Aiqudo Brings Voice AI to Industrial Field Workers
Voice tech startup Aiqudo is beginning to augment industrial AI systems used by industrial mobile field workers with a voice assistant. Aiqudo has partnered with enterprise AI and computing firm mCloud Technologies to incorporate its Q Actions and Action Kit SDK into mCloud’s AssetCare platform on mobile apps and embedded in RealWear head-mounted smart glasses worn by workers in some industries.
mCloud offers specialized software for companies with many field operators, especially different facets of the energy industry like oil, gas, and wind. Those employees use mCloud’s platform to organize and document their work. They can diagnose and repair problems they spot, complete and share paperwork, and schedule their visits in coordination with their colleagues and relevant people at the sites they visit. With Aiqudo’s inclusion, all of those assets and services are just a voice command away. When installed on the RealWear smart glasses pictured on the right, the workers can see what they are looking for without needing to use a hand to hold a smartphone. The video at the top of the page shows what the person wearing what is basically an upgraded, heavy-duty Google Glass might see as they interact with the voice assistant. Aiqudo’s natural language understanding (NLU) engine listens and carries out the wearer’s requests and can handle multi-step orders combined into a single statement.
“We overlay our voice platform onto mCoud’s app and in the Realwear glasses,” Aiqudo CEO John Foster explained in an interview with Voicebot. “Having NLU on a hands-free device is incredibly efficient, and our platform can handle compound actions in one command.”
Aiqudo first came onto the voice tech scene in 2017 and is best-known as the software underlying Hello Moto voice assistant for Motorola. Since then, the company has provided the foundation for many voice assistants around the world in seven languages. Early in 2020, Aiqudo branched into automotive voice assistants, striking a deal to support a voice assistant in vehicles built by Chinese carmaker Byton. The Byton assistant is designed to operate a vehicle’s environmental controls and launch apps from a connected mobile device, including shopping by voice. As with mCloud’s apps, Aiqudo’s Action Kit offers a way for third-party voice apps to run on the platform as well as native software. Despite Aiqudo usually sticking to consumer-focused voice assistants, the startup and mCloud saw a shared tech and business opportunity when introduced, and Foster said there are other enterprise verticals where the combination of voice and hands-free visuals could be valuable.
“This one was a somewhat opportunistic relationship set up by investors,” Foster said. “mCloud thinks our platform can serve their core apps in a really unique way. I think the industrial AR space is really interesting. One use case in particular that is interesting is at fast-food restaurants where there are always new employees learning to chop onions, shred lettuce, all that stuff,” Foster said. “The turnover is high, and you need someone adept in tech to search on a tablet for training. You can eliminate that by using voice instead.”
There are many businesses with wide geographic footprints that could benefit from access to voice technology in one form or another. mCloud is not the first to see the value of a voice assistant on the road. Alan AI provides a voice platform directly to companies who already have the kind of mobile app mCloud builds for its clients. The Alan voice assistant is embedded in the app to allow for voice commands. Alan even gives a voice to energy supplier Murphy Oil’s mobile app for employees, albeit without the fancy headgear. There are also smaller companies probing the market. In June, voice assistant developer Datch closed a $3.2 million seed funding round led by Blue Bear Capital to improve and sell what it calls a “Voice-Visual” AI with voice commands handling data collection and other paperwork.
Gathering a work record, prepping a journey, and generally keeping field workers connected to the home office and the locations they visit is a lot easier when it can be done hands-free. Plenty of people will be conversing with Aiqudo’s voice AI soon as mCloud starts to disseminate its enhanced products to clients. The company’s goal is to bring 1,000 people working in China onto the system by January and hit 20,000 users by the end of next year.
“There are other key areas for mCloud we may work with them on that have a slightly different deployment of the same platform. In healthcare, it may be through a mobile app,” Foster said. “I think custom voice assistants are just beginning to show their capability.”