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Hybrid Workplace Will Rely on Sound Audio Technologies

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The transition to remote and hybrid work model in the last two years have made Video conferencing a key tool for organizations to connect with employees, customers and partners. While video conferencing has allowed people around the world to connect without losing the semblance of face-to-face interaction, audio-related issues during business conversation, such as lack of voice clarity, background noise and more, created major roadblocks in communication  – hampering productivity and even revenue loss.

Needless to say, as video and audio conferencing here to stay, reliable and high-quality audio becomes a key technological imperative to business success. In a recent interview with CXOToday, Dr. Rishi Bhatnagar President, Aeris Communications,  discusses why businesses need to invest in sound audio infrastructure the how technologies such as AI/ML can improve meeting experiences. Excerpts.

How well do you think companies are prepared for hybrid work and where do you see a gap?

While face to face interactions in office premises is the best way to ideate and collaborate, the fact is that whether employers are ready or not, employee expectations have shifted after nearly 18 months to remote work. For many employees, daily commute and office perks are a faint memory. What’s fresh in their minds now is the convenience of working from home, from native town or at an alternative location. In fact, a survey from WeWork, the New York-based workspace giant, stated that 75% of employees would be willing to give up at least one benefit or perk for the freedom to choose their work environment.

Getting the hybrid work model right goes beyond offering more flexible work options and changing up the office environment. It will require an intentional approach to monitoring employee engagement, productivity, and learning. Companies must rethink and redefine what it means to be productive, and how to use technology and remote management strategies to engage teams that are permanently scattered across the globe.

With video conferencing becoming an integral part of remote/hybrid work model, do you see audio technology playing a bigger role in this setup?

 Many corporate leaders are embracing a permanent transition to hybrid working today. Audio technology has played a significant role in the remote working experience, with industry research revealing that in 2021, the average worker will spend more than 7 hours per week on activities linked to sound and meetings, up two hours from the same study in 2020.  However, everyone working remotely faced many issues in online meetings, from connectivity issues to background noises coming from home of kids and family members demanding attention, loud TV/music, dogs barking, traffic noise or construction going on in vicinity while attending virtual conferences.  Many of us faced such issues ourselves leading to embarrassments for being asked to mute and unmute constantly, difficulty in focusing, poor concentration, longer meetings and even rescheduling meetings at times leading to loss of productivity. Companies have started to realise the value of noise cancellation technology for keeping productivity high. Aeris launched Claerityai, an innovative speech enhancement and noise cancellation technology powered by AI. This solution aids in reducing background noise distractions and improving audio quality in online meetings. I see meetings becoming more hybrid and providing a crystal-clear audio experience will become top priority of employers as we go more towards a hybrid setup, with video collaboration solutions becoming critical to enabling the digital workforce to become more collaborative, fast, and intimate.

What role can AI play in enhancing audio or video qualities of a collaboration platform?

As audio/ video conferencing becomes more popular, the technology is improving audio/video experience of users in valuable ways. The latest AI and machine learning capabilities can improve meeting experiences. For example, picture quality is improved via video enhancements such as active participant framing, virtual backgrounds, alternate layouts, and resolution up scaling. Noise of pets, automobiles, paper shuffling, and even food bags can now be muted automatically by audio enhancements like active noise reduction and acoustic fences. AI also helps in transcribing conversations are transcribed and reviewed using automated note taking. Recent AI advancements have even allowed transcription algorithms to distinguish individual meeting participants

 For scheduling or feature control, chatbots make it simple to communicate with conferencing systems. A user may, for example, tell an intelligent chatbot to plan a meeting by giving it the first names of the people who will be attending and the time and day. The chatbot can use AI to make an educated guess about the invitees’ entire identities and locate an available time and meeting space on all calendars.

Tell us something about your recent launch of Claerityai, an AI-powered speech enhancement and noise cancellation solution in India. What are the benefits of the software?

The transition from physical world to virtual was not easy we know and comes with its own set of challenges. According to a recent CMR survey, more than 30% of users consider audio echoes and voice clarity the most common issues affecting web conferencing. Not everyone is fortunate to have private space and office like environment while working from home. Keeping this in mind, the company recently launched Claerityai, an AI-powered speech enhancement and noise cancellation solution.

Claerityai improves audio quality in online meetings by eliminating all distracting background noise. It helps in recognizing the prime speaker’s voice and suppressing other noises, thus eliminating background disturbances. Claerityai is highly secure and GDPR compliant and works with various collaboration applications, including Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, and others.

Aeris is also bringing a lot of innovation in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. How according to you is IoT transforming businesses across sectors?

Data is generated in almost every part of our lives. It is captured, shared, and monitored to provide fresh insights, increase efficiency, and help businesses make educated decisions. Now, business leaders see the value of the Internet of Things in their organisations. IoT is being used in healthcare, energy, automotive, manufacturing, and agriculture, among others, and has a variety of applications such as air tracks, doorbell cameras and security systems, thermostats, and so on.

In fact, IoT in healthcare is extensive, and investment in IoT solutions in this sector will expand at the fastest rate. IoT may be used to track patients’ health, know where they are at all times, monitor and solve equipment problems, and many other things. Connecting pacemakers to the internet, for example, can assist patients by drastically lowering errors and delivering more data to clinicians for improved diagnosis. Also, security is a significant concern in the financial and banking industries; hence networks of smart cameras and sensors are used extensively. The primary purpose of businesses in this industry is to increase network connectivity. Customers are increasingly accustomed to controlling their transactions through various linked devices. Thus, this not only helps to improve security but also delivers better service to customers. As can be seen, the Internet of Things has had an impact across the board. IoT has the potential to grow a business by automating operations and producing superior results.

What big trends do you notice in the IoT and 5G sphere? What are Aeris’ initiatives and future plans in this area?

As seen by the rapid shift toward connected technologies during the Covid-19 breakout, the market for artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) is on the rise, and these technologies will soon be profoundly ingrained in our lives. While 5G offers super-fast data transfer from connected IoT devices, AI adds the power of advanced analytics to data models, resulting in increased accuracy and real-time information for sound decision-making.

Businesses in the aftermath of a pandemic have no choice but to go digital, incorporate data centricity into decision-making, and engage in automation. All of this can be accomplished by implementing technologies like 5G, AI, ML, and IoT, which improve operational efficiencies from process to performance, enhance revenue, and delight consumers.

As a result, Aeris spends heavily in R&D to stay ahead of the curve. Aeris has joined the 5G Open Innovation Lab and will collaborate closely with the Lab’s founding partners, Intel, T-Mobile, and other partners, to help entrepreneurs and developers gain access to engineering, technology, and industry insights to create solutions and capabilities that address new and relevant use cases for broader market categories using AI, 5G, and the Aeris IoT platform.

We are committed to producing world class technology solutions and services at affordable costs to our customers worldwide. We plan to strengthen our market position by building relationships based on trust and superior quality of service.  To this effect, we will continue our prime focus on research and development in bringing out future proven technology solutions and services and ensure that our products meet the evolving and stringent requirements of the industry. Also, we believe in constantly nurturing a long-standing relationship with our customers by providing more value-added services such as quick installations, quick technical support and responsive after-sales services.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com