Voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant are embedded in tens of millions of devices today. As of the second quarter of 2019, US smart speaker ownership rose to 76 million, with the devices finding their way into about 60% of US households, according to www.voicebot.ai. To this end, voice assistants are the fastest-growing consumer technology ever—even faster than our beloved smartphones. Despite the proliferation of voice-enabled devices, many still consider them novelties. The most commonly used functions are setting a timer, playing music, and checking the weather—hardly life-altering capabilities. But this is going to change.
Home automation is an excellent example of what is possible beyond the basics. I have Amazon Alexa enabled devices throughout my home—two Emerson thermostats, six Echos, a Ring doorbell and video camera, and a dozen or so electrical plugs. My family still thinks I’m crazy, but the ease of use is slowly winning them over. Setting timers is an everyday occurrence. Turning lamps on and off around the house is happening more frequently. With our new Ring video camera, we’re even checking in on the cats.
I often joke that we are soft creatures, easily wooed by comfort and ease, even if it’s a matter of saving a few seconds here and there or not having to take a few steps. No, it’s not hard to turn on a lamp. No, it’s not hard to look up the temperature on my phone. No, it’s not hard to set the oven timer. Still—executing these mundane tasks with your voice is faster. And yes, we will all soon be doing it—mark my words.
But what about our professional lives? After all, we experience many mechanical, repetitive tasks that take time and get in the way of productivity. Time, whether it be with our family or colleagues, is the one thing that cannot be built, recycled, or purchased. So, saving a few seconds here and there is our best chance of reclaiming that precious commodity.
At Comcast Business, we are embracing a future where your voice can be used in the office, as well. For example, how many times a week do you dial into a conference call? As simple as it is, fat-fingering is a reality, and precious collaboration time is frequently wasted. I often say, “death, taxes, and the first seven minutes of every meeting being burned on technology are the three guarantees in life.” How much easier would it be to say, “Alexa, start my conference call?” I can tell you from first-hand experience: it’s a lot easier and faster.
The other day I was running late for a meeting I was hosting. As I entered my office, I asked Alexa to start my conference call, and the conference bridge opened before I could sit down. That’s a magical moment. Have you ever had to start a conference call while driving? Starting your conference using a voice assistant becomes safe, simple, and quick—another magical moment.
Business VoiceEdge, our cloud-based phone and unified communications service, comes complimentary with Alexa-enabled conferencing support. VoiceEdge is also supported with additional Alexa skills that facilitate quick user updates for call forwarding, do not disturb, calling, and even help and support. Any Business VoiceEdge customer can enable these skills by going to Amazon’s Alexa skill store and searching for Comcast Business. Any Echo device, including the new Echo Buds and Echo Auto, are supported for on-the-go convenience.
It's easy to forget the awesome experience of using a new technology for the first time, like the iPhone upon its release in 2007 or the newfound convenience of grabbing an Uber in 2011. Yet these onetime novelties managed to find their way into everyday work and home life. Voice assistants will be no different, soon becoming a daily norm because they simplify our lives and allow us to be more efficient with our time -- “Alexa, please publish this post.”