The smart way to work is to use smart tools that can automate, streamline and augment what you do. Here we take a look at some of the intelligent technology that can boost productivity and simplify life.
First off, there are the growing ranks of digital personal assistants vying to be our everyday helpers from within the devices and services we already use. Apple's Siri was among the first, appearing on iOS with the iPhone 4S in 2011 but only recently becoming a feature of the latest MacOS.
Siri has grown in sophistication and it's worth taking the time today to set it up. Tell Siri about the important people in your contacts, such as your boss or key clients and customers, and you'll be able to call or text them using voice commands only.
You can also check and send emails, manage your calendar by asking what appointments you have, or get Siri to schedule a meeting and send an invitation.
Microsoft's Cortana also started life on mobile devices but is now a key feature of Windows 10. Like a human personal assistant, it keeps a 'notebook' to record what it learns about you and your behaviour.
Like Siri, Cortana can be used to search the web, compile to-do lists and set location-based reminders so you get a prompt at the right time. Cortana goes one step further, allowing person-based reminders that are activated when you speak to a particular contact.
Google Assistant is the next generation Google Now, extending the latter's capabilities with AI that learns about you as you use it and allows for two-way conversations rather than the more limited 'command and response' approach.
Google Assistant is a feature of the company's new Pixel phone and the Allo messaging app. Integration is still something of a work in progress, even with some of Google's own services and apps but it's unlikely to stay that way for long. Actions on Google is a new platform for third party developers to create services for Assistant.
But it's Amazon's Alexa that's been making the most noise lately, with a rapidly expanding set of 'skills' - the apps that leverage APIs to bring voice control to just about anything. And the rush by third party developers is well under way with the skills available approaching 6,000.
You'll have to wade through apps for inspirational quotes and even shopping to find ones that will boost your workflow among the 219 skills listed under 'productivity'.
You will be rewarded for doing so, though. Some skills do one simple thing while others offer a voice interface to established productivity tools such as FreeBusy, an AI-powered scheduling assistant.
Infostretch Nest lets you ask Alexa to check how much annual leave you have left, track sick leave and check expenses among other things.
Of course, you could just set up Google Now and Alexa to have a circular conversation between themselves.
Like other assistants Alexa offers plenty of routine cleverness out of the box, such as checking your Google calendar and setting timers, reminders and to-do lists.
As well as the growing number of third-party skills, Alexa also plays well with If This Then That (IFTTT) which adds voice control to a range of automation applets and the facility to create your own.
There's another name to familiarise yourself with, too. Amy is an AI-powered personal assistant that schedules meetings for you by simply copying her into an email.
Amy is the friendly name given to x.ai, which describes itself as 'invisible software' and an alternative to having to download an app or log in to a service with a password.
All you do is 'cc' Amy into an email to someone you want to fix up a meeting with and 'she' takes care of the to-and-fro emails until a suitable time and location is agreed - and then sends out meeting invitations.
For developers there are also platforms that allow them to add intelligent and intuitive interfaces to their products. api.ai offers 'natural language interactions for bots, applications, services and devices' and already supports Google Assistant.
It also has chatbot integrations for Slack and Facebook Messenger.
Viv is a new AI offering promising to be the 'interface for everything' by taking conversational commands to a new level of sophistication and natural language.
It's the brainchild of the people who created Siri, so that's an ambition to be taken seriously. And the company was acquired by Samsung last year, so expect Viv to be in your TV and your fridge very soon.
There are plenty more neat automation tools than listed here, of course. Among the major players, the winners will be the ones that can do the most for you the most easily and key to that will be integrating with other services and software.
Right now, it's a case of picking and mixing the platforms, apps and services that work best for you - a personal automation stack if you like.
In the next wave of automation, it is the people who can augment and weave AI into their work lives, their business processes and into their team's workflow who will thrive, garner influence and be promoted. Better get started.
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