Make Your Life Easier

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Don’t stop reading just because you see that this article is about standards.

Did you know that the presence or absence of standards affects almost every aspect of your daily life? For example, when you travel, you probably need to take separate cables for each electronic device that travels with you (e.g., cell phone, laptop). Wouldn’t it be much simpler and easier if we could just use a single cable for everything?

You might say that this problem has been solved for speech. After all, we have VoiceXML Version 2, Media Resource Control Protocol (MRCP) Version 1, and other standards for automatic speech recognition (ASR) and text-to-speech (TTS). Certainly, these standards have made TTS and ASR more attractive by making it easier, faster, and cheaper to integrate those technologies into many environments. But if you want to include something like speaker identification/verification (SIV) in your VoiceXML application, then you must add a "tag" to your application that links it to proprietary SIV software. It sounds simple, but those tags are like having a separate cable for each SIV product.

We need, therefore, to ensure that standards truly support the technologies we want to use.

The story doesn’t end there. Standards need to evolve along with the industries, markets, and technologies they affect. If they don’t, they will be left behind and we will lose the interoperability and other market-expanding benefits they provide.

That’s why the Internet Engineering Technology Forum (IETF) is putting the finishing touches on Version 2 of MRCP, and why the World Wide Web Consortium’s Voice Browser Working Group (W3C VBWG) is crafting a more powerful and flexible version of VoiceXML (VoiceXML Version 3). It is also why the biometrics committees of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) are modernizing their standards as well.

These standards bodies are enhancing their offerings to meet the demands of the new marketplace in specific ways. ANSI and ISO are looking at how to migrate their biometric standards from binary to XML coding; ISO and W3C VBWG are providing standards that support the use of multiple modalities. All of them also have or plan to include SIV in their offerings. The IETF has added SIV to MRCP V2, ISO and ANSI have data exchange projects for SIV, and the W3C’s VBWG is looking at ways to include SIV in VoiceXML 3.

Make Your Life Easier

No matter who you are, you can do a number of things to ensure that standards are completed and address your needs:

Engine developers: You can make sure that emerging standards support features that make your technology good. You can do that in a number of ways. For example, both ANSI and W3C VBWG are actively seeking greater participation from SIV engine developers in their SIV standards development, so consider joining a standards-developing body. You could test draft standards to ensure that they support your technology. Your contributions will make life much easier for you when the standard is approved and the RFPs require compliance.

Consultants, integrators, platform providers, and other professionals responsible for application/system development: You bring hands-on knowledge of the real world to the table. Your valuable insights can prevent development or approval of standards that favor one engine developer or a certain group of vendors. You can test the standard with your environment—with different engines. If you like what you see, you can help develop conformance test suites and push engine developers to certify their engines. This will make your life easier by eliminating headaches and extra work tied to not having standards or having bad standards.

End users: You can make sure that the standards-development committees are familiar with and understand your needs. You can participate in the development process and push vendors and integrators to do so. You can include the standards in the requirements of RFPs and project definitions. This will make your life easier by reducing the risks associated with using proprietary technology.

Judith Markowitz, Ph.D., is president of J. Markowitz Consultants and a leading independent analyst in the speech and voice biometrics fields. She can be reached at judith@jmarkowitz.com.

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