Picking up where we left off yesterday...
On Tuesday, I had the chance to attend SpeechTek, and visit with some of the leading companies in the space.
Among those companies was Nortel, who previewed their forthcoming Interactive Communications Portal, which will be available later this year (expect more news in the November time frame).
The product will leverage Nortel's service oriented architecture (SOA) strategy, as well as the company's service creation environment in an effort to help "take VoiceXML to the next level."
A software-only self service solution running native SIP, ICP is designed to simplify the process of getting up and running and it will appear to the network like just another SIP device. The solution will offer support for both multimodal multimedia (with support for video) and will also support conferencing.
According to Nortel, six areas were important to them and to their customers when the product was designed and conceptualized:
- Simplicity: must be easy to use, deploy, manage;
- Scalability: must be able to scale to 1000's of concurrent users;
- Security: must be secure for end users, business owners and management team;
- Resiliency: must be reliable; Nortel relies on their experience from the carrier space;
- Open: Open standards are critical; and
- Ecosystem: wanted to be sure to offer strong environment via partners etc...
According to Nortel officials, their drive is to make it easier for people to create and use applications as well as support something they call Customer Experience 2.0, whereby customers can expand on traditional methods of customer interaction to ensure that their customers in turn have an easier time getting to the information they need.
The solution also offers a "Melding of Web 2.0 with customer contact technology."
Following Nortel, we met with executives from IBM and IBM Research to discuss what they were up to in the speech space. We were treated to a bit of a history lesson going back a decade or so to when IBM was focused on dictation (ViaVoice) and serving the consumer space. Well they changed their tack and switched gears to focus on server and embedded-base opportunities with their WebSphere voice server and embedded Via Voice strategies.
IBM sees ample opportunities beyond the telecommunications market as evidenced by their success in the automotive market. IBM officials told us that over 10 million cars use their embedded technology, and more news is on the way regarding that market.
Officials admitted that telecom has been a bit tougher to break and steal market share away from other firms in the space, but that they continue to innovate and remain relevant, keeping their name in play.
Speech will become a natural element of each product IBM will have, but it's unknown when this will come to fruition. It is definitely a long term view.
Still, for IBM Research speech is rapidly growing and expanding and emerging in other areas such as Mobile Internet, Collaboration/Unified Messaging, Speech analytics, and Optimization.
As part of speech and IBM Research, we try to stick to IBM core values, a key part of which is to ride the continuing trend of globalization.
Emerging economies continue to be a major focus of IBM as well. IBM officials told us that many of these emerging economies are jumping over PCs, leapfrogging to smartphone technology, enabling access to the richest sources of information available.
However, many of the people in these emerging markets face hurdles relating to limited rates of literacy. Many of these people can't read and write. This has engendered the notion that the GUI Web that we all know and love is inaccessible to many of these folks.
At IBM Research, lab efforts are underway to address their needs and create the Spoken Web. The potential to address a market of 1.5 billion people who have low literacy levels or low ability to use GUI-based devices while mobile is certainly a meaningful opportunity.
Next up was Avaya, who preannounced their Voice Portal 5, which is scheduled for release in Q109. Officials told us that the upcoming release builds on what they have released over the past three years.
The solution will leverage Web services and is designed with Information Technology (IT) folks and line of business owners in mind.
It's all software and will enable these constituents to "Webify" their infrastructure and allow them to add a layer of speech and interactivity while enabling them to leverage investments and extend them out to the market to customers.
The forthcoming solution gives developers the ability to support SMIL and allows customers to dynamically overlay text inside any variable in XML. This allows them the ability to combine different elements to serve the customer with a rich set of tools. For example, developers can create a variety of applications, including the ability to stream content from other sources, such as news, weather, etc...
And of course, the solution is based on SIP.
Cisco is another player who made news with their customer voice portal. Video was the big addition to Cisco's offering, and, as officials told us, in self service, one size doesn't always fit all. In some cases, a speech-based interface is ok; in other cases DTMF input is acceptable, but there exists a need for video as well, to offer users true multimodal interaction capability.
Some of the examples cited were kiosks in specific verticals such as big box retail as well as financial (bank branches) and healthcare.
Cisco is also watching the developing trend of the increasing proliferation of 3G Mobile and the uptake of video enabled mobile devices in the Asia/Pacific and Gulf regions.
Cisco officials cited interesting use cases for video, and mentioned the benefits of presenting information visually at a glance when appropriate, and then giving way to DTMF or speech enabled input as needed.
We also got some scoop about an upcoming solution that Cisco plans to unveil in early September, which would allow presence enabled knowledge workers to be easily brought in to help with a customer call if the customer requires specific expertise.
The solution will essentially leverage a worker's presence status combined with routing rules to identify an expert and check their availability. When deployed with a traditional contact center or even in standalone fashion, this solution would enable agents to find the most qualified assistance to a particular question automatically, allowing the agent to focus on the task at hand, thus keeping the customer happier and the agent more productive.
For more on the companies we met with at SpeechTek, as well as an update into what went down in Huntsville, Alabama, check back later.