Edge and embedded voice assistants
Jan 20, 2022
7 MIN READ

How Edge Voice Assistants are Bringing Products to Life

Familiarity with voice interfaces through cloud-only voice assistants, like smart speakers, has put voice AI on the map with consumers and brands. The ubiquity of these solutions has transformed voice AI from a nice-to-have addition to a critical element of any company roadmap. Up until now, limited connectivity choices have kept the technology out of arm’s reach for a wide range of manufacturers of devices where an internet connection is either unnecessary, unavailable, or unwanted for their devices and customers.

While cloud-only voice assistants do have their benefits for a wide range of solutions, they can also result in higher manufacturing costs, subscription-based fees, and privacy concerns for device manufacturers. When big tech voice assistants, such as Google and Amazon, are in play, manufacturers face a lack of product differentiation and control, loss of customer relationships (and valuable data), and the threat of competition from the voice AI provider. 

Edge and embedded voice assistants open the door to a world of possibilities for product solutions across industries. Whether the use case is for cars, cruise ships, QSRs, manufacturing, healthcare, vending machines, elevators, hearables, wearables, or another industry, embedded and edge voice assistants offer many benefits to users and OEMs. 

Here are 5 benefits of embedded and edge voice assistants that make them ideal product solutions: 

  • Speed and accuracy
  • Lower manufacturing costs
  • Personalization with privacy
  • Product functionality
  • Product independence and differentiation

1. Speed and accuracy with voice assistants on the edge

Speed and accuracy are essential for all voice assistants, regardless of connectivity. In the past, embedded voice assistants were limited to simple command and control functions. If the user did not utter the right phrase, the voice interface simply didn’t work, or worse, proceeded to begin an operation not intended by the user. Limited capabilities and robotic sounding responses were key reasons manufacturers resisted adopting voice interfaces. 

Today, advances in voice AI and chip technology have solved the challenges of legacy embedded voice AI by putting more Natural Language Understanding (NLU) directly onto the device. Now, embedded voice AI solutions with NLU technology on-device can accept queries using a range of phrases and respond naturally.

Now, embedded voice AI solutions with NLU technology on-device can accept queries using a range of phrases and respond naturally.

In the past, if the embedded voice-enabled device had to operate in a noisy environment, the quality of response was further degraded. Originally, car manufacturers relied on cloud-only voice assistant solutions to elevate the customer experience and provide the speed and accuracy required to keep customers engaged with their infotainment systems. If voice in-car controls were desired, two different solutions were deployed in parallel: embedded voice AI for in-car control and a cloud-only voice assistant for more sophisticated queries.

Hybrid voice assistants are solving the challenges of speed and accuracy not possible with two disparate platforms on the same device. Providing both local and cloud connectivity on one platform allows device manufacturers to create unified voice experiences while enjoying cost savings. Advanced voice AI technologies, like Active Arbitration, make the voice assistant even more responsive by sending queries simultaneously to the cloud and the embedded device and returning the fastest, most accurate answer.

The advent of hybrid and edge connectivity solutions has combined the convenience of in-car controls with the delight of getting information like stock prices, news, weather, and flight status while driving. Hybrid solutions also ensure that drivers are able to operate the car and get help, even when the internet is not available. 

Besides the automotive use case, edge, embedded, and hybrid voice assistants can be in a number of noisy environments, including a manufacturing floor, a crowded cruise ship, a busy drive-in, or a self-service kiosk in a QSR or retail store. When surrounded by background noise and chatter, edge, embedded, and hybrid voice assistants equipped with echo reduction and noise-canceling (ERNC) software eliminate the false positives, false negatives, and inaccuracies associated with earlier solutions.

2. Lower manufacturing costs

Voice assistants can require a sizable investment in both time and money. While the end result, ROI, and customer satisfaction are well worth the investment, manufacturers of devices with lower price points may not be able to offer a fully cloud-connected voice assistant without pricing their products out of the market. Edge and embedded voice assistants offer cost-effective solutions for manufacturers with low implementation costs and no subscription-based fees.

Edge and embedded voice assistants are cost-effective with low implementation costs and no subscription-based fees.

Voice assistants aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Some need a lot of Natural Language Understanding (NLU) capabilities with cloud connectivity, while others might not need as much language support or access to the cloud. While a hybrid voice assistant for a car will need a great deal of NLU, a light switch or thermostat can excel at command and control without the higher cost of more language capabilities. 

To determine which solution is best for your company, product, and users, examine your company goals and customer needs to choose the best connectivity option and level of language support, which will affect the cost. When the cloud is not needed or required, a superior customer experience can be achieved without dipping into the higher manufacturing and subscription-based costs of cloud connectivity. 

With edge and embedded voice assistants, companies are given a choice to match their desired cost with their voice assistant’s functionality instead of having to use a cloud-only service with no customization options. 

