Digital Assistants - Reordering Consumer Lives & Redefining Digital Marketing

Published On: March 2018

Global Digital Assistance Market, By Connectivity (Professional, Managed), By Product (Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Crotona), By Applications (Wearable Device, Smart Homes, TV Device) - Forecast 2023

The major tech companies are putting these digital assistants, powered by artificial intelligence algorithms and activated by voice, into multiple products. It is a strategic thrust to enmesh further in their ecosystems, deepening and potentially adding sources of revenue.

What’s becoming loud and clear is that a machine’s ability to recognize and process speech will be integral to the "Internet of Things" universe, from wearables to connected cars, to home automation, and appliances.

Siri, Alexa, Crotona the unstoppable rise of the digital assistant

Intelligent digital assistants with names like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana represent the latest front in the war between the leading consumer technology companies. Embedded in some of the most widely used devices and internet services. They are designed to respond to ordinary language, anticipate what users are likely to need next or take on basic tasks. Whether providing direct answers to spoken questions, sending warnings when traffic problems might make you late for a meeting or automatically putting appointments in your calendar, the aim is the same: to make digital existence less of a routine.

What is becoming loud and clear is that a machine’s ability to recognize and process speech will be integral to the "Internet of Things" universe, from wearables to connected cars, to home automation and appliances.

Apple's Siri, most known voice on the iPhone, has already made its presence felt on the latest Apple TV box, on the Apple Watch, and inside the vehicle, user drives, via CarPlay. Google's voice is heard on the Android and Google Now spectrum, and when you're at the wheel using Android Auto. Microsoft's Cortana has moved beyond Windows Phones onto rival smartphones, Windows 10 PCs and tablets, and cars. Alexa, the cloud-based voice-activated assistant inhabiting Amazon’s increasingly popular line of Echo wireless speakers, is now broadcasting from a non-Amazon device, a sandwich-sized speaker called Triby.

Not just in smartphones

Meanwhile, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa have been upgraded to make them more useful. This has included planting them in more devices. Alexa, a voice assistant developed first for Amazon's Echo household device, is now available for other hardware makers to use in their own products. Siri has been installed on Mac computers. This cross-device reach has already turned out to be one of the most popular features of the agents.

Improvements in speech recognition technology and other advances had led to a steady increase in the uptake of voice-activated systems. Microsoft recently said it has gained 100 million users a month for Crotona. On the other hand, Apple claimed 2 billion interactions a week over Siri. Google says one-fifth of the searches on Android phones in the US are carried out by voice.

Are Wearable Devices going to create an impact on digital assistance market?

The popularity of wearable devices is continuing to mount including smartwatches and fitness trackers. Wearable devices are a hit among the youngsters as well as in the elder generation. Wearable devices like smartwatches and wristbands are the most popular and hold the largest share of the wearable devices market. Today, even the wearable devices are integrated with digital assistants and are helping in enhancing the user experience. Wearable devices after implementing cognitive technology have increased the usability and accuracy of the device.

Wearable devices have great opportunities across various industry verticals like healthcare, consumer interaction, enterprise, and others. In the healthcare sector, the wearable devices help in increasing proactive healthcare measures to monitor health effects and convey the health status to healthcare providers. These devices help in detecting health issues at an early stage as they can continuously monitor a person’s health. This will also help medical science to better understand the effects of lifestyle choices on an individual’s health. Digital assistance is very much implemented into the wearable devices to provide the users with the better user interface and offer convenience. Hence wearable devices are responsible for driving the growth of the digital assistant market.

Deep Learning. Why is this happening now?

An acceleration in computing power and storage that have enabled the collection and mining of huge data sets known as Big Data has helped voice activation leap forward. According to Google, voice recognition error rates are down to about 8% compared to around 25% just a few years ago.

As digital assistants mature, users' comfort level with their vocal alter-egos is also rising. According to a recent survey by Mind Meld, a provider of intelligent conversational voice interfaces, 2015 was a tipping point in the adoption of voice assistants on smartphones. 55% of users relied on the voice assistants regularly in the most recent three months surveyed, up from 49% in the prior quarter, in 2015.

Microsoft is opening up Crotona’s natural language capabilities to developers interested in building speech-enabled applications. During its recent Build developer conference, Microsoft unveiled Skype Bots and demonstrated how Cortana can help manage your calendar and connect you to other bots from inside a Skype video chat.

Is data privacy going to be an issue?

Already, there are millions of proto-Jarvises running around in pockets, in the form of digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s search assistant. These virtual helpers use artificial intelligence to parse what users say or type, and return useful information. More recent updates to Siri and Google have taught the assistants to guess at what users want to know before they’re asked, sounding in with notifications about a traffic jam at the appropriate time.

Like nearly everything else on the Internet, user requests will leave a trail of particles. Questions directed at Siri and Google’s voice search get sent to their respective companies, paired with unique device IDs that aren’t connected to specific users. Apple stores Siri requests with device IDs for six months, and then deletes the ID and keeps the audio for another 18 months; Google’s retention policy wasn’t immediately available.

When saved queries—and often, associated location data—are connected to user accounts, they can paint a very accurate picture of users’ habits, travels, and preferences. Often, that’s a great thing: Google Now wouldn’t be able to return stunningly useful results without being able to read your email and dip into your search history. Detailed voice-search history also allows companies to learn user’s vocal idiosyncrasies and teach them to understand spoken requests better. Google is promising to bring its know-it-all artificial intelligence platform even to conversations having with other people. That means that Google can capture a wealth of new information, and from a setting that feels inherently more private.

Google is released new chat platform called Allo this summer, and its flagship feature is a search assistant that’s always waiting in the wings for a chance to help. For the artificial intelligence component of Allo to work, Google’s servers need to be able to listen to your conversations—so Google chose not to protect messages sent on Allo by default with end-to-end encryption, a strong security protocol that only allows a message sender and recipient to decode the contents of a message.

Challenges faced by digital assistants

Digital assistants are quite new to the market and fall under the category of upcoming technologies with the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence. With the growing technology, there has been a considerable increase in the updating digital assistants. Integrating digital assistants into new devices is quite easy. But integrating these digital assistants into the old devices is quite a task. Digital assistants no doubt is improving, but are far behind for us to rely on to perform complex tasks on their own. Siri and Google Assistant are implemented into the smartphones while Amazon’s Alexa is installed into a speaker. Companies need to integrate the devices to work together. Like Google voice control is integrated with General Electric appliances. So, bringing together companies to integrate devices will be troublesome to some extent as companies have their own digital assistants like Amazon has Alexa, Apple has Siri and others. So, this may hinder the growth of the digital assistant market.