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The rise of smart, voice-based assistants

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Harnath Babu

From domestic robots to drones, Artificial Intelligence to smart cars, we are now apparently surrounded by endless tech innovations – all set to enhance the way we experience the world around us.
We can now rely on a next-generation smart, voice-based assistant to remind us of our meetings, travel plans, etc., order a cab, check for the best available insurance plans and keep a tab on premiums due, order grocery, control lighting and much more – without the need to glance at a smartphone or computer screen!

Thanks to the rise of Artificial Intelligence and natural language processing algorithms, we are now surrounded by devices that listen, learn and respond to us.These smart, voice-based assistants are changing the way we get around, shop and even manage our devices at home. Now they are not only making the tedious tasks easier but also helping enterprises across multiple verticals in enhancing customer experiences.

But how?

Living in the cloud and listening to users through physical devices, today’s voice-based digital assistants have the potential to find and report crucial information, as well as slice and dice the data according to user instructions. With self-learning capabilities, they interact with users in a natural way and help in streamlining a number of business processes as well as boosting employee efficiency.

They are becoming the go-to search tool for users, who would rather ask a question than type it in a device.In fact, these voice-based devices are expected to be the foundation of all consumer experiences — in their home, in the car, on the phone and all other connected devices.As per a study by Gartner, “By 2020, the average person will have more conversations a day with bots than they do with their spouse.”*
The day is not far when asking your banking questions will be as easy as asking your in-home assistant about weather or traffic. With the rise of voice-controlled technology in the banking sector, there has been a movement from transactions to interactions lately. The digital assistant, having access to the customer’s account information,can help them with basic queries such as checking account balances, making payments, paying bills and more.

Similarly, for insurance companies, voice assistants have changed the way consumers interact. From knowing the key features of an auto insurance policy, date of next payment and getting access to their policy’s documents, customers can easily get help from virtual assistants with their policy needs just through instructions.

Even in real estate, brokers are using these devices as a way to court prospects, with applications that enable consumers to search for homes using their voice.

Not just this, voice assistants are nowadays being integrated with cars – making them smarter as the user can simply talk and give instructions to it. Being fed with information about the owner, his/her preferences and address of home, work, etc., the smart car can then auto-set the navigation, adjust internal settings viz., audio, temperature, etc., as well as offer real-time advice about road conditions and traffic.

The e-commerce industry is also reaching its peak. Deploying AI-based voice assistants, the giants are deliver a shopping experience that can take place anywhere and anytime, even while waiting for a cab or picking up the kids from dance school. All that the shopper has to do is say, ‘Add three chocolates in my cart’, or ‘Reorder coffee’ or even check the status of a shipment ‘Where’s my order?’

Sounds crazy, isn’t it? But this is where we are progressing. With automation and thinking machines replacing human tasks, it would be safe to say that we are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we perform mundane tasks as well as work.

A digital assistant could also prove invaluable to the HR. How can we hire the right talent? How can we attract, keep and motivate the employees? What skills are required to prepare and compete in the future? Such questions, and many more – voice assistants integrated with analytics can help answer them while you focus on core operations. After collecting, processing and analysing prospects’data, the devices can help get KPIs to act upon. Additionally as the trend towards globalisation grows, it could also monitor industry trends and the latest business practices to stay relevant with the ever-changing HR landscape, and use that knowledge to frame policies, etc.

So, the next time you wonder how to improve corporate productivity, think of voice-enabled digital assistants.They can help in a number of ways, just like by automating meeting scheduling for instance.
Though none of us can say with certainty how voice-controlled technology is going to transform the world over the years, the organisations that plan ahead will be the best prepared to succeed and enhance the ways we experience the world around us.

By Harnath Babu, CIO, KPMG

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