Enterprise IT can unite the fragmented IoT marketplace

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We live in a world of data and an age of unprecedented data availability, but in order for us to unlock the value of that data we need a single method to communicate with all devices. In this interview with The Enterprisers Project, Yoryos Yeracaris, chief technology officer of Interactions, which builds conversational automated phone solutions for customer service, explains why.

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): Where are we in the evolution of the Internet of Things?

Yeracaris: The Internet of Things is reaching a critical juncture. With the proliferation of sensors and smart devices, we have access to an unprecedented amount of data. However, the market is already highly fragmented with developers, enterprises, and other groups creating different interfaces for different devices. An example would be the touch screen. Although it is popular right now, as devices and sensors grow, this won't always be a viable option for communicating with devices. We're already seeing this with smartwatches.

What the Internet of Things requires to accelerate widespread adoption is a universal interface option — what Interactions calls an "Interface of Things" — capable of operating on any device. In order to facilitate interactions with devices of all sizes, it will primarily leverage speech, but also encompass options for touch, text, and even gesture to allow users to select the input they are most comfortable with.

It will be highly accurate, reliable, and conversational. It will also include multiple layers of recognition engines in order to overcome frustrating situations where automated recognition is not appropriate, such as excessive background noise, open-ended or grammatically incorrect statements, and varying accents. Once there is a dedicated interface for the Internet of Things, then I believe we'll see adoption really take off.

TEP: What do you foresee will be the biggest effects of IoT on daily life?

Yeracaris: Our devices are getting smarter. Whether it is our lights, thermostats, cars, televisions, or phones, everything is becoming interconnected and more information is available at our fingertips than ever before.

It's a fragmented marketplace though. Each device is trapped inside the product-centric ecosystem offered by its provider. What everyone wants to do is harness these new smart devices and the data within them to get things done faster. But whether what's being developed today is really going to help people with meaningful tasks is unclear.

TEP: How could they become more useful?

Yeracaris: Many implementations are gimmicky. We've all seen the commercial of a child asking a cell phone if dogs can dream. Other devices serve as speech-enabled shopping lists. In order to help consumers get more done quicker, there needs to be a greater focus on creating smart assistants, not smart devices.

A smart assistant that is reliable, platform agnostic and compatible with virtually any device, whether at home, on the road, or at the office, will elevate speech-enabled devices from infotainment to mission critical status.

TEP: From an enterprise IT perspective, how will the growing importance of IoT change things

Yeracaris: Currently, enterprise IT is not set up to take on these types of endeavors because it still functions in silos. There are app developers, IT compliance officers, and other departments within IT that work separately. This presents a new obstacle to conquer. What needs to be done to improve the overall customer experience with technology? Enterprise IT must work in harmony and take a holistic approach in order to address and get ahead of the IoT trends that are going to take place whether or not they are ready for them.

From a consumer standpoint, the opportunity to seamlessly operate and interact with technology across multiple devices is there, but it is up to enterprise IT, working in tandem with developers and service providers, to make it a reality. There will also be a greater need for IT roles, meaning more careers will be made available in all different departments within IT.

TEP: What should CIOs and tech leaders be doing right now to prepare for the growing importance of IoT?

Yeracaris: CIOs, CTOs and tech leaders alike should be identifying and working with trusted partners to take advantage of IoT in unison. Together, we can break out of the product-centric ecosystems of a few big tech companies to offer universal IoT solutions, that will help power easy and rapid user adoption. By taking this approach, we'll be able to leverage the IoT to help consumers be more productive every day. The IoT and its technology are evolving rapidly, but understanding it is still moving at a slow pace. I'd encourage tech leaders in the enterprise to work with respected vendors that can keep on top of the technologies that are continually changing.

Learn from these partners and think about where they might be going and make sure you are also on track to get there. Educate yourself on modern capabilities, and re-invent your organization based on the opportunity presented by the IoT.

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With more than 30 years of technology experience that spans healthcare, gaming, business consulting and enterprise platforms, Interactions Chief Technology Officer, Yoryos Yeracaris leads the company’s efforts to transform the way people communicate with innovative products and services. Yoryos joined Interactions as Chief Technology Officer in 2010, and within months, emerged as the architect of several patents and the symbiotic use of human-assisted computer automation and speech recognition into real-time communications. 

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.

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