The Advantages of On-Demand Speech Technology


SpeechTEK 2009:This year's closing keynote panel examines speech solutions delivered via the software-as-a-service model.


Early in the session, Nancy Jamison, a market analyst for Jamison Consulting, asked panelists to define what made the hosted model unique.

RJ Auburn, chief technology officer for Voxeo, said that one of the big advantages of managed services and SaaS is the ability to provide redundancy — even in a hybrid or on-premises implementation. He cited as an example a contact center that handles its typical call volume via on-premises ports, but rents extra ports from a vendor to handle seasonal spikes in trafiic. The contact center can use its own ports the rest of the year, possibly saving some money without sacrificing the control provided by the on-premises option.

SaaS models also allow enterprises to leverage technologies that might be too complex and/or too expensive to implement themselves. Paul Watson, general manager of multichannel and self-care solutions for Convergys, pointed specifically to speaker verification as one such example. Installed as an on-premises technology, Watson argued, voice biometrics can require prohibitive capital investment for licensing, infrastructure, and training; not only does the SaaS model address those concerns, he said, but it makes the technology more manageable and quicker to implement.

Jamie Bertasi, the senior vice president of enterprise at Microsoft subsidiary Tellme, said that one of the biggest advantages of SaaS and managed solutions is the ability to tune a system with every call, quickly and efficiently, making that system more powerful over time.

Voxify Executive Vice President Daniel Reed agreed, adding that a managed-services environment also enables vendors to “aggregate data for the benefit of individuals.” In other words, a vendor draws from the well of its experience, making increasing its competence and capabilities with each deployment.

Auburn, Reed's colleague at Voxeo, noted another advantage of a hosted environment: technology updates and the ability to keep systems and platforms evergreen with the latest advances. Some contact centers. he pointed out, are running legacy hardware but competing against newer, easier systems. “There are a lot of old, scary boxes sitting in basements [for 10 years at a time]," he said. "Having the technology move forward is very, very valuable.”

The panel agreed broadly that one of the main advantages of SaaS is speed of deployment, but also cautioned that sufficient attention must be paid to the implementation.

“Talk to people about their experience with speech and you’ll get very mixed results,” Tellme's Bertasi said. “We can be fast all we want, but if it doesn’t work — whatever the reasons are that things go wrong — we’re not, and our clients are not, going to achieve [our] goals.”

Bertasi also argued that systems continuing to move callers through the call flow in a very serial manner miss the point entirely. Good design, she said, helps users achieve goals quickly.

Despite the panel’s consensus on some matters, the stage also saw its share of occasional disagreement. Panelists, speaking to an audience of potential customers, vied to push their messages and wares within the allotted time constraints.

In one exchange, as Convergys's Watson had begun to wrap up an overview of his company's offerings, Voxeo's Auburn pointedly asked how many of Convergys’s ports were VoiceXML-enabled. Watson replied that he didn’t have an exact figure, but that it was above 50 percent. The exchange was polite but also illustrative of how competitive the hosted space -- with its multiplicity of vendors and plans from which to choose -- can be.

Verizon Business Extends Automated Speech Recognition Services to Internet Protocol Networks


To meet the needs of the growing number of businesses that are converting their networks to an Internet protocol infrastructure, Verizon Business is now offering its speech services in an IP-enabled version.

The new capability, announced Tuesday (Aug. 25), allows customers to run their speech services on the company's Hosted IP Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform, as an alternative or in addition to its traditional Hosted IVR platform.

The services help callers conduct simple self-service inquiries and transactions over the phone. For example, a caller could use a speech application to check an account balance, find a store location, order literature, update an appointment, or inquire about an insurance claim -- all without having to wait on hold to speak to a customer service agent.



Eckoh wins £1.5m contract with Government Transport organisation

Eckoh, the hosted speech recognition services business, has won a new five year contract worth a minimum £1.5 million to supply services to a major Government Transport & Infrastructure organisation.As part of the deal, Eckoh will provide automated telephone services using its advanced speech recognition technology, with the first service expected to launch later this year.

Eckoh plc: Vue Cinemas Renew Exclusive Contract for Three More Years


Eckoh plc is pleased to announce it has successfully renewed its exclusive contract for a three year period to provide a speech-enabled cinema information and ticket booking service and live contact centre to Vue, the UK?s leading developer and operator of state-of-the-art cinemas.

