In an era dominated by messaging and video—is there still a future for voice?

NJ Tech Council at a recent discussion on the Future of Voice, was loud and clear.

“Voice is now like the battery within a car instead of the engine,” said panelist Brian Gilman, VP Product Marketing at Vonage. “It will be embedded in a lot of the apps you use and it will power a lot of the features you use across your devices.”

The landscape for voice, once the dominant form of personal and business communication, is dramatically shifting, the panel said, but that presents opportunity for new, innovative applications. So if traditional voice calls aren’t going away anytime soon, what can we expect?

For starters, who you’re talking to might change according to the panel. Whether it’s your bank or your airline, your first few points of interaction with a company are increasingly no longer with humans. While voice automated systems may conjure up powerful emotions for some (And yes, maybe even some groaning) improving those systems presents an interesting opportunity for companies like Vonage.

“Consider the example of rebooking a flight,” said Brian Gilman. “You call up, provide your basic information, your flight details and request a new flight, but it turns out you have to be transferred to a different department. In the past, you might have had to start all over with a new associate, but now with the assistance of bots, all your information, flight details and your request is already right in front of the associate so you can rebook your flight faster.”

According to the panel, one mode of communication won’t win out over another. Instead, you’ll see a combination of communication modalities used within the same app or even applied to the same task.

<“Take a grocery list for example,” said panelist, Scott Boyarsky, Product Consultant. “Quickly dictating a list of 10 - 15 things you need to pick up at the store is pretty easy, but playing back that list you dictacted while you’re shopping isn’t efficient. It will be up to another mode of communication to help complete that task.”

Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa are also opening up new avenues for voice applications. At Vonage, there’s a beta underway to place Alexas in ambulances so that EMTs can dictate the patient’s information and condition before they arrive at the hospital to help speed up the delivery of care when the patient arrives. And with geofencing, the hospital will automatically be notified when the ambulance is less than five minutes away so they can make preparations for the patient’s arrival.

“Right now, we’re in the Age of Ask,” said Greg Hedges at RAIN. “It’s a command-based system; Alexa, order this or play that. Understanding voice sentiment and understanding the situation and the context of the ask is where all this is headed.”

But the audience wanted to know just how far all of this will go and how soon will it be before we have full, natural conversations with AI.

“I think that’s still a long way off,” Gilman, said. “We’re focused on cutting down call times and make customer experiences more seamless and frictionless with the use of bots and other technologies. That’s what we’re working on now and the problems we can solve today.”

You can find out more about the NJ Tech Council’s Future Forum hosted at the newly-opened Bell Works facility in Holmdel, NJ, where key influencers from companies including Accenture, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung, Vonage and others shared their industry insights. You can also find out more of Vonage’s products and solutions, and some of its interesting case studies, on the company’s solutions page.

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