Katherine Owens, Senior Director of Marketing, NMS Communications

NewsBlast: What role does NMS play in providing speech technology solutions to clients?
Katherine S. Owens: NMS provides robust telephony platforms for developers on which to build and deploy highly reliable speech-enabled applications. These platforms have been optimized to accommodate speech recognition by incorporating superior media conditioning, i.e., echo cancellation, noise filtering and automatic gain control to provide the best quality speech sample to the ASR engine.

NMS is about to release Universal Speech AccessTM, a speech interface that utilizes the Media Resource Control Protocol, or MRCP. As you may know, MRCP is being developed by the IETF and is rapidly becoming the standard interface in speech recognition, text-to-speech and other speech technology. MRCP is also being accepted by most of the major speech vendors.

Additionally, NMS has several reseller agreements and offers complete systems where we package some of the industry's leading ASR and TTS offerings as part of these systems.

NB: Discuss the NMS roadmap for your future role in the 'speech solution stack' in 18 months or even a longer time frame.
KSO: NMS has and will continue to develop new products that are specifically designed to make automatic speech recognition and other speech technologies more effective for the application developer. Our current line of 'bricks and blades' that is, our boards and APIs, provide direct interfaces to speech engines, media conditioning for better voice samples to the speech recognition engine resulting in better accuracies, and the vocoders we employ normalize voice from a variety of formats used on the network.

In addition, our systems and sub-systems are tailored to developers who use speech technology as an integral part of their application. For instance, our media servers provide tools to help developers build and deploy VoiceXML applications faster.

Finally, we've entered into OEM agreements with key speech technology vendors to provide ASR, TTS and other technologies along with our hardware and software, providing products that are much closer to the 'total solution' that our customers ultimately deploy.

NB: Please cite recent deployments where speech has enhanced customer service for your clients.
KSO: With our boards and API products, such as the AG4000 or CG6000 series, customers such as Avaya, Computer Talk Technology, EPOS, and Edify have deployed industry-leading customer service application. Edify and NMS power the Ticketmaster, Toys-R-Us; EPOS' -Corporate Voice Request Educational System, and Consolidated Edison's "Tele-choice, general customer service application, Computer Talk Technology's Barclays Bank, TD Waterhouse.

NB: How are programming languages such as VoiceXML, SALT and MRCP impacting speech deployments? Are they important?
KSO: Yes, they are very, very important. In fact, it's standards like VoiceXML, SALT and MRCP that will help to propel speech technology into the mainstream markets. More and more developers will embrace it and speech applications will become interoperable, that is, they will be able to be deployed on multiple platforms, and a platform will be able to deploy multiple applications. Because of this, applications will begin to take on a 'shrink-wrapped' characteristic; there will be less custom work and the cost of the applications will come down. Then, and only then, will speech technology be available to the general population and not just to the Fortune 1000 companies who can afford it.

NB: Discuss some of your partners in delivering speech technologies. What are you looking for in selecting partners? KSO: As you know, good partner selection can be the foundation of success in any business, and in this we are particularly discerning. Technology partners that NMS selects must be established, offer a wide variety of good quality products that are important to our customers and, above all, be easy and responsible to work with. Of course, their products must also be compatible with our own, and often this requires a tight relationship between our respective engineering groups to develop joint technology.

NB: How are you and your partners providing lower TCO and enhancing speech solutions for your clients?
KSO: As I mentioned, the cost of speech applications will come down when there is no longer the need for intensive customization work. In other words, as the speech applications become more reusable, the price comes down, reducing the TCO for the customer and jettisoning speech technology into the mainstream markets. Industry standards are going a long way to cause this trend to occur.

NB: What are ten best practices an enterprise or service provider client should focus on when deploying speech?
KSO: Of course, there are some very important considerations that any enterprise or network customer must employ prior to deploying speech applications, since these applications are the 'face' for the company to their customers. A company should ask themselves these important questions, and in no particular order, they are:

  1. Quality of the company you're planning to do business with - are they established, responsible, knowledgeable?
  2. Quality of the application - does it meet the business objectives? < and plain work, it does - technology speech the of>
  3. Is the dialog design enough to get the job done without being too complex? Often enough, complexity can be directly equated to cost.
  4. Is the user interface intuitive?
  5. Is the overall system reliable in my business? This is much more critical for systems for Service Providers who require high reliability and availability but can be a big factor for the enterprise who is running a business-critical application on it.
  6. What kind of competitive position does deploying this application place me in? What are my competitors doing and what can I do differently that sets my business apart?
  7. How will this application grow with my business? How can I adapt it, or add on to it?
  8. What is the financial impact of this application on my business? Cutting costs?
  9. How does this application affect my customers, i.e., is there customer joy?

Of course, there are many other considerations to make but these are just some that come to mind.

NB: What will be the biggest event this year in offering speech technologies solutions?
KSO: I believe that Microsoft's introduction of the Speech Server will have a huge impact on the industry and the market. It will bring speech technology to the masses.

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