Mobile Speech Set to Grow During the Next Five Years

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Independent market analysis firm Datamonitor has issued a new report anticipating a growing global market for advanced automatic speech recognition (ASR).

The report, authored by associate analyst Ryan Joe and released May 20, anticipates that the global market for advanced ASR in mobile handsets is set to increase more than threefold in the next five years.

Currently, Datamonitor assesses the market’s worth at $32.7 million. Some of the advanced ASR features the analyst firm expects to find in an increasing number of mobile handsets include command and control—which allows users to access the phone’s functionalities via voice command—voice dialing, and voice search, which allows for search engine functionality over a voice modality.

Contributing to the growth of the advanced ASR market is the increasing market for data plans and the corresponding bandwidth available to mobile devices. Historically, most voice features on mobile handsets have been embedded into the device, but as phones have been made capable of connecting to the Web over a wireless infrastructure, devices have been able to offload some of the processing to networks in the cloud.

It has, moreover, allowed phones to have voice access to the Internet for search capabilities.

Datamonitor expects to see an increasing codependence of embedded and network-based functionalities.

“Vendors are offering speech applications as suites instead of as point applications,” Joe said in a statement. “To harness the full capabilities of mobile devices, we’re going to see solutions that combine embedded speech for features such as command and control and network speech that enables Internet search.”

Datamonitor also expects that advanced ASR for in-vehicle telematics (defined in the report as factory-installed entertainment or navigation systems) will grow at a similar rate as mobile handset advanced ASR. The telematics segment is expected to grow from $64.3 million in 2009 to $208.2 million by 2014.

These results are spurred, in part, by new hands-free legislation that prevents users from manually operating devices while driving. Such laws already exist in 15 U.S. states. In the face of this legislative tide, speech providers have been pushing for the inclusion of voice command and control and SMS transcription to allow users to retain in-vehicle mobile use while complying with regulations.

Datamonitor also concluded that the growth of telematics might, in combination with other factors, spell trouble for speech-enabled personal navigation devices (PNDs). The PND space has traditionally been a strong market for speech applications, making use of advanced ASR for input and text-to-speech for audible, eyes-free navigation output. However, as telematics systems are becoming standard features in more vehicles, the need for stand-alone PNDs has waned. This, in combination with slower consumer spending since the recession and the propagation of mobile handsets with GPS navigation applications, has proved disruptive to PND sales.

A slowdown for PNDs won’t translate into a slowdown for providers of the underlying technology, though.

“PND device manufacturers typically mix and match to avoid vendor lock-in,” Joe wrote in an email to Speech Technology—a statement that suggests, conversely, that vendors aren’t locked in to an overdependence on PNDs.

“Providers of enabling tech will be fine,” he adds. “Growth in PNDs is slowing, but that’s because navigational applications are being incorporated and will likely become standard in other places, like vehicles and mobile handsets.”

As Joe stated it in a press release, the meaning of the PND slowdown is that “PNDs no longer own the in-vehicle navigation market.”

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