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HP Tech@Work

Today's trends for tomorrow's business

Do You Talk to Your Printer?

Reading time: 4 minutes

Why it might be ‘Smart’

Have you ever yelled at your printer? What if it yelled back? Okay, that’s not likely to happen. But HP recently became the first vendor to make it possible with voice-activated support for its Web-enabled printers via Amazon Alexa, and the Google Assistant.
Voice activation is popping up in a multitude of unexpected places, including light bulbs, thermostats, TVs, car dashboards, toilets, mirrors and home security – it will even open or lock the front doors of your office.
In fact, as more people adopt voice-activated devices in their personal lives they are even more prepared to use them at work. A recent NPR/Edison Research survey showed that 21 percent of Americans over 18 (or around 53 million people) own a smart speaker. There were 14 million new smart speaker owners in 2018, the study said.
Just as voice-activated technology helped usher in smart home, now it’s paving the way for smart offices, especially for small businesses. A Globant report from 2018 showed that 31 percent of senior employees in companies surveyed said they use voice technology daily, and one-third of companies (32 percent) believe voice will be their biggest differentiator from competitors.
Voice activation and intelligent devices will transform office management and lead to the smart businesses of tomorrow where users can query office equipment about their status, their location and which users they support.
Connecting a printer to a virtual assistant is a natural extension for a smart business. From its leadership position, HP supports the various content you can print on each platform, such as checklists or an Amazon shopping or to-do list. Busy workers can accomplish more ‘hands-free’ and simply ask Alexa or Google Assistant to help simplify their day. 
In addition, employees in smart businesses can anticipate a fully voice-responsive environment where the smart speaker device will not be necessary; workers will instead be able to talk directly to the printer, which will have an intelligent assistant built directly into it.
Moreover, the artificial intelligence (AI) that drives the voice assistants features machine learning, which means that every time you use a device, it will learn how to perform tasks better and in ways more aligned with your individual work style. In short, it will absorb your habits and begin anticipating your needs, such as your favorite document settings and preferences. For instance, if you have a flight listed on your calendar, the printer might automatically download and print your boarding passes for you. Or if the last thing you looked at as you clocked out was a report you needed to present in the morning, the printer might make it the first thing it spits out that next day.
Another benefit of the voice-activated printers is accessibility. Workers with mobility or visual disabilities can simply command the printer to produce items they require without the need to manually handle the process.
Meanwhile, over time, users in smart businesses will be able to ask the printer for help with troubleshooting equipment problems, onboarding new machines to the network and maintaining the printer fleet. You’ll be able to verbally inquire about the level of toner in the cartridge, or command the printer to change the print settings.
And rather than having to manually search for files they want to print, a user will be able to ask the Google Assistant or Alexa to find the files and print them according to configuration while the user takes care of other business.
Instead of sitting at a computer, searching for files, and setting up printing configurations—which can be cumbersome and confusing— all a person will need to do is ask for help. Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa will be able to take care of the printing while homeowners and business owners are free to pursue more important tasks.
Finally, not every small business is exactly “small” in nature. You might run a small floral operation in a large building, where you work on floral arrangements in one area of the shop and maintain office equipment in another location. To do this you might employ far-field speech and voice recognition.
Far-field speech and voice recognition provide the ability to interact with a machine using natural human language from a distance ranging from 1 to 10 meters – or the equivalent of between about 39 inches and 33 feet. Far-field speech and voice recognition systems are used to recognize a user’s voice in a noisy environment based on speaker localization using an array of microphones.
A recent ResearchAndMarkets.com study showed that the market for far-field speech and voice recognition systems is expected to grow from $614.5 million in 2017 to $3.5 billion in 2024.
Most PC technology is headed in this direction, so it behooves every SMB owner and operator to stay current on voice-activated innovation and how it might improve business productivity and efficiency. At some point, this could become a key component in every office of the future

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