3 smart enterprise productivity apps

Boomerang, Otter, and Voicera are three new-breed voice and AI apps to help you get more done -- though there's a catch.

Apple, AI, voice, iOS, apps, iPhone, enterprise

As well as identifying useful tips, I spend time kicking productivity-focused apps around. I wanted to write about three I find quite promising — they make meetings more productive, keep better meeting notes, and put you in control of email. The snag is that they demand you provide access to some of your own personal data, which you must consider before you use them.

Better email: Boomerang

Boomerang (free) is an alternative email client that adds artificial intelligence (AI) and a dazzle of additional features to help you stay on top of your game.

The way it works is pretty simple: You give the app access to your stuff, and it will monitor incoming emails, handling sorting of email and providing things such as read receipts and an Inbox Pause function that lets important messages through but blocks the chaff until you’re ready to look. (And it has a voice assistant that’s quite capable of looking through your mails for you, rescheduling meetings, or even finding emails you need to respond to.)

One of my favorite features is Brief Me, a voice-powered smart assistant that shows a single view of all the email that needs your attention and your agenda for the day.

I also quite like Respondable AI, a CoreML-powered editorial assistant that gives you real-time feedback on emails as you write them to help you write more effectively.

Boomerang also lets you flag up a message for subsequent action — flick it into the relevant icon, and you’ll be asked when you want to be told about that item. 

The app is pretty effective. Its biggest problem is that it doesn’t support macOS Mail and requires permission to access all your emails and contact details.

I’d quite like Apple to add these features to Mail, as that could be based on-device processing and conceivably be more secure. It’s a vast improvement on Gmail.

What is important is that the company behind this product promise that any of your personal data is never stored (by the company), and nor is it sold. "The data is only used to support the features," the company said.

Master your meetings: Voicera

Voicera (free) is another implementation of voice recognition (and a little AI) on meetings productivity.

It will listen in to your calls (using your iPhone mic) or meetings. Its EVA AI will monitor the conversation for action points, take notes, and record the meeting for automatic transcription. The system integrates with some of the biggest conference systems and can be invited to any meeting with a single email.

The iPhone app is nice and straightforward: Record a meeting at the touch of a button, see upcoming meetings, receive action items, and check meeting highlights and transcripts all within the app.

You can share items easily, and while transcripts are hit and miss and highly impacted by any background noise that may take place during a meeting, when this system works its quite useful. I do think the transcription engine is better at handling phone conversations than audio recordings, but this is a promising solution to try out.

In the future, solutions like Voicera will become a regular part of life — I imagine students will record lectures and automatically receive transcriptions. Voice analysis systems will need to improve to get there, though.

Privacy? You need to allow the app access to contacts, calendars, and your recorded meetings, which may make this a less ideal solution for some enterprise users.

Smarter notes: Otter

Otter (free, premium features available) is a very capable automatic transcription solution.

I’ve used it to record and transcribe meetings, as well as to transcribe interviews I’ve taken in the last few weeks. It has already saved me time. (Transcribing interviews is my least favorite task — incredibly time-consuming, but necessary.)

How it works: Upload an externally generated audio file in an appropriate format or record a meeting on your iPhone, and you can get up to 600 minutes of transcription for free (or more for a fee).

I’m sorry that I can’t promise transcriptions are word perfect — background noise, complex technical terms, accents, and speech patterns are real problems for voice recognition. However, I have found them to be accurate enough to work from, and I’ll certainly be using Otter in future.

Security? Once again, you’re uploading your data and conversations to an online service. And while Otter, like all of these services, promises to keep your information safe, I remain relatively convinced that some more security-conscious users will need to satisfy themselves as to the level of data security available.

Are you developing smart productivity apps for macOS and iOS? Please let me know.

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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