The Evolution of the IVR System
May 18, 2011
By Susan J. Campbell
, TMCnet Contributing Editor
For anyone in their mid-30s or older, you likely remember the first explosion of IVR technologies in the early 80s. Personal computers introduced a whole new way of doing business and large corporations could allow a computer to answer the phone instead of that annoying live operator. Things have changed considerably since that time. We can still be greeted by an IVR system, but instead of offering us one function – to connect to a line; the systems in use today can take us on a whole new journey. Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
When the 90s emerged, the development of proprietary mark-up languages took hold. These languages were often used in the IVR system and were based on XML. To create a standard, AT&T (News - Alert), IBM, Lucent and Motorola founded the VoiceXML Forum in early 1999. This group of experts worked together to draft the specification of language according to the best features of their individual efforts.
In March of 2000, the group published the VoiceXML 1.0 specification. At that point, the Forum submitted the specification to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C (News - Alert)) for consideration. The next revision of this language was guided by the W3C and by the next year, initial drafts of three additional mark-up languages were made available. In addition, a draft was made available for VoiceXML (News - Alert) 2.0 for specific conversational dialogs allowing callers to speak and listen to speech-enabled applications.
With the development of the IVR system, the innovation of the voice browser model emerged. Computers have a browser that will connect to a Web server. That server then presents content to the user by providing HTTP to the browser, formatting that information for the consumer. Behind the presentation layer is an application layer. It is in this layer that all of the logic of the application resides.
In the development of the voice browser, the VoiceXML acts as the analog of the HTTP and specifies the dialog with the user. The traditional POTS telephone, however, had no computational capability and the browser itself had to reside in the presentation layer. This separation is being eliminated with the convergence of the Web and telecommunications.
This convergence is advancing the capabilities of the IVR system as it enables Web developers to create applications that can be accessed through any telephone, allowing people to interact with the applications through speech and telephone keypads.
The IVR systems that we interact with today do so much more than just direct our call. They can take surveys, tally results, guide the caller based on answered questions, assess needs, pick out your next car color….well, maybe not the last option, but you get the point.
Edited by Juliana Kenny