NDA Viewpoints: Voice is the next data frontier

Following The World Federation of Advertisers launch of its Voice Coalition, NDA is running a series of articles looking at the future of voice commerce, asking industry experts for their views on its opportunities.

By Benjamin Ross, International Director at Delphix

The impact of what we say has never been more pronounced. Any time we leave a voice message, dial in to a conference call or interact with voice assistants on our devices, we leave an imprint behind. That imprint manifests itself as voice data – a valuable commodity in today’s data-driven world.

Voice data imparts a depth of value that traditional data cannot. It conveys sentiment, emotion, context and offers businesses real and actionable insights. Yet, even with the rich insights that voice data can provide, companies are failing to maximise its potential, merely stockpiling it. In fact, research shows that 51% of voice data is inaccessible, locked away internally.

It is clear that businesses that fail to leverage insights from voice data are missing a trick and losing out on valuable intelligence that can drive business success. So what is it that’s stopping companies from harnessing masses of useful data, leaving it to be cast aside?

A growing presence  

Voice data is certainly picking up pace in today’s connected age. The chatbot may have passed its sell-by date, but conversational artificial intelligence (interacting with computers via speech) is visibly on the rise. Last year alone saw 9.5 million people in the UK using smart speakers, a 98.6% increase from 2017. As the number of Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled platforms grows, so does the number of speech interfaces which can interact with them, such as smartphones and cars.

This goes beyond just speaking with machines – human-to-human interaction can also make up part of this revolution, such as customer service calls or interactions with healthcare providers. Some organisations, such as Pindrop, are already using this form of AI technology to detect fraudulent claims.

This, however, is only scratching the surface of the potential of voice data. One day we may be able to mine call centre data to try and predict which customers are most likely to buy what product and even deliver real-time customer satisfaction metrics.

A rewarding new frontier

Despite the growing potential that voice data presents to companies, there are a variety of challenges that businesses face in analysing and understanding voice data.

The principle issue facing those who want to get the most from the wealth of voice data their company sits upon, is ensuring access to quality data. It has been estimated that data scientists can take up to 80% of their time just acquiring and cleaning up their data.

But even once the data has been cleansed and organised, this does not necessarily mean the data is sufficiently diverse, potentially resulting in data bias. Voice data brings about a whole new spectrum of data bias. For instance, an algorithm trained with male voices from Manchester will likely have difficulty understanding a female voice from Glasgow.

Regulation (still) rules the roost

The quality of the data we use isn’t the only challenge. Regulation can also prove to be a roadblock to accessing this precious information. Data redaction will have to meet necessary compliance regulations and ensure the secure delivery of data across the enterprise.

GDPR has now been in effect for over a year, and whilst organisations are familiar with the requirements and impact of not being compliant, many are still in the midst of understanding and putting in place processes and policies. Increasing pressure on companies to protect personal identifiable data, with the threat of heavy fines for non-compliance, has resulted in companies focusing on Production Data management and protection. However, all organisations have a wealth of non-production data that is not as securely managed or protected as their Production Data.

One of the reasons for over-looking a company’s non-production data is that the comprehensive security measures, such as masking data in the many test, reporting and analytics systems of a large company, can come at a high price and prove very complex to implement company-wide, especially when dealing with such a complex form of data.

However, working with modern masking solutions that have inbuilt data profiling capabilities that can sift through large amounts of data to detect sensitive information, will help businesses manage their data privacy processes more efficiently. High-end masking solutions will take this one step further and recommend masking algorithms in order to streamline and accelerate the process of securing data.

Extending this to voice data simply becomes the next step in any organisation’s data strategy. Organisations hoping to tap into the potential of voice data must carefully consider the ways in which they will provide secure access to this information across their business.

Getting ahead of the competition

Voice data may be harder to secure, deliver and analyse than ‘traditional data’, but it has the potential to provide great benefits to any business – constantly opening up new opportunities for organisations to innovate and be competitive in their industries.

Companies should not be deterred by how tricky it can be to gather clean and representative data . Instead, they should focus their efforts on building the right foundations and frameworks to manage and secure the voice data and build usable models from it.

Those that overcome the challenges will reap the rewards from this new frontier and be equipped to deal with forthcoming technological changes and challenges.


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