Nuance Communications and Greenwave Systems recently collaborated to create a voice-powered platform (AXON) for consumer, industrial and commercial IoT devices. The platform is intended to enable communications-service providers the ability to create new conversational IoT devices and experiences, and connect them to the disparate technologies and systems within the smart home. As a result, service providers are able to maximize their opportunities and value within the
consumer, industrial and commercial IoT and smart-home markets.
We chatted with Dan Faulkner, senior vice president and general manager of Nuance, to learn more.
Smart Industry: What advantageous of voice-powered commands are particularly applicable to IIoT?
Dan: Industrial IoT applications often bring with them complex touch-enabled interfaces. For a person in an industrial setting, the ability to use voice to navigate and command equipment can be a huge boost not only to productivity but to safety as well. Consider a content-service provider field technician atop a tall building—the ability to make quick equipment adjustments by simply speaking is a tremendous benefit. Think of a security technician at a power company who can vocally direct a security camera to zoom in on a suspicious package or individual, while simultaneously using her hands to lock gates and summon the authorities. The benefits are endless, and the use cases expansive.
Smart Industry: You use the term “conversational IoT services/devices/experiences.” What do you mean by that?
Dan: Conversational IoT experiences means having the ability to conduct an extended conversation with devices and virtual assistants; it’s not just a one-shot question and response—it’s an ongoing dialogue that goes beyond voice input and output. It’s the ability for people and machines to interact, and for machines to understand the language we speak, the nuances of grammar and our intent. At Nuance, we have developed collaborative-dialogue innovation that processes multiple utterances in a conversation—different sentences rather than answering just one question. This is where we see technology understanding human conversation, and this is where we’re applying cognitive and AI technologies. The result is systems that not only listen, but can understand what we’re saying, leverage data to reason and make decisions and respond with outcomes that add tremendous value to our experiences. Collaborative dialogue gives people the ability to speak naturally, as they would in conversation. So applied in, say, a smart city, the technology could give a trash-collection fleet the ability to adjust a route that may be affected by weather or other real-time incidents, all by a natural dialogue with a specialized virtual assistant.
Smart Industry: How do people converse with apps/services/devices?
Dan: Voice technologies have advanced significantly in the last few years, with highly accurate speech-recognition combined with language-understanding and cognitive AI technologies—the result is less stilted back-and-forth with devices and apps, replaced by a more fluid, natural conversation. We can integrate voice biometrics and wake-up word, which gives people the ability to ‘wake up’ devices with a simple voice command while delivering a personalized experience. And this technology is rapidly spreading across the IoT landscape, with highly visible commercial deployments in the smart home through cable-service operators, thermostats, home-security systems and appliances. Automotive manufacturers continue to advance conversational automotive assistant experiences for in-car infotainment systems, also now becoming increasingly connected to outside IoT systems. Given this adoption in everyday consumer-facing technologies, we can expect to see more integration of conversational and cognitive AI capabilities across industrial IoT applications, including transportation, robotics and utilities.
Smart Industry: How do you define ubiquitous connectivity?
Dan: Ubiquitous connectivity is the ability for IoT devices to communicate with one another irrespective of platform or integration point—home , car, factory, network, retail store or mobile device. Many organizations are working on interoperability, connecting our smart devices and applications so they’ll talk to us and to each other. For instance, our technology is now integrated as part of the Greenwave AXON platform to address this challenge. Together, we deliver an interoperable and conversational IoT ecosystem that gives end-users and tens of thousands of different devices the ability to interact naturally through a common platform.
Smart Industry: Where do you see this technology having the greatest/quickest application?
Dan: Conversational interfaces add value with technology just about everywhere. We see a particularly significant opportunity for integration in the smart home. For instance, we’re seeing an incredibly high user-retention rate across TV applications in the high 70th percentile. Once people have the ability to find content and programs just by speaking, they immediately see the value. They no longer have to navigate complicated interfaces with overwhelming menus and clunky user interfaces. In a world where smart-home hubs are being integrated into additional smart-home products like lighting, thermostats, smart speakers and so on, people just want to speak to one coherent system, versus learning and navigating the unique needs of multiple devices independently. This is where interoperability becomes critical for adoption, and where we’re excited to partner with Greenwave and others to deliver a truly connected IoT ecosystem.
Smart Industry: Describe the Nuance Mix voice and AI-powered natural language understanding (NLU) technology.
Dan: Nuance Mix is Nuance’s voice and NLU platform that provides service providers, manufacturers and developers the ability to create and customize voice interfaces that ultimately deliver a more human conversation with technology. It puts the power of developing a conversational interface into the hands of the developer, creating experiences and dialogues specific to the unique market segments they serve—each of which has its own unique needs. So whether you’re developing in robotics, gaming, manufacturing, power or smart sensors, Nuance Mix provides tools and support for the integration of wake-up word, voice recognition, text-to-speech, NLU, voice biometrics, and conversational dialog for an intelligent, conversational interface. And, Nuance Mix also gives developers access to the data they need to further enhance and customize the user experience.