Voice has emerged as the new interface with machines. Google estimated that, in 2018, nearly 20% of total web searches were through voice, a number that is set to increase in the coming years. Therefore the Voice Assistant, which gained popularity in the consumer electronics industry, has begun to make its way into enterprises as well to improve business productivity and to provide a more engaging interface with consumers and employees.
The launch of Amazon’s Alexa for Business and IBM’s Watson Assistant for Business in 2017 and 2018 respectively is testimony to this trend. The rapid progress in natural language processing is enabling Voice Assistant technology to understand human speech with a high level of accuracy, which has further driven its adoption in the modern workplace. The word error rate for voice-recognition systems has dropped from 43% in 1995 to just 6.3% today—which is on par with humans.
There is a wide range of opportunities for enterprises to take advantage of voice assistants. Voice assistants are gaining traction in administrative use cases, such as scheduling meetings, setting reminders and assisting with conference calls, thus automating low-value tasks of employees and operating as virtual colleagues. In addition, companies are looking at using voice assistants to enable employees to connect with internal departments, such as HR or IT, to facilitate internal support. Voice Assistants are also being used to provide enhanced customer support by delivering convenience and personalization to consumers.
The Global Enterprise Voice Assistant market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15.4% during 2017-2021. Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri are the most popular enterprise voice assistants and are the early entrants in this space. However, Amazon’s Alexa for Business, despite being a late entrant, has still been able to set up a strong foothold in this market. The new emerging players such as Nuance Communications and Anboto, have entered this space with innovative solutions, to provide customized and flexible solutions to enterprises depending on their business requirements.
Exelon, a Chicago-based utility giant is leveraging Voice Assistant to help its customers with electric bill information, and energy-cost saving ideas and outages.
Large retailers such as Target, Costco, and Walmart have started using Voice Assistants to enable consumers with voice-assisted shopping capabilities.
The number of businesses that utilize voice to interact with their customers will triple by 2020, with over two-thirds planning to use voice for a majority of interactions, and nearly one fourth planning to use voice for all interactions by 2023. However most of the businesses have raised concerns regarding the ability to keep the data acquired through voice-based technology safe, could emerge as a major challenge that could restrict the adoption of Voice Assistants among enterprises. To overcome this problem, Voice Assistant players are coming up with innovative solutions such as Block Chain-based AI Voice Assistant, focus on decentralized data ownership rather centralized data ownership, and encrypted communication between Voice Assistant and backend servers.
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