When voice technology was first introduced with the launch of Siri more than a decade ago, few people could have anticipated how this novel feature would become such a driver for innovation. Today, more than a quarter of U.S. adults own a smart speaker (Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.), and eMarketer predicts that roughly 92 percent of smartphone users will be using voice assistants within the next year.
But what about the innovation that voice technology has inspired in various industries to drive efficiency and cost savings? In response to consumer and market demands, a variety of industries have begun to use voice interfaces for various purposes.
What is Voice Technology?
Voice recognition is the ability of a device to receive and interpret verbal direction. Voice recognition isn’t the same as speech recognition, which only focuses on translating words from a verbal form into a text one. In other words, with voice recognition, a person can give a machine a command, and that machine will understand it and act on it as intended.
Voice technology originated on PCs but was integrated into smartphones and other devices. It has become more accessible in homes and businesses, providing consumers and workers with new ways to get things done faster and more efficiently.
The Rise of Voice Technology in Recent Years
Voice recognition technology now allows consumers and businesses to tackle any number of tasks, from the trivial to the technical. Whether it’s asking a smart speaker to play your favorite song or directing a complex piece of machinery to manufacture x number of parts, AI-enabled voice assistants have come a long way in just the past few years.
If you were to apply Moore’s Law, every time a new technology is introduced, there will be a significantly shorter period of time than the preceding technology before the new one reaches mass adoption. Voice technology has been one of the fastest to date.
Emarketer predicts that 33.2 U.S. consumers will use a smart speaker to shop in 2022. And according to a report by Opus Research and Deepgram, 77% of companies are using voice technology to identify new business opportunities, and 62% are leveraging it to increase revenue.
How Voice Technology Impacts Consumers and Businesses
Voice technology is growing at a rapid pace thanks to its increasing number of benefits like flexibility, accessibility, and better productivity. Using voice over traditional access methods has grown in sectors like healthcare, gaming, eCommerce, manufacturing, education, and warehousing.
Voice technology has improved the buying experience for eCommerce consumers by helping them place orders online. According to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
Roughly 21% of U.S. smart speaker owners have purchased movies or music using the devices. And 8% have used them to buy household goods. Some appliances, such as refrigerators, will soon be armed with voice technology, allowing consumers to tell their fridge to “order more food.”
On the business side, voice-enabled eCommerce, or v-commerce, will be huge. Businesses can receive these orders through smart devices. They can also use voice technology on the back end to process orders and make their operations more efficient.
Leveraging Voice Technology in the Warehouse Industry
What happens at the warehouse level is foundational to the success or failure of any business today that serves customers. Consumers want transparency in their shopping experiences, which involves providing fast and efficient service that includes real-time data about the status of an order. This is tough to achieve when your workers are using clipboards, spreadsheets, and outdated technology.
One of the ways warehouses are achieving the highest levels of efficiency and transparency is through the adoption of voice technology. Voice can support everything that happens in your warehouse. Here are several ways the warehouse industry is leveraging voice technology:
1. Voice Picking
The most common use for voice technology in the warehouse industry is with the picking function. Warehouses have been using voice and speech recognition software for several decades, but today’s technology is much more advanced.
Combined with a warehouse management system (WMS), this hands-free, speech-based picking system allows warehouse workers to receive simple voice prompts telling them which items to select.
Workers wear wireless mobile headsets for communication with the system. Once they locate and “pick” the item provided to them, they can verbally confirm the task through the headset. The system will record the information and move on to the next task.
Voice picking has many benefits, including fewer errors, higher productivity rates, and less walking for workers between various warehouse stations.
2. Voice-Guided Training
Everyone hired by a warehouse needs training, whether it be safety-related or on job-specific duties. Some of the issues inherent in employee training are different comprehension levels, time and schedule constraints, and language barriers.
Voice-guided training addresses all of these issues. It can be used for cross-training as well as onboarding new employees. Voice training can be offered in any language, on demand, and it is simple to use.
3. Voice Inspection and Repairs
Warehouse equipment needs frequent inspection, maintenance, repair, and replacement. And any downtime can be costly. When workers don’t have the resources necessary to get this done efficiently, losses can accumulate quickly.
Voice technology can be used to streamline the inspection, maintenance, repair, and installation process to minimize these issues. Wearing a headset, a worker can receive step-by-step instructions to complete an otherwise complex task.
4. Voice Data Collection and Analysis
Because most warehouse voice systems are integrated with a WMS, they are collecting and analyzing data in real-time. This means that your warehouse worker can “ask” the system about things like inventory levels, incoming shipments, performance metrics, and machinery maintenance schedules. This information can help your workers and manager make more informed business decisions.
Technological advancements are making voice assistants more capable, and consumer preferences are making these initiatives a must. But voice technology provides so many benefits to businesses in terms of efficiency, that making a case to ignore these solutions would be tough.