By Cassandra Balentine
Technology trends like artificial intelligence (AI), collaboration, augmented (AR)/virtual reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are reshaping the way businesses communications are created, managed, and deployed.
Many technologies enable professionals to work better together. “From cloud technology that provides a central location for accessing documents both through the network and through mobile devices, to interactive flat panel displays that allow people to collaborate and make changes to documents in real time from any location, technology is not only getting smarter but becoming more accessible and as a result, making companies more productive and efficient,” shares Steven Burger, head of engineering, VP technology marketing, Ricoh.
He says it doesn’t stop at collaboration technologies. For example, automatic recognition technology helps improve how documents are routed to the cloud by identifying a document based on its content, naming the file, and routing it to the right location, with little to no manual intervention. In addition, metadata tagging has been developed to help users better organize and manage content by eliminating the folder/subfolder hierarchy and instead, using the metadata tagging within document libraries to enable a comprehensive level of search while still maintaining a flat folder structure. “The net of all of this enhanced collaboration and document automation technology is that it saves time, increases productivity, and improves information management,” explains Burger.
Content and Document Strategies
The latest technologies drive innovation in the manner in which organizations manage content and documents. Key technologies affecting this particular area of business include AI and cloud/collaboration tools, these are all driven by information management.
According to Dr. Dennis Curry, deputy CTO/executive director, Konica Minolta Inc., information management is becoming more complex all the time, requiring workplaces to proactively embrace digital transformation solutions. Information overload is happening, leading to employee frustration and mistakes.
AI is the driver for machine learning (ML) and is increasingly integrated into technologies to learn behaviors for a better customer experience. Mike Betsko, director, solutions sales & marketing, Canon U.S.A., Inc., points out that AI is used in office technologies by leveraging ML as well as natural language processing (NLP) to make suggestions on the filing, naming, user access, as well as recommendations on who within an organization needs to be granted access. “It is an imperative tool in not only enhancing the collaborative natures of today’s modern work environments, but further ensuring that all employees gain more time back in their days to focus less on manual processes to allot for more creative freedom,” he offers.
AI technologies offer many opportunities to empower digital workspaces. “Documents and more important content/information are the lifeblood of enterprises,” says Burger. Much of this information now is completely unstructured. AI and ML enable enterprises to turn unstructured data into valuable and actionable information. This includes everything from device self-diagnostics and management to content understanding as well as parsing and extracting data to provide real, meaningful insight faster than ever.
With better data and document management in place, data is used for actionable intelligence for customer communications and experience management. “AI is beginning to play a role in customer communications and customer experience management. As customers respond to and interact with a company, the ability to analyze customer interaction to improve the overall customer experience can be enhanced using AI technology,” says Burger.
Where AI is an up-and-coming technology, the cloud is a well-established tool that continues to gain acceptance throughout the enterprise. Cloud technologies are adopted and accepted as an appropriate infrastructure for many business applications. “In today’s dynamic office, cloud content management and similar collaborative solutions provide the workflow organization that companies crave along with the security controls that they need in the digital era. Additionally, migration to the cloud helps organizations mitigate issues with network and on premise storage, which can quickly eat up time and money,” says Betsko.
Collaboration through the cloud enables organizations to benefit from improved productivity by removing some of the typical barriers that come with working with static content. “For instance, in the spirit of collaboration, there at times may be multiple people on one team working within a specific document. Versioning in the cloud can help ensure that all of those different creative minds are working on the latest document, and therefore help prevent duplicative workflow tendencies,” notes Betsko.
Canon, for instance, holds a strategic partnership with cloud content management platform Box to help organizations audit content use and access within an organization, while enabling easier collaboration in a safe and reliable manner.
Beyond the management utility, cloud services provide an added layer of security to protect digital assets. “At a time where data security is top of mind for everyone, solutions that help simplify workflow processes and address data protection continue to bring value to workflows,” shares Betsko. “Further, organizations can simply and easily deploy new device features and functions to their fleets through a cloud server. With such a strategy, every customer immediately has access to the latest updates provided to enhance their workflow operations, compared to a more traditional route in which dedicated support personnel would physically have to touch every server and update manually.”
Further, AR/virtual reality (VR) solutions are poised to challenge mainstream communication methods.
“Currently, AR/VR technology is not as developed or mature as some other technologies available in the information sharing and management space,” comments Burger. However, he sees a lot of potential in future capabilities that will improve the way the workforce communicates and collaborates. The new millennium workforce and the demand for flexible work schedules and locations will require new ways and tools for interaction and collaboration. Documents/Information will need to be shared in new ways and AR/VR technology will become a key tool for enabling and engaging the new workforce.
The IoT is another buzz word. While its use is ever expanding, it’s already established within many hardware solutions. “IoT is here and now,” says Burger. Ricoh has created the Ricoh Smart Integration (RSI) Cloud platform with the goal to connect devices, content, and information across all areas of the enterprise. Having a strong document/information management capability is critical to supporting companies trying to manage information and devices outside the “typical office.” RSI enables Ricoh’s IoT solution and allows information to be shared across any platform
Past the Digital Document
Beyond the digital document, cloud collaboration can offer new ways of sharing, approving, and printing information. “It can affect everything from print submission, job approvals, market localization, distribution, and overall print strategies,” says Burger. Cloud collaboration and on demand printing run hand in hand to change the way enterprises manage print.
