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Voice Tech and Applications: Same Dog, New Tricks

When labeling "transformative technologies" for the enterprise, Silicon Valley tends to fixate on isolated offerings like predictive analytics, big data, or the Internet of Things. These topics are indisputably fascinating and have exciting implications for the future, but the innovations that will make the broadest impact are those already fully networked into our lives.

In some cases, a transformative attitude might simply mean looking at a traditional technology in a novel way. New integrations and applications of voice, for example, are leading to a business world in which information is constantly flowing and people seamlessly interact and collaborate with machines.

As SMS and other messaging services become the default communication for consumers around the world, to say that voice is rising may seem counterintuitive. Yet, the two aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, linking voice with other technologies and imagining different use cases has opened the door to innovation.

Voice will continue to augment messaging as it takes on new functions. A phone system remains integral to business communications and operations, and has evolved to support a globalized economy and new features and functionality that make processes sleeker and more strategic. Voice service, once pigeonholed as a single function, has grown to encompass so much. Reimagining voice as a component of other types of communication has created new opportunities for businesses to operate more efficiently. Chat, which most people regard as a text-based activity, can be faster and simpler when tied to voice. Voice can also make working with artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing faster and less invasive, enabling busy professionals to work and communicate without spending as much time in front of their screens.

How Voice Opens the Door to Innovation

Voice technology has been a critical part of the business world for decades. Calls are a fundamental part of professional interaction, and form the basis of most sales strategies (and therefore company revenue). Sales software has increasingly moved to the cloud and, as a result, embedded voice services along with them.

Voice APIs not only allow integration into sales and other SaaS applications, but have brought about a new generation of application development. Bringing together voice services with next-generation applications and services like chat and AI present exciting opportunities for the enterprise. Companies will be able to improve customer interactions by analyzing voice conversations and leaving personalized voice messages, and they'll be able to expedite operations with voice-assisted AI.

Making Voice the Chat of Choice

Voice communication services have newer use cases as well; they're often a more efficient way of messaging, the possibilities of which are only just beginning to be explored. To get an idea of what even the most fundamental voice tools are capable of, look at what's reportedly happening in Buenos Aires. Some of the people of Argentina's capital city are sending fewer text messages. Instead, these residents have started to rely on recorded voice memos, sent to one another in lieu of a written message. It's a simple functionality available to most smartphone owners, but the functionality hasn't truly taken off in the United States.

Anecdotally, Argentinians asked why they prefer voice messaging over text messaging most commonly responded that they were "too lazy" to write text messages. In other words, communicating via voice recording was more efficient. These sound bites combine the single-thought immediacy of a standard SMS with the speed of voice. It's certainly worth watching to see if the trend will catch on.

Any channel of communication that consumers latch onto inevitably makes its way into the enterprise, and chat is no exception. Using voice memos in the enterprise would benefit workers who are multitasking or in transit, without requiring expensive investment in trendy new software, or wearable hardware.

Voice to Meet You, Mr. Robot

Voice conversations don't always have to be with other humans. In fact, voice processing has played a major role in AI innovation, with a variety of companies developing ways in which we can interact with machines via voice. One New York company, SiSense, already is grooming AI as a quicker, less expensive replacement for a business analyst. It is testing the use of AI as part of its Business Intelligence Virtually Everywhere Initiative, which makes use of its business intelligence and data analysis software. By linking its software to digital intelligence, Sisense enables users to learn about their business and industry without having to look anything up manually. Voice commands spare users from digging through files or typing, making data simpler to access.

Voice commands are fast and unlike manual entry, they don't require looking at a screen. This non-intrusive approach allows consumers and professionals to cycle through tasks quickly without breaking stride from their daily routines. Many consumers are already interacting with a kind of voice AI on a day-to-day basis in the form of automated phone menus (also known as IVR). These menus save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars and help customers become acclimated to vocally interfacing with a machine.

The next frontier of voice technology and connected communications will contribute to a more sophisticated world and more efficient businesses. If companies build these new applications of voice technology into their systems, it will pave the way for a more agile and strategic way of working, where people and machines interface seamlessly.