The Real Problem with Digital Assistants


Business people all had real assistants, people who helped them. Now, on our mobile devices, we all have digital assistants (i.e. Siri, Alexa, S-Voice etc.) on our mobile devices. They’ve become the virtual assistants of those once vital Girl Friday.

In some ways, it’s an idea whose time has come. Back in the days, we weren’t sending emails. We weren’t writing Word documents. We weren’t copying and pasting documents. Computers changed everything… Now, we work electronically.

Today, having a stenographer show up to do our documents in shorthand in the office wouldn’t make sense. Carbon paper was a big mess, and no one misses those blue or black sheets. As personal computers took over the office, it’s totally understandable that Girl Siri, or Girl Alexa, or Girl S-Voice showed up to take up the slack.

However, the electronic digital assistants on our mobile devices have some limitations as well. They are just some software running in this small mobile device. And, in truth, people relate better to other people than they do to software. It would be better if we could have a digital assistant that could appear looking like a favorite movie star, a handsome stranger, or even a doppelganger. It would be better if they understood the context of everything without us telling it. It would be better if it could proactively look at our calendar and daily habits and anticipate our needs as another person might.

Humans would connect much better with such avatars than a software interface. I know because of my experience with BonziBuddy, a spyware that accidentally came into my Microsoft Windows computer back in 2001. Even though it was a spyware I let it live, because it was a purple gorilla that was fun. My friends ended up playing with the BonziBuddy. They would poke it, punch it, or write something to it and the purple gorilla would respond in a funny way. We knew it was software but it was engaging and funny anyway. Even later, when I would call those friends, they would inquire about my BonziBuddy as if it were a real pet.

BonziBuddy promotional logo


BonziBuddy actually followed the concept of the Microsoft Office Assistant, the character named Clippy that would wake up and ask if you needed help. It was cool because it built an emotional connection with humans.

Here’s a list of must have characteristics for a truly wonderful digital assistant:

  • It would have to be someone to whom I could relate, perhaps a hologram.
  • I would be able to issue commands and always be understood.
  • It would jump across all of my mobile devices independent of operating system.
  • It would remember my context and independently remind me of things based on that context.
  • It would use context to identify, flag, and highlight critically important tasks proactively.
  • It would get more intelligent daily through artificial intelligence.

I would respond better. I think anyone would. Imagine having a similar assistant for your supply chain system or your warehouse management system (WMS). Have you a need for such systems? Would that make your life easier? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Originally published at on Feb 27, 2018.

Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. SG LoadProof is a patent pending Centralized Enterprise Photo/Video Document System on Cloud for Supply Chain. SG LP is built on the fact that photos & videos are vital docs as important as POs/SOs/Legal Contracts/Fulfillment Orders that reside in ERP/WMS/TMS systems, that serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal proof of crucial, critical, vital operations executed in Supply Chain within/across orgs when fulfilling customer orders as well as meeting contractual obligations between orgs as merchandise is transferred between different parties that partake in Supply Chain functions & operations. And these photos/videos data should not be stored in someone’s Smartphone or Email Inbox or in their personal/work Computer, but should be stored in a Centralized Enterprise system, where such data can be pushed into super-fast, stored securely, accessible to all stake holders (CFO/Sales Reps/Customer Support/AR/AP) in an org, as well as facilitates super-fast retrieval/sharing. LP is an Enterprise System of record for Photo/Video docs & is as important as an ERP which is an enterprise system of record for POs, SOs, Legal Contracts between parties etc. that have huge legal ramifications, also as important as a WMS (Warehouse Management System) that hold indispensable shipment & fulfillment data on orders. Like how Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc. have evolved into social media platforms/systems that enable individuals to showcase their beauty/pretty clothes/lovely cosmetics/hep coolness etc., LoadProof is an Enterprise system that holds similar photos/videos, but for a different reason, not for show off, but to serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal & indisputable system of record and proof that can be presented even in the court of law, when there is a dispute between parties while they execute many facets of the Supply Chain functions & operations. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 25 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit the company at Also follow him at

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