Communications, Speech Markets Have Positive Outlook

Two days — two shows, two cities and two trains which left at dawn. Wow… What a rush. What I picked up from the Channel Partners (Boston) and SpeechTek (New York) shows is  the communications market and the call center market are doing well, based on what companies in the space tell me.

Yes, of course some sectors are doing better than others but some are amazingly strong… Open source anything for example is a good place to be. The speech market too is doing well as companies are looking to automation as a way to save money.

In addition, businesses have begun to realize the contact center is extending its presence within the entire corporation making almost all people within the company call center agents. Seems like Nadji Tehrani was right when many decades ago he proclaimed, Every Company is a Call Center.

As this happens the need to monitor quality by companies like Empirix grows and a conversation Susan Anderson at the company showed this to be the case.

A discussion with Jim Jenkins at IQ Services — a communications testing company also confirms that the testing market is growing.

Discussions with Nuance were interesting as well, as the company seems to be transcending the world of speech and embracing a larger portion of the customer interaction pie. Not unlike Nortel, Cisco, West Interactive, IBM and others, the company is looking to capitalize on the growth of 3G devices and the convergence of outbound, inbound calling and voice portals.

Nuance is even helping companies design user interfaces which marry the best garmin-nuvi-880.jpg aspects of speech recognition and the GUI, allowing for example to tell a GPS device that you want to find a local Italian restaurant and rather than listen to 10 responses which you have to pick from, you see them on a screen and at this point can say, “Pick number 3”.

My conversation with Nuance’s Lynda Kate Smith and Michael Wehrs was very instructive and since Smith represents the call center line of business and Wehrs represents mobile, it was interesting to hear how technology developed in one area helps in other parts of the value chain. Our discussion even got into using speech on the device and within the network to interact with stored information in the cloud. For example telling your mobile phone to play music which could reside on your device or in the cloud and having the software be smart enough to figure out how to get the right information back to the user.

Voice biometrics too is gaining traction for things like password resets but I don’t see this space as taking off — rather it will grow slowly but surely and in the process, save companies tremendous support costs in areas like password resets and others.

What I am most excited about however is ITEXPO as I am seeing a resurgence in call centers and massive activity in the communications API space. This means that not only with ITEXPO have a very strong showing (early registration numbers show this to be the case) but the two simultaneous events, Communications Developer and Call Center 2.0 should also have nice attendance levels.

Remember that the purchase of Ribbit by BT has really legitimized communications APIs and development. We now see that major world power service providers are interested in extending their networks to developers everywhere and in doing so they will extend their importance in the new world of communications.

What communications will look like in five years is tough to know for sure but what I can tell you is the thought leaders in the communications and technology space will be at ITEXPO in a matter of weeks (September 16-18, 2008) in Los Angeles and if you want to know what is important in the market today and tomorrow so you can do your job more effectively, you should be there.

I hope to greet you all personally.

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