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The Growth of Voice Search and What it Means For Data Centers

By: Kayla Matthews on September 23, 2019

When Google introduced voice search in 2011, it was essentially a novelty — something that existed but most users didn't utilize.

It was a great way to get a laugh because the voice recognition software wasn't as accurate as it could be and even the clearest speakers would find their request garbled. Today with advancements in voice recognition software, voice searches have become more common.

According to current statistics, 41% of adults use voice search — either on mobile devices, computers, or via in-home assistants like Amazon Echo or Google Home — at least once a day. By 2020, that number could rise to 50% or more. 

What does the rise in voice search mean for data centers and the businesses that utilize them?

Smart Homes and Smart Devices

Nearly every operating system provider offers some sort of voice assistance. Apple has Siri. Android has Google. Amazon has Alexa and Microsoft has Cortana, named for the AI from the game series Halo.

At the end of 2018, there were roughly 2.5 billion active digital voice assistants in the world. By 2023, experts expect this number to jump to 8 billion, more than three times what it is today.

The majority of these devices are in the form of smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo. More than 34 million people purchased smart speakers in 2019, and experts project 2019 sales to reach 36 million units. They also expect sales to double by 2020, reaching 76 million users.

Why are smart devices like these and voice searches becoming so much more popular than they were when they debuted?

Better Voice Recognition

It used to be a game, asking Siri or Google a question just to see how they would respond. Half the time, they wouldn't understand what was said and the answer would be totally different than the question that was asked.

Google's voice recognition technology has advanced to the point where it can recognize human voices with 95% accuracy if the speaker is using English. It's currently available in more than 100 languages, though the accuracy isn't as high.

For users, that means they can ask questions using conversational language rather than formulating their question in a way that Google will understand.

Google isn't the only one working on improving their voice recognition software. Chinese company iFlytek's translates English to Mandarin and vice-versa as well as translating Mandarin to Korean, Japanese and 22 Chinese dialects with 98% accuracy. They're expecting to see 100% accuracy by 2022.

SEO Challenges

The rise of voice searches means that SEO — search engine optimization — will have to change to adapt. The fact that voice recognition software is approaching 100% accuracy in a variety of languages means that people are no longer searching by keywords, so previous strategies won't work anymore.

Stuffing a website with keywords or key phrases doesn't work when the user is asking questions in their natural speaking cadence.

Website content creators will need to consider how people speak. Instead of searching for "home voice assistants" when they're looking for a new Amazon Echo or Google Home device, they'll ask their phone or computer "What voice assistants are best for the home?" They might sound similar but to a search engine like Google, they couldn't be more different.

What This Means for Data Centers

What do all of these changes mean for data centers?

They too will have to change and adapt in order to survive and thrive. The projected increase in voice searches in the next few years will compound the demand for these services, which will, in turn, increase the amount of power these databases utilize. Data centers, even cloud-based one, that bleed power will find themselves losing money faster than they can cope.

Google is getting ahead of the game. As of January 2019, the tech giant had dedicated $13 billion to build new data centers and has built two new solar panel farms with a total of 1.6 million solar panels which will provide 72% of the power to these new data centers.

Data centers, in general, are expected to expand in the coming years. Managed data centers are expected to increase by 10.2%, and nearly 13% of existing centers are facing renovation and upgrades within the next three years.

Data center managers are looking toward the future as well, with 42% stating that they're planning on making the transition to solar, wind, or other renewable energies to lower operating costs and maintain a competitive edge in an industry that is shifting toward green energy and overall sustainability.

Looking Forward

Data centers provide an integral role in voice searches, and that role will continue to grow in the coming years. As more people begin to rely on voice searches, they will become even more vital.

Data centers need to begin to change their approach to things like power generation now before the demand makes it impossible for them to keep up with industry changes.


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