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The 2012 Star Performers

By The Editors of Speech Technology - Posted Jul 10, 2012
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Mergers and acquisitions have played a significant role in the selection of this year's Star Performers. In fact, three out of the four recipients were selected largely because of their smart pairings, which will yield multimodal self-service technologies and speech-enabled clinical documentation solutions suitable for government-mandated health records. The fourth company deserves recognition not only for earning this award on its own merit, without an acquisition, but for the intended goal of the company—to help law enforcement agencies crack down on crime using speech technology. While the latter company proves that crime doesn't pay, all four Star Performers prove that speech technology does.

24/7: taking its place on the speech radar

A provider of contact center software and services including big data analytics, 24/7 made a splash in the speech industry in February when it joined forces with Microsoft. The companies are combining their technologies for interactive self-service across mobile, Web, and voice channels; big data analytics; and speech and conversational interfaces to create a next-generation cloud platform for customer service.

The deal includes long-term intellectual property licensing that provides broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for its Tellme technology, and Microsoft taking an ownership stake in 24/7.

24/7 also made news with its acquisition of Voxify.

Prior to Microsoft, says Kathy Juve, chief marketing officer at 24/7, "we weren't on the speech radar. Over the…last four to five years, we started developing online software capabilities. We have products today that allow users to go from a Web-based transaction to a voice agent." Now, she adds, "we're able to extend that to mobile or to speech."

Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research, sees the companies as a good fit. "The combination of Microsoft/Tellme, 24/7, and Voxify exposes a new terrain for future competition in multimodal self-service and customer care," he says. "Microsoft finds a home for Tellme that brings together investments that both 24/7 and Voxify have made in predictive experience, along with Tellme's legacy in accurate IVR, as well as its customer base."

The combined Predictive Experience platform will manage more than 2.5 billion speech and online self-service interactions a year, positioning 24/7 to generate total revenues of more than $250 million annually by delivering solutions and services that enable large businesses to anticipate consumer needs, simplify the consumer experience, and learn from every consumer interaction. Avis Budget Group, Capital One, and United Airlines are among the companies reaping the rewards of this partnership.

"In many ways, customer service is still somewhat caught in the Dark Ages," said Juve at the time of the acquisition. "The market is very disconnected [when it comes to] consumers' personal interaction with technology, whether it's online or [via] mobile phones. We're trying to bring these pieces together: the big data element with the natural user interface element…along with machine learning [the ability for our system to continuously learn interactions across any device]…to provide a better consumer experience. And since this is in the cloud, there are significant center savings."

Avaya/Aurix: focusing on the user experience

Soon after it was acquired by Avaya in October, speech analytics and audio data mining technology provider Aurix began rolling out products.

Aurix's technologies, including a phonetic audio search engine enabling real-time and historical analysis of one-to-one or group spoken interactions, have been incorporated into Avaya's contact center and unified communications portfolios.

At the time of the acquisition, which made Aurix a wholly owned subsidiary of Avaya, Peter Rogers, Aurix CEO, said, "The combination of Avaya Aura and Aurix's speech analytics solutions offer…opportunities to create business and customer value that we look forward to accelerating."

In February, Aurix teamed up with Predictive Business Intelligence (PBI), a software development company specializing in unstructured data analytics applications, to provide speech search technology to be incorporated into PBI's business intelligence tools. PBI has embedded the Aurix true phonetic speech search engine into its suite of analytics applications, bringing expanded business intelligence to the executive desktop.

PBI offers Aurix solutions for development professional services to OEMs and integrators to reduce the time to market for speech analytics solutions and services. PBI will provide specialized speech search technology consulting services.

In April, Aurix rolled out Cloud Based Analyst 1.5, a customer contact software solution that delivers access to speech-based business intelligence via new dashboards.

Cloud Based Analyst 1.5 transforms words and phrases into structured data and stores them in a data warehouse to enable analytics that deliver greater insight into and context surrounding operational and business issues.

Cloud Based Analyst's new Customer Feedback and Call Outcome dashboards allow quick access to speech-derived business intelligence, providing a single view for aggregated voice interaction information. The Customer Feedback dashboard captures the proportion of calls containing positive, neutral, and negative feedback, and allows supervisors and others to investigate the causes of certain results to help drive more informed decision-making.

