Philips and Etisalat Contact Centre Team Up to Develop Arabic-Language Speech Recognition Solutions

AJMAN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES and AACHEN, GERMANY - Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG)announced it has joined forces with the Etisalat Contact Centre in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to develop Arabic-language speech recognition solutions to serve the Arabian Gulf, Northern Africa and the Middle East. Etisalat will support Philips in a large-scale database project, coordinated by Philips Speech Processing, a business unit of Royal Philips Electronics, and funded by the European Commission, to produce linguistic resources throughout the Arabic-speaking world. The project, known as "OrienTel", aims at creating an automatic speech recognition system (ASR) of the Arabic language, which requires a large database of voice samples combining all the different dialects and accents in the Arab world. With its advanced systems and technology, the Contact Centre will have the major responsibility of collecting representative speech samples. "The Etisalat Contact Centre continues to lead the way in the Arab world in terms of technology," commented Mohamad Bamakhrama, General Manager, Etisalat Contact Centre. "Our mission is to collect accurate voice samples from all types of Arabic dialects and accents, such as those found in the different Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, including Egyptian Arabic and many others." The approach taken by the "OrienTel" project will ensure true, multi-lingual access to services such as directory assistance, unified messaging, information retrieval, banking and other service portals by allowing users to speak the language most convenient for them. The Arabic-language speech recognition solutions will allow Arabs to use these services in their own language instead of the currently used English language. People will be able to speak modern standard Arabic, colloquial UAE Arabic, Egyptian Arabic or even English. "Business solutions based on Philips' technology help telecom operators, banks, call centers and other industries to improve customer service and to offer new services in a cost-efficient way," commented Ruud van Vessem, Chief Operating Officer, Philips Speech Processing. "Our project with Etisalat will ensure that speech-driven telephony solutions will soon become widely available for variants of Arabic as diverse as the ones spoken in the Gulf, Levant or Maghreb regions and in Egypt." "As the largest call center in the UAE and one of the biggest in the Arab world, the Arabic language is indispensable for us," added Bamakhrama. "Currently, all our customer service representatives are bilingual and we expect the same from any automatic speech recognition application, which is why we decided to participate in this project. We estimate that it will take us about six months to complete our goal of building a huge database of voice samples. We are looking forward to making speech-enabled business solutions available for the Arabic speaking countries, and are delighted that Etisalat has joined forces with such a prestigious company as Philips to make this happen."
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