Automated Speech Improves Personal Productivity
Voice-based productivity is attracting attention both on the investment and product introduction front. Regarding the former, leveraged buyout specialist Bridgepoint Development Capital has completed its acquisition of BigHand in a transaction valued at 49 British Pounds Sterling (roughly $77 million U.S.). On the latter (more mobile front), Nuance Communications introduced Dragon Drive, part of the “Dragon Dictate” genome which, like Ford Sync, is designed to support voice command of the devices and communications resources that people use inside their cars.
Let’s start with the BigHand LBO: Bighand is a 16 year-old company that specializes in workflow management centered around the automated transcription and distribution of dictated documents files. It has been popular with law firms in the UK, North America, Netherlands and Australia. It has also had success in healthcare and other professional services organizations in the UK. It serves over 150,000 end-users in about 1,450 business organizations. With offices in Chicago, London, Sydney and Toronto, it plans to use the cash infusion from Bridgepoint to increase staff, grow its presence in the U.S. and to expand its Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery mechanisms targeting smaller businesses.
On the automotive front, Nuance’s introduction of Dragon Drive! , which offers its users a way to take command of the systems and services available in a “connected car.” Productivity in the car starts with local search; giving users the ability to say something like, “What good Italian restaurant is near me?”
Next up is control of music selection from a car’s storage, connected media player, or from the mobile network like Spotify. Drivers or passengers can also dictate messages for delivery via SMS/text or email and, finally, they can retrieve weather and traffic information in real-time by making “natural language requests” like “what’s the traffic like on Route 80 near New York City.”
Bottom Line: The instances of “Speechable Moments” are growing geometrically. This is the product of proliferation of automated speech processing (ASP) resources on devices and in automobiles, coupled with links to “workflow management” tools, natural language processing and databases “in the cloud.” As a result, individuals are becoming more comfortable and more skilled at using their voices to step up their personal productivity. This is destined to become self-reinforcing. Though a new entrant is often positioned as a “Siri-killer,” “the next Siri,” or “Siri for the enterprise,” each should be judged according to its ability to make things easier for a user, not its ability to replace Apple’s mobile assistant.