It’s almost 2020, and the tech-powered future is here. More of us are actively engaging with our technology than ever before. And by engaging, I mean talking. We have reached a point where most of us have regular access to Alexa, Google or Siri voice assistants.
According to the most recent stats from Juniper Research, the trend is only going to intensify. Specifically, there will be 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, up from the 2.5 billion assistants in use at the end of 2018.
But what does this mean to today’s manufacturers? Simply put, there is a growing opportunity to leverage voice as the conduit seamlessly connecting users to everything artificial intelligence (AI) offers the smart enterprise.
Understanding the user experience
Of course, when trying to funnel information to a diverse group of employees, success typically comes down to the ability to meet user experience expectations. After all, people want a natural yet informative engagement.
Fortunately, when it comes to voice, the user base already has familiarity from consumer-based experiences. Having this comfort level and experience with voice will significantly limit the need for training.
Historically, businesses have not had a paradigm to really design those experiences, explains Darin Archer, chief strategy officer at commerce cloud platform Elastic Path. “With the growing maturity and simplicity of voice assist capability (such as Amazon Alexa skills), developers can now leverage a voice interface into an existing legacy application database,” he says. “This wasn’t feasible before without learning how to engage with natural language processing tools.”
Shifting focus on the form factor
Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of the Juniper statistics is the anticipated growth of smart speakers and more importantly wearables – each sporting anticipated compounded annual growth rates over 40 percent.
“The rollout of cost effective yet powerful devices, such voice enabled earbuds around $40, will create a price point where a company with 4000 technicians can justify the investment,” says Archer.
Converting use cases into business cases
It isn’t difficult to conjure up use cases for voice assist across the entire enterprise.The easiest, most measurable ROI will be in B2B use cases – anything where the business has some form of efficiency tracking or the ability to increase the value of existing activities, explains Archer.
For instance, in a warehouse environment, this may mean a use case where an employee or even a robot is grabbing an item from a shelf, whether it’s a finished good or a component needed on the production line. “If it’s possible to use a voice prompt to notify the picker about an additional request in the same vicinity, it adds value to the existing activity,” he says.
There are similar applications for field technicians as well, especially when working on large campuses. “Being able to communicate with the laptop in their service van (whether its inventory or price checks) without having to go back out for a physical check can make a difference,” he says. “For instance, if the tech can simply ask if a specific part is in the vehicle, the system can respond with a yes or no, or possibly let the tech know that a colleague a quarter mile away has what’s needed. It’s all about removing steps and adding efficiency.”
Understandably, the continued integration of AI into these use cases will determine the staying power and ROI. After all, intuitive engagements will mean systems will have a better understanding of what type of information is useful to specific people by department or responsibility.