Deutsche Telekom and SoundHound Make Their Partnership Public with Houndify Supporting Magenta
SoundHound issued an announcement this morning about its partnership with Deutsche Telekom to “bring voice AI capabilities to their devices,” using its Houndify platform. Houndify has emerged as one of the top white label solutions for enterprises that want to build their own voice assistants and not rely solely on consumer assistants from Amazon and Google to offer voice interactive experiences for consumers. Omar Tazi, SVP of Group Innovation, Products & Customer Experience at Deutsche Telekom, commented:
Partnering with SoundHound Inc. provides us with a robust, customizable voice solution, allowing us to reach our audience in a wholly unique way.
SoundHound Grows Beyond Automotive
The most active industry launching customized assistants is automotive. SoundHound has established strong momentum in that segment with customers that include Mercedes, Hyundai, Kia, Groupe PSA, and Honda. However, the idea of custom assistants has expanded into other industries as well. Telecom is a clear example of this growing interest with voice assistants launched by Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Telefonica in Europe and SK Telecom and KT Corporation in South Korea.
Deutsche Telekom has a large customer base for mobile and telephony service as well as television services and a growing smart home solutions portfolio. Each of these product lines has clear use cases where voice interactivity adds value for users. This led Deutsche Telecom to embark on the development of its voice assistant, Magenta, several years ago, and launch its first voice-interactive device, a smart speaker in September of 2019.
The company’s decision to launch Magenta initially within a smart speaker meant the engineering team needed to build both the hardware and software solutions. The scope of that effort strained the team of just over 200 working on the project and SoundHound arose initially as an option for automated speech recognition (ASR). This allowed Deutsche Telekom software engineers to focus on the natural language understand (NLU) and natural language generation (NLG) requirements to support a few dozen common voice applications. Industry sources tell Voicebot that Orange’s Djingo voice assistant team came to a similar conclusion.
These projects suggest SoundHound is gaining traction outside of automotive with two telecom providers in Europe, albeit with only one of those officially announced. SoundHound has recently indicated its intention also to support the hospitality industry with its recent partnership with Harman Professional Solutions which provides technology services to the hotel industry.
Unexpectedly Competing with Alexa
While SoundHound is often viewed as an alternative to consumer assistants such as Alexa, Deutsche Telekom is an example of where they compete for their share of scope in terms of functionality. Magenta offers several native capabilities and beyond that employs Amazon’s Alexa to answer general knowledge queries, access over 10,000 German-language skills, and control other smart home devices. The Magenta smart speaker’s activation light ring glows magenta when the user is speaking the native assistant and blue when accessing Alexa.
SoundHound’s strategy has been to offer enterprises capabilities similar to Alexa, but with total control over the user experience and data. In some cases, Houndify does provide access to that full range of services but we are also seeing instances where it is sharing those responsibilities with Alexa or other assistants. Deutsche Telekom and Orange are two examples. So, enterprises can choose to go all white-label or employ a hybrid approach of their own solution with Alexa. That means SoundHound, in some instances, is competing for the white-label provider status and then also may have to compete with Alexa for the right to offer services where they offer overlapping functionality.
This is a perfect example of how dynamic the market is today around voice assistant technology. SoundHound has carved out a strong position as a leading solution for enterprises that want to quickly build a robust, custom voice assistant. At the same time, the lines are blurring between where the big consumer assistants operate alongside the growing number of custom assistants. SoundHound’s deal with Deutsche Telekom offers an example of its expansion beyond automotive while also highlighting the increasingly dynamic nature voice assistant competition today.