Jennigay Coetzer – Business Day – 30 July 2009

The global market for advanced command and control speech recognition capabilities in mobile handsets is expected to show rapid growth between now and 2014.  Demand for this capability will be stimulated by hands-free laws that are gaining traction around the world, restricting the use of mobile devices while driving vehicles.

South Africa was among the first countries to introduce strict laws about driving while using a mobile phone, with motorists having to pay hefty fines if they are caught doing so without hands-free control. Legislation can be expected to become increasingly stringent worldwide as more incidences are reported of serious accidents and deaths caused by cellular phone usage while driving.

According to a recent Datamonitor report, titled The Proliferation of Innovative Speech Applications in Mobile Computing, countries as diverse as Australia, UK, Chile, and the Philippines, have enacted similar legislation. In the US, 15 states restrict handset use while driving without the use of hands-free systems.

Advanced speech recognition capabilities include the ability to vocally control the device’s functionality, including voice-dialing, inputting data verbally, and voice-search that allows a search engine to be controlled by voice. “We’re going to see solutions that combine embedded speech for features such as command and control and network speech that enables internet search,” says Datamonitor associate analyst Ryan Joe, the author of the report.

Currently, most speech applications are embedded into the phone itself, but an increasing number of advanced applications will be available for downloading from the internet. The advent of online mobile application stores that are being set up by handset manufactures will provide an ideal channel to market for smaller providers of speech recognition software.

It will also fuel the demand for these applications by making them more readily available to users. Datamonitor predicts the global market for advanced speech recognition in mobile handsets will increase from $32.7 million in 2009 to $99.6 million in 2014.

Currently, most applications for mobile speech in the business environment occur among warehouse or field force workers. Without this capability, warehouse workers have to log inventory using a manual process, which decreases productivity, distracts the worker and increases the chance of accidents.

Companies that invest in voice picking applications in their warehouses that enable inventory to be logged by voice find that workers can accomplish many of their tasks without breaking their concentration, says Joe. He says Datamonitor’s research suggest that because organisations tend not to prioritise the mobilising their white collar workforce, the market for speech applications in this sector is low.

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