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The Role of Voice in the Internet of Things

by Andrew Brown | Feb 19, 2016

Speech is a singularly efficient way for humans to express ideas and desires. It is therefore unsurprising that we have always wanted to extend this expeditious communications mechanism with and command machines by voice.

As IoT applications proliferate they present new and innovative ways to collaborate, communicate and interact, both from a human and machine perspective. While most of the focus in the IoT has been on data, the integration of voice into IoT applications offers a versatile method to provide human interaction; communication and control.  And with proper implementation and consideration for relevance, costs and human factors, voice can provide a more flexible user experience in a more economical way than traditional methods such as touch screens or data input.

The growth in service providers implementing IMS, which enables voice over LTE (VoLTE), and the rapid roll out of LTE services in many markets, in addition to existing private VoIP/SIP networks, represents a new and exciting opportunity to cost effectively integrate voice into different IoT applications. Naturally, not all IoT applications will merit voice integration, but our whitepaper, "The Role of Voice in IoT Applications", outlines and showcases the multitude of applications that would benefit.

Strategy Analytics believes that voice has a pivotal role to play in the Industrial IoT segments on the shop floor where automation, robotics and mobility will factor in. Specifically, Strategy Analytics projects that voice could capture up to 12% of Industrial IoT applications by 2022 and be especially prevalent in the lucrative Asia-Pacific and North American regions.

In the consumer segment, voice will become especially pervasive in wearable IoT and the consumer healthcare segment, Smart Home, consumer electronics and Smart Buildings. In these vertical industries, voice has the potential to capture up to 18% of connections in the 2020 to 2022 timeframe.

There will be 3 key types of voice communication in IoT environments:

  1. Bi-directional voice communication
  2. Mono-directional voice communication
  3. Voice Recognition

Strategy Analytics believes there are 4 key reasons that voice is suited to a range of IoT applications:

  1. Speech is the natural mode of communication for humans. It is both intuitive and easier to convey commands verbally.
  2. Voice recognition is particularly appealing when the human's hands or eyes are otherwise occupied. For example it may not only be convenient but also a legal requirement to use verbal commands (if any) rather than be distracted by typing or using other means of communication, as in distracted driving legislation, for example.
  3. Voice telephony is an efficient means of bi-directional voice communication with machines that can listen, and respond without the need for complex commands.
  4. Cost saving factors: Voice integration could potentially challenge the need for a touch screen on many devices, as it reduces the cost for devices that will be dormant for the majority of the time. There is a point at which devices that are not used frequently (e.g. a few times a year), do not need a touchscreen. Voice would be more cost effective to simply offer connectivity to a call centre to achieve the same function. This represents a shift from a volume to a transactional model e.g., a million devices that generate 50,000 calls per year are arguably better serviced via a voice connection than deploying a $5 dollar screen on a million devices.

At Strategy Analytics we've written a whitepaper, "The Role of Voice in IoT Applications", which examines the previously under-explored role of voice in IoT and identifies use cases and opportunities where the inclusion of voice offers not only inherent value to the specific solution, but also makes practical economic sense. It is completely free to read and download. 

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