The era of “voice-first” applications has dawned. A growing number of organizations are incorporating voice-based interfaces as part of their enterprise digital transformation strategy. Why has voice-first technology risen in popularity? Voice-driven conversation is the most natural and simple way to communicate - conveying context with a personal touch. This, along with the advancement of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, has set the stage for a fundamental shift in both consumer and business applications.
According to a Pew Research Center survey*, 46% of U.S. adults use their voice to interact with smartphones and other devices, and this number is expected to rise dramatically over the next few years. Gartner estimates that around 30% of human-machine interaction will happen through voice by 2020.
The power of voice has been embraced in the B2C market. Consumers have welcomed Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home into their households to monitor their homes, serve as an “assistant” to remind or provide information, as well as complete basic tasks. Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are heavily investing in voice technology, as the next-generation user interface.
What has begun in the consumer market, has massive appeal to business applications as well. Voice-based technology holds the keys to a new era of branding and customer service. “Voice will very much have a big part to play in how we collaborate and work over the next 10 years,” says Wayne Kurtzman, IDC research director.
Businesses are experimenting with voice interfaces to develop innovative solutions for organizations across business functions. Voice-enabled platforms, as a part of intelligent automation initiatives, can help streamline basic tasks in organizations. Various functions like booking a conference room, reporting an issue, booking flight tickets, temperature alteration, ordering supplies, etc. can be carried out using voice-enabled apps. These apps with conversational Artificial Intelligence can also execute advanced functions like synchronizing meetings by integrating participant’s calendar.
I have given the generic aspect of how voice-enabled A.I. is already becoming a crucial member of our enterprise ecosystem. Let’s now compare the three major voice-enabled technology players, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft for business. There is an overlap in their features and abilities but there are some aspects in which these 3 differ.
Alexa for Business
Organizations are utilizing Alexa to build and integrate voice-skills for both internal and customer facing applications. For example, businesses can customize Alexa skills to access client data, accounts, enterprise employee info, calendar info, etc. Through the Alexa app, users can access business data on their mobile devices from anywhere.
“Alexa for Business, though limited in scope today, points to opportunities for deeper integration and workplace productivity enhancements in the future,” Gartner’s Goertz said.
Companies like Salesforce*, Ring Central, ServiceNow*, and Concur have already developed methods to integrate applications with Alexa for business to provide users access to corporate applications through their home devices. Amazon has integrated Alexa for business with Transcribe—a cloud-based voice transcription tool, to provide staff with accurate transcriptions of taking points after a meeting.
Alexa has a long list of developers and third-party vendors that work on Alexa skills including Isobar, Mars Agency, M Booth, IPG Media Labs, etc.
Cortana for Business
Cortana offers productivity and intelligent assets to connect different platforms such as Bing, LinkedIn, Outlook.com, Office 365 and Microsoft Graph. Cortana can successfully fulfill generic functions including creating reminders, setting alarms, checking the weather, manage hands-free operations on your computer, write and send emails, schedule meetings, calculations, and conversions, and more.
“Cortana is always looking out for you, remembering things so you don’t have to, proactively suggest things you might need to do and helping you do more with less effort,” - Kiesha Clayton, senior communications manager at Microsoft.
“Cortana appears to have very competitive technology in terms of how it performs against Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant.” - J.P Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.
Microsoft is striving to bring more capabilities to Cortana, to compete with Amazon’s large ecosystem of Alexa skills, through Cortana Device SDK and Cortana Skills program with the support of many third-party vendors such as OpenTable, Spotify, Fitbit, Dark Sky, etc.
Amazon and Microsoft could potentially partner to provide more integration between Alexa for business, Office 365 and Google’s G Suite to handle a multitude of back-office operations.
Google Home for Business
Google Home, which provides a Google-powered digital assistant and integrates with Google cloud services, is evolving as a valuable tool for business users. Google home can be used in enterprises to control common operations including: booking conference halls, setting timers and alarms, providing reminders, adding events to digital calendars, and more. Google Home is ahead of its competition in capturing advanced user data and understanding behavioral patterns to provide an enriched user experience. This is possible as Google Home can create a voice ID, whereas Alexa can only create a device ID. Using voice ID enables Google to identify and analyze past records by querying the database utilizing data mining.
Voice integrated platforms are “next big thing”. However, the long-term success of voice-enabled platforms and technologies for the business depend on how quickly they mature and build enterprise level functionality and capabilities.
If you are looking to integrate voice into your business operations, Emtec can help. We have successfully integrated Alexa and Cortana within a shopper assistance application for a powerful experience. The Emtec team also developed a linear conversational bot integrated into Facebook Messenger to also provide an immersive retail experience. This integration also can decipher shoppers questions about things like the location of a specific product and directs them where to purchase from nearby or top rated retailers depending on their interest.
Contact us to learn more about how you can leverage voice-first application integration for your Enterprise.