Voice assistants in the IoT industry
Jun 01, 2021
7 MIN READ

IoT Devices With Custom Voice Assistants Connect People to Brands

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Home industry have experienced exponential growth in the last few years with IoT spending projected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2023, according to Statista. The growth in the number of IoT and Smart Home devices is closely linked to the rapid adoption of voice-enabled smart speakers and voice assistants in a variety of products. Currently, there are 4.2 billion voice assistants in use worldwide and that number is projected to continue to grow. 

The need for greater control over customer experiences, ownership of valuable data, and a desire to monetize on the voice experience have prompted companies to rethink their voice assistant strategies and move from intermediated voice experiences to custom, branded voices for all their devices.  

Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly demanding convenient, hands-free interactions that make their lives easier. A study by Adobe revealed that 94% of consumers believe voice technology does more than save time—it improves the quality of life. Companies hoping to meet consumer needs, stay competitive, and protect their brand are adding voice AI to their product roadmaps. They are also realizing that adopting a voice assistant strategy requires careful consideration, knowing their “why”, and understanding their customer needs.

Adding a voice user interface to a product or group of products is not accomplished with a one-size-fits-all solution. Voice assistant strategies are as unique as the products and brands that adopt them. While many of the decisions about how and where to add voice to a product will be unique to your brand, there are a few key elements that will determine the level of functionality your voice assistant will provide.

Here are 5 elements of voice AI for IoT devices:

  • A choice of connectivity: Embedded, Cloud-only, or Hybrid
  • Connectivity to other devices
  • Conversational AI for a natural voice user interface
  • Specialty content domains for proprietary operations
  • Brand identity and the disintermediated voice assistant

1. A choice of connectivity

Based on your product, your customer, and your “why”, developers have a range of connectivity options to choose from. If you’re looking to add functionality and accessibility to our product, an embedded-only solution will give your users a hands-free interface and the ability to perform specific functions—such as making coffee, opening blinds, and setting the temperature—without needing to navigate knobs and buttons. 

When the product focus is to provide access to information and entertainment, and command or control functions aren’t a requirement, cloud-only connectivity is the right solution. Smart speakers are a good example of cloud-only IoT devices.

When access to both product functions and the cloud gives the best user experiences, hybrid connectivity solutions provide always-on responsiveness. Hybrid connectivity solutions deliver the benefits of command and control functions as well as access to the cloud, affording users the ability to command their voice assistant to make coffee and reorder their favorite coffee beans from the same device. 

Examples of popular hybrid devices are voice-enabled vehicles and TVs. With voice-enabled vehicles, users can command specific embedded functions like changing the temperature in the car, increasing the music volume, and turning on seat warmers. Through cloud connectivity, they can also access navigation, music, food ordering, and their smart home technology, such as lights and thermostats, all hands-free while keeping their eyes on the road. 

These in-car amenities are becoming increasingly popular as Statista predicts that 70% of vehicles will be connected to the internet by 2023, and Forbes reports that 129.7 million people use voice AI technology in their cars. These statistics support the assumption that consumers are favoring interactive, accessible, convenient, and hands-free driving experiences that allow them to stay connected to the world around them, including to other IoT devices. Connected cars of the future will create a seamless transition from home to car to work and other destinations as they become one more device in the IoT.

129.7 million people use voice AI technology in their cars.

Forbes
In-Car Voice Assistant Use Cases

Voice-enabled TVs with hybrid connectivity capabilities improve the user experience by providing smart, intuitive, and convenient interactions. Through either a remote control or voice-enabled mobile app, users can quickly and conveniently access their favorite streaming platforms via the cloud and use embedded functions to adjust the volume, change the channel, and a range of other commands. 

In addition to providing entertainment, hotels can leverage voice-enabled TVs to act as the main IoT hub in the room. Smart TVs in hotel rooms can act as the main controller of air-conditioning, curtains, lighting, and other smart technologies. Hotel guests can even place room service orders, make requests to housekeeping, book their next stay, and check-out, all hands-free. 

The demand is present as Hub Entertainment Research reports that 52% of all TVs are now smart TVs, up from 45% in 2020, showing that older, non-smart TVs are rapidly being replaced by their internet-savvy counterparts. Whether in a hotel or a home, voice-enabled TVs improve the consumer’s experience and open the door to voice commerce opportunities, including food ordering, travel booking, and other purchasing possibilities. 

Whether you choose an embedded-only solution, cloud connectivity, or a hybrid connection, creating an exceptional voice experience for users of IoT devices is quickly becoming a key element of every device roadmap.

2. Connect to other devices

The consumer demand for smart home technology is growing as Statista reports that there are 258.54 million smart home devices worldwide as of 2021. The user experience can be taken to the next level through cloud connectivity by linking smart home accounts with other devices, such as cars or mobile apps.

There are 258.54 million smart home devices worldwide as of 2021.

Statista

As the market matures, IoT manufacturers are looking for disintermediated voice solutions that allow them to create voice experiences that grow brand exposure and create customer connections that build loyalty. According to a report by Opus Research, 88% of IoT and Smart Home companies surveyed reported “Controlling brand identity and UX” as the greatest business value of a voice assistant.

Instead of adding your product to a network controlled by a singular master device, custom, branded voice-enabled devices allow users to command their garage door or sprinklers without needing to return to the living room to access the master device. Instead, dedicated voice assistants in each device deliver hands-free experiences to users while giving brands control over user data.

