Prem Uppaluru, Co-Founder & CEO, Telera

Q What are the key trends you see in platforms and middleware supporting telephone speech recognition and text-to-speech?


  • Standardization: The VoiceXML 2.0 specification will accelerate the adoption of speech as a way to access data whether it is behind enterprise firewalls or within a service provider network. Other efforts such as Media Resource Control Protocol (MRCP) in IETF will help to standardize interactions with various ASR software packages.
  • Voice over IP: VoIP support based on SIP/RTP is becoming increasingly important for carriers. By supporting existing TDM-based infrastructure and VoIP under the same platform software, carriers can leverage their investments in TDM infrastructure and move to a VoIP-based infrastructure in their own timeframe.
  • Multimodal: Multimodal application platform vendors are using VoiceXML to render voice in multi-modal applications.

Q What is the best strategy for companies debating whether to wait for further maturing of speech technologies, standards and platforms, or whether to move quickly?
A The best strategy for companies is to understand the full functionality of XML languages like VoiceXML and CCXML. VoiceXML has evolved significantly over the last two years. As a result, speech technologies have matured while capital and operational expenditures traditionally required to support these products have decreased. This is good news for companies deciding how to incorporate speech technologies into their business.

Q What applications or services will be most important in the near-term? In the long-term?
A In the consumer space, we see consumer voice portals, voice activated dialers and messaging applications such as email reader and voice-enabled voice mail being deployed in the near-term. Also, a variety of applications in travel and entertainment that can help drive the average revenue per user and minutes of usage for wireless carriers will come from voice application developers. In the business applications space, we view voice applications falling into two main categories: Business to consumer applications that improve customer service, and business to employee applications that improve employee productivity.

Q What are your thoughts concerning the developing standards such as VoiceXML and SALT and their impact upon the future of speech technology?
A By far, the standards efforts have been a blessing for speech technology. Both languages will continue to position speech as the best way to access data. Prior to standardization, speech applications were developed using vendor specific APIs by speech experts. With VoiceXML, the skill-levels needed to create speech applications have been moved from speech experts to Web programmers. SALT is useful for creating multi-modal applications that will overcome some issues with voice-only applications.

Q Why should you care about standards if you are a C-level executive for an enterprise client of a large network carrier?
A Open standards will help enterprises drive down costs associated with single-vendor relationships for enterprise customers. Executives can benefit from standards in multiple ways, including reduced operational costs and capital expenditures, and can leverage Web investments and resources for advanced voice solutions.

Q What would you like to see from speech technology developers to accelerate the adoption of speech technologies in the market place?
A The adoption of speech technologies has been slow due to the complexity of ASR software installation and management. Telera would like to see more tools for creating and tuning speech applications. Also, speech technology providers need to educate developers on how to create usable speech applications.

Q What is your vision for Telera and what are you doing to realize that vision?
A Telera's vision is to be the leading provider of innovative Voice Web software to enterprises and service providers for the delivery of enhanced voice applications. Telera's Voice Web is prompting a transformation of the telecommunications industry - driven by the demand for new voice applications and made possible through an infrastructure that supports voice and data convergence, mobility and open standard technologies.

Q Telera recently announced that the Voice Web Application Platform is available for both wireline and wireless service providers. What is the added benefit of providing both types of functionality? Is Telera's wireless component currently up-and-running?
A Telera's SmartMOBILE Suite is currently available. Telera's platform allows service providers to support and supply both wireline and wireless applications. Voice services such as voice activated dialing, directory assistance and consumer and business information portals represent an enormous growth opportunity for wireless and wireline service providers. Today, wireless carriers are highly dependent on consumer markets with low ARPU (average revenue per user) and tenuous customer loyalty. Wireless carriers need immediate revenue sources that do not require massive capital and operating expenditures. With Telera's Voice Web Application Platform, carriers can target business users with field-proven voice-enhanced information and interaction services that can be deployed today over exiting 2.5 and 3G networks.

Q Multimodal applications are becoming extremely important as the device market heads towards convergence. What efforts is Telera taking to stay ahead of the game?
A Multimodality is like the surprise at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box: We all expected it, but couldn't get to it until we'd sampled the rest of the box. We've seen the appearance and disappearance of SmartPhones, and we own bulky portable email devices and bear with "thumbing" because there hasn't been another option. Until now we hadn't figured out a way to maximize the one tool that we absolutely cannot live without: the telephone. But coupled with the Voice Web, multimodality lets us evolve. The Voice Web maximizes the information's potential, allowing users to access any Web-enabled application (e.g., Microsoft Outlook or a corporate Intranet) using natural language voice commands. And multimodality maximizes the phone's potential, allowing users to simply listen to information or view it on their display. Telera's SmartMOBILE Suite, a group of applications designed to enhance the wireless capabilities of Telera's platform, gives mobile professionals the ability to be productive when it's convenient for them.

Q In the battle between accessing information via cell phone or via handheld, which tool do you think users will ultimately choose?
A The phone has been the most widely-used and reliable communications tool for more than 100 years. By combining it with benefits created by the Internet, the Voice Web evolves the telephone from effective communications device to powerful information access tool. Telera's platform allows mobile professionals to receive rich media audibly or visually on their cell phone, and to act on that information using speech - transforming the phone into the ultimate information access device. Prem Uppaluru is the CEO and co-founder of Telera. He can be reached at prem.uppaluru@telera.com.

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