What Is New at IBM Voice Systems?
Approximately one year ago IBM Voice Systems assumed a new identity. It became part of Application & Integration middleware in the Software Solutions division of IBM. This move was a clear indication that IBM viewed speech technologies, in particular speech recognition, as viable for mainstream application. It was also a signal that IBM intended to incorporate speech into its enterprise products and services. Its new position produced a number of changes in IBM Voice over the year.
Its new identity as a Software Solution has enabled IBM Voice to forge internal and external partnerships much more easily. Partnership development has been pro-active. IBM Voice formed a Strategic Alliances Group and charged it with identifying strategic partners for embedded, enterprise and telephony applications of speech. One internal partner is the IBM Personal Systems Group, which has designed a wearable computer prototype based on the ultraportable ThinkPad 560. The system has a monocle color display worn over the eye, and allows the user to navigate contents by a handheld mouse or by spoken commands. Many of the external partnerships that were established during the year reflect a global orientation. One such example is the agreement with Nokia to integrate voice technology into mobile solutions and enterprise software. In the retail market globalization is evident in the localization1 of IBM ViaVoice products for a growing number of countries. This effort has led IBM Voice to establish local OEM and/or distributor partnerships in many of those countries.
Internet and E-Business
One of the reasons IBM Voice was moved into the Software Solutions division was to support the company's focus on Internet and e-business. IBM has taken a leadership role in the Voice eXtensible Markup Language Forum2, which is designed to facilitate telephone access to Internet content. IBM also recently released a Beta version of an SDK based on VoiceXML. The IBM ViaVoice Millennium and Millennium Pro contain a voice browser and voice tools for generating and listening to e-mail. These tools are also being implemented in versions of ViaVoice that have been localized for other countries. Several prototype embedded systems use speech recognition and synthesis to access the Internet. WiredAnywhere is a Web browser that supports real-time access, including transactions, to the Internet via personal or handheld devices. The OPAH demonstration car already supports e-mail and is being extended to other types of Internet access. The wearable PC prototype (described earlier) has a wireless interface to the Internet that will be configured to include voice navigation. Development of enterprise solutions for Internet access span call center applications, machine translation for global intranet systems and information access for mobile professionals. I was shown a sales automation demonstration system that accessed the individual's calendar and schedule, travel directions and product pricing and availability.
These are only a few of the developments that have occurred at IBM since it became a part of the Software Solutions division. They bode well for the future of speech within IBM. They are also a reflection of the mainstream penetration of speech.
1 The term "localized" refers to the changes that must be included in a software system to make it usable in another culture. Translation into a new language is only one of those changes. 2 VoiceXML is a non-proprietary, open source specification for the development of applications for accessing Web content from public telephone networks. VoiceXML Version 1.0 was released in March 2000. It can be downloaded from www.voiceXML.org
Judith Markowitz is a leading independent analyst in the speech recognition and voice biometrics industries. She recently completed a market analysis of speaker verification and identification. She can be reached at 773-769-9243 or Jmarkowitz@PObox.com.