Alexa, say a Prayer!

Digital voice assistants like Alexa are always ready for action. Amazon, Google and Co. are now well on course to expanding the use of the Internet. Are we heading towards an Internet of Voice?

According to Juniper Research, about 8 billion language assistants are expected to be active by 2023. Photo: Shutterstock - Andrey Suslov

According to Juniper Research, about 8 billion language assistants are expected to be active by 2023. Photo: Shutterstock – Andrey Suslov

Digital language assistants are very popular in this country. 32 percent of Germans already use the option of activating personal assistants via voice command, as a digital study presented in mid-2019 by Postbank shows. Families are particularly committed – 52 percent of households with four or more people live under the same roof with a voice assistant and use it actively. According to Juniper Research from Great Britain, around 3.25 billion language assistants were active worldwide. By 2023, the white paper estimates that the number of language assistants will be approximately 8 billion.

The user receives the desired information or function by voice command. Photo: LG; Montage: Zimmer

The user receives the desired information or function by voice command. Photo: LG; Montage: Zimmer

Whether in smart TVs, refrigerators, vehicles, or intelligent loudspeakers, the user receives desired information or functions via voice command. The ghostly assistants take care of lighting, heating, and operation of electronic devices, stream music, organize appointment calendars, and can tell you the weather forecast at all times. However, helpers such as Alexa (Amazon), Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), Bixby (Samsung), and Google Assistant, as well as the Asian providers Baidu, Alibaba, and Xiaomi, always need an Internet connection in order to make the most of their abilities. Each voice command first lands on a server of the respective provider, where it’s processed by an artificial intelligence in a voice recognition system. In fact, technology companies are in the process of re-exploring the spheres of digitization. One trend is moving towards an Internet of Voice, in which spoken word becomes operating solution.

Apps provide voice assistants with all-round knowledge

In the field of intelligent loudspeakers, industry insiders say that the shipping giant Amazon is ahead. Since its launch in the USA in November 2014 and its international distribution as a voice service for a series of intelligent speakers, Alexa has become a common synonym for digital voice assistants. One factor for the system’s success is its versatility. Amazon has managed to build an attractive platform around Alexa for applications from external developers (Skills). Around 20,000 skills can now be found in the Amazon Skill Store, which greatly expand the language assistant’s range of functions and capabilities. Alexa knows every article of the German constitution, has a direct line to the weather service, can play back Wikipedia entries, and tell jokes. Even spiritual support is part of the portfolio. The Protestant Church in Germany, for example, has set up a skill for prayer and church services that enables Alexa to say a prayer upon request.

Alexa gets new tasks

Alexa is also popular with car manufacturers such as Audi and BMW. Photo: DEKRA

Alexa is also popular with car manufacturers such as Audi and BMW. Photo: DEKRA

Alexa is also popular with third-party manufacturers, which is why more and more devices include Alexa Voice Service (AVS). It pays off that Amazon counted on cooperation with other providers for its voice service right from the start. Car manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Audi, for example, integrate Alexa directly in the infotainment system in their Golf VIII and Audi e-tron models. BMW have also already activated Alexa support for newer BMW and Mini models. But today, televisions, refrigerators, and clothing also offer access to speech assistants. This means that every device with AVS operates the Alexa voice service itself and accepts voice commands directly. With their use in new product segments, the next evolutionary stage of digital voice assistants is in sight – the systems are becoming increasingly independent from end devices such as loudspeakers and mobile phones.

Language assistants must function securely and reliably

However, the expansion into the Internet of Voice does not only need creative minds for new products. After all, customers expect high quality and a consistent user experience on all Alexa-enabled devices. That’s why Amazon has introduced a mandatory testing process for manufacturers who want to launch a product with the AVS. And DEKRA’s know-how in this field is now also in demand. The expert organization has turned into an Authorized Test Labs (ATL) and Authorized Security Labs (ASL) for Alexa Voice Service. This makes DEKRA the first laboratory in the world to be authorized to carry out both certification testing and independent security assessments for Alexa Built-in devices. Equipment manufacturers can now work directly with DEKRA to ensure a fast and effective market launch. When laboratory tests are finished, DEKRA sends the certification test reports to Amazon using a standardized procedure.

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