As voice assistants become ubiquitous, consumers will be able to control their lights, temperature, locks, blinds, music, and other home amenities from their cars or other IoT devices, such as smartphones and smartwatches, control car functions remotely through home IoT devices, and remain connected anywhere and anytime.

Smart home technology can also help save energy in homes and businesses through remote capabilities and specific settings. According to Energy Resource Center, consumers spend $130 billion a year on wasted energy. With connected smart home devices, users can remotely turn off heat or air that was accidentally left on, close blinds if the day turns hot, and designate settings for lights to conserve energy. 

In a connected IoT world, a simple voice command will unlock doors for friends, preheat ovens on the way home, and open garage doors as the user is turning onto the street. Safety and convenience are elements increasingly demanded by consumers and integrating smart home technology with voice assistants inside and outside the home provides an improved customer experience.

AI-Powered IoT Devices Improve Connivence and Efficiency

Houndify IoT Infographic

3. Conversational AI for a natural voice user interface

The importance of having a voice user interface that mimics humans and understands complex and compound queries is the foundation upon which good user experiences are built. According to the Opus Research Survey, 98% of IoT leaders consider accuracy and speed the number-one success metric for voice AI. It’s not surprising, considering that voice assistants are not meeting their most basic expectations without the ability to deliver accurate and fast results.

98% of IoT leaders consider accuracy and speed the number-one success metric for voice AI.

Opus Research Survey

Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and are demanding more natural, conversational interactions with voice AI that don’t require having to memorize preset phrases for the voice assistant to understand them. 

Advanced voice AI technology that tracks speech in real-time elevates voice user interfaces (VUIs) from robotic interactions to conversational exchanges that are more like talking to another human. Depending on the use case, performance-enhancing technologies such as echo cancellation and noise reduction, beamforming, and speaker ID ensure manufacturers can deliver the best voice experience possible.

For example, the ability to filter out background noise in cars where there are other passengers and sound from the road is critical to a frictionless voice experience for drivers and passengers.

Voice assistants in homes, offices, and hotels must create a level of trust with their users and be able to understand accents, imprecise speech, and multiple languages. Nothing is more frustrating for a user than not being understood by the voice assistant or not being able to access the voice user interface due to a language barrier. Implementing voice assistants built on technology that delivers accurate results when faced with complex queries, background noise, different grammar rules, accents, and other languages, companies will increase customer loyalty, positive reviews, and revenue opportunities. 

Want to learn more about how voice user interfaces can understand compound and complex commands in a natural, conversational way? Check out this demo of the Houndify voice assistant and its unprecedented speed and accuracy.

4. Specialty content domains for proprietary operations

As long as a device is connected to the internet, it lives in the realm of the IoT. The number of IoT devices is growing exponentially, and Business Insider projects that there will be more than 41 billion IoT devices by 2027—up from about 8 billion in 2019. A study by Sequans revealed that voice-enabled IoT devices are in smart buildings, smart cities, healthcare, utilities, retail, industrial, manufacturing, and vehicles. The key to creating successful voice assistants in each IoT industry is customization and singularity of purpose by using specialty content domains to address specific use cases and provide the smartest voice interaction possible.

There will be more than 41 billion IoT devices by 2027, up from about 8 billion in 2019.

Business Insider

For example, when asking smart home technology about temperature, a user would expect the voice assistant to differentiate between the current outside temperature and the oven temperature. Specialty content domains help the voice assistant understand the user’s request within the context of the device’s purpose. As customers increasingly demand better voice user interfaces, companies can stop designing their voice assistants as though they are smart speakers and begin to focus on voice experiences designed with specialized knowledge for specific purposes. 

5. Brand identity and the disintermediated voice assistant

By incorporating custom voice assistants into IoT devices, companies can include their voice experience into existing or evolving sonic branding strategies with features like branded wake words and a unique TTS voice. The tone, voice, and other audio elements of a custom voice assistant’s persona help to communicate key branding elements and increase loyalty and brand affinity.

custom wake word is key to creating an immediate connection from the user to the brand. By saying “Hey Pandora” or “OK Hyundai” users interact directly with the brand and create lasting memories of the product and service. In fact, 95% of IoT leaders in the Opus Research Survey feel that a custom wake word is either important or very important. Implementing a voice assistant with a distinct voice persona and a custom wake word, and combining voice AI with sound effects, jingles, and other elements of sonic branding, companies can strengthen their brand values and messaging.

95% of IoT leaders feel that a custom wake word is either important or very important.

Opus Research Survey

No matter the choice of connectivity, voice-enabling smart home technology, creating a natural voice user interface, and using specialty content domains, provides a way for companies to improve IoT device functionality while offering superior customer experiences and controlling brand identity and customer relationships. As the trends toward voice user interfaces grow, now is the time for IoT companies to evaluate the benefits of voice AI and begin investing in innovations that will keep them competitive in a rapidly evolving market. 

Interested in more information about voice assistants in the IoT industry? Check out our infographic, AI-Powered IoT Devices Improve Convenience and Efficiency.

Recently, Opus Research published a research report based on a global survey of 320 business leaders in 8 industries conducted to get the pulse of the state of voice assistant implementation and the trends toward custom voice AI solutions. You can read the report in its entirety and see the on-demand webinar to learn, “The Business Value of Customized Voice Assistants”.

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

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