Speech Technology Magazine


Speech Technology: A Day in the Life

Speech is already making life easier every day.
By Terry Saeger - Posted Mar 22, 2013
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While interactive voice response (IVR) technology has been around for more than 50 years, advances in speech recognition technology have made it increasingly more useful in our everyday lives. The introduction of more capable technology with the ability to better differentiate between like-sounding words and understand accents, enabling more free form conversations, has made speech recognition more ubiquitous and part of our daily routine.  

Speech-enabled products have gone a long way to change the consumer's negative perception of speech recognition, which was often viewed as a roadblock that left you being routed through a myriad of menus and unable to speak to a live agent. Consumers are having better experiences with speech recognition firsthand through popular consumer products, such as Ford Sync and Apple’s Siri. This has fueled interest in speech technology and applications where we now have what seems like endless possibilities to improve our lives. 

Yet, the future is here already. Many consumers might not realize how speech recognition is already providing services that make our daily lives easier today. In fact, speech often plays a supportive role in facilitating simple tasks, driving new efficiencies, and, in some cases, offering new solutions that would otherwise not be possible. To illustrate, I offer the following snapshot of a typical day for an average person, John X, showing where speech technology has simplified his routine.  

John X is a salesperson in the Northeast. He drives to work every morning, but is often out meeting clients throughout the day. Let's take a look at how speech technologies enhance his life on an average workday. 

John drives to work and typically takes the same route every morning. But after an accident on the road made him late for an important appointment, he's begun to use the statewide 511 service to check on traffic and weather conditions. The speech-enabled 511 service allows him to simply ask questions from his hands-free phone in the car. In fact, the 511 service remembers the stretch of road last time he called from his ANI. The voice self-service system actively inquires:  Hi John, are you calling about the Eastern Spur of the turnpike?” If John replies "yes" then the system proceeds to provide traffic for that route. Both driver satisfaction and efficiencies are gained from this system. 

Arriving to work on time, John makes the daily staff meeting and has some time with colleagues. Then he's off to see a client about a 45-minute drive away. In fact, this is the first time John is meeting with this client, so he needs directions. Once in his car, he simply tells his telematics service the address. The service finds the address and maps the best route. He doesn't miss a beat, driving out of the parking lot and on his way to the appointment.  

As he arrives, John sees that he'll need to park on the street. The city has an automated parking system where John can call and, using a voice self-service system, can secure a parking spot without having to feed the meter with coins. The service, which is available in a growing number of municipalities across North America, recognizes John. He has already registered with his license plate number and credit card information. He simply tells the system the number of his spot and how long he'll be there. In this case he has reserved the spot for one hour. He goes in to meet his client. 

This client meeting goes well and John ends up spending more time than he had expected. He gets a text message from the automated parking service when he has 10 minutes left on the meter asking if he'd like to add more time. No more running out to feed the meter, fumbling for change. He sees the text on his smartphone under the table, confirms that he wants to add another hour, and with a simple text he's done and can continue his client meeting with hardly any interruption.  

After he wraps up his client meeting, John realizes that he's hungry. Once in his car, he simply asks the telematics service for restaurants in the area. He's in the mood for a burger, and fortunately the town has a great, highly rated burger joint. The telematics service gives him directions, and he easily makes his way for a late lunch. 

While waiting for his food, John decides to check his bank account. He recently was paid a bonus and wanted to see if the funds were available, as he'd been eyeing a new fishing boat. Annoyed by the push-button IVR systems of the past, his bank now allows him to speak and ask questions to quickly get the information he needs. He can even request a live agent for a complex transaction. He asks for his account balance and confirms that the bonus has hit his account. His burger arrives and he enjoys lunch before his next appointment. 

After meeting with several clients, John is ready to go home. He dials the 511 service and discovers that there is a significant traffic delay ahead. The service gives him an alternate route that will get him home on time. He calls his family and tells them he's on the way. 

Speech technology helped John understand traffic to and from work, even helping him find a better route on his way home. It provided a fast and easy way to park, and even saved him the trouble of leaving his client meeting to add money to the parking meter. It found a good burger spot and helped him check his bank account while he was waiting for his meal.  

All of these were routine, everyday tasks where speech was able to make the process easier. From the statewide 511 system to ParkMobile’s highly efficient, speech-enabled parking solution, all of these solutions are real-world examples that are available and in use today. With all of the excitement around next-generation speech technologies, we sometimes forget that this is not a future technology, but a highly efficient and valuable technology that is already  in use and making millions of lives a little easier every day.  


Terry Saeger is senior vice president and general manager at VoltDelta, a provider of speech recognition and contact center solutions.

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