De­spite the cur­rent chal­lenges fac­ing this tech­nol­ogy, at least one ex­pert is con­vinced ad­vances on the hori­zon will re­solve those is­sues.

Credit Union Journal - - Contents - BY DAVID HEUN

Voice-con­trolled pay­ments are still hin­dered by ex­ter­nal noise and the cloud, but one an­a­lyst says a so­lu­tion could be com­ing soon, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing some of the heavy hit­ters in­vest­ing in this tech­nol­ogy.

CHICAGO — THERE IS NO DOUBT GOOgle, Ap­ple, Ama­zon and oth­ers have voice-con­trolled pay­ments in mind while ad­vanc­ing their smart speaker tech­nolo­gies.

But the tech­nol­ogy has a few chal­lenges to re­solve, es­pe­cially as it makes its way into other ma­chines on the In­ter­net of Things (IOT) land­scape, be­fore it be­comes a pay­ment op­tion that all fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, card com­pa­nies and con­sumers fully trust, said Brian Cran­nell, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Chicago-based Knowles Elec­tron­ics Corp., an au­dio tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oper.

“Pay­ments through voice is go­ing on now,” Cran­nell said last month dur­ing the an­nual IOT Sum­mit. “There is a fi­nan­cial in­dus­try voice bio­met­rics stan­dard that many fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions have agreed upon and there are a few peo­ple out there with so­lu­tions they be­lieve are ca­pa­ble.”


But, it could be up to two years be­fore con­sumers see “the real first gen­er­a­tion of pay­ments be­ing made through smart speak­ers and other de­vices,” Cran­nell added. “There is some ‘first gen­er­a­tion’ out there now, but it is not wide­spread.”

Be­cause the fun­da­men­tal tech­nol­ogy of a mi­cro­phone, chip and pay­ments soft­ware al­ready ex­ists, it is just a case of “get­ting it to­gether in the ecosys­tem to the point that every­one will trust it,” Cran­nell said.

That as­sess­ment falls in line with what most con­sumer and tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try re­searchers are de­ter­min­ing about the op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance voice-ac­ti­vated shop­ping ad­vice, or­der­ing of gro­ceries or pizza, pay­ing bills or for other e-com­merce trans­ac­tions.


There is lit­tle con­cern that ini­ti­at­ing voice-con­trolled tasks is sim­ply a fad. Cran­nell es­ti­mates 1.5 bil­lion smart­phones are shipped ev­ery year, all of them be­ing voice-en­abled.

“Last year, Google re­ported that 20% of the searches on the phone were ini­ti­ated through voice, and in the past year, that num­ber has gone up to 70% be­ing voice-ac­ti­vated,” Cran­nell said. With an es­ti­mated 67 mil­lion Amer­i­cans now us­ing voice in­put for mul­ti­ple tasks, it is time to move to the next level.

To get to that next level, one that would in­clude pay­ments, the tech­nol­ogy has to im­prove its voice ac­cu­racy and han­dling of voice in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments.

“The big­gest chal­lenge is that we are not al­ways sit­ting in a quiet place when us­ing voice com­mands,” Cran­nell said.


Speech-in-noise recog­ni­tion is get­ting bet­ter, but as IOT tech­nol­ogy ad­vances, con­sumers will want ex­cel­lent voice con­trols in au­to­mo­biles and on other ma­chines.

“A car trav­els at dif­fer­ent speeds, and the noise level is dif­fer­ent at dif­fer­ent speeds,” Cran­nell said. “Also, where do you put a mi­cro­phone in a car? You can’t have air vents blow­ing on a mi­cro­phone.”

The noise fac­tor would come into play if a driver was telling its voice con­trol to lo­cate the near­est Star­bucks and order a cof­fee, Cran­nell added.

“The vari­ables in noise can make it hard for the vir­tual as­sis­tant to fig­ure out that re­quest,” he ob­served.

IOT voice con­trol may also have to move away from cloud tech­nol­ogy that lacks the needed speed or band­width to han­dle cer­tain tasks.

“If you are talk­ing to some­one and want to do a voice-con­trolled search on your phone, it may take a few sec­onds and that is OK,” Cran­nell said. “But if you are ask­ing to turn off a light, or switch a song, or for a ma­chine to make you a cup of tea, that needs to hap­pen right away. The data hav­ing to go to the cloud and then com­ing back would not be ideal.”

What sort of ubiq­ui­tous tech­nol­ogy will be in place to as­sure that an ap­pli­ance can order and pay for some­thing it needs re­mains to be seen, but over­all im­prove­ments to voice con­trols will be part of any ad­vance­ments.

“Bet­ter voice un­der­stand­ing and ad­vance­ments in or be­yond the cloud will im­prove to the point where every­one is com­fort­able with it,” Cran­nell said.

Bloomberg News

Ama­zon is among the com­pa­nies that are pur­su­ing voice-con­trolled pay­ments, but there are tech­nol­ogy chal­lenges for the en­tire in­dus­try.

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