Mobile Speech Set to Grow Over The Next Five Years, Says Datamonitor

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

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

Currently, Datamonitor asses the market’s worth at $32.7 million. Some of the advanced ASR features that the analysis group 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. As phones have been more able to connect to the Web over wireless infrastructure, however, it has allowed devices to outsource some the processing load 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,” said Joe in a prepared statement. “In order 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.”

The analysis group also expects that advanced ASR for in-vehicle telematics will grow at a similar rate as mobile handset advanced ASR. Datamonitor defines telematics as factory-installed entertainment or navigation systems in vehicles. 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—legislation that has been increasingly enacted around the world. Such laws already exist in 15 states in the United 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 concludes that the growth of telematics may, 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 more and more vehicles are seeing telematic systems becoming standard features, 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 writes in an email to Speech Technology—a statement that suggests, conversely, that vendors aren’t locked-in to 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 he puts 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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