Aculab Gives Voice to a Norwegian Virtual Switchboard

MILTON KEYNES, UK - A virtual switchboard to be deployed in Norway has been created using digital signal processing (DSP) resources from Aculab combined with speech recognition software from Nuance. Developed by Unisys for Norwegian telecommunications group Telenor, Talk2Call is a new business-to-business speech recognition solution exclusively available to subscribers of Telenor's VIP Nett service, a voice virtual private network (VPN) aimed at large businesses.

"With Talk2Call, employees can make calls to colleagues simply by saying the name of the person they want to talk to," says Faye Matthews, strategic marketing manager at Aculab. "Calls can be transferred to fixed line phones or mobiles depending on the location requested. By using a virtual service, businesses can also do away with the need for costly internal phone directories."

When a business becomes a user of Telenor's VIP Nett service, it is allocated a single number - for example 5000, which employees ring when they want to make an internal call. When answering the call, 'Anna' asks the employee who they'd like to speak to. The request is recorded by Aculab's Prosody PCI card and forwarded to the Nuance speech recogniser. The application searches the database for the name and present location of the person being called, which is verified and an outgoing call is then made on the same timeslot as the incoming call. As soon as the outgoing connection is made, the incoming line is released by explicit call transfer (ECT), enabling more customers to call in on the available channels.

According to Oddbjorn Olsen, marketing manager at Unisys, the service is particularly beneficial to companies with mobile workforces as it allows employees to make calls without needing to look up the number. "Obviously, this is useful for field engineers or staff on the road," he says. "So long as the name of the person they want to call is on the database, they can call them - no matter where they are in the world."

The Talk2Call speech recognition platform was created by the Voice & Business Mobilization Solutions division of Unisys after Telenor approached them to provide a solution that would manage high volumes of calls.

"Aculab was chosen to supply DSP resources as it had a viable audio provider for Nuance speech recognition and could also offer explicit call transfer," says Oddbjorn Olsen. "Aculab's technical support is also second to none."

Brede Ask Storhaug, marketing manager at Telenor, added: "In the early phase of the project, we realised that taking the role of integrating the different components into one solid tailor made Talk2Call solution would cause massive investment in competence building and would certainly mean a longer time before the product could be launched to the market. "In this context, we found Unisys to be the best partner, taking the role as a prime contractor delivering a turnkey solution within an acceptable time span."

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