IFS designs Siri-like ERP tool
Global enterprise applications company, IFS is bringing voice capabilities to enterprise resource planning (ERP).
The company has designed the Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA), a mobile app that lets the user control IFS Applications by their voice, via a smartphone or tablet.
Martin Gunnarsson, director of IFS Labs, IFS's in-house think tank, says having looked closely at Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana, IFS Labs has now designed the IPA for people who want to search for data and update data in IFS Applications by only using their voice.
According to Gunnarsson, there are many situations where users can benefit from voice control to interact with their ERP system. Some occupations demand the use of both hands, or that protective gloves are worn, while at the same time accessing information stored in the ERP system, he points out.
"People are sometimes unable to use their hands, for example when stuck in traffic. In the world's largest cities, there can be a huge amount of congestion and it is estimated that people spend the equivalent of several days per year in traffic jams, which is time that could be put to more productive use without compromising road safety."
IFS Labs has built the solution on standard technologies for voice recognition available through Web services provided by Google and Microsoft. It uses a standard device SDK for speech to text and text to speech. The infrastructure for fetching data from IFS Applications is built on IFS cloud infrastructure.
The app is prototype that is being evaluated and may become a standard product in the coming version of IFS Applications.
"You install an app on a smartphone (Android) and log on with your unique user name and password, making it a secure solution, Gunnarsson explains. "As a user, you ask the system for information or you input information by voice, and if the system doesn't understand you, it will guide you on what and how to ask. The answer can be given both in voice and text on the display."
He believes that millennials will soon replace the current generation of workers. Thus, he notes, finding a way to attract and turn them into brand ambassadors is something that all companies will eventually have to do.
"Voice apps are cool and innovative, which often appeals to millennials. We see a clear need for certain customer groups, although it has not been explicitly requested by our customers yet."
Nonetheless, Gunnarsson points out that voice recognition for warehouse processes has been available for several years. These are best-of-breed applications that can be integrated to ERP vendors' inventory management solutions, he says.
"Oracle, SAP and Microsoft have similar solutions or integrations for warehouse management. IFS has connected the technology to new processes in addition to traditional warehouse management, such as searching for people and processes and inputting data. It may also be extended to other areas in the future."