Commentary

The Future of Voice in Mobile Commerce

We may be getting closer to mobile voice commerce.

At the opening of its new Mobile Innovation Center in Cambridge last night, various Nuance executives spoke about where voice may come into play in the future of mobile commerce.

With about 12,000 employees and annual revenue of around $2 billion, Nuance is the voice recognition engine behind many consumer-to-computer interactions.

Nuance technology has shipped in more than 5 billion mobile phones and 70 million cars, so the obvious question is where voice may come into play in mobile commerce.

At the innovation center opening last night, I sat down with Michael Thompson, executive vice president and general manger of the Nuance mobile division, the person leading the $500 million group leading the company’s mobile and consumer efforts, to see just how close voice commerce may be.

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“We want to make the click-to-buy as fast as possible,” said Thompson. “With more and more content you want to buy, the search experience is burdensome.”

The expansive new center, which can house more than 150 people, will be home to Nuance’s R&D team dealing with advanced voice recognition, natural language and user interface technologies.

But the issue of voice mobile commerce ultimately may come down to technology and behavior.

Thompson says that by using voice biometrics, the identity of the person with the phone can be verified, clearing the standard security hurdle.

The behavioral issue may come down to how comfortable consumers are searching and ordering something by speaking commands to their mobile device.

But the widespread use in various forms has grown significantly over the years so that consumers are becoming more acclimated to using voice to interact with technology, says Thomson.

“They’re all building on each other,” said Thompson. “Connectivity is exponential, compounding the expectation level.

“People would rather be carrying a phone than a wallet and with this approach, there is no keyboard needed, since it’s voice enabled,” Thomson said.

Thompson said Nuance recognized the move to the cloud several years ago and identified “a huge opportunity.”

Nuance, most noted for its Dragon natural language understanding products, is basically a software company and its numerous customers incorporate its technology into their products, such as by Samsung and Apple for Siri.

The key is that Nuance has over the years developed a high level of sophistication in translating what is said to what is meant.

And when it comes to mobile commerce, that key to quickly understanding what is desired to be bought and the true identify of the buyer could be what makes commerce vocal.

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