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The rise of voice: Applications and implications of this humble yet game changing technology

Today we are doing calls, setting alarms, requesting songs, and having the news read to us, all through a simple voice command. Voice assistants are becoming ubiquitous on every phone and people are increasingly bringing these devices inside their homes. In today's post we have a quick look at the rise of voice, how the applications of voice can expand over time, and what would the implications of that be for customers and businesses.


Almost every global tech giant today is working on developing expertise in voice technology. Apple's Siri is well heard off with an install base of a billion plus devices, but Amazon's Alexa, Google's Google Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana aren't too far behind. Samsung has also thrown its hat in the mix with Bixby, its very own voice assistant. And they are building entire ecosystems around these assistants, pouring millions of dollars into startups building products that integrate with their voice engine in the race to become the best voice ecosystem. The race for the PC has been won by Microsoft, and the race for the smartphone seems tied between Google and Apple. The race for voice however, is still very much open. And every major tech giant wants to win it!


So what applications could this extend into? Search, smart homes and security, e-commerce, customer support, news, music, podcasts, and now even healthcare. Those are some of the many sectors ripe for disruption. The extent of change in each of these however may differ widely. Search and e-commerce for example can see a sea of change in the voice world, especially given that a lot of these applications will be done without a screen. (Gartner predicts 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020). While the implications of job losses via automating away BPO operations would grab the most headlines in the years to come, its the screen-less voice applications that we should be a lot more afraid of.


The fallout of a screen-less voice world would most likely be more standardization, much better customer retention once you've secured a customer, and consequently the strong getting a lot stronger. And why might that be? Because what the visual medium allows you to do is check multiple data points across products and take a better decision. So if you are looking up toothpaste on Amazon for example, you can check out the price range, seller rating, discount, and brand for atleast 12 products on one screen. When it comes to voice, there are a lot fewer options and data points that can be read to you without it being a nightmare of the customer. The way this could play out is one a reduction in the indicators you would know before taking a decision, and a reduction in the number of options you are given. SKUs will be standardized with time, with only a few set weights/dimension options to be given to the customer. If the tech players are a feeling a little bit monopolistic, they might just bring in a private label of their own for every regular product out there and effectively give you a choice between the market leader and their private label as the first voice output, with an option to consider more products if you want to. Most people probably won't! (How many times have you used the second page of Google search?). What this effectively means for you as a business is, unless you have a high-value specialized product, you will effectively need to have a brand strong enough for the customer to order your product directly, or be big enough to be the #1 or #2 player in your space.


As a consumer it will be interesting to see the developments in the space as the humongous compute power makes voice engines even better with time. As a business, now would be as good a time as any to contemplate on how to to survive and thrive in the screenless voice world.

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Zapp 5: (Day's 5 top stories in 3 lines or less)

1. Sensex jumps 170 points: The senses rose for the second straight day on the back of positive global cues.

2. Factory output drops 3.8% Retail inflation rises to 5.54% : Unseasonal rains drove up vegetable prices with food prices jumping 10%; Factory output remained muted driven by weak holiday season.

3. Airlines see 11.2% growth in domestic traffic: Most likely led by sharply decreased prices by most airlines in an attempt to increase occupancy in the downturn. Spicejet grew fastest followed by Indigo.

4. ITC ramps up frozen food business: ITC, which is focussed on ramping up its non cigarette FMCG business, is building supply chain and increasing penetration for this still nascent segment.

5. Donald Trump tweets about being 'very close' to a trade deal: US offers to cut tariffs by as much as 50% and suspend new tariffs; SP500 surges to new high





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