How will the latest voice technologies support the control room of the future?

New voice technologies are fast emerging across the digital landscape, in all walks of life – from home to work, in business and leisure.

Dominating the new voice trend is the changing nature of online search. Experts predict that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be conducted by voice as opposed to through text-input as we’ve known since the inception of the modern internet.

We’re also seeing the arrival of voice apps such as Alexa Skills and Google Assistant Actions to perform tasks and create the smart homes and workplaces we’re now living in. To give some context, in the UK, 9.5 million people used a smart speaker in 2018 – which is almost 15% of the total population.

From these examples, we can see that the nation is already embracing the benefits of voice-led technology, with greater numbers shifting towards its acceptance year-on-year. But how can the latest voice technologies support the control room?

Translation for all: delivering better services and greater efficiencies

Our global cities are becoming more culturally diverse, with which also comes a diversity in language. In London alone, over 250 languages are currently spoken.

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Non-English speakers who dial 999 in the UK already have access to a translation service in 150 languages, which is facilitated through a three-way conference call.

However, could the emerging automated apps that instantly translate conversation, for example Google Translate, provide a more effective and efficient solution in the control room?

Let’s assume an app-based instant translating service was connected to the operator’s Integrated Communication Control System (ICCS) – used for handling control room communications. A simple tap on the microphone within the app would trigger real-time translation, pulling in text-based translation from both parties in the conversation to save critical time in managing an emergency.

Voice-based translation in the control room can also deliver significant financial savings when we consider that an estimated £100 million has been spent on translators across the NHS in just five years. By arming frontline employees with translation apps, we can minimise the need to allocate a dedicated translator.

Responders in the city state of Singapore are already trialling the world’s first mixed-lingual speech recognition engine, which is being developed at Singapore’s new AI Speech Lab.

Powered by a speech-to-text engine the system will transcribe the unique vocabulary used by Singaporeans, including Singapore English, Chinese and dialects.

The technology will reduce the time taken to log a call, assign resource and commit a dispatch vehicle, improving the system for all those involved.

Smart voice technology for acute medical care

Voice recognition is also being used in emergency service control rooms in Copenhagen, Denmark to help spot signs of cardiac arrest.

The software uses voice recognition to detect and look for signals of a heart attack in patients who call the emergency services. Early recognition is vital and increases survival chances, with that chance said to decrease by 10% for every minute that goes undetected.

If proved to be successful, this service could be rolled out and used widely by emergency services control rooms to be almost like a third ear on a medical call.  

It’s difficult to gauge benefit versus costs, considering it will require significant initial outlay by the service provider. The other challenge is that it could take years to migrate and integrate this technology within existing service design.

Supporting the public with smart speakers in the home


Scotland Yard is already working closely with police forces around the UK to develop technology that will enable members of the public to use voice-controlled devices in an emergency.

For example, when alerting the control room about a fleeing burglar or when a family requires urgent medical attention, they can simply say ‘Alexa, call 999’ instead of dialling manually on a telephone or mobile device.

What’s next?

The advancing arena of voice technologies promises to support our control rooms in their constant evolution.

New voice technologies are already changing the landscape of emergency contact and work is well underway to design the digital capabilities of future contact centres.

Developments will continue surfacing every day – so let’s watch this space for the next big voice-technology that will revolutionise the control room.



The Medium

The Telegraph