Motorola unveils speech input tool for warehouse workers

Voice input software is designed to cut warehouse operations costs

Motorola Solutions on Tuesday unveiled a speech technology upgrade targeting mobile device workers in warehouses and distribution centers.

The new TekSpeech Pro speech input technology lets workers input voice commands with little software training. The tool can be used by different speakers, not only the first user to deploy it.

The updated tool can be used with about a dozen wearable, handheld and truck-installed computers made by Motorola Solutions.

The initial version of the TekSpeech software was introduced a decade ago by Psion PLC, which was purchased by Motorola Solutions in 2012 for $200 million. Motorola Solutions, meanwhile, is in the process of being acquired by Zebra Technologies for $3.45 billion. That acquisition is expected to close by year's end.

Voice commands used in warehouse operations are widely seen as a means of improving efficiency and lowering costs. About 70% of the operating costs in a warehouse are devoted to picking items for shipment and replenishing them, Motorola officials said.

Motorola's various rugged handheld and wearable devices also support other input modes, including barcode scanning, keyboard and touch input.

With voice input, a warehouse worker on a forklift can notify a back-office system that an item has been picked from a shelf without having to leave the forklift to scan a barcode.

In addition to recognizing a worker's accent or speed of speech, the new software supports 21 different languages, said Darren Koffer, director of enterprise mobile computing for Motorola Solutions.

Koffer said pricing for TekSpeech Pro depends on the size of the deployment.

There are three components available for purchase, including client licenses, a speech process analyzer, and developer software. Users can customize TekSpeech Pro to integrate with corporate enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management systems (WMS).

Motorola Solutions has hundreds of customers, and Koffer predicted a large relatively untapped market for the Pro software.

A warehouse worker fulfills an order using voice commands via her Motorola headset connected to the vendor's MC2100 mobile computer to communicate directly with a company's ERP system. (Photo: Motorola Solutions)

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile/wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

Tags hardwareMotorolaMotorola SolutionsMobile/WirelessNetworkinghardware systemswirelessmobilemobile apps

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