The market for speech applications in mobile computing expected to triple by 2014

Under Embargo until 20 May 2009

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As individuals around the world become more accustomed to using mobile computing devices in hands-busy, eyes-busy environments, the market for speech recognition technologies within these devices is expected to gain considerable traction within the next five years. In a new report, "The Proliferation of Innovative Speech Applications in Mobile Computing", independent market analyst Datamonitor predicts the global market for advanced speech recognition (ASR) in mobile handsets will increase from $32.7 million in 2009 to $99.6 million in 2014. That for ASR in in-vehicle telematics is expected to grow at a similar rate, from $64.3 million in 2009 to 208.2 million by 2014.

Speech applications in mobile computing typically enable the user to vocally control the device's functionality-a feature known as command and control. Other common applications include voice-dialling and voice-search, in which a search engine can be controlled by voice, and voice-input, in which the user verbally inputs data into the device.

Regulations spur uptake of speech applications in mobile devices

Hands-free laws are gaining traction around the world, restricting the use of mobile devices while operating vehicles. Countries as diverse as Australia, Britain, Chile, and the Philippines, among others, have enacted legislation prohibiting heavy interactions of mobile handsets while driving. In the United States, 15 states restrict handset use while driving whilst allowing for the use of hands-free systems. Vendors have been pushing command and control and SMS transcription applications to alleviate these issues.

Providers of in-vehicle telematics, which are entertainment or navigation systems factory-installed in automobiles, and PNDs use a combination of ASR and text-to-speech (TTS) technologies. Common functions include address input, music playlist management, and address read-out.

"Traditionally, the personal navigation device (PND) space has been a strong market for speech applications," says Datamonitor associate analyst Ryan Joe, the report's author. He states that the expected reduction of speech applications in PNDs is symptomatic of the flagging popularity of the device. Joe attributes this decline to a number of factors. "The global recession has caused an overall decrease in consumer spending," he says. "Additionally, we have to consider that the proliferation of GPS applications in mobile handsets, and the fact that factory-installed telematics are becoming standard features in automobiles are disruptive to PNDs. In short, PNDs no longer own the in-vehicle navigation market."

Improved networks offer new ways to deliver speech in mobile devices

Currently, most speech applications use embedded ASR-that is, speech recognition integrated directly into the device itself. However, there has been an increased number of applications that use networked-based ASR to improve recognition rates and to speech-enable internet searches. Datamonitor notes that the advent of application stores, such as the one associated with Apple's iPhone, offers a viable channel-to-market for smaller providers of speech applications and increased visibility for innovative speech applications.

Datamonitor notes that mobile applications in the future will use a hybrid of embedded and network speech. "Vendors are offering speech application as suites instead of as point applications," says Joe. "In order to harness the full capabilities of mobile devices, we're going to see solutions that combine embedded speech for features such as command and control and network speech that enables internet search."

Most applications for mobile speech in a business setting occur among warehouse or field force workers

Mobile speech applications used by businesses are typically relegated to gray collar jobs that require a significant amount of physical activity. Datamonitor's findings suggest that because enterprises don't typically prioritize mobilizing their white collar workforce, the market for speech applications in this sector is low.

Conversely, there's considerably more upside for speech applications targeted towards mobile field workers and warehouse workers, who consistently operate in a hands-busy, eyes-busy environment, and for whom speech applications can speed the completion of field force or warehouse-related duties. For example, warehouse workers constantly move and lift inventory. Having to log inventory via a manual process decreases productivity and distracts the worker, which increases the chance of accidents. Warehouses that invest in "voice picking" applications, in which inventory is logged by voice, find that workers can accomplish many of their tasks without having to break concentration from his lifting duties.
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