the fact that business assistant platforms can be highly customizable. The Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa for Business APIs, for example, potentially allow a business to create its own business processes through Alexa. Those occupying the C-suite, such as CEOs and CFO, could benefit from making better informed, more timely decisions as these platforms can theoretically be programmed to pull and aggregate key performance indicators from live data so it can be analyzed quickly and efficiently.

The biggest hurdle to these platforms becoming the new norm in the workplace, however, is security. Many connected devices are at risk of cyberattacks because many consumer-connected devices do not have adequate security safeguards. These devices can collect a lot of sensitive data, which leaves them vulnerable and attractive targets for hackers as a backdoor into a network. If Alexa for Business and similar services become widely used, we could see cybersecurity firms capitalize by helping companies strengthen security surrounding these platforms, such as performing intrusion testing, adding encryptions, and more.

Mr. Kosnac provides accounting, auditing and business consulting services to businesses in both the public and private sectors. He also contributes to EisnerAmper's technology and life sciences blog.

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