How to add voice capabilities to your products?

  • TECHNOLOGY
  • 10 MIN READ
Ajish Prakash VP - Strategic Partnerships
smart home devices

The evolution in technology manages to astound us with every passing day. How many of us would have considered the possibility of purchasing products that could speak a few years ago? However, products equipped with voice capabilities are now a reality.

In the coming years, there would be even more products and devices which would be equipped with microphones and would have the ability to speak. You must have noticed the popularity, that devices like HomePod and Echo have managed to acquire. Within a few years, even more, such products will be introduced in the market.

Companies are now contemplating incorporating AI in more of their devices to provide the users with a different experience.

Is it the right choice?

This is the question that many brands are asking themselves. Those who have not ventured into the world of voice interaction cannot help but wonder if this capability should now form part of their products.

The primary concern that they have is whether this popularity of voice interaction is just a trend which would fade away with time or is actually here to stay. Will this technology prove to be profitable in the long run? Would it manage to give a boost to your business?

Considering all the possibilities is essential. How much of an impact do you expect the technology to make? Voice capability is not just something that can give users an enhanced experience and convenience. Manufacturers can also use it to make things easier in quite a few ways as well.

For instance, this technology can be used to gather analytics on environments. You can use it to detect sound events. It might even be possible to unify multiple AI assistants.

The evolution

These days, when we think about voice interaction, it is standalone products like the Echo that come to mind. However, that has started to change. The voice is now being embedded into a diverse range of products.

Indeed, announcements have been made with regard to voice interaction in various products including fans, light switches, thermostats, and electronics among other things. Measures are also being taken to integrate voice in everyday appliances like fridge, alarm clocks, and washing machines.

The uses

If implantation of voice and related technology is given some thought, the makers have the opportunity to apply it in various ways.

The technology is pivotal in controlling devices. The devices can follow simple commands like that of a turn-off and on or changing the volume. It might not even be necessary for the device to be connected to the internet for this interaction. Dedicated hardware with power mode might make things work.

The option is also available to integrate with AI assistant. If this is put into practice, the end-to-end voice assistant might become feasible.

The technology can be used to sense the environment or gather analytics. It is not merely voice commands that microphones can capture. They might also be able to identify environmental sounds. They can also be used for the measurement of sound level. Rules can be created around volume as well.

Thus, there are four main areas where voice interaction can excel. These include:

  • Far-field digital signal processing
  • Local speech recognition
  • APIs with new speech recognition
  • Microphone technology

Local speech recognition

Local speech recognition can go a long way. It can be used to initiate voice recognition based on a specific command. It might also play a role in the initiation of vocabulary interaction on a larger scale.

Work is in progress in this area by quite a lot of companies. Many have even released their advancement in technology to the market.

Digital signal processing

This is one of those areas where immense progress has been made. Digital signal processing is integral for processing audio so that voice can be picked up from a distance and the ambiance noise is cancelled out. It also plays a role in the separation of voice signal such that speech recognition becomes feasible.

With this, the ability of the device to hear your command and respond accordingly even in noisy settings becomes a possibility.

Chips of DSP have become less expensive with a period of time, and the cost is expected to lower down further in the coming years.

One factor that needs to be considered about companies contemplating to add voice is that if the low cost in this technology is likely to become lower in the near future. Perhaps in time, the code might be available free of charge.

However, if a free solution is acquired, flexibility might be limited, and thus the application of the technology would suffer.

Some points to consider

New services for the technology are now gaining prominence. For instance, in the case of Google assistant and Alexa, while both get the service free of cost, an increase in accuracy is also witnessed.

With low cost and increased accuracy, companies are likely to be more attracted to incorporate voice to hardware. Mic with this latest technology is also now available at a lower cost while at the same time; there has been an improvement in their inbuilt processing ability.

However, some probable drawbacks have to be paid heed to as well. The increase in material costs, the security risks and the likely decrease in brand power are some of the factors that have to be considered.

Once you include voice interpretation in a line of products, you become bound to incorporate this technology in the subsequent products introduced in the line as well. This will have an impact on certification and tooling as well.

Legal implications of adding voice also have to be considered. If measures are not taken for the prevention of hacking, the company can be at high risk. Therefore, it is essential that physical mute buttons are added and there is an indicator to let one know that the listening device is one to ensure that no tampering occurs.

