Innovation

No. 1 takeaway in Meeker's 2017 report: Is your business ready for voice?

Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet Trends report highlighted growing trends in voice interfaces, as well information on cloud spends and the growth of giant tech firms.

The voice revolution is coming—is your business ready for the challenge? As voice input systems continue to make their way into products and services, and their accuracy improves, voice could be poised to upend typing as the main way users engage with your business.

The growth and proliferation of voice input was one of the major takeaways in Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet Trends report. Meeker, who works with VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has presented the report for the past few years as a means of highlighting trends in global internet use, consumer behavior, and business trends.

SEE: Alexa and Google Home's dirty little secret: 97% of voice apps are only used for one week

While the 355 slide presentation covers everything from gaming to internet use in China, we have pulled out some of the top points that IT leaders need to know—starting with voice.

Voice-based mobile frontends are on the rise, Meeker's report stated. For example, the report said, some 20% of all queries made to the Google Assistant were voice queries. Of those queries, 70% were made with natural, conversational language.

Another place that voice is finding itself is in the home. Both the number of available Amazon Alexa skills and the install base for Amazon Echo products continues to climb, the report said, offering access to shopping, media, recommendations, and even calls.

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Image: iStockphoto/AH86

On the backend, the accuracy of these voice recognition systems continues to improve as well, leading to a better overall experience. In 2017, Google's machine learning algorithms passed the human threshold for voice recognition at 95%, the report noted. Microsoft also announced in October 2016 that its AI could officially understand speech better than human transcribers as well. IBM topped that record later in March 2017.

To add to the growth of voice interfaces, companies like Amazon are making it cheaper than ever to build new Alexa apps, offering a way to do so for free on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Additionally, vendors are partnering with other firms to provide adequate training for developing systems that take advantage of voice.

Despite this growth of voice interfaces, many apps that take advantage of it often have an extremely short shelf life. Some 97% of apps developed for Google Home or Amazon Alexa are only used for one week. So, businesses that want to engage with this trend must do so in a way that keeps users coming back for more, adding real value to their app or website experience.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Voice input is growing in user interfaces across mobile and desktop, and could be poised to eventually displace typing as the core input method for users.
  2. Voice recognition accuracy is growing, with many companies boasting AI programs that understand speech better than human interpreters.
  3. It is essential that businesses add real value with their voice-based apps, as 97% of Google Home and Amazon Alexa apps go unused after a week.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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