Voice and IoT by the numbers: We’re talking to more connected devices than ever before

According to Cisco, there will be 50 billion internet-connected things by 2020. With this surge of smart connected devices though, comes some usability challenges for consumers. Could something as natural as speaking be the answer?

According to Cisco’s Internet Solutions group, there will be 25 billion internet-connected things in 2015, with that number doubling by 2020. That’s a lot of things. Some of those things are brand new concepts – a smart onesie to monitor a baby’s sleep – and some are iterations on well-known products – like connected cars, and smart TVs.

What they all have in common is that they expand the sophistication, capability and options available to us – the people using them. Which sounds great. As Dan Conlon recently pointed out, though, the explosion of smart devices does pose some interesting usability questions for the average consumer:

Imagine a world where you could turn on your porch light from the office or unlock your door for a visitor, all from a smartphone app. Well, like a growing number of early smart-home adopters, I have seen this future today — and let me tell you, it’s a mess.

Blame the interface… Once you have loaded up with your dedicated WeMo, Hue, Nest, Withings, August and other apps, simply living your life becomes a Groundhog Day of repetitive, siloed status changes. Just locking the door and turning off the lights to leave the house becomes more of a chore than it ever was. That’s not smart, it’s dumb.

As with many great surges in innovation, the user experience will determine adoption. Smart TVs are great examples of what happens when devices become connected. For an old-fashioned, unconnected TV, the remote control was perfect: pick a channel. When we got cable and hundreds of channels, the seams started to strain. Now that cable TV providers offer us thousands of on-demand titles, and TVs are connected to the internet, the good old remote is looking a little Victorian. At Nuance, we believe that voice is the best user interface (UI) because it is the natural UI of people – we like saying what we want, how we want to. TVs represent one of our favorite use cases. In less time than it takes you to navigate to the television’s programming guide with a remote, you can say: Find dramas or Find dramas with Rachel McAdams or Find ‘The Notebook’. In the past year, from the Nuance Mobile Cloud, we’ve seen the number of Smart TV customers using their voices instead of remotes climb by 230%, and the number of transactions has grown by over 300%.

The television is just one of many connected devices now incorporating voice as a key component of the UI, which tells us that there is natural fit between this technology and the growing lineup of connected things. Our cloud now handles over 1.2B interactions a month – and growing – from connected smart devices: phones, tablets, TVs, cars, watches, music players, thermostats, home security systems and more. And it’s a global phenomenon – users from 202 countries and territories (including Kiribati, Eritrea, and Uruguay) connect to the Nuance cloud from smart devices each month. And not a single country uses only one language (there were 15 different languages used in the US last month, 15 in China, and 4 in Micronesia!).

Our cloud data insights also show us that when the user interface is limited, people use voice even more. For example, the new generation of smart watches – boasting smaller touchscreens – is driving 250% greater use of voice than smart phones. The numbers don’t lie: Today’s proliferation of connected devices that boast limited user interfaces, but sophisticated capabilities, offers fascinating potential for the future for smart voice interfaces.

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About Dan Faulkner

Dan oversees Nuance’s Voice to Text solutions, and has been an important part of Nuance’s business development and strategy since joining the company over a decade ago. Dan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from the University of Manchester, and two Master’s degrees in Marketing and Speech & Language Processing.