Cobots – The New Employee

Author: Chris Pope, VP Innovation, ServiceNow

 

The renaissance we are currently experiencing in Artificial Intelligence (AI), and all forms of Machine Learning (ML), has given rise to widespread discussion on how business will run in the immediate future. As the impact of AI starts to be applied to real-world use cases, we will inevitably need to get used to some new terminology. One of the technology industry’s new favorites is the notion of the ‘cobot’, short for collaborative-robot.

Cobots come in many forms. Some will be purely software-based helper robots that we might think of as sophisticated extensions of chatbots or virtual assistants. Some will more physically manifest themselves as robot arms, exoskeletons or some other form of intelligently programmed machinery. Some will be a super-smart mix of both.

 

Your intelligent new office buddy

You can think of cobots as your new office buddies and people—I do mean all of us―are going to have to get used to working alongside intelligent machines, in close proximity, very soon.

Cobot brains are composed of software-based virtual services that form the synapses of ‘thought’—we know its processing and data analytics really―that they run on. Like a Tamagotchi, they do need feeding and watering, but only in the form of software updates, exposure to new datasets and patches for security provisioning and so on.

People who find the notion of cobots unnerving should perhaps stand back and consider the fact that machines have already been looking after us in close proximity for years. Your desktop machine, tablet and smartphone are all using AI to power the spam filter algorithms that assess every email you get for its potential threat value.

If it helps you warm up to the concept, think of cobots as just one step further than a spam filter. But instead of just protecting you from a potential virus, cobots will be able to intuitively manage your work schedule, actions and business decisions, to create a better employee experience all round.

As DXC Technology’s Marc Wilkinson writes in Wired:

For businesses, the promise of AI is that [intelligent assistants] will be embedded across all aspects of the organization. Such agents will analyse data, discover patterns over time and then make decisions based on predictive analysis. The outcome? The application of AI on this level will make businesses not only more efficient, but also more profitable.

 

Behavioral responsibility

As shiny and fabulous as all this sounds, there is a responsibility factor to bear in mind here. As we start to feed data into cobot brains, we need to be able to reflect a consciousness of and appreciation for society’s acceptable behavioral norms.

This means that cobots will need to be able to assess the risk factor in terms of the judgements they give to any individual worker based on that person’s skills, background and other competencies. To do this effectively, we will need to be able to assess and measure individual workers’ skills in an even more granular and mathematical way before we start to engineer more automation of this kind into our lives.

Cobots will also need to appreciate cultural, ethical and behavioral norms for the global culture that they are applied in depending on location—and this is of course a subject in and of itself.

 

Cobots and global digital workflows

As the cobots start to take over the mundane tasks in our world, we must consider how people will now coexist in the new world of automated controls that drive digital workflows and how we actually implement these devices―be they software-based, hardware-based or both—in the workplace.

Some argue that we will now need to be able to measure an individual’s rank or score in terms of workplace competency. If we accept this methodology, then it could arguably help us find the engineering point at which we can apply cobot technology to an individual’s role.

To reference DXC’s Marc Wilkinson again, he notes that really smart cobots that run on fine-tuned ML models will be able to bring a new level of workplace personalization to our daily routines and discover where we could be doing better. He talks about ‘intelligent agents’ that are capable of interpreting emails for us to automatically schedule meetings, flag important tasks and even unsubscribe us from newsfeeds that we never open, and more.

With a cobot as your new office buddy, we can start to think about the workplace itself from a different perspective. We’re all used to open plan office seating layouts these days, but with cobots in the workplace, the software itself will be able to straddle cross-team functionality matrices that far outstrip the boundaries of the physical office itself. For example, team member actions in the UAE can be automatically reflected in plans for the UK or US offices in near real-time. The cobot doesn’t sleep, so a new global digital workflow starts to become possible.

 

A toast to cobot IPA

With cobot technology now developing fast, we will more clearly be able to understand our transition from RPA to IPA or IRPA. If Robotic Process Automation (RPA) allows us to program home heating controls, for example, based on defined patterns, then Intelligent Robotic Process Automation (IRPA, or just IPA) is one step further, where home heating controls start to program themselves for optimum usage and efficiency based upon observed patterns of use. Cobots have IRPA in their ‘DNA’ from the get-go.

