With EVA, the Office Is Just a Call Away

Excendia, a developer of speech-enabled unified communications and speech mobility solutions, recently signed a deal with IBM to include its Excendia Virtual Assistant (EVA) on IBM WebSphere Voice Server.  

EVA provides mobile workers with hands-free, eyes-free access to their business information and office communications tools from any telephone. Using speech commands, users can access and manage their phone calls, emails, appointments, voicemails, faxes, and contacts while away from the office. They can listen and reply to their email and voicemail messages, review and schedule appointments, call contacts by name, or record a voice message and send its as a .WAV file that can be embedded in an email as an attachment. It also creates a single phone number for phone and fax, and a single inbox for all phone, email, and fax messages.

Users access their virtual assistants by calling into a phone number. The solution is housed on a server that is linked to the office phone service and internal voice and data networks. "EVA knows it’s me by my caller ID, so I don’t need to remember PINs and passwords to access it," explains Gabor Barta, vice president of sales and business development at Excendia.

"By the time I get into the office, my inbox is clear, my voicemails are answered, my appointments are made, and my schedule is set," Barta says. "People will think you are sitting at your desk because your calls are coming from your office network and emails are coming through your work account."

EVA is also a good tool for the blind and visually impaired who might otherwise be unable to send and receive emails through their mobile phones, and for those who are in a car and cannot type or click through typical applications on their mobile devices.

EVA uses the IBM WebSphere speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies to understand user voice commands and deliver text content. It works with all major email programs, except Microsoft’s Hotmail, all major Web browsers, and all major cell phones.

According to Barta, Excendia is looking to sign on cell phone carriers and hosted email providers; those service providers will pay the company a flat fee for the service, and then extend it to their customer bases for a suggested fee of $9.95 per month. Business customers can also purchase the system and install it in their networks. Typically, those companies would pay Excendia a per-port fee, he says.

"Excendia Virtual Assistant translates the openness of IP Telephony and speech technologies into real benefits for users," Barta says. "It brings efficient mobility and time savings through a simple and affordable solution that can be configured for multilanguage, multiservice, and multitenant use."

The technology is also adaptive, meaning that it recognizes users’ past activities and automatically loads those into its default settings unless instructed otherwise. "For example, if I’ve asked EVA to call my wife on her cell phone the last three times, it will automatically try her cell phone first when I ask it to call my wife," Barta notes.

"We are excited about this new agreement between Excendia and IBM that combines Excendia’s UC and mobility capabilities with WebSphere Voice Server to create new capabilities and solutions for customers," said Brian Garr, program director for speech for IBM Software Group.

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