With the rise of speech recognition technology such as Siri for the iPhone, Dragon for PCs and OnStar in vehicles, it seems voice-enabled technology is becoming ever more prevalent for consumers. In fact, Melanie Pinola of PCWorld states “It isn’t hard to imagine a near future when we’ll be commanding our coffee makers, talking to our printers, and telling the lights to turn themselves off.”
As with the BYOD trend, once consumers become accustomed to using specific technology in their personal lives – they expect the same functionality in the workplace. We see this as many bring smartphones and tablets into the corporate space and we can expect that voice functionality will follow the same path.
But does voice technology even make sense for businesses? Absolutely. This is especially true in a back-office environment, such as a warehouse. Adding voice capabilities has been proven to deliver 99 percent accuracy, as well as a 10 percent improvement in productivity to warehouse applications such as data-entry, picking and processing. Voice also dramatically improves safety by allowing workers to work in a hands and eyes-free environment.
While the benefits for voice-enabled technology are many, both consumers and corporations alike are sometimes fearful that there may be negative implications as well. Slate Magazine recently reported that the country of Ecuador has successfully completed installation of “the world’s first biometric identification platform, at a nation-wide level, that combines voice and face identification capabilities.” While the technology behind such a massive project is impressive, many are worried about the issue of privacy for Ecuadorian citizens. In addition, Sherry Tufts, a professor at MIT, recently told the New York Times “I’m not saying voice recognition is bad. I’m saying it’s part of a package of attachments to objects where we should tread carefully because we are pushing a lot of Darwinian buttons in our psychology.” Tufts believes that by speaking with inanimate objects, humans behave differently than they would if they were simple typing or clicking a mouse. “Humans are wired for speech and tend to respond to talking devices as if they were kindred spirits,” she told the Times.
But don’t the positive outcomes outweigh any potential negatives? In my opinion they do, especially when it comes to applications where typing or manually inputting data into a machine can be detrimental or even hazardous. This applies to a number of types of jobs – from a warehouse worker taking inventory from a tall ladder to a doctor recording patient vital signs.
I believe that the applications for voice-enabled technology are limitless and will skyrocket in the coming years. As consumers interact with this technology more and more in their personal lives, they will expect it in the workplace too. I think we’ll see speech recognition move beyond the few business applications where it currently resides, such as supply chain, healthcare and field services, to the desk of nearly every end-user in the corporate enterprise. They’ll be commanding their computers, phones and other objects with their voices and fingertips. And the keyboard may just become obsolete. So, tell me, do you think voice-recognition technology makes sense for your business? Leave a comment below and explain why or why not.