Auckland firm banks on trouble-free toll ways

Auckland-based integration firm UCMS believes it has the technology to help Auckland and Wellington operate trouble-free user-pays motorways.

Auckland-based integration firm UCMS believes it has the technology to help Auckland and Wellington operate trouble-free user-pays motorways.

Traditional toll gates and cash buckets would be replaced by electronic tags on cars monitored by a system of cameras.

UCMS supplied computer-telephone integration technology for Melbourne’s 22km electronically monitored toll road, CityLink. The three-year-old privately funded $2.4 billion motorway system directly collects tolls from users via a call centre that monitors vehicle “e-tags” through a series of cameras. If a vehicle has no billable e-tag, the cameras enable call centre staff to track the owner down and issue a fine. About 300,000 vehicles use CityLink each day and more than a million e-tags have been issued.

UCMS managing director Mark Maddren says his four-year-old company, formerly MSC Solutions and now owned by Australian parent UCMS, won the work after Nortel Networks brought it in as a partner. Its computer-telephony integration technology uses the Natural Language Speech Recognition (NLSR) system UCMS developed in Auckland.

It works using VoiceXML and a speech engine that breaks down speech patterns and inflections into language a computer can understand. Alternatively it can listen to a voice several times, to take a “voice-print” for secure banking services.

For CityLink, NLSR uses the Genesys telephony system and deals with people ringing in for day passes, Maddren says. It can also tell the call centre who is calling and assess what type of customer the caller is likely to be, as well as give their phone and licence plate number.

Maddren is keen to supply a similar system in Auckland, saying the city is congested for its size. Such a customer-pays infrastructure, he says, would be better than “traditional bucket and booth operations” as it offers drivers the choice of being stuck in traffic or paying a few dollars to use free-flowing roads. Maddren says the accompanying voice recognition technology is well accepted by Australians, claiming that three-quarters of users say “thank you” to the system.

UCMS has no Kiwi customers for NLSR to date, but claims three large organisations are currently looking at it. The firm says it already supplies NZ Dairy foods, Fonterra, Carter Holt Harvey, NZ Post and DB Breweries. Its partners include Stayinfront, Clarify, Oracle, Intervoice Brite and Genesys.

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