• September 1, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Nuance Agrees to Acquire Loquendo

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Nuance Communications announced an agreement in August to acquire Loquendo, a wholly owned subsidiary of Telecom Italia. The purchase, valued at $75.5 million, follows deals earlier in the summer to acquire SVOX, a provider of voice solutions for in-car systems, mobile devices, and consumer electronics, and Webmedx, a provider of transcription and editing services and clinical documentation technology for hospitals and clinics.

The Loquendo deal, certainly the most significant of the three, brings to Nuance a broad, high-quality portfolio of voice and language solutions that includes text-to-speech (TTS), automatic speech recognition (ASR), and voice biometrics systems. In addition, the acquisition enhances language coverage for network-based and embedded customers and strengthens Nuance’s global channel partnerships.

Loquendo provides speech technologies for telephony, mobile, automotive, embedded, and desktop solutions in 32 languages with 76 voices. The company’s speech solutions—deployed in more than 20 million devices worldwide, in embedded, automotive, and mobile environments—power millions of calls daily in telecommunications and enterprise markets.

According to Dan Faulkner, vice president of product and strategy at Nuance, the two companies had been talking for some time. “There is a lot to like about Loquendo. We have long respected Loquendo’s speech technology capabilities and products, particularly in the romance languages,” he said in an email. “We feel that strength is very complementary to Nuance’s strengths. We also have a great deal of belief in the voice biometrics market, borne out by market activity this year, and Loquendo has done some excellent work in this arena as well.

“We’re jointly committed—with Loquendo—to accelerating the adoption of world-class speech solutions,” Faulkner continued. “We believe that, together, we can achieve improvements in adoption and in the state-of-the-art for speech technology more quickly than either company could on its own. The speech technology landscape continues to be extremely fast-moving and competitive, and we’re looking forward to participating in it over the coming years.”

Nuance and Loquendo will try to accelerate innovation through a new center of excellence for speech research, in Turin, Italy, where Loquendo is based. The center will expand Nuance’s research and development facilities in Sunnyvale, Calif.; Burlington, Mass.; Aachen, Germany; Merelbeke, Belgium; Zurich, Switzerland; and Montreal.

“The adoption of speech technology is being driven by the increasing comfort in the use of speech by consumers, resulting in the demand for fully voice-enabled experiences across many industry segments,” says Davide Franco, Loquendo’s chairman and CEO. “By combining our technology and amazing employees with Nuance’s robust capabilities and market strength, we look forward to continued success with our partners and customers.”

The SVOX purchase bolsters Nuance’s automotive business, which aims to provide natural language tools that would allow drivers to use voice to command and control in-car entertainment, navigation, and information systems, access mobile Web content, find local businesses, get directions, communicate, and create and listen to messages. Nuance’s speech technology is used in Ford’s SYNC system and telematics systems from several other auto makers.

SVOX, which is based in Switzerland, offers preintegrated search services and technologies focused on ASR, TTS, and acoustic signal enhancement. Included are echo cancellation and beamforming, which enable better voice recognition accuracy in automotive, mobile, and digital home environments. Its TTS stable includes 40 voices in 26 languages.

“The automotive and consumer electronics markets are experiencing a surge in demand for voice capabilities,” Michael Thompson, senior vice president and general manager of Nuance Mobile, said in a statement. “By combining portfolios and expertise, we can ignite innovations that enable seamless, natural conversations between man and machine across an amazing portfolio of voices and languages.”

The Webmedx acquisition strengthens Nuance Transcription Services (NTS), the company’s fully managed medical transcription services offering. Webmedx’s natural language processing-driven Quality Analytics application also will enhance Nuance’s clinical language understanding innovations.

“Webmedx’s award-winning clinical documentation services and technology strengthens and expands Nuance’s work with healthcare organizations, as they undertake EHR adoption and strive to achieve meaningful use,” Janet Dillione, executive vice president and general manager of Nuance Healthcare, said in a statement. “Additionally, Webmedx will help to accelerate Nuance’s efforts to extend the power of its speech-driven solutions so that clinicians’ spoken words are not simply transformed into text, but, through clinical understanding solutions, can be used for clinical decision-making, leading to improved patient care and a reduction in overall healthcare costs.”

Webmedx’s customers include more than 100 hospitals. Webmedx also brings to Nuance its Medical Technology Education Center, the first online speech recognition editing and medical transcription school approved by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity.

News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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