Beyond Alexa: Business Uses Of Voice Tech

Will the future of voice tech please speak up?

At D/SRUPTION, we keep a close eye on the developments – and business implications – of voice technology. The voice economy made it onto our list of 9 disruptive technology trends for 2019, in part due to the increasing popularity of voice enabled devices with consumers, and their growing capabilities

But what about the specific business applications of voice technology? Look past the appeal of Alexa and Google Assistant in the home, and there are a host of other operations that are now powered by the voice. We spoke to Nils Lenke, Senior Director of Innovations Management at conversational AI leader, Nuance Communications, about the use of voice technology in cybersecurity, healthcare and the automotive industry.

My voice is my password

In today’s digital age, much of our personal information is easily accessible online. This makes it relatively simple for criminals to carry out identity fraud – and when they do, it’s unlikely that they will face the consequences of their actions. According to a recent study by the Police Foundation, only three per cent of those who commit fraud in the UK are ever brought to justice.

With fraud prevention strategies poorly structured and inadequate in the face of current crime, using voice tech to improve cybersecurity is an obvious solution to a challenging problem. This is because the way we talk is defined by a variety of complex factors – including biology, upbringing and personality – which lead to voices that are specific to us as individuals. If the characteristics of our voices can be accurately profiled by technology – a technique known as voice printing – then this is an effective way of carrying out personal identification.

“Voice biometrics – whereby users are authenticated by simply saying ‘my voice is my password’ – is a proven, effective authentication factor,” Nils Lenke says. “This type of authentication leverages more than 100 unique speech characteristics including physical attributes – such as size and shape of your nasal passage – and behavioural attributes – like accent, pronunciation and the speed at which you talk. This is why organisations which rely on contact centres – such as FS companies or telecoms providers – are increasingly moving towards biometrics for authentication instead of the traditional knowledge based PINs and passwords.” 

With traditional passwords remaining a hurdle to seamless customer experience in authentication processes, voice biometrics can not only improve security but also the customer journey. No more forgotten passwords, or scrabbling to find the right documents in a drawer. If your voice is your password, all you need to do is speak…

Talking with care

Another important emerging sector for voice technology is healthcare. With the NHS struggling to stay afloat amidst growing pressure on its services, anything that can ease clinicians’ workload is a welcome tool. Enter digital patient records, generated by the voice.

For Lenke, improving the process of creating clinical documentation and patient records will be at the heart of the technological revolution in 21st century healthcare. In fact, a 2018 study into the use of speech recognition technology in South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust found that it saved clinicians a significant amount of time and also resulted in better quality documents.

Voice recognition solutions enabled doctors to produce clinical documentation 40 per cent faster than traditional typing methods,” Lenke notes, “with improved accuracy and quality of reporting. Extrapolating these time savings over a year would result in the equivalent of gaining almost two full time clinical staff.”

With an estimated 50 per cent or more of doctors’ time spent on clinical documentation processes – which are often made more difficult by unclear or missing information – it is evident that voice solutions can have a huge impact in healthcare. Not only can voice generated documents save doctors time, relieving them of tedious note taking so they can focus on patient care, they also reduce the risk of the potentially life threatening errors that stem from poor quality documents.

Hey, Mercedes

Another sector seeing increased adoption of voice technology is automotive, in part thanks to the introduction of digital assistants to cars. The driving force behind this development is clear – if consumers become accustomed to using digital assistants in their homes, their integration into cars is the next logical step. It is also a milestone on the way towards the fully digital car – and then the autonomous vehicle – of the future.

Nuance Communications recently partnered with Daimler AG to install its digital mobility assistant into Mercedes-Benz A-Class vehicles. The technology, Dragon Drive, offers entertainment, information and command execution to drivers and passengers via conversational AI. This makes it easy for drivers to get the best out of their intelligent cars with minimal distraction away from the road.

In partnership with Affectiva’s Emotion AI, as well as interior cameras, our technology can analyse facial expressions and tone of voice to understand drivers’ and passengers’ emotions and cognitive states, such as drowsiness and distraction,” says Lenke. “The assistant then changes both its response and tone of voice to match the situation. This enhances road safety – by preventing impaired driving – and improves the in cabin experience by adapting the environment to passenger moods and reactions.”

While this might all sound futuristic, in practice our cars are now becoming connected, intelligent, mobile assistants. From sending messages, scheduling diary events or checking the weather forecast as we drive, our vehicles are increasingly there to help. They’re also able to build up profiles of individual driver’s preferences, and to give us polite reminders to take a break if we’re looking tired. Well, no one ever said that voice communication with machines was a one way street…

As the intelligence of voice technology grows, we will find that machines are increasingly able to keep up their end of the conversation. Not only will that improve their effectiveness, it will also widen the scope of their business applications. Fancy answering emails, amending orders, or transferring money to a client via a digital assistant? All this – and more – will soon be possible. The future has spoken.

To stay up to date with D/SRUPTION’s latest insights, sign up to our free weekly newsletter here.