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  • Speech Recognition: Technology & Patent Landscape

    iRunway 2015 Page 2 of 36

    Public

    Contents

    1 Executive Summary .................................................................................................................. 3

    2 Introduction .............................................................................................................................. 5

    2.1 Technology Overview .................................................................................................................................. 5

    3 Patent Landscape and Analysis ................................................................................................ 7

    3.1 Leading Patent Owners ................................................................................................................................ 9

    3.2 Technology-wise Patent Distribution of Top Assignees ............................................................................ 11

    3.3 Seminal Patent Landscape ......................................................................................................................... 13

    4 Application in Mobile Devices & Automobiles .......................................................................16

    4.1 Speech Recognition Technology in Mobile Devices .................................................................................. 16

    4.1.1 Patent Landscape of Mobile Device-Related Applications .............................................................................. 16

    4.1.2 Key Players in the Mobile Devices Sector ........................................................................................................ 17

    4.1.3 Seminal Patents in Mobile Device Applications ............................................................................................... 19

    4.2 Speech Recognition Technology in Automobiles ...................................................................................... 21

    4.2.1 Patent Landscape of Automobile-Related Applications .................................................................................. 21

    4.2.2 Key Players in the Automobile Sector .............................................................................................................. 22

    4.2.3 Seminal Patents in Automobile Applications ................................................................................................... 24

    5 Litigation Trend in Patent Landscape .....................................................................................26

    6 Conclusion ..............................................................................................................................30

    7 Glossary ..................................................................................................................................31

    7.1 Technology Category ................................................................................................................................. 31

    7.2 Mobile Device Application Categories ....................................................................................................... 32

    7.3 Automobile Application Categories ........................................................................................................... 33

    8 Authors ...................................................................................................................................35

  • Speech Recognition: Technology & Patent Landscape

    iRunway 2015 Page 3 of 36

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    1 Executive Summary

    The ability to interface with a machine using natural human language has fascinated the

    scientific world for many decades. Recent virtual assistants such as Apples Siri have

    demonstrated the promise of a comfortable future with speech recognition and voice-enabled

    processes penetrating household and industrial applications. While the success rate so far in the

    world market has been negligible, this may soon change.

    Microsofts Cortana, available in the Windows 10 for mobile phones, tablets and, importantly,

    desktop units may dramatically advance the virtual assistant experience, providing Microsoft

    with a significant edge over competitors. Unlike previous virtual assistants, Cortana is now

    tailored to local languages, customs and cultures, and to the corresponding nuances of speech.

    Researchers have struggled to build a platform that interprets and responds to voice commands

    with accuracy and efficiency. While technology developers such as Nuance Communications

    have developed a large speech recognition technology patent portfolio in recent years, Microsoft

    and others have focused on linguistics, building massive dictionaries of vocabulary through

    neural networks and cloud-based architecture. It appears that linguistics may be the key to

    reducing processing time and providing a more seamless user experience.

    This research report examines speech recognition technology and its patent landscape in the

    U.S. market, providing an overview of key audio signal processing techniques and identifying

    the IP strengths and weaknesses of top companies. The report also provides in-depth analysis

    of two widely used speech recognition applications mobile devices and automobiles.

    iRunways analysis found 21,281 granted patents and major industry players such as Microsoft,

    Nuance Communications, AT&T and IBM lead the list of top patent holders. While Microsoft

    owns the largest patent portfolio in linguistics technology with 15% of the seminal, or strong,

    patents in this space, Nuance Communications dominates the recognition category with 8.5%

    seminal patents. Sony owns 7.4% of seminal patents in storage and transmission technology.

    Another force of change will soon arrive as at least 172 seminal patents belonging to the

    leading 10 seminal patent owners expire in 2016, bringing them into public domain. This will

    likely prompt a new wave of development in the speech recognition domain with a dramatic

    impact on the application of this technology. This is likely to reduce licensing costs and make

    speech recognition technology more easily available to the larger market.

  • Speech Recognition: Technology & Patent Landscape

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    Mobile devices are emerging as commercially successful ubiquitous tools to perform multiple

    human activities through voice commands. iRunways analysis found 3,209 patents related to

    application of speech recognition technology for mobile devices. AT&T, Nuance

    Communications, Microsoft, IBM and Google are the key patent holders in this space. Apple

    does not have a large speech recognition patent portfolio and it licenses patents from other

    industry leaders including Nuance that powers Siri.

    A growing market for smart vehicles has also bolstered the automobile industry into a key

    applicant of speech recognition technology. The analysis found 648 speech recognition patents

    that were applicable to automotive and vehicular systems. Until the turn of the century,

    automobile manufacturers were relying heavily on technology companies such as Nuance and

    Microsoft to implement speech recognition functionalities in vehicles. In recent times, Apple and

    Google have emerged as two major players vying for a large market share with their CarPlay

    and Android Auto speech-controlled infotainment systems respectively. However, many auto

    manufacturers have begun developing these technologies in-house. Denso, General Motors and

    Honda are three leading patent owners in this space. Other leading owners of patents in

    speech-enabled communication, navigation, maneuver, data presentation and techniques to

    cancel environmental noise include Nuance, Microsoft, Alpine Electronics and AT&T.

  • Speech Recognition: Technology & Patent Landscape

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    2 Introduction

    Designing a system that mimics human behavior, particularly the capability of speaking

    naturally and responding interactively to spoken commands, has intrigued engineers and

    scientists for centuries. Today, speech recognition has stepped into every realm, including

    mobile phones, telecommunications, healthcare, banking, speech-controlled automobile

    maneuvering, speech-based web browsing, robotics, virtual personal assistant, aviation,

    military, education, handicap aid, security, and media and entertainment to name a few.

    2.1 Technology Overview

    Speech is technically defined as a sequence of basic units called phonemes. Automated Speech

    Recognition (ASR) systems convert analog speech signals received through microphones to

    digital signals that are segmented to retrieve phonemes. Using the phoneme sequence, the ASR

    system refers to the vocabulary and grammar rules to decipher words or phrases. Processing

    speech signals includes removing noise, reducing errors in recognizing phoneme patterns and

    resolving ambiguity arising from variations in speech accent, pitch and speed.

    Statistical models and grammatical rules require exemplary training data and a large volume of

    vocabulary, words and phrases. With growing vocabulary and advances in semantic analyses,

    speech recognition is striving to achieve more accuracy. Today's speech recognition systems

    use powerful and complicated statistical modeling te