Archive for August, 2005

The long and winding road to mainstream adoption: Gartner’s 2005 Hype Cycle Report

Thursday, August 25th, 2005

Broad coverage today [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] on Gartner’s recently released Hype Cycle Report for Emerging Technologies. Name of the game: stuff as many buzzwords as possible (RSS, SOA, P2P VoIP, LBS, RFID, …) on a timeline from now into the future, and actually make some sense out of it.

Dilip Thomas’ article includes an image of the Hype Cycle. It displays both “Speech Technology for Telephony and Call Center” and “TTS/Speech Synthesis” well into the so-called Plateau of Productivity, where the real-world benefits have become clear. Jackie Fenn, creator of the first Emerging Technology Hype Cycle in 1995, mentions speech technology as one example of a technology which has taken its time to “struggle into mainstream adoption”.

For the past 10 years, the speech technology road has indeed been long and winding, and sometimes bumpy. Having worked myself at two now defunct speech companies (first L&H, then MagicPhone [acquired and 15 months later dumped by Tellme Networks]), I’ve experienced kind of a free ride on the Hype Cycle rollercoaster myself. Great fun, but sometimes bad for the stomach.

But one good thing about the past is that it’s behind us. As Gartner’s report testifies once more, speech technology is there to stay, especially in the contact centre environment.

Technology vs. user-centered design

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

I ran into two articles this morning that are not linked, but in fact tell the same story.

First article, from De Standaard (in Dutch): chip-maker Intel is opening a “Concept Store” in Brussels, a temporary shop where they will showcase not their newest technology, but how to use it. Shop-sellers have been expressly forbidden to use techie words like “gigabytes” or “megahertz”, let alone “dual-core technology”. Instead, they are supposed to ask customers … what they would like to do with their computer. Is that revolutionary, or what?

Second article, from the Butler Group Blog: how to develop a speech application that traps your callers into an endless loop. Funny to read, but not so funny for the caller, and even less for the (anonymous) company that dares to treat its callers this way.

Morale of the stories: users don’t care what technology you use, as long as they can get their things done, and their problems solved. So if you consider speech-enabling your current IVR system, make sure you know what you’re doing, or get some professional advice first.

German “Voice Day 2005″ (Oct. 20-21, Bonn)

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

In the German-speaking countries of Europe, the abundance of speech-driven phone applications in industry is impressive. On October 20 & 21, the German-speaking speech technology community is organising its “Voice Day[s]“. No less than 70 voice applications from Germany, Austria and Switzerland will compete for a Voice Award. The applications come from different sectors like telecom, banking, media, logistics, commerce, and transport. According to Initiative Voice Business, the organisers of Voice Day 2005, speech-enabled phone applications handle millions of calls each day – one German out of four is said to use them.

To give just one example: Postbank, Germany’s largest retail bank, is handling up to 200.000 calls per day. Postbank won the “Most Innovative Solutions Award” at the recent SpeechTEK conference in New York.