OK Google, Alexa, Hey Siri – The Rise of Voice Control Technology

Posted on : 30-04-2018 | By : kerry.housley | In : Consumer behaviour, Finance, FinTech, Innovation, Predictions

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OK Google, Alexa, Hey Siri…. All too familiar phrases around the home now, but it was not that long ago that we did not know what a ‘smart phone’ was! Today most people could not live without one. Imagine not being able to check your email, instant message friends or watch a movie whilst on the move.  How long will it be before we no will no longer need a keyboard, instead talking to your computer will be the norm!

The development of voice activated technology in the home will ultimately revolutionise the way we command and control our computers. Google Home has enabled customers to shop with its partners, pay for the transaction and have goods delivered all without the touch of a keyboard. How useful could this be integrated into the office environment? Adding a voice to mundane tasks will enable employees to be more productive and free up time allowing them to manage their workflow and daily tasks more efficiently.

Voice-based systems has grown more powerful with the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud-based computing power and highly optimised algorithms. Modern speech recognition systems, combined with almost pristine text-to-speech voices that are almost indistinguishable from human speech, are ushering in a new era of voice-driven computing. As the technology improves and people become more accustomed to speaking to their devices, digital assistants will change how we interact with and think about technology.

There are many areas of business where this innovative technology will be most effective. Using voice control in customer service will transform the way businesses interact with their customers and improve the customer experience.

Many banks are in the process of, if they haven’t done so already, of introducing voice biometric technology. Voice control enables quick access to telephone banking without the need to remember a password every time you call or log in. No need to wade through pages of bank account details or direct debits to make your online payments instead a digital assistant makes the payment for you.

Santander has trialled a system that allows customers to make transfers to existing payees on their account by using voice recognition. Customers access the process by speaking into an application on their mobile device.

Insurance companies are also realising the benefits voice control can bring to their customers. HDFC  Insurance, an Indian firm, has announced the launch of its AI enabled chatbot on Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa. It aims to offer a 24/7 customer assistance with instant solutions to customer queries. Thereby creating an enhanced customer service experience, allowing them to get easy access to information about policies, simply with the use of voice commands.

It could also help to streamline the claims process where inefficiencies in claims documentation take up insurers’ time and money. Claims processors spend as much as 50% of their day typing reports and documentation; speech recognition could rapidly reduce the time it takes to complete the process. US company Nuance claims that their Dragon Speech Recognition Solution can enable agents to dictate documents three times faster than typing with up to 99% accuracy. They can use simple voice commands to collapse the process further.

Retailers too are turning to this technology. With competition so tough on the high street retailers are always looking for the ultimate customer experience and many believe that voice control is a great way to achieve this. Imagine a mobile app where you could scan shopping items, then pay using a simple voice command or a selfie as you leave the store. No more queuing at the till.

Luxury department store Liberty is a big advocate of voice control and uses it for their warehouse stock picking. Using headsets and a voice controlled application, a voice controlled app issues commands to a central server about which products should be picked. For retailers voice control is hit on and off the shop floor.

So, how accurate is voice recognition? Accuracy rates are improving all the time with researchers commenting that some systems could be better than human transcription. In 1995 the error rate was 43%, today the major vendors claim an error rate of just 5%.

Security is a major factor users still face with verification requiring two factor authentication with mobile applications. However, as the technology develops there should be less of a need to confirm an individual’s identity before commands can be completed.

As advances are made in artificial intelligence and machine learning the sky will be limit for Alexa and her voice control friends. In future stopping what you are doing and typing in a command or search will start to feel a little strange and old-fashioned.


How long will it be before you can pick up your smart phone talk to your bank and ask it to transfer £50 to a friend, probably not as far away prospect as you might think!!

What does the future hold for Retail Banking?

Posted on : 30-08-2012 | By : jo.rose | In : Finance

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A recent survey found that a majority of consumers would prefer to have their bank accounts run by the likes of John Lewis, Waitrose or Amazon. Not surprising given that every time you open the paper there is another example of the industry under fire from all corners, be it regulators, politicians, the media and in some cases, themselves.

Indeed, taking a look at Yougov’s BrandIndex for Natwest and Barclays during the IT systems failure and the Libor scandal, they plummeted to -63 and -59 on the daily Buzz and -22 and -24 on Brand Perception respectively (the index is comprised of six key image measures). Not far short of BP during the 2010 oil spill.

In the survey over 75% stated they would switch to a more reputable brand, with less than a third actually satisfied with their banks customer service. The industry is under fire and it’s future difficult to predict in terms of shape, size and competition. What is certain is that in order to maintain a profitable and sustainable retail banking model things need to change.

So, what are the issues and trends facing the industry?

  • Regulatory and Political: increased regulation from the likes of Basel III, RDR, FATCA and Mifid II, implications of Leveson inquiry, capital and liquidity requirements
  • Economic Pressure and Competition: impacts of Eurozone crisis, a shift sovereign wealth distribution, lower margins, increased competition from incumbents and new entrants to the market
  • Products and Channels: how to meet customer expectations and needs in terms of areas such as mobile payments, increased transparency for customer products and more innovation
  • Operating Model: increased pressure on efficiency for operations, agility in product launch and technology commoditisation/consumerisation

All of these areas, combined with the decrease in trust and a requirement to “ease” customer switching processes between banks, are really putting a squeeze on the industry.

On the competition side, there are real threats coming to the traditional high street banks. We have already seen new entrants in the form of Metro Bank which as well as challenging the customer service experience, have benefited from not having the legacy/complexity of IT systems so can provide a more integrated experience to the customer.

Other players such as Tesco and Virgin Money are imminently entering the current account and mortgage markets, both benefiting from brand affinity and cross selling opportunities through customer analytics.

Alongside this there is a rise in peer-to-peer lenders and investment vehicles (such as Zoopla and Thincats) who have capitalised on the market situation, low cost base and limited regulation to provide competitive services.

In terms of innovation of products and channels, there have been some examples recently of developments in this area;

  • RBS: launched “Get Cash” technology in 2012 that allows for the ability to withdraw up to £100 in case without the need for a card through a secure pass code
  • Barclays: launched “Pingit” mobile payments service, allowing  on a peer-to-peer transactions for UK customers via mobile phones
  • Banco Bradesco: opened “bank of the future” with state of the art technology including biometric ATM’s, smart walls, avatars and robot greeters

However, alongside this innovation, we expect the whole non-bank payments industry to provide significant challenges and competition. Companies like Paypal have a strong foothold and new entrants such as Monitise are increasing share in the mobile payments space rapidly, both organically and through acquisition.

Then consider this against the likelihood of “Generation Z” (usually categorised as those born after 1995) relying on their smart phones entirely for payments i.e. not having a requirement for traditional bank accounts but a strong desire (indeed expectation) of services being provided through existing and emerging peer/social media technology channels.

So it’s going to be tough for a few years…and only those banks that react to the challenges and evolve through this period will survive.