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Voice is the new black

Written by Claire Calmejane, Director of Innovation and Digital Centre of Excellence at Lloyds Banking Group

Gartner predicts by 2018 that 30% of Touch will be replaced by Voice [1]. Whilst sitting on the judging panel of the Stanford Ignite competition in London, I bumped into mobile guru Roy Vella and we ended up discussing about our new smart voice assistants: Alexa from Amazon and Google Home. His daughter recently asked him to find a calculator to complete her homework. As he was coming back with it in hands, his younger son asked why they were not asking Alexa the calculations directly. The smart assistant of Amazon was sold out ahead of the Christmas holidays and Echo Dot (Alexa’s sister) was the bestselling item on all of Amazon for Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday [2].

I was then heading to Paris for Christmas and whilst taking place in the passenger seat, my mum surprised me by asking Siri (Apple’s voice assistant) to text my sister we were on our way.

In the labs, we have been experimenting with Alexa earlier this year [3] and followed with all sorts of testing around AI, Chatbots and various IoT, without forgetting to address some of the trade-off between convenience and privacy and what happens with the data [4].

What I found interesting is that voice is forcing the switch from transaction to conversation in our human-machine interaction. As more customers are embracing digital banking only, it develops the ties needed to better stay on top of your finances in your day to day. What we found odd a couple of years ago, thinking we will never talk alone to a device, is changing; the same way we thought it was mad to find your partner online.

What’s coming next?

Voice assistant technologies are still maturing: Alexa (Amazon), Home (Google), Cortana (Microsoft), Siri (Apple), Now (Google) are only at the beginning of this journey. Some players like Nuance, traditionally positioned in Telephony Banking, are offering a mesh interface between all these voice assistants and your potential webchat, ‘chatbot’ (webchat-robot) or website [5 — Jim Marous in the Financial brand].

Siri’s creators have been working on ‘Viv’ [6] which is planned to be rolled-out in the next Samsung suite. Viv is based on 3 principles as described in Brian Roemmele’s article [7]: It will be taught by the world, it will know more than it is taught, it will learn something every day. The result will be a system that will ultimately predict your needs and allow you to almost communicate in the shorthand dialogs found common in close relationships.

CES 2017 confirmed the trend with Alexa (Amazon) rising above rivals [8 — CES BBC]. ‘It’s been loaded into robots. It’s escaped the house and made its way into automobiles. It’s even inside a smart fridge. It’s even coming to the Huawei phone.’

However, from the perspective of the MIT Technology review, the next generation of Voice First leader is likely not yet known [9].

Potential implications for banking?

In banking, USAA has been pioneering on this front for a couple of years piloting biometrics / voice as an interface early on. Most of the banks have implemented IVR (Interface Voice Response) or Voice Biometrics in telephony banking, but we are talking about a different game here.

Voice First banking could be a step-change for:

· Voice commerce will become the primary replacement for advertising [7]

· Voice Payments are the foundation to Voice Commerce [7]

· Active, passive experience and conversational User Interface will strengthen the relationship with your bank

· Predictive analytics will help customers to be better off

Voice is becoming the ‘last inch’ on the rise, its ascension may be the same than Logitech’s share price when his CEO coined this expression. Voice-first will probably benefit from the implementation of the Open Banking APIs and the maturing curve of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

In the meantime, let’s not forget to have fun at home:

*****

Claire Calmejane is Director of Innovation and Digital Centre of Excellence at Lloyds Banking Group. She heads up the LBG Innovation Labs focused on de-risking the bank’s investment through experimentation and forging key partnerships with tech and fintech companies. Prior to Lloyds, she worked as a managing consultant for Capgemini Consulting, and served as visiting scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business. For more exchange follow me on Twitter @ccalmeja

References –

[1] Market Trends: Voice as a UI on Consumer Devices — What Do Users Want? https://www.gartner.com/doc/3021226/market-trends-voice-ui-consumer

[2] Amazon Echo Dot is Best-selling Item on Black Friday Says Jeff Bezos’s Company: http://www.i4u.com/2016/11/118101/amazon-echo-dot-best-selling-item-black-friday-says-jeff-bezoss-company

[3] LBG Innovation Labs — Alexa Testing https://youtu.be/dLgwMWGKZ8c

[4] Listen up! Learn what your AI does with your voice data https://www.wired.com/2016/12/alexa-and-google-record-your-voice/ via @WIRED

[5] Get Ready for the Voice Revolution in Financial Services — https://thefinancialbrand.com/59078/voice-first-banking-revolution-viv/

[6] Samsung is buying the team that originally created Siri — http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/5/13180286/samsung-viv-labs-acquisition-siri

[7] There is A Revolution Ahead and It Has A Voice — Brian Roemmelehttps://techpinions.com/there-is-a-revolution-ahead-and-it-has-a-voice/45071

[8] CES 2017: Amazon’s virtual aide Alexa shouts above rivals https://cdn.ampproject.org/c/www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/38539326

[9] Alexa May Have Won CES, But It Still Has a Fight Ahead https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603317/alexa-may-have-won-ces-but-it-still-has-a-fight-ahead/

[10] The economist — Now we’re talking: How voice technology is transforming computing http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21713836-casting-magic-spell-it-lets-people-control-world-through-words-alone-how-voice?utm_content=bufferf6d46

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