Latest Trends in Speech Technology

By Rich Tehrani, CEO, Technology Marketing Corporation  |  September 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2011 issue of  Customer Interaction Solutions

Speech analytics in greater demand
At the recent SpeechTek 2011 conference in New York, I gained some great insight into the state of speech technology. For example, Jeff Schlueter (News - Alert) of Nexidia told me his company’s speech analytics solutions have been in greater demand in this current economy as the desire to control costs has led to increased adoption of speech analytics. In addition, the company has released version 9.0 of its Enterprise Speech Intelligence product suite which cuts the TCO in half and allowing for customers to handle even larger amounts of data.

Nuance (News - Alert) takes Speech Technology Literally into the Clouds
Dena Skrbina and Andrea Mocherman from Nuance Communications explained how its technology was able to help transform the business of US Airways by providing a state-of-the-art cloud-based communications solution.

In short, the company has provided the airline with technology that is integrated with customer phone numbers, allowing callers to be immediately presented with information pertaining to their flights. On calls, customers are greeted by name and immediately provided information about parking, gates, times and upgrades. Moreover, the new system makes better use of hold time by querying for needed information, which is subsequently passed to agents.

In another upgrade over traditional IVR systems, technology is now in place allowing prosody to be determined – in other words punctuation such as question marks are “understood,” allowing the automated voice to have the proper intonation making it sound more human.

Intrigued? These solutions are currently available to Nuance On-Demand customers and will be rolled out to CPE customers over the next twelve months.

Nuance did some calculations and, on the 10 percent on-hold time US Airways has saved as a result of this upgrade, it believes the airline will save $6M a year. Moreover, they believe this number will increase as they optimize the system. US Airways is so happy with the system, they have dubbed it “Wally” and even used it to read the airline’s forward looking statements on the company’s latest conference call.

Microsoft to abstract devices for more seamless experiences
Last year, Microsoft introduced me to its Xbox Kinect gaming system with built-in speech recognition and I was very impressed. To date, though, the gaming system has been better known for its motion detection than for its speech technology. This will potentially change soon, as speech has now been put into the SDK.

In my meeting with Grant Shirk, I also had a chance to use Windows Phone (News - Alert) 7 Mango and, as Shirk explained, some areas of speech integration are apps, search and address book. The new Mango OS supports 500+ new features, and 4 of the top 15 requests for improvements included speech.

I asked Shirk about his thoughts regarding HTML5. He believes there is a lot of opportunity for speech to be integrated into HTML5 and that HTML5 investments generally start with customer interactions. “Speech is a natural interface,” he pointed out. When queried about where Microsoft sees itself in these spaces, he replied, “We are in a great position to provide services to help companies build cross-channel experiences independent of device.” To me that makes the company sort of a super-middleware provider of the future and, in some ways, Adobe’s new Edge tool I just covered will be competitive with this vision.

New player Novauris (News - Alert) intrigues
Competing against established players like Nuance, Microsoft and Loquendo isn’t easy, but Novauris, a newcomer to the speech technology space, has already inked some deals with tier one OEMs and carriers, and has a specific niche where it believes its performance is best in class. Specifically, that expertise includes accessing very large sets of databases such as addresses, names of people, product catalogs, IPTV and electronic programming guides, local search and directory assistance. The company works with Angel and SpeechCycle in the call center space as well – doing name and address recognition in the cloud and passing back the data via XML in real time.

Please enjoy all my comments from SpeechTek, including thoughts on meetings with Voxeo, Wavelink, SAP (News - Alert), Cyara, Zoho, and more on my blog on TMCnet.

Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi