Is voice over IP the next trend in voice recognition?

{lm_summary}

Latest News

State of Logistics 2016: Pursue mutual benefit
NYK is latest ocean carrier to opt for INTTRA’s eVGM Service
NYK is latest ocean carrier to opt for INTTRA’s eVGM Service
Peak Season dynamics continue to see changes
AAR reports carload and intermodal declines for week ending July 16
More News

Latest Resource

Improving Packaging: The Cost of Shipping Air is Going Up
Retailers and manufacturers that insist on using inefficient and sloppy packaging methods—oversized boxes, inefficient packaging, poorly constructed palletized contents—are paying for their mistakes in sharply higher freight rates.
All Resources
By ·

The adoption of voice recognition in the warehouse, especially for picking, is one of the true technology success stories of the last few years. It’s also a testament to Vocollect, which has long dominated the industry, as well as competitors like Lucas Systems, Voxware and top-VOX to name just three, that have continued to improve upon the technology over the last decade. In fact, we’re featuring Tasty Baking Company, a Lucas Systems customer, in our January issue.

A few weeks ago, a press release from Datria, a provider of voice over IP voice recognition systems, caught my attention.

The company was announcing that it had added industry veteran Greg Cronin to its board of directors. Normally, we don’t pay much attention to who’s joining whose board, but I found this one interesting because Cronin has a track record of spotting industry trends in their early stages, from WMS to RFID to supply chain technology to robotic materials handling. 

Datria takes a different approach to voice from the major players listed above. Traditional voice providers install their voice engine on a mobile computing device that acts as a middleware application between the voice device and a WMS or ERP system. The operator communicates over an RF network much like someone doing bar code scanning.

Datria, on the other hand, use voice over IP. The voice solution is installed on one central server in the warehouse or a corporate data center. The operator communicates with the system via a VOIP handset – think of it as dialing up your voice solution on the phone. Instead of a proprietary headset, a company can use an off the shelf handset from Cisco or one of its competitors.

Until recently, Datria had just one flagship user in the industrial space – Coca-Cola’s bottling operations. But, what a flagship it was: Coke has enabled 3,000 warehouse workers across the country, with plans to keep rolling it out. But, from everything I’ve heard, there are challenges to the approach, like providing a separate infrastructure for the VOIP network. That has meant the solution isn’t right for everyone, which may explain why there have been few industrial warehousing announcements beyond Coke. By the way, we’re featuring Coke in March.

So, the press release made me wonder what an experienced veteran like Cronin sees in the technology. “I find them fascinating,” he told me the other day.

Cronin’s introduction to the company was in part geographic. Datria is located in Colorado, where he lives, and one of Datria’s early investors is a friend who suggested Cronin check the company out. He was impressed by the technology. “Their competitors are typically about headsets and proprietary hardware,” he said. “Datria is really a network play. They can use any phone and the computing horsepower you’re dealing with can be greater because you’re doing it out of a central system versus a headset.”

I asked Cronin whether the cost of the infrastructure outweighed the savings in using an off-the-shelf phone versus traditional headsets and mobile computers. “I think that certainly used to be the case,” he said. “But today, it’s less of an issue. You’re now talking about a dial tone on your Internet infrastructure. It works over WiFi, and nowadays, that infrastructure is in place in most distribution centers.”

Cronin added that while he is intrigued by the technology, at the end of the day, he’s a businessman at heart and he believes there’s a business opportunity at hand. “You’ve got some headsets and mobile units on the market coming to the end of life,” he said. “For that reason, I think end users will be in a position to decide whether to upgrade their existing system to the next generation of hardware, or switch to a less expensive technology.”

Does he expect Datria to get all of that business? No. He expects that some customers will stick with their current vendors or look around at the competition in the traditional space. But, any time end users are looking around, the door is open for them to consider alternatives. “I believe there’s an opportunity for Datria to pick up some market share, and that’s really exciting,” he said.

But Cronin isn’t just looking at the industrial space of warehouses and distribution centers. He believes there’s an opportunity for Datria in health care settings and large retail stores that are currently using RF scanning devices. “I love new ideas and new technologies that may take the market in a different direction,” he said. “That’s the opportunity I see here. I think the timing of this is perfect.”

I’m not a technologist, and have no idea how this may play out. I was impressed by the solution installed by the Coke bottlers – it really works for them. But there were also some unique factors that made it exactly the right solution for their application. At the same time, I think some of the challenges remain for the end user that doesn’t have the scale of Coke. Still, like Cronin, I’ll be watching the space over the next year to see what happens.


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

· All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Improving Packaging: The Cost of Shipping Air is Going Up
Retailers and manufacturers that insist on using inefficient and sloppy packaging methods—oversized boxes, inefficient packaging, poorly constructed palletized contents—are paying for their mistakes in sharply higher freight rates. Pitt Ohio White Paper, Logistics White Paper, Dimensional Packaging
Download Today!
From the July 2016 Issue
While it’s currently a shippers market, the authors of this year’s report contend that we’ve entered a “period of transition” that will usher in a realignment of capacity, lower inventories, economic growth and “moderately higher” rates. It’s time to tighten the ties that bind.
2016 State of Logistics: Third-party logistics
2016 State of Logistics: Ocean freight
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Getting the most out of your 3PL relationship
Join Evan Armstrong, president of Armstrong & Associates, as he explains how creating a balanced portfolio of "Top 50" global and domestic partners can maximize efficiency and mitigate risk.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Regional ports concentrate on growth and connectivity
With the Panama Canal expansion complete, ocean cargo gateways in the Caribbean are investing to...
Digital Reality Check
Just how close are we to the ideal digital supply network? Not as close as we might like to think....

Top 25 ports: West Coast continues to dominate
The Panama Canal expansion is set for late June and may soon be attracting more inbound vessel calls...
Port of Oakland launches smart phone apps for harbor truckers
Innovation uses Bluetooth, GPS to measure how long drivers wait for cargo