Speech Technology Magazine Cover

September/October 2002

Magazine Features

Automated Directory Assistance
Speech-enabling the Next Generation of Customer Service

In the recent Voice Portals and Applications Report published by Datamonitor, the company combines the Auto-attendant and Directory Assistant Applications for reporting purposes, but states that supply-side revenues in 2002 will be $145 million and will grow by 31% to $190 million in 2003. The Directory Assistance (DA) market is gaining new ground as companies in the space have begun implementing premium services to their offerings, e.g., speech recognition technology. While providing such enhanced services to their customers, companies around the world are trying to reduce operating costs and/or create new streams of revenue. Keeping increased customer satisfaction and driving-up repeat usage in mind, many service providers are finding that automating their DA service is helping them meet their goals.

Conversational Marketing:
Speech technology makes the telephone a new medium

The Voice User Interface (VUI)—speech recognition supported by text-to-speech and speaker verification—is changing the way the telephone is used in two ways. First, by helping us connect with one another. The VUI enhances standard telecommunications functions, such as dialing and voice mail, making them easier to use. It makes the addition of enhanced communication services, such as telephone access to email, feasible and usable. It makes directory assistance more economical, benefiting the service provider, but ultimately the consumer as well. In the long run, the network may use "voice tone" (speech recognition) rather than dial tone (the keypad), as its primary means of interaction with the caller.

Do You Have a Speech Strategy?

A Speech Strategy is a company-wide “blueprint” for achieving significant business results from the deployment of speech technologies throughout an organization. The successful Speech Strategy identifies how technologies like speech recognition, text-to-speech (TTS) and speaker verification will:

  • Increase customer-caller satisfaction
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  • Drive significant return on investment, and
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  • Deliver a consistent customer-caller experience that is branded and memorable.

HIPAA: A Springboard for Technological Innovation

The "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act" (HIPAA) has spurred a nationwide initiative to simplify administrative processes and ensure patient privacy and security within a variety of health-related industries. Affected organizations include health care providers, pharmacies, health insurance companies and even some government organizations.

Indisputable Facts

Over the past couple of months I have participated in three major events: ICCM - Chicago (the International Call Center Management event), VOX (the annual Kelsey Group conference) and TechXNY (many of you know this event by its former name, PC Expo). I heard a recurring theme at each of these events as I talked with buyers and vendors. Why is speech technology not being adopted faster? This is a good question that affects all of us and on which I offer some thoughts with this column.

Is It Stupid to Be Clever?

Grammar writers generally try to anticipate a number of ways users will respond when prompted to speak. Many designers believe that by expanding their grammars to permit highly variable user input, they will create a natural, easy-to-use voice user interface. This is a belief that is strongly held by some in the voice application development community. And applications developed by true believers can sport some truly huge grammars. I have seen, for example, a yes/no grammar containing thousands of acceptable utterances!

Speech issues for the next generation of networks
The Network side of speech

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) requires better-designed networks. It requires applications to be built better. And, it requires better network management and monitoring than either the enterprises’ telecommunications systems or data only networks have in the past.

The Transcription Prescription
Speech Technology Gives Doctors a Shot in the Arm

The medical profession has always found ways to use new technology to make great strides. In the early 1800s, external physical exams were the only diagnostic tools used to prevent and treat diseases. In the early 1900s, doctors began doing blood tests and internal exams to view organs and tissue. Now, physicians have begun to examine human genetic makeup to determine appropriate treatments. And throughout this whole process, the world's population has grown to the point where hospitals are overcrowded and doctors are seeing scores of patients a day.

The What, Why and How of Usability Testing

As the cartoon illustrates, users become frustrated when speech applications don’t work. Testing minimizes this frustration by detecting and resolving many speech application problems before they cause user frustration.

What's New in Government-sponsored Speech Recognition Research

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) has been applied to many commercial tasks, including dictation, command and control, and a range of telephone-based services. Current ASR technology resulted from 50 years of research, both industrial and academic-not all of it initially aimed at speech processing. For instance, the Hidden Markov Model statistical approach was originally proposed in government-sponsored cryptography research in the 1960's. Programs to explicitly support speech recognition were then established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the same organization that funded the original development of the Internet. However, in the late '90's DARPA speech research funding declined. It was common to hear a few years ago that the speech recognition problem was essentially "solved". This may have been due to exaggerated claims that encouraged the view that a "Star Trek" level of performance was right around the corner.


Michigan Department of Treasury Manages Successful Tax Season with Speech-Enabled System

The stereotype is familiar - stodgy, bureaucratic and frugal government agencies are not only unwilling to embrace emerging technology, but they are also woefully inattentive to customer service. According to a recent report by Datamonitor, in its recent Voice Portals and Applications, government entities are frequently cautious about investing in unproven technologies and are more likely to deploy applications that have already proven successful in the enterprise space.


Forward Thinking

To Tell the Truth

Did you ever want to ask: Does my car really need to have its engine rebuilt? Is the check actually in the mail? Can you really sell me that bridge?<@SM>

Industry View

Introducing Miller’s Law

Last month we made the somewhat radical suggestion that if (perceived) hardware expense was slowing down your voice application sales cycle, just get rid of the hardware. This led into a discussion of hosted scenarios, including hybrid “borderless” cases where existing customer premises equipment (CPE) could interwork with in-network hosted speech resources using IP and VoiceXML.

Voice Value

Doing It All

A key grip in the entertainment industry, a general contractor, licensed electrician and a martial arts instructor, Billy communicates with people all day long.

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