"Avaya's acquisition of Aurix [increases] the speed at which Avaya customers can implement solutions that put spoken words on a par with the words typed into Web chat, Facebook, and Twitter," says Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research. "Avaya plans to make sure that contact center agents and systems stay responsive to customers in a world swinging toward big data and social CRM."

M*Modal: the model of health

One year ago, MedQuist Holdings merged with M*Modal, and the two companies consolidated their global operations in advanced speech and natural language understanding technologies, medical transcription, coding, documentation workflow, analytics, and professional services under the M*Modal name. The move set into motion plans to expand M*Modal's core transcription business, open new markets, significantly increase its sales force and development resources, leverage its intellectual property portfolio, and add to its partner ecosystem within the healthcare industry.

As a result, M*Modal clients now have access to end-to-end clinical documentation solutions that help caregivers capture patients' complete clinical stories and extract meaningful information used to populate electronic health records (EHRs), and automate the data used to feed business processes such as coding, billing, and revenue cycle management. The technology isn't just converting voice to text; it's analyzing the text, identifying critical information, enabling healthcare practitioners to collaborate by sharing patient stories with colleagues, and integrating patient records with existing business processes.

M*Modal, based in Franklin, Tenn., now has 12,000 employees in five countries. It provides services to more than 2,400 hospitals and clinics, including some of the nation's leading healthcare institutions, 850 physician practices, 165,000 physicians, and leading EHR providers and medical transcription firms.

M*Modal built out its solutions this year with its launch of M*Modal Fluency, based on the company's cloud-based Speech Understanding platform, and M*Modal Fluency Direct, which speech-enables EHRs and other clinical systems on any workstation in the enterprise, to assist care providers in creating high-quality clinical documentation.

The company in the past year has also forged key strategic partnerships that will position it to take a large share of the medical dictation market as healthcare providers make the mandated shift to EHRs between now and 2014. These include 3M Health Information Systems, Cymetrix, Allscripts, DrChrono, Transcend Services (which has since been acquired by Nuance Communications), and Merge Healthcare.

"We are delighted to add M*Modal to our growing list of partners as it both extends our market reach and enhances our product usability and functionality," said Jeff Surges, CEO of Merge Healthcare, in a prepared statement. "We value the innovative nature of M*Modal's solutions and the company's commitment to collaboration."

SpeechPro: more secure with speech

In June 2010, SpeechPro, a unit of Russia's Speech Technology Center (STC), launched the world's first nationwide automatic voice identification system for the government of Mexico. That deployment brought to life a voice biometric system to help more than 250 law enforcement agencies throughout Mexico collect, manage, and search hundreds of thousands of voiceprints in their fight against crime, making it the largest government project to date.

STC has continued to position voice biometrics as a proven identification method with a real-life track record. This year, it signed a similar deal with the government of Ecuador to capture the voiceprints of criminals when they are arrested. The company is reportedly negotiating a number of similar systems deployments elsewhere in Latin America, Asia, and Europe.

The company is also making headway in U.S. law enforcement following a strategic partnership deal with DataWorks Plus to integrate the company's voice identification technologies into its law enforcement software application platform. Several U.S. law enforcement agencies have already committed to pilot the system, which will take the voice samples of criminals at the time of their arrest.

That partnership comes on the heels of SpeechPro's release in late 2011 of its VoiceGrid software development kit to the U.S. market.

"We are confident that as law enforcement agencies explore new modalities for their biometric identification processes, they will recognize the value that voice recognition can bring to helping solve cases including kidnapping, extortion, organized crime, gang-related activities, terrorist threats, and domestic abuse, just to name a few," says Alexey Khitrov, president of SpeechPro USA.

The company also this year released SIS II, the newest version of its forensic audio analysis software. SIS has long been a mainstay with private and government audio analysis experts in 36 countries. SIS II includes new analysis and processing tools, features designed to improve productivity, plug-ins for biometric matching and audio recording authentication, enhanced text transcription capabilities, automatic text search and matching, project management tools, and a report generator.

According to Khitrov, SIS II "embodies current state-of-the-art capabilities for forensic audio analysis and is the culmination of STC's twenty-one years of experience in the audio analysis sector."

In creating SIS II, the company "drew from our substantial internal R&D resources, but also enlisted the input of forensic experts across the globe in both private and government practice," he adds.


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