The Voice Recognition Take Over

Ten years ago, I thought voice activation would only ever exist in sci-fi films. Today, we have Siri and Cortana on devices that we use daily. This is software built into our smartphones and laptops to improve ease of use and accessibility – your own virtual, personal assistant.

We use them somewhat infrequently. You have to speak clearly and precisely to send a text or open a webpage but for the most part they do actually work. This software is also used outside of our phones too, only recently I was in a lift where voice recognition was used to get you to your desired floor.

Where did it begin?

When Apple and Siri were first introduced, the reviews were generally indifferent. Often Siri wouldn’t recognise particular accents and it would typically take three or four attempts for it just to interpret “Hi, Siri”. But since its launch Siri has come on leaps and bounds, now supporting a total of 22 different languages. Plus Apple claim it can now recognise a whole host of regional dialects.

Cortana, Microsoft’s offering, is now two years old and seems to be learning from Siri’s experience – whilst the fact it is now available to download on iPhone shows there could be some competition between the two. In December 2015, Apple claimed “Siri has little to fear from Microsoft’s virtual assistant” but if there is no fear there why are they acknowledging Cortana by writing about it?

Voice recognition could transform account access

Recently I telephoned First Direct and was informed about their Voice ID Security verification tool that they are due to implement. This is meant to transform the way in which we access our accounts over the phone – no longer will be need to stipulate our password, Mothers maiden name and our date of birth.

Instead this system will recognise your voice and know that it is you, subsequently providing you access. But just how safe is this method? There surely must be issues of people having a similar voice, or perhaps your own voice being altered by illness or a sore throat – would this then restrict your access even when it truly is you?

But with First Direct promising that a digital voice “print” is much more secure than any of the current methods we use – it is surely only a matter of time before we discover just how successful it will be.


Skype Is The New Black

So we’re all familiar with Skype. When a family member moves to another country, you Skype them. When you watch any American film where someone has gone missing, they get in touch via Skype. Naturally then, we assume Skype is a consumer focused product that’s quite handy if you want to save money when calling abroad.

However, in recent years, we have adopted Skype as a business tool for IM (instant message) as some managers that have done business overseas seemed to favour it. But there was quite an obvious problem having all of your imported Facebook friends on your desktop in your open plan office as your team leader walked past.

Welcome to the market, Skype For Business.

Masquerading as Microsoft Lync for some years, Skype For Business has barged it’s way in and is now a critical component for any modern day business.

During a recent Polycom event in New York, “Workplace Of The Future”, was referenced no less than ten times and this wasn’t solely promoting the new range of conference and collaboration tools. Polycom have recognized that SfB (Skype for Business) cannot be ignored and is firmly here to stay. The Workplace Of The Future looks like huddle rooms and conference rooms kitted out with user friendly interfaces, high resolution cameras and 1080p HD screens – all fully integrated with Skype for Business.

Being late for a meeting with missing attendees is a thing of the past as you send your Skype meeting invite direct from Outlook (without the need for an integration license) and connect to the rest of your business via mobile, tablet, PC, conference phone, desk handset etc.

So what do I get with it?

The basic tools such as presence, directories, meet on demand, video calling, content sharing are all high end as standard and send a real message to competitors. But the most impressive function is the seemingly seamless integration with your telephony setup. Is it too loud in your office to conduct a call over Skype through your laptop mic? Switch to your desk phone with one click. Need to setup a white board session when you’re talking desk phone to mobile… no problem.

Polycom feature a key sentence in their sales collateral: Modern workforces are dynamic and mobile, and demand high productivity regardless of locations or devices they are on at the time. Now we all recognise Polycom as the market leader for voice handsets but they are making strides in the right direction by working hand in hand with SfB. Together, these two brands have created ground breaking user experiences in the video and collaboration world. The latest conference phone, RealPresence Trio, supports content sharing through SfB so well that you could be forgiven for calling it the Skype phone.

What next for Skype for Business?

Skype TX4 has just been introduced for broadcasting customers via the Skype blog and backs up the Polycom and Microsoft belief that SfB is here to stay. Skype TX4 allows the integration of multiple studio-grade Skype video calls into one broadcasting, on top of its already impressive ability to include a 300-million-user potential cast into “the studio workflow.” It’s a comfortable agreement that SfB is currently unparalleled so get deploying.