Announcing the Open Voice Network

Thu, Aug 1, 2019

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Toward voice assistance that is open: standards-based, interoperable, accessible, and data-protected.

Announcing the Open Voice Network

An enterprise-supported initiative that aims to bring standards-based interoperability, data protection, and accessibility to the world of voice assistance is expected to formally launch this fall.

This effort—known as the Open Voice Network—is now winning executive and financial support from leading US and Europe commerce enterprises, major tech firms, marketing agencies, voice technology specialists, and industry associations. It emerged from 2016-2018 research on the impact of voice assistance on commerce (retail, consumer goods, and marketing) industries by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Auto-ID Laboratory, Capgemini Consulting, and the Intel Corporation.

At the heart of the Open Voice Network is the recognition that voice assistance will soon be a primary (if not the most-used) interface to the internet and IoT systems; that, as availability and adoption grows, voice assistance will re-shape consumer behavior in all consumer-facing industries (and especially commerce industries); and, that these are the early days of the voice revolution – similar in many ways to the early days of the internet browser wars.

Also at the heart of the initiative is this critical question: given the benefits brought to commerce and society through the years by the introduction of standards, and “open” technologies, might the future of voice assistance be bigger and brighter for all if open – interoperable, accessible, and data protected?

To pursue this vision of open voice, a non-profit association of consumer-facing enterprises, technology companies, marketing firms, and university researchers is now in development. The Open Voice Network it is expected to operate as a Directed Fund of The Linux Foundation. It will pursue three workstreams:

Research: support of academic research of open voice standards and technologies – research that will lead to the proposal of standards, reference architectures, and open platforms.

Awareness: research, communication and peer sharing as to the opportunities, best practices and challenges of AI-voice technologies in consumer-facing industries.

Advocacy: support of the policy work of leading North American and European industry associations as it relates to AI-voice, especially on topics of privacy and data security.

At present, the Open Voice Network is being led day-to-day by Jon Stine, a Portland, Oregon-based former Intel Corporation and Cisco Systems executive with 30-plus years of experience in the commerce industry.

Commerce Industry Leaders On Voice

“Voice has the potential to deliver the ultimate convenience and ease for consumers.  Brands will have the ability to engage with more intimate and advisory consumer relationships. But as voice-commerce begins to replace today’s point and click purchasing, retailers and brands face significant challenges for leveraging voice-first devices. Protocols for “active listening” are in an infant stage. Is the personal shopping assistant listening or is the brand listening?

Also to keep up with the role of voice across devices, new architecture for identifying shopper intent will be required. For example, offering choices without a visual is just one consideration for designing a new approach to “search-endising”. The localization of search will accelerate. From the design of new user-experiences to the sound of a brand, it is the next era of commerce transformation.”

Gwen Morrison | CEO, The Americas at The Store/WPP Global Retail

“The continuing imperative for retail is to make the customer experience perfect for that customer. While the levers a retailer pulls must be appropriate for their brand and brand promise, shoppers expect experiences that align with the smart technology they are already using. Today, with well over three billion devices worldwide with voice assistants installed, the opportunities of voice to impact retail go beyond just shopping, enabling a deeper connection to the customer’s life and offering a much wider range of engagement. Command-driven retail satisfies many of the consumer’s desires, including efficiency, engagement, empowerment, curation, and service, and the opportunities will expand exponentially with continued adoption and ubiquitous “listeners”.”

Vicki Cantrell | Co-founder, Vendors in Partnership; Formerly Executive Director, SVP for Communities,

“Our Industry is facing an era where digital and physical are switching roles, for selling and for marketing and communication. Because of this blurring situation, we must push to create more cooperation across technologies and providers in order to build up our future together.

Studying the evolution of commerce, I find AI-voice to be one of the most impactful and interesting innovations. In the far future it will probably be enough just to think about what we want in order to have the package ringing at our door. As of today, though, we can already have conversations with a voice that knows us and that can do shopping for us.”

Massimo Volpe | Chairman, FIRAE; Managing Director, Retail Institute Italy