Speech Technology Magazine

 

Peter Gavalakis, Chair of the VoiceXML Forum's Marketing Committee

According to Peter Gavalakis, chair of the VoiceXML Forum's marketing committee, "Customers that specify only certified VoiceXML platforms in their RFPs know that the systems they will be purchasing will be fully standards-compliant. This assurance is important for companies seeking to avoid the risks associated with vendor lock-in and with obsolescence by adopting a standards-based technology approach."
Posted Jul 1, 2005
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Q.  What is the Forum working on these days?
A. The VoiceXML Forum sponsors a wide range of activities that are designed to help promote the adoption of VoiceXML-based technologies and solutions.  Earlier this year, the Forum began a webinar series that covers topics of interest to developers, program managers and others working with VoiceXML.  Our Accessibility Committee, Tools Committee, and Education Committee are each active with activities appropriate to their teams' charters.  We regularly publish the VoiceXML Review e-zine, which features insightful articles written by industry experts.  The current issue is always available from the home page of our Web site, www.voicexml.org.  Our Conformance Committee manages the VoiceXML Platform Certification Program that verifies compliance with the VoiceXML standard. The Forum is also expanding into other related technology areas, such as speaker biometrics.

Q. Tell me more about the platform certification program. What is it and how do platform vendors get involved with the program?
A. The VoiceXML Platform Certification Program verifies that a VoiceXML platform passes all of the tests in the VoiceXML 2.0 test suite.

The program has three principal components: the Conformance Test Suite, which is based on the W3C VoiceXML 2.0 Recommendation and the W3C VoiceXML 2.0 Implementation Report, the Test Harness, which simplifies running of the tests, and a formal certification program that is administered by an independent third party on behalf of the Forum.

The program's goals include promoting interoperability of VoiceXML platforms, tools, and applications and accurately describing vendors' implementations of language features and claims of compatibility.  The clarity and certainty that this program provides are good for vendors, good for customers and good for the industry

To date, 10 companies have been certified.  A number of other certifications are in process.  Look for a formal announcement from the VoiceXML Forum about the program and the vendors certified next week at SpeechTEK.

Q. What kind of testing do you perform on the platform?
A. The VoiceXML Platform Certification Program includes more than 600 tests that cover the W3C VoiceXML 2.0 Recommendation and is based on the W3C's VoiceXML 2.0 Implementation Report.  To aid vendors in preparing for certification, the Conformance Test Suite to be used in the VoiceXML Platform Certification Program is available, at no charge, for public download from the Forum's Web site at www.voicexml.org.

Q. What benefit can vendors and customers gain from having their platforms pass this certification test?
A. Customers that specify only certified VoiceXML platforms in their RFPs know that the systems they will be purchasing will be fully standards-compliant.  This assurance is important for companies seeking to avoid the risks associated with vendor lock-in and with obsolescence by adopting a standards-based technology approach.  Additionally, the features and capabilities of certified platforms are well-understood, so customers have confidence that they understand what they're buying.

Conversely, vendors whose VoiceXML platforms have been certified make it easy for customers to select those platforms.  The certification is a badge of product maturity, industry awareness and customer focus.  The availability of industry-certified platforms can shorten the sales cycle and increase marketplace adoption generally, which is good for all vendors.

Q. Does the VoiceXML Forum conduct the testing?
A. No. CT Labs, an independent testing laboratory, has been contracted to run the tests on behalf of VoiceXML Forum.  CT Labs is a full-service testing and product analysis firm specializing in providing testing services to converged communications product manufacturers and next-generation network service providers.

Q. I noticed there are two versions of the test suite: one for VoiceXML Forum members and one for the general public.  What is the difference?
A. The Conformance Test Suite is the same for everyone, and it is available, at no charge, for public download from the Forum's Web site at www.voicexml.org.  Additionally, the tests can also be run directly from the Forum's Web site without having to install any software.  To customize the testing environment to a vendor's lab, the VoiceXML Forum provides its members with access to a test harness to assist in local execution of the tests.

Q. How does the certification program fit into the Forum's 2005 business and marketing plan?
A.  The Platform Certification Program is one of the Forum's most important initiatives in 2005.  As you know, since the Forum formally contributed the VoiceXML specification to the W3C, its role has been focused on certification programs, education, and awareness.

Q. In addition to the Platform Certification Program, the VoiceXML Forum also offers a program for developers to test and certify their VoiceXML skills, right?
A. Yes.  The VoiceXML Developer Certification Exam measures a developer's knowledge of the W3C's Speech Interface Framework languages required to develop speech applications, including VoiceXML 2.0, Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML), Speech Recognition Grammar Specification (SRGS), Semantic Interpretation Language and the XML call control language (CCXML).  It also tests how developers use these languages effectively to create world-class VoiceXML applications.  Certified developers may choose to be listed on the VoiceXML Forum website.  The VoiceXML Forum Web site (http://www.voicexml.org/certification/index.html) also features additional information about the VoiceXML Developer Certification Exam, including a copy of the VoiceXML Test Description and a list of training organizations that offer courses in developing speech applications using VoiceXML.  The VoiceXML Developer Certification Exam enables companies to audit their development teams' familiarity with best practices and serves as an important credential for individuals seeking to join those teams.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the Forum's efforts to expand internationally?
A. First, with nearly 40 percent of our members based outside of the U.S., the Forum, today, is a global organization.  Our members span 21 countries worldwide.  Recently, Loquendo joined the board of directors as a sponsor member. 

That said, we want to continue to expand our reach internationally and will be looking at ways to increase our presence at events and conferences outside the U.S.

Q.  We know the W3C is preparing to finalize the VoiceXML 2.1 specification for publication.  The Forum and its members provided a lot of input into version 2.1.  Can you tell us what new features and functionality are in 2.1?
A. The purpose of the VoiceXML 2.1 specification is to formally specify the most widely supported among these features to ensure their portability between platforms and at the same time maintain complete backwards-compatibility with VoiceXML 2.0.  The features specified in VoiceXML 2.1 include:

  • Allowing grammars to be referenced dynamically via a srcexpr attribute on the element
  • Allowing scripts to be referenced dynamically via a srcexpr attribute on the

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