The Dual Assistant Path

Although the voice ecosystem has long been dominated by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Apple, many brands are exploring the arena of custom owned assistants that give brands more control over data and user experience without a third-party intermediary. With Amazon’s latest announcement, the line is blurring between big tech voice assistants and brand-owned custom assistants. A handful of companies have already created devices that allow for the coexistence of their own assistant alongside a mainstream assistant. European telecommunications companies including Vodafone Spain, Orange, and Deutsche Telekom have all taken this approach and released devices integrated with both their custom assistant and Alexa. By using Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant initiative, many more companies will be thinking about how they can leverage the best of both worlds, bringing a generalist assistant alongside a specialist.

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Tapping Into the Best of Both Worlds

Amazon introduced its new Alexa Custom Assistant offering, allowing car and device manufacturers to create branded voice assistants that also integrate Alexa technology. Under this new paradigm, brands can leverage custom wake words, create features unique to their needs, and create custom voices that work with existing Alexa capabilities. Fiat Chrysler Automobile will be the first to use Alexa Custom Assistant in its cars. As brands look to build experiences that stay true to their image and directly serve specific customer requests — while also scaling their voice presences without building assistants from scratch — Amazon is set to meet their needs, pulling the company into competition with existing third-party assistant platforms. More on VentureBeat

Going Incognito

Google recently launched Guest Mode for Assistant-enabled smart devices, permitting customers to use their smart speakers and displays without logging into a Google account. As a result, the feature doesn’t save user activity and turns off personalized recommendations. In the past, the company has released features to promote more private experiences including deleting recordings via commands and wakeword sensitivity controls. But especially with the privacy missteps of smart speakers in the last year, and as public scrutiny around how Alexa and Google Assistant devices collect data, Google is actively looking to alleviate users’ worries and build trust with consumers. More on  

From the Comfort of Your Car

Cerence, the voice AI company for cars, partnered with connected car software company Xevo to introduce voice-enabled payments in vehicles. The Xevo Market software, integrated into models like Chevrolet, already enables drivers to complete transactions, including paying for gas and parking and ordering from select restaurants, via a touchscreen. Now, the new Cerence Pay integration allows drivers to use voice commands for easy hands-free purchases and control. With many car brands already leveraging custom and mainstream voice assistants, voice commerce is a natural extension to enhance the on-the-go customer experience with more advanced tasks. More on Cerence

Stats Don’t Lie

41% of smart home technology owners have bought at least one device or feature since the pandemic began. (data via

3 Billion units of devices with built-in voice assistant technology are projected to ship in 2024. (data via Futuresource Consulting)

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Brave to Change

In BizWomen, RAIN CEO Nithya Thadani shares how the RAIN team has pushed through the many challenges of 2020 to emerge stronger. From leaning into company culture in new ways to transforming our operations to diversifying our business model, Nithya explains how adaptability and bravery have helped us grow through uncertain times. 

Read more about RAIN’s journey this past year here.