As ubiquitous as they are in computing, typing and touch are less intuitive and natural than speech; humans have been talking to each other for thousands of years, after all. Voice enablement has been under development in the computer industry for decades, but it is only in recent years that reliable, speech-based interfaces have emerged.
The evolution of voice and speech in mobile computing got a boost via Apple’s introduction of Siri, which brought voice commands to the masses; that platform has improved with each iteration. Google Glass, as well, was primarily voice driven. In the mobile computing space, voice enablement may be the next frontier in innovation.
According to the recent Global Voice Recognition Market 2015-2019 report from TechNavio, voice recognition is growing at 9.4 percent through 2019. Tractica has predicted that the speech and voice recognition market will grow from $249 million to $5.1 billion by 2024.
While voice enablement in consumer technology is more of a convenience (or even a novelty, depending on your point of view), in enterprise mobile computing it can unlock new levels of productivity. In field service, maintenance, warehouse management, and other applications, the hands-free aspect of voice technology can eliminate a considerable amount of typing and scrolling that takes the tech’s hands away from their primary task.
In warehouse management, there are already plenty of companies that have deployed voice-enabled picking and putaway solutions that allow warehouse staff work much more efficiently than if they had to stop and use a keypad-based mobile device to complete their tasks. For forklift drivers and other equipment operators, voice enablement also improves workplace safety because drivers are able to interact with applications while still keeping their eyes on the road (or on the warehouse aisle, as the case may be). In field service, voice enablement could allow technicians to fill in work orders and receive instructions while still using both hands to repair equipment.
Voice technology has also improved operations in hospital settings, where environmental services staff or nursing staff can update patient charts verbally while completing other tasks. Voice technology has also progressed to the point that physicians can record their notes on a mobile device and have them automatically transcribed and loaded into the medical record, all in just a few quick steps. That means clinical documentation is more accurate and can be accessed more quickly by other physicians and clinicians.
That’s not to say that voice enablement is a panacea for every application. Even in warehouse environments, where voice-based input is most firmly entrenched, the speech solution typically complements bar code and RFID technology. If you are trying to record a serial number, for example, a bar code scan is still faster than reading the number out loud. But for basic commands and instructions, voice can eliminate data entry and reduce bottlenecks.
Voice-enabled mobile solutions are growing in number, and expanding into multiple types of applications. Where a hands-free data interface can provide improved safety or productivity, voice solutions provide a reliable and viable solution for mobile data collection and data access.