Voice continues its march forward

Posted on October 17, 2018

Voice Search

Whether it’s directions, recipes, weather reports or a command to play music, there’s no doubt that voice recognition software is paving the way forward for technology. In 2017, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers partner Mary Meeker said, “Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. Twenty percent of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016, while accuracy is now about 95 percent.” About the same as human accuracy.

But what does all of this mean? How did we get to this point and where are we heading?

“Ok Google, where will voice recognition be in five years’ time?”

The evolution

While a rather recent technology uptake, voice recognition software has been present for quite a while. Consider the ability to activate commands in the car using voice. Security agencies have been using voice recognition software for decades. But this new age of voice-to-type technology, smart speakers which sync to smart devices and search the Internet for all of your answers, is quite a recent launch.

There’s no denying that, as a society, we’re fascinated by machines that not only do things for us, but can understand us as well.

The difference between the early uses and the voice recognition of today is the ability for technology to comprehend. While previous software used template matching, systems can now recognise nuances, sentences and words without having to match them to anything. Digital assistants such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Apple Siri are evolving to interpret user behaviour in order to understand commands and ensure the user has a better, more accurate, experience.   

The future

Over the past couple of years, digital assistants and voice technology have grown exponentially, and no one is expecting it to stop.

Google estimates that it’s assistant is now available on more than 400 million devices, offering eight languages around the globe.

Voice has a big future future. There’s no questioning that.

ComScore projects predicts that 50 percent of all searches will be done via voice by 2020 . Financially speaking, Technavio estimates the voice recognition market will be worth more than $600 million by 2019.

Those are some big numbers.

With voice accuracy at an estimated 95 percent, almost the same accuracy as a human, it’s no wonder that people are accepting this as part of their lives, much like the computer, smartphone and drones before it.

Importantly, users have become comfortable with voice-activated technology, frequently asking digital assistants to check the weather, check their appointments and even make calendar entries, not thinking anything of it. Even more so, users are frequently asking digital assistants to do more, some are even doing our shopping for us.    

Can you keep up?

In a voice-activated world, what does it mean for businesses?

For a start, it means there are new ways to share. There are new ways to shop. There are new ways to obtain information.

It means that it’s time to build a voice strategy.

The key thing to remember is that search behaviour is changing. Searches are becoming longer, they’re becoming queries and conversational and much more specific rather than one or two words. For example, rather than typing ‘shoe shop nearby’, a person is saying ‘where can I buy black boots nearby?’.

Of course, for brands, this means consumer insight is at an all-time high. This can be leveraged for user experience, creating content that is much more relevant and much more engaging. However, some businesses will need to change the way their content is written. While previously content was to-the-point, content will now need to be more natural in its tone, a conversational blog that answers questions.

For IT Infrastructure and Network managers, the task is to ensure that their organisational network can cope with the usage within the business (firewall permissions etc) from the explosion of BYO devices in the enterprise network.

From an infrastructure perspective, organisations need to be able to scale to respond to voice recognition demands, particularly the loads that this presents on physical infrastructure which needs to scale and be able to translate voice requests into legacy application requests and scale to archive that information to meet regulatory requirements.  

Finally, if you’re in the transaction space, businesses will need to have functionality to allow customers to transact via voice. For example, recently, Dominos Pizza rolled out a new voice-ordering system, which claims to make ordering more efficient and accurate. There’s also Whirlpool, who announced a collaboration with Amazon allowing appliances to be operated via voice control and the ability to order an Uber via Alexa and Google Home. You can even track your ride via the digital assistant.

There is a lot more innovation coming. The key is to understand voice activation and be prepared.

Voice will continue to march forward, it will continue to dominate.

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