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CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) is a myriad of innovation and technology. A cocktail of ambitious start-ups, huge industry players and tech enthusiasts.

Connected devices dominated last year’s show. However, voice-controlled devices are this year’s major theme.

Voice-controlled devices exploded into our homes in 2017. Largely thanks to advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP), which saw Google sell “more than one Google Home device every second since Google Home Mini started shipping in October.” NLP technology, which enables natural speech to act as ‘commands’ to execute, has led to major advances in retail, as consumers use voice-controlled online shopping instead of ‘traditional’ online browsing.

Research from Narvar, an enterprise SaaS platform used by brands like Sephora, Levi’s, Gap and Neiman-Marcus,  shows that over 1.3 million British consumers have shopped online in the last six months using voice-controlled devices. This figure s predicted to triple in 2018. These devices are constantly ‘learning’ and improving their voice recognition. Google uses a combination of explicit linguistic knowledge and deep learning solutions to keep answers grammatical, fluent and concise.

Advances in NLP and AI are creating new opportunities for businesses and new experiences for consumers. The possibilities of AI-enhanced voice-controlled devices are almost limitless. However, these new ventures in uncharted waters have raised concerns regarding data privacy. These were recently highlighted at Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. While most consumers automatically opt-in to service agreements to allow providers to use their information for product improvement, there is still concern. The worry is that voice-controlled devices leave private information vulnerable to unauthorised access.

Tech companies are working hard to gain consumers trust that their data is secure. Google Home and Amazon Alexa voice commands are encrypted by default. It is safeguarding measures like this that will be pivotal to the advancement of voice-controlled devices. During one of the recent Lords Select Committee’s on AI, Dr Karachalios, MD, IEEE Standards Association, said AI advances can accelerate the promise of technology and “satisfy the material needs of humanity”. However, this bold claim will only come true if progression takes place in consumer data protection too.

It seems that any company looking to enter the voice-controlled market will be using CES as a platform to showcase innovation in this ever-expanding space.