Speech Becomes Even More Pervasive

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Speech technology is making its way into the mainstream. In addition to speech technology used in economy-class cars, popular video games, and after-market navigation systems, pretty soon consumers will see a sizable jump in the use of outbound IVR calls. There’s significant interest in outbound IVRs. In fact, we had a large turnout during our live Webinar "Glimpse of the Future: Outbound IVR" (www.speechtechmag.com, June 26), during which Aphrodite Brinsmead of Datamonitor forecasted a 20 percent compound annual growth rate for outbound IVRs through 2013. However, despite all of these recent industry developments, the industry shouldn’t sit back and get too comfortable. A lot of work still needs to be done.

Recently, a bank sent me several annoying outbound IVR calls intended for a customer’s name that I couldn’t understand. Had I received this notification from a live agent, I could have simply told the agent, "You have the wrong number," and that would have been the end of it. Instead, I was forced to call the bank, navigate through its IVR to get to a live agent, and report the error. It was easy to do, but an inconvenience nonetheless. While this minor inconvenience didn’t alter my positive perceptions of speech, it is a surefire way to fuel other customers’ negative perceptions of the technology and a company’s brand. Perhaps one way to avoid this is by having the caller retype his phone number when he opts in for outbound IVR alerts in the first place, minimizing the chances of the system dialing the wrong number.

We’re at a very critical point in the industry’s history. Yes, the technology is becoming more pervasive; however, it’s still early enough that oversights and large miscalculations can set the industry back substantially. This is especially true with security. Kevin Mitnick, one of the world’s most famous former hackers who is now a security expert, told me how he bypassed a financial services firm’s speech verification tool and hacked into the CEO’s personal account. To hear how he did this—it’s pretty ingenious—attend his keynote session during SpeechTEK 2008 (August 18 to 20) at the New York Marriott Marquis.

This isn’t the only reason to attend SpeechTEK. In addition to this keynote, Ray Kurzweil, a distinguished speech technology innovator, will talk about the future of speech technology. We also had a last-minute program change: Lior Arussy, president of Strativity Group and a renowned business consultant, will replace James Canton for the keynote presentation on preparing for the new consumer.

What’s more, attendees will benefit from a variety of sessions on speech developments in analytics, natural language processing, speech recognition accuracy, mobile applications, multimodal technologies, and new standard languages for speech application development. Show-goers will receive a wealth of information and advice on various strategies, including project development, VUI design, testing and tuning, personalization and context, and translations. Plus, there will be case study presentations from companies in various industries, such as financial services, government, healthcare, insurance, retail, and telecommunications. Don’t be the one to make a huge oversight or miscalculation in a speech deployment. Attend SpeechTEK (visit www.SpeechTEK.com to register) and bring your speech technology projects to new heights. 

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