4 ways voice technology will transform businesses and public services in 2020 and beyond

AWS, Voice technology

Contrary to popular belief, voice assistants didn’t start with the launch of Siri or Amazon Echo. To find the origins of voice technology, you have to go back to 1961 when IBM launched the IMB Shoebox – the first digital speech recognition tool. At the time, Shoebox recognised just 16 words and digits, but little did they know at the time that this was about to spark a technological revolution.

Today, 20% of all searches are voice services and by the end of 2020, Gartner have estimated that 30% of all web browsing will be done without a screen.  But while voice technology might have taken over our personal lives it’s yet to make waves in a professional capacity, but why?

Scenario 1: NHS - saving valuable clinician time by dictating directly into an Electronic Patient Record (EPR)

One of the greatest potentials for voice technologies is its ability to significantly relieve pressure in many areas of the NHS. The NHS faces a seemingly impossible challenge; to balance constantly rising patient numbers with greater demands versus dwindling financial and clinical resources. In these circumstances, banishing the inefficiencies that come with managing paper records is key to freeing up GPs and other clinicians from the administration burden that eats into the time they could be spending with patients. This is where speech recognition is proving to be a valuable ally. Dictating directly into an Electronic Patient Record (EPR) is less time-consuming than writing notes or dictating into an audio file for later transcription. Medical documentation created using speech recognition cuts out many process stages and can help meet government targets for turnaround times and move closer toward the goal of a paperless NHS.

Scenario 2: Manufacturing – vastly improving productivity across production lines

A recent study undertaken by Zebra has revealed that 51% of manufacturing companies are planning to expand their use of voice technology in the next five years.

Manufacturers that are already embracing industry 4.0 trends are best positioned to implement voice-driven technologies in the industrial environment. A growing number of large manufacturing firms are already connecting production lines and processes with data and as a result, they are witnessing an explosion of connected devices onto their factory floors.

One of the strongest arguments in favour of voice-driven technology is its ability to increase productivity. By seamlessly connecting to other devices across the entire factory floor, employees are able to vocally issue key instructions, with optimum speed that will stand to speed up internal processes and improve overall productivity.

A report from all business has indicated that voice-driven technologies have achieved, in some instances, a rise in warehouse productivity of up to 25% so it really does seem like a no brainer.

Scenario 3: Local Government – providing assisted living for vulnerable people

Voice enabled technology already plays a big part in home life for many people but while we may find it convenient to tell Alexa to add milk to the shopping list or play our favourite song, we often overlook the life-changing and lifesaving potential of this technology when considering the most vulnerable people in society.

In a recent trail, Wigan Council distributed 29 Amazon Echos to residents in supported housing schemes. The project, known as ‘Voice Controlled Empowerment’ aimed to explore how Alexa could support people to live independently and bridge the digital literacy gap that is preventing older people (especially those with cognitive impairments) to benefit from technology.

By linking an Echo with a standard telecare system, Wigan Council enabled one of its service users, who has MS and could only move her head, to call for outside assistance via voice activation alone.

In the future, it is also hoped voice devices will help residents with mobility issues to turn lights on or off, close or open curtains, speak to someone at the front door and open the door, all without needing to move.

Check out how Alexa has helped Bill to live a more independent life in the video below.


Scenario 4: Professional Services – making meetings more efficient and productive to help organisations  make better business decisions.

We’ve all had instances where we’ve been late for a meeting because we’re struggling to find an available space or we can’t work out how to connect to the call. Then once we’re in the meeting, we forget to record it or write down actions. Well those days may soon be over.

AWS has been working on Alexa for Business which enables employees to use voice commands to book meeting rooms, link their email and calendar to ask Alexa to join meetings and schedule or reschedule calendar events and find and print documents.

As Alexa for Business advances, it is predicted to actually be able to participate in meetings, interjecting with facts, making suggestions and answering questions. 

Check it out here:


The future for voice tech in business and public services is huge and it’s promising to see some organisations are already starting to experiment and reap the benefits. But it’s not just voice technology that is set to reshape the future. Find out how AI poised to disrupt our workplaces in the not too distant future.

Posted by Helen Thomas