We’re on the cusp of many technologies―perceived today as almost ‘toy like’, such as self-driving cars—becoming quite natural. We will think that cobots and intelligent assistants are quite standard in half a decade’s time. In the same way that you went from reading a map in the car and now automatically turning the GPS on, you get to a point where you just expect a new technology to be there…and cobots will be there.

Chris Pope - ServiceNow

Chris Pope, VP Innovation at ServiceNow

Future of Work Trends, Part 5: Tech in HR, Human vs. Machine

Future of Work Trends, Part 5: Tech in HR, Human vs. Machine

Tech vs. Human in HR

Human Resource forms one of the most important parts of any organisation. It is one department which deals with employee recruitment, management, appraisals, payroll etc. Every day they have a hell lot of work to do from lining up candidates for vacancies, taking their interviews, maintaining policies and HR records, handling employee concerns, administering compensation and company programs, etc. All of these activities were done manually before the introduction of low-cost cloud-based services. Nowadays in various organisations, the HR department is automating many of their daily activities.

A growing trend of more and more HR activities moving online is the talk of the season. The rise of cloud based services has enabled HR to off-load much of their mundane work increasing efficiency and saving time. With the rise of new technologies like Big Data, Cloud Computing, etc. the HR world is changing forever. Many companies are using these online services to manage their HR resources function which has made it easier to track employee performances and training programs.

Employers are now taking their HR functions online with the help of cloud based services, customised mobile apps and social media. Employees now have more power over various things like punching in for work, accessing their salary slips & attendance records, requesting for leaves, etc. Various companies are using messaging apps like Slack, Google Hangouts and similar tools to create a group of team members to discuss the project work and official matters.

In various mid scale companies, employees are directly coordinating with their HR over these various chat or messaging bots for their general concerns like benefit programs, compensations, PF settlement, etc. Various companies now enable their employees to make use of their smart phones, where employees use their touch screen finger-scan to punch in their time which is connected to the attendance records. Employees can use the company’s employee portal to login into their dashboard to apply for medical benefits which were previously done by filling huge forms and submitting it to the HR.

So, whether you are looking for a job, considering a career change or want to get into freelancing, these trends will help you plan better for your career. Rapidly changing technology will bring more trends which will change the entire perspective of workplace and employment sector for good. And whilst all this automation is great, there is always something fascinating about the perfect balance especially as within people related jobs automation is great to support mundane tasks or make paper processes online and manual, but it is not good when distressed employees are managed via bots online or job loss news is received in very inhumane or impersonal ways via the same systems and online tools.

With this blog, we end our series on the future of work, we hope you enjoyed reading them all and if you missed any of them you can check them all out on our website or via this link. To read more on similar topics explore our blogs; to speak with us about employer’s hubs and how we can help transform your contractor talent management by bringing efficiencies through our simple cloud platform, get in touch.


If you want to share this article the reference to Bhumika Zhaveri and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.

BYOD Doesn’t Have to Be the Biggest Headache for Companies

BYOD Doesn’t Have to Be the Biggest Headache for Companies

Written by Manish Bhardwaj, Sr. Marketing Manager, Middle East and Turkey at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

BYOD Doesn’t Have To Be the Biggest Headache for Companies in the Middle East

8 Best Practices to Protect Your Enterprise Network

Manish Bhardwaj, Sr. Marketing Manager, Middle East and Turkey at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
Manish Bhardwaj, Sr. Marketing Manager, Middle East and Turkey at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Smartphones and other personal devices can now be found in most businesses as users are staying connected to the corporate network from anywhere, any time. It’s the stuff that keeps IT and security managers up at night — mobile users, multiple devices per user, and enterprise data on the move.

Security for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and mobile must now be part of a larger conversation when securing the network for the new digital workplace. Based on existing customers’ best practices, this paper outlines eight things you can do to boost network security amidst BYOD.

Assign Roles to Users and Devices

With users carrying multiple devices, it’s smart to standardize on user roles across the organization, and then assign device roles, too. A smartphone issued by IT for a specific purpose may require more access privileges than a personal device. IT-issued laptops would have different roles than smartphones and tablets. The value is your ability to create different rules for each device type or role.