It is also vital that the information the device sends is subjected to encryption. Steps for authentication need to be taken to ensure that hijacking into devices is not possible.

It is also important to consider how adding the feature of voice impacts the brand. For companies who do not have the means of including their own voice assistance have to think about the implication of users referring to their product as Alexa. This might lead to the erosion of their brand power.

However, if a company does add voice feature, there are quite a few doors of opportunities that will open for them as well.

The benefits

The technology enhances the ability of a device to pass on a particular session to another device. Think of a possibility wherein you indulge in a conversation with Alexa on some device, only to continue it on another as you go about your business. This will only be a possibility if multiple devices use the same integration.

In the case of microphones, it might become easier to acquire an understanding of the users interact with a piece of hardware. There are quite a few questions that warrant attention. For instance, is the device actively being used? How often do the users put the device to use? What requests do these users have for the device?

Voice interaction provides a way via which more can be determined about these requests thereby enabling further engagement with the end-users.

To erase the confusion

If you are on the fence regarding adding voice, it would be a good idea to view this feature as other features out there like control interfaces and touch among other things.
The feature aims to provide users with optimal convenience. Furthermore, it also can be used to open the silos of AI assistance as it unifies them via a single device. New users can be won over by this feature.


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The successful brands

To make things a bit clearer to you, let us discuss a bit about successful brands that have incorporated voice integration effectively. Google home and amazon echo do not need any introduction. They are now a part of quite a few households as they work to organize our lives, control our appliances and even help us in shopping.

As per a study released by Juniper Research, these voice assistants are a step forward in the journey of growth of smart homes.

Amazon Echo

Amazon seems to have made great strides in this technology, indeed putting various brands at risk. It is leading the path of smart homes with a detailed system that is tied together with products as well as services.

Amazon is moving in the direction of taking over the shopping world by storm. With the control of the smartphone that it has, Amazon encourages the users to opt for click-less ordering via Alexa, thereby making things all the more convenient.

It was seen that the Echo Dot smart home device was one of the most shopped items on Amazon last year during the holiday season.

Amazon has put its strategy in place quite smartly. With time, it has managed to ensure that its AI assistant becomes an integral part of every household. The feature is also ranked highly on search engines, thereby being marketed effectively. Amazon has also allowed other devices to use Alexa to make the technology work more in its favor.

The extra revenue generated by Alexa also enhances the profits acquired by Amazon significantly.

Google home 

Another brand that has managed to create waves in this area is Google. Google has things going in its favor owing to its search engine. Thus, the brand knows what the users are looking for.

Google is aware of what people need, what they want and what they expect. Thus, it is in a better position to provide us with the desired results. The advanced analytics coupled with all the information it has undoubtedly made its journey easier.

Google home is capable of organizing our day effectively while at the same time giving us suggestions on where we can go to hang out with friends, what would be a suitable destination for a weekend for us. Indeed, it can also make our bookings.

Google home has been designed to ensure that the control of several devices is provided to it. This includes the control of Nest which is a brand manufacturing security system along with thermostats.

While Alexa is the preferred choice in the US, in other areas, it is Google Home which has the lead. This is particularly true for the non-English markets. This is because Google has added more than 30 languages to Home thereby making its reach more diverse.

While Google home is undoubtedly moving in the right direction, there is still some time before it can take over Alexa. For the time being, Amazon does not have much to worry about. However, Google is likely to become a fierce competitor in the near future.

The feature of smart home integration

The demand for smart home devices has risen significantly in recent times. People now want to make smart speakers, thermostats, TVs and similar other products a part of their household. This is because such devices offer convenience which is what people want.

Connected appliances require voice assistants on a larger scale. Thus, manufacturers need to use connected machines to pave the way for smartphones.

With these integrations, the sales of connected appliances will increase drastically. In addition to this, since the average cost of these appliances is likely to reduce, the sales will grow all the more.

However, there is one problem to consider. These popular brands with voice integration address to specific systems. For instance, you cannot control a Nest Thermostat with Alexa. Similarly, you cannot expect HD streaming device to assist you in playing YouTube videos.

Therefore, when a customer decides to purchase a smart home voice assistant, he needs to determine which brand would work for him and would make it easier for him to perform his daily routines. He will need to make a choice in accordance with the ecosystem that forms part of his life.

Published: Mar 6,2019 03:45:00 PM IST
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