Under the terms of the contract, in Autumn 2009, Eckoh will deploy a completely new automated telephone service which is being designed to reflect the same innovative approach that Vue bring to the cinema market as a whole.

The service will allow callers to easily access information and to book tickets from the full and extensive range of ticket and performance types across the Vue network and to select where they would like to sit in the cinema auditorium and to keep this as a personal preference. It will also feature increased levels of personalisation so it will offer callers where desired, selections based upon their previous call patterns to make the call quicker and more intuitive.

The new service will also benefit from being deployed on Eckoh?s new state-of-the-art VoiceXML call platform which operates the very latest in speech recognition technology from Nuance. This new platform which goes live in the Summer will ensure that the technical performance of the Vue service and the accuracy of the speech recognition will be best in the market.



Hosted Solutions Can Breathe New Life into Legacy Systems

So it’s Spring 2009, and your contact center development budget has already been cut due to expected revenue downturns. Yet your business partners keep knocking at your door for new applications, because they’re being asked to get creative with their revenue generation and retention efforts. And, you’re being asked to pull costs out of your expense budget, which inevitably comes from IT or development headcounts. Maybe your contact center is contracting, too.  All of these conflicting pressures and market changes are forcing companies to seek out new options. Contact centers and IT organizations can get more functionality with less investment by blending their current solutions with many combinations of hosted or SaaS (News - Alert) solutions, from call routing to CRM to unified communications (UC).

(more in source article)

M*Modal's Advanced Speech Recognition Technology is Incorporated into Scribe's Web-based Document Solutions

M*Modal today announced Scribe Healthcare Technology has incorporated the company's Speech Understanding technology into its web-based medical dictation, transcription and archival solutions.

Scribe's technology offerings simplify the business of medicine by providing web-based solutions for clinical information production, workflow management and analysis to healthcare providers and medical transcription service organizations that service them.

Telephonetics wins Empire Cinemas multi-year contract

Speech recognition and voice automation specialist Telephonetics has signed a multi-year contract with Empire Cinemas to supply its MovieLine automatic speech recognition (ASR) ticket booking and IT system to all of Empire's 17 UK cinema sites. 

The company grabbed the Empire deal from rival firm Eckoh, which has been working with Empire for the last three years. 

TellMe cuts the cord to Nuance

TellMe just had their best quarter so far. It's taken them over two years to upgrade their platform to lose reliance on Nuance technology.

When TellMe was founded in 1999, they used speech recognition technology produced by the original Nuance. Over time, they upgraded their platform and continued to use Nuance technology even after ScanSoft bought out Nuance and changed it's name to Nuance. 

Now, TellMe has announced vast improvements to their platform, "the most substantial ... since Microsoft bought it in May 2007." and "the improvements ... take advantage of cloud computing..."

The article states that "The improvements  include speech recognition technology developed by other units of Microsoft." 

Speech recognition specialist Eckoh leaps ahead on new contract wins

Eckoh is the UK's largest provider of "hosted speech recognition services" with some very big name clients to its credit.

Today, the company gave us a trading update from which it would seem that the infernal things aren't going away. Quite the contrary in fact, as Eckoh reckons it's benefiting from the economic crisis as the large organisations it serves look to cut costs by using Eckoh's services instead of call centres. The lesser of two evils perhaps?

Last year, Eckoh made an operating loss of £2.75m, but that has been turned around and today we learn that profit that will be in line with market expectations as the company's Speech Solutions division has been doing so well.

Eckoh has also managed to improve margins and reduce admin costs by 25%. And the best thing of all is that the company has a nice big cash pile of over £5m -- representing over a third of the value of the entire company. Also, at the last count, the company had an overall net asset value of £9.6m.


Google Voice: A push to rewire your phone service

Google Voice, the new version of the GrandCentral technology Google acquired in July 2007, has the potential to make the search giant a middleman in an important part of people's lives, telephone communications. With the service, people can pick a new phone number from Google Voice; when others call it, Google can ring all the actual phones a person uses and handle voice mail.

The old version could let people centralize telephone services, screen their calls, and listen to voice mail over the Web. But the new version offers several significant new features, though. Google now uses its speech-to-text technology to transcribe voice mail, making it possible to search for particular words. Gmail's contacts now is used to instruct Google Voice how to treat various callers. And Google Voice now can send and receive SMS text messages and set up conference calls.