User and device roles also let you differentiate privileges by device type for the same user. An IT administrator would be allowed to change switch and controller configurations with a laptop assigned a corporate role. But, that same person would not be able to access sensitive networking equipment using a tablet assigned a BYOD role.

Use Profiling to Create Device Categories

Accurately profiled devices should be a cornerstone of your plan when rolling out a secure BYOD initiative. As BYOD permeates throughout your environment, not all users will be diligent about downloading the latest versions of the operating system. You’ll want to capture context that allows you to see who is running what versions on iOS, Android, Chrome and other operating systems.

As new releases become available, this data will give you the visibility to help identify why authentications may be failing, the types of devices that are experiencing issues, and more.

An understanding of location can also help determine if a problem is specific to Wi-Fi equipment if the enterprise is operating a multivendor environment.

Use Context Within Policies

It’s important to leverage multiple sources of context to manage access. Data can consist of user role, device profiling, location, and once a certificate is issued to a specific user’s device, the assumption is that it’s a BYOD. Doing this greatly enhances productivity, usability and security. By enabling the use of known data you can stop users from coming up with ways to bypass policies.

The use of device categories should also be explored. The idea is to again leverage context to enforce privileges across a large category of devices. All BYOD endpoints connecting over a VPN can be treated differently than when connecting in the office. Printers can be managed differently than game consoles or Apple TVs.

Manage Mobile App Use

Enterprises need to define and enforce policies that dictate who can access specific types of data from which devices, with the ability to differentiate between smartphones, tablets, laptops or IoT devices. To be effective, enforcement must extend across MDM/EMM, a policy management platform, and firewalls.

Automate and Simplify

Automation is essential for both initial onboarding and to take action on non-compliant devices (for example, quarantining them until they are compliant). MDM/EMM solutions should share device posture with a NAC solution to ensure that devices meet compliance before being given access. Integrating with helpdesk applications and SIEM can provide an enhanced experience for the user and IT for improved problem resolution.

By automating the discovery and onboarding of non-compliant devices, you can reduce costs and improve your security posture. This also allows users to re-onboard their own devices when smartphones and tablets are replaced, which also reduces the time IT has to spend on device onboarding.

Go with Certificates – They’re More Secure Than Passwords

Users will connect to guest networks more frequently leaving passwords exposed to theft, which makes certificates a cornerstone of a secure mobile device deployment. As the use of active directory and an internal PKI for BYOD is not a best practice, an independent Certificate Authority (CA) built to support personal devices is preferred.

A policy management solution that includes the ability to distribute and update, as well as revoke certificates should be explored. Integration with an MDM/EMM solution should be an option in the event that device management was deployed prior to investing in a network access policy management solution.

Make Everyone Happy – Simplify SSIDs

Multiple SSIDs complicate life for IT and users alike. With effective policy management enforcement in place, BYOD and corporate-owned devices can connect to common SSIDs. Reducing the options for users to choose from simplifies the user experience, and makes it easier for IT to maintain SSIDs across multiple locations. Consolidation of SSIDs can also improve Wi-Fi performance.

The key to improving your security posture revolves around your ability to leverage roles, location and policy enforcement to ensure that devices receive the access that IT expects, even when using common SSIDs. When personal devices are connected to a common 802.1X network, IT can provide Internet access only if desired.

Consider Next-Generation Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

These days, enterprise data access is often initiated from smartphones and tablets. As these devices are easily shared, many IT professionals are turning to new forms of MFA to ensure that the user of a device is really the person requesting access. Instead of token generation devices that are easily lost, there’s a better way.

Now when a user connects to a network or opens an application, IT can require a secondary challenge that is as simple as picking up your smartphone and scanning your fingerprint, taking a selfie, or clicking on a pre-determined image from within the images library.

Conclusion

The continued rise of BYOD is inevitable, and few corporate leaders will pass up the productivity gains of a mobile workforce that pays for their own devices. But it is easy to lose track of long-term goals if you don’t have a solid plan. The eight ideas presented in this paper are just some of the things that IT should consider when preparing for BYOD.

In the end, a central component that brings everything together starts with an advanced policy management platform. One that includes AAA services, NAC, BYOD onboarding and third-party integration with event-driven remediation.


If you want to share this article the reference to Manish Bhardwaj and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.