3. Personalization with privacy

Personalization is a huge benefit of voice AI technology that differentiates voice assistants from the growing market and provides a superior customer experience. While some users can be wary about personalization due to the early practices of voice assistants, according to Accenture, 83% of consumers are willing to share their data if it means a more personalized experience. 

83% of consumers are willing to share their data if it means a more personalized experience. 

Accenture

The key for companies is to be transparent and communicative with their users about how they are using their data. If a company partners with a third party, such as Amazon or Google, they will not have access to or control over their data to reassure their users of privacy or to improve the experience. These third parties may even use the data to advertise products that were searched via the voice assistant or give users’ search information to their partners to advertise. 

When companies have control over their data and users opt-in to data collection, a door of personalization opportunities opens. Voice assistants can store payment information for quicker transactions in the future, make recommendations based on previous commands, and take note of preferences. These personalized queries make customers feel heard and recognized while providing an exceptional experience. 

With edge and embedded voice assistants, brands can have personalization with privacy by keeping data stored locally on individual devices, so the data never reaches the cloud. This is especially vital for industries that have sensitive information, such as healthcare or hospitality. Doctors can use voice assistants to help conduct examinations or perform surgery without having patient information reach the cloud. Guests at hotels or cruise ships can also use in-room smart technology to turn on lights, adjust the temperature, or browse the TV while their information stays stored locally on the device. 

4. Product functionality

Edge and embedded voice assistants are bringing products to life with improved functionality that is revolutionizing the way users interact with technology. Instead of touching everything, pushing buttons, and scrolling through menus, consumers can control the world around them with their voices, whether they are operating an elevator, wearing a hearable, turning on the coffee maker at home, or ordering at a drive-thru. 

Instead of touching everything, pushing buttons, and scrolling through menus, consumers can control the world around them with their voices.

Without access to the cloud, these embedded and edge voice assistants make users’ lives convenient and efficient while increasing the functionality of the product. With Natural Language Understanding (NLU) embedded into the device, users no longer have to learn the exact words to ask for what they want. They can simply say their queries conversationally and naturally and receive results quickly. 

For smart home technology with edge or embedded voice assistants, users can say queries like:

  • “Turn on the sprinklers in the backyard at 9 am.” 
  • “Preheat the upper oven to 350℉, turn off the lower oven, and set a timer for 20 minutes.”
  • “Wash this load with fabric softener, in cold water, on delicate, and add an extra rinse.” 

With edge and embedded voice assistants storing everything locally on the device, users don’t have to worry about voice assistants knowing their routines at home since the data will never reach the cloud. Whether the product is for a QSR, healthcare, hospitality, or another industry, edge and embedded voice assistants elevate the functionality by cutting through the series of types and swipes to deliver results hands-free. 

5. Product independence & differentiation

Product independence and differentiation are essential for keeping ahead of the competition and standing out in the growing market. Voice AI adoption has skyrocketed these past few years, with Statista reporting that the current number of digital voice assistants globally, 4.2 billion, will reach 8.4 billion by 2024, showing that more companies are adopting voice AI technology and more consumers are demanding it.  

The current number of digital voice assistants globally, 4.2 billion, will reach 8.4 billion by 2024.

Statista

It’s vital that brands choose the voice experience that’s best for their brand, product, and customers’ needs. By partnering with an independent voice AI platform provider, companies can select the connectivity option that has the best functionality and features for their audience—whether that’s edge, embedded, hybrid, or cloud—while providing service attuned to their users’ specific lexicon through multiple languages, accent recognition, and custom commands. Customizing your edge or embedded voice assistant for your audience will provide the best customer experience possible and create product differentiation that will keep you ahead of the competition. 

With voice assistants creating fierce competition, brands are looking for ways to create consumer value through branded experiences while maintaining control over user data, privacy, and relationships. Many companies that initially partnered with third parties, like Amazon or Google, are discovering the disadvantages of not having a branded voice experience and being subordinate to a larger brand. 

Brands are looking for ways to create consumer value through branded experiences while maintaining control over user data, privacy, and relationships.

When partnering with an independent voice AI platform provider, edge and embedded voice assistants can be branded to create lasting relationships with customers through custom wake words, control over data, and privacy transparency. With these innovative solutions, brands can grow market share and customer loyalty without giving potential competitors the ability to collect customers’ data to create competing products. 

Edge and embedded voice assistants make ideal product solutions by providing speed and accuracy, lower manufacturing costs, personalization with privacy, product functionality, and product independence and differentiation. By bringing companies and customers endless possibilities, edge and embedded voice assistants are excellent product solutions across industries for brands wanting to offer superior services. If the cloud is not needed or not required, look to these new solutions for an innovative future. 

Want to know more about voice assistants on the edge? SoundHound recently published a guide, Discovering Possibilities of Voice Assistants on the Edge, that discusses edge voice assistants as a product solution across industries and a way to increase functionality, accessibility, and privacy.

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore SoundHound’s independent voice AI platform at SoundHound.com and register for a free account here. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

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