Speech Around the World

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Our first cover story on unified communications (UC), "Would You Do This?" (Speech Technology, March 2007), defined the UC market and introduced the vendors competing in it. As the headline suggests, it also posed the following question: Would you take the sizeable leap forward and invest in IP-based telephony to enable your organization to share information across all channels? Since then, many companies have responded favorably to the promise of UC solutions by investing in them, and even more companies are considering the switch.

In fact, research mentioned in this month’s cover story, "Communications Unified," by Managing Editor Leonard Klie, confirms this. Frost & Sullivan pegs the UC market at $4.55 billion in sales. An Aberdeen Group report states that nearly 25 percent of organizations surveyed have already implemented UC solutions in their contact centers, and an additional 50 percent of organizations are currently evaluating UC solutions.

There’s no doubt that it will take a long time to persuade interested companies to invest in UC technologies. However, that UC solutions have garnered such interest is a pretty significant feat, considering how heavily invested organizations are in their existing telephony infrastructures.
Responding to this customer interest, in mid-October Aspect launched its UC professional services and systems integration practice. This group aims to "assist organizations with planning, implementing, and supporting UC products across their enterprises and into their contact centers," according to a company press release. These efforts build on the relationship between Aspect and Microsoft and "assist organizations in deploying Microsoft Office Communications Server and other Microsoft UC applications from planning through implementation," the release stated.

When it comes to UC, these types of partnerships are not uncommon given that UC solutions typically incorporate technologies from various vendors. That can make deploying them a daunting task. To help identify some of the UC deployment hurdles, read our cover story, which also provides advice for successful UC deployments.

These efforts, and others, are helping speech technology become more prevalent throughout the world. And what better stage to showcase speech technology’s capabilities to the world than at the 2008 Summer Olympics? There’s no medal for the text-to-speech (TTS) system that iFlytek implemented for the games, but people who used it in Beijing were pleased. Read our feature story, "Golden Words," by freelance writer Jessica Sebor, for more on this deployment. One industry expert in the feature suggests that we are not far away from implementing TTS solutions to break down language barriers in airports, public transit, hotels, tourism departments, and taxicabs.

In this issue we also show how Asia, along with Europe, is taking the lead in interactive voice and video response (IVVR) implementations. In our feature, "Waiting by the Phone," Editorial Assistant Adam Boretz suggests that if the wireless carriers in the United States develop a standardized 3G wireless network, companies in the U.S. could use IVVR technologies to improve customer experiences, reduce costs, and generate revenue. To see a video of IVVR technology at work, look for the video link accompanying this feature or click here.

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