How Tech Teams are Preparing for the Explosion of Voice-based Services

Written by Akshay Sachdeva

March 7, 2018

voice based technology - google home

With voice-based technologies poised for significant growth in 2018, it’s time for you to gear up, build new skills and take advantage of the new and exciting opportunities in this space.

Nearly 47% of shoppers in Australia are already aware of at least one in-home voice assistant device, and about 46% are willing or excited to start using them. With the launch of Google’s ‘Google Home’ and Amazon’s upcoming launch of Amazon Alexa, shoppers and tech enthusiasts are getting super excited.

But what does that mean for you?

You probably have questions on your mind like:  

  • What new skills do I need to learn to be ahead of the trend and be of value?
  • What kind of projects can I expect to work on with this technology being rapidly adopted by users?
  • What are the key challenges while working with voice-based services?
  • What’s driving the rapid adoption of this technology, and why?
  • What are some areas of interest to thought leaders, influencers and industry leaders in this space?

We leveraged our network and reached out to some of the top experts on this topic, and asked for their unique insights to address these questions. Let’s dig in!

What’s driving the massive adoption of voice-based technology?

According to Adam Burland, Application Architect at ING Australia, it’s the ease of use and accessibility of voice technology which is making it a popular tech trend among users. He says, ‘It’s a lot easier for consumers to speak their questions, rather than type them,’ which makes it more ‘human’ to adopt voice services and provides them an opportunity to be where their customers are.

Peter Hanselmann, Solution Architect at Bambora, feels that it’s the enhanced accuracy of speech recognition due to ‘generational gains’ in artificial intelligence leading this trend. He points to the cost effectiveness of these devices, and the familiarity users already have with voice-based services via their mobile devices as important factors causing rapid adoption at scale.

More importantly, Peter adds that SDKs and APIs have been made available to developers to experiment with by some of the major vendors for iOS and Android platforms. These APIs and SDKs are fairly accurate, cost-effective and easily ‘adoptable’ by developers, giving them free reign to invent new voice-based applications, with speedy adoption being a natural byproduct.

Alan Crouch, General Manager of Home Innovation, IOT Product Engineering at Telstra says it’s,  “quite simply, togetherness” and the ease of using voice-based calling is what makes it attractive for users to adopt these technologies.

Complementing that, Adam Woods, Head of Backend Development at hipages says it’s the convenience of using voice-based technologies, which is ‘just short’ of a technology that reads your mind, that makes it such a wonderful and loved trend among tech users.

What are some areas of interest to tech leaders and evangelists?

Adam Burland says he is most interested in how voice-based technologies can be integrated with their existing platforms and services to provide a ‘multi-channel’ customer experience. So, if something is currently using text based technology, there’s likely to be a demand for skills in integrating voice services into existing platforms.

Peter Hanselmann is more specifically interested in the use of voice-based services for payments. (think voice for fintech). He’s already created some prototypes for this for both Android mobile and PC, using the Google Cloud Speech API. As per his research, 8% of respondents to a BI survey in 2017 said they already used voice-based payments, and this percentage is set to grow to about 31% of US adults by 2022. Clearly, voice payments are all set for massive growth!

Alan Crouch builds on his vision for creating more togetherness and says that he is most interested in iconic new products that work beautifully for families, small businesses and enterprises. He sees a massive opportunity in making the complex simple using voice- and video-based services.

Adam Woods of hipages has a profound interest in machine learning technology that underpins voice-based services. He’d like to explore how voice-based services can get smarter and more intuitive.

What projects do industry leaders have in the voice-based technology space?

Adam Burland of ING Australia shares that they’re the first bank in Australia to make it possible for consumers to check their bank balances using Siri. They’re planning projects to make it possible for consumers to do banking transactions like transferring money and making bill payments, all via voice!

Alan Crouch of Telstra says he’s excited to bring hands-free voice and video calling to all Australians.

Additionally, Adam Woods of hipages shares that they’re one of the Amazon Alexa launch partners in Australia and will look into projects that complement the functionality of Alexa and its integration with other platforms.

Needless to say, the future’s looking exciting for voice-based services.

What are some of the key challenges in the voice-based services space?

“I think the hardest part will be designing the user experience for voice-based services. For example, being able to respond to a follow up question within the context of a conversation, in a way that leads the user to the answer they are seeking.” says Adam Burland of ING Australia.

Peter Hanselmann anticipates that being able to handle a wide variety of accents with Australia being a multicultural nation is going to be the biggest challenge.

Another challenge he adds is maintaining the effectiveness of voice-based technology with loud background noise.

Alan Crouch gives a user-centric insight by highlighting the importance of voice services being used securely and protecting the privacy of users. You don’t want some hacker to be able to just say “Siri, what’s my bank balance?” to another user’s phone! That would be a nightmare for a user, and a real problem that any developer with tech chops needs to take very seriously.

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Written by Akshay Sachdeva

March 7, 2018