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!!

Are our banks missing an opportunity? Why can’t bank accounts be like this?

Posted on : 31-10-2012 | By : richard.gale | In : Finance

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Banks are getting a bad press for a variety of reasons. We have a few thoughts on how banks can improve their customers’ experience and so gaining and maintaining a happier set of clients.

What if your bank could take some of the mundane tasks away from you and save you money? Sounds too good to be true – possibly – it will involve an increase in trust and also the sharing of more of your personal information but you could end up with something that is both better and cheaper than a traditional banking relationship. 

Many banks offer additional banking services such as sweep accounts but we think there is room for a truly integrated bank account. People already shop around for the best deals in home & car insurance, home fuels, loans, savings and other regular or large payment items why can’t this be part of your bank account service?
Your bank already holds a great deal of information about you – it knows your salary, your mortgage, your loans, your spending on car, clothing, holidays and pretty much everything else. It can infer how many children you have and what their sex/ages are, it can tell if you are an impulsive spender or a saver.

It probably knows you, financially at least, better than you! In fact the big four banks probably have more information about a large proportion of the population than anyone else, even the government (or Google….).

This can be seen as a negative and with ‘big brother’ potential and many safeguards are in place to protect your data but in the same way that many people embrace the sharing of their information (on Facebook, Google or Amazon) then allowing access to information may improve your financial well-being.

Utility bills are a good example where there is both a mechanism to enable people identify cheaper deals and change suppliers but with little take up (only a very small percentage of us switch suppliers each year). Why is that? Inertia, time, information, complexity and a lack of transparency all factor.

This is where we think the retail banks could help. Your bank know your spending history and if you give them access to your meter readings (manually now but smart meters very soon) then they could perform a similar task as uswitch.com and transfer you over to a better deal without you having to get involved.

Additional potential maybe in their ability to get a better deal through bulk buying; imagine the same principle applied to car insurance (you need to give them your car/driver details), mortgage & home insurance (house info). It could even check if you have a vehicle loan, when it expires and work out options (perhaps a little more interactivity) to re-finance/buy/sell your car.

Each month your bank statement could also list the savings it has made for you that month and also areas where you could have saved to encourage you to extend the services provided.

When saving money then this starts to make sense – even though the reputation of banks has been battered over the last few years they are still the guardians of our money (we’ve previously discussed the potential for tech/other companies entry into the market) and we already provide them with a great deal of information about ourselves and trust them to keep it safe. If they can be seen as our partners in improving our lives (saving money, freeing up time, improving our services) then it may just work.

These are just ideas and obviously there will need to be a whole host of safeguards in place covering data privacy, any conflicts of interest between the banks own and external competing products but we think, given some trust on both sides, then there could be big benefits – perhaps one of the new entrants to the market (Virgin? Metro Bank?) or one of the more innovative existing banks could bring this to market? Another group of FS firms we think could do it would be the mutually owned Building Societies – they have a good and improving reputation for customer trust and integrity?

Handing over the mundane tasks to your bank may be attractive but one thing you would still have to do you self is work out if you were getting the best deal from your bank – but we’re sure it wouldn’t be long before there would be new comparison sites set up for bank services….