Trends like AI and the cloud affect nearly every consumer and business, this goes beyond document management. “With the increased number of remote workers and mobile devices in the workforce, leveraging the cloud to enable printing became a business requirement,” says Burger. Cloud-based printing allows workers to print documents from anywhere, any time, and on any device, allowing users to submit print jobs without a print driver and/or having their mobile device connected to the company’s network. Jobs sent to the cloud are pulled by a multifunction printer via a release method, along with any finishing options specified. This technology also provides a simple way for organizations to allow guests access to print devices without the security of granting network access.
Technology continuously advances and builds on the last iteration to improve efficiency, productivity, and ease of use. Here are some of the latest from key vendors.
Canon engages in strategic third-party partnerships to enhance its cloud and content management capabilities so customers benefit by improving workflow and enhancing productivity. For instance, it partners its print solutions with content management platform Box, which delivers detailed usage reports and audit trails so users can see who is accessing which content within their organizations. Similarly, cloud email management service MxHero integrates with Box to replace inbound and outbound email attachments with secure preview links so users can screen and block potentially harmful materials.
Konica Minolta helps business better manage the ever-growing need for information management and combating information overload by developing different AI and IoT solutions that integrate with its Workplace Hub system. “Aiming at creating a new offering of cognitive services that we call Cognitive Hub, we have started with Search & Priority, a tool that helps you focus on the tasks that matter by connecting the communication tools you currently use, storage, and project management tools. Its main purpose is to advise you on what to prioritize by collecting all your appointments, meetings, and tasks from the different connected sources and making them accessible in a single dashboard,” explains Curry.
Based on Semantics technologies, Natural Language Processing and Ontological Content Analysis, Search & Priority is able to process data from various sources, interpreting the data within the working content and infer relations, user preferences, priorities, and anticipate future needs. As part of the Workplace Hub software release, Search & Priority is an on premise, browser-based feature of the solution that will soon be available. “As the first AI-enabled solution from Konica Minolta, it brings cognitive services to life for its customers, providing an all-in-one solution for IT management and AI services,” shares Curry.
In order to generate value for organizations, AI platforms such as Cognitive Hub and cognitive-based services need to process the large volumes of data generated by IoT systems and other connected devices. The data should be send to the Cloud Core through a high bandwidth and low latency channel. Sending private data to the public cloud can invoke privacy concerns, particularly when dealing with sensitive data. “This is why Konica Minolta is researching hybrid cloud computing. With a research project that we call Distributed Cloud Intelligence, we are able to create a system capable of orchestrating AI services and agents, in between devices, edge, and cloud layers, which creates an architecture that is capable of supporting future cognitive services,” he explains.
With Distributed Cloud Intelligence, Konica Minolta reduces network latency, making computing processes happen close to real time. According to Curry, it reduces internet bandwidth consumption preprocessing, transferring, and receiving insight from the data on the users’ premise with a number of edge devices, minimizing the need to transfer data to the Cloud Core. Distributed Cloud Intelligence also orchestrates the components and services on edge, cloud, and the device by managing their discoverability during runtime. It also dynamically places them according to the resource availability, users’ business logic, and performance requirements. This solution enables applications to keep data on premise and guarantees that all data sent to the cloud is anoymized, hashed, and encrypted. In the case of a connection failure and cloud services immediately unavailable, Distributed Cloud Intelligence also creates a cloud fabric for edge devices to answer communication requests during this internet disruption.
Ricoh incorporates several new technologies and services for document management, including dynamic workplace intelligence.
Ricoh’s dynamic workplace intelligence approach is a new strategy to the market combining the latest burgeoning technologies with digital workplace solutions that help solve customer challenges. It includes the Ricoh Smart Integration Platform, Ricoh Always Current Technology, Ricoh Smart Support, and communication services.
Ricoh Smart Integration Platform is a new cloud platform that offers IoT between any devices in the workplace. It offers customers access to new cloud-based workflow in a consumption-based business model.
Ricoh Always Current Technology features new technology leveraging applications and the cloud to enable Ricoh customers to always have the latest technology within their product lifecycle. Security updates, new features, and new drivers are automatically updated to keep the customer current.
Ricoh Smart Support combines big data and edge device technology to create AI to manage enterprise devices and to enable support on Ricoh devices like never before. This changes the way the company and its dealers support its technology.
Ricoh also offers a full line of Digital Workplace and Communication services. Interactive flat panel display projectors and unified communication services can leverage the cloud, IoT, AI, and many meeting services applications. According to the company, this changes how customers communicate across the enterprise.
The Future is Now
Trends like the cloud, AI, IoT, and even AR are framing the future of communications. Starting with data and the inception or creation of a document through its output and delivery, technology continues to become smarter, which is good news for businesses and consumers alike. dps
Sep2019, DPS Magazine