Voicelink tech to make comeback

The Australian company that bought call centre software pioneer VoiceLink three years ago is beefing up its local presence to sell a newly released 'natural language speech recognition' platform here.

The Australian company that bought call centre software pioneer VoiceLink three years ago is beefing up its local presence in an effort to sell a newly released “natural language speech recognition” platform here.

While VoiceLink developed the original core technology - a push button and interactive voice response (IVR) system - parent company VeCommerce’s sales focus since the sale has been in Australia.

VeCommerce has appointed a local business development manager to pitch the company’s new speech recognition products to existing VoiceLink users, and to find new customers, with several already evaluating it.

“Tom [Risbrook] will be trying to get a handle on the New Zealand market and introduce the tech here; we realise we need a sales strategy different to the Australian market,” marketing manager Nick Flude says.

VoiceLink’s products were among the first fax-on-demand and mixed IVR touch phone systems with clients at the time including Mobil and the University of Waikato, but after its sale it disappeared from view. Over 20 of the team of 25 left in Auckland have been working in research and development, both on the original core platform and new applications, with only the small remainder in sales and administration.

One of its bigger sites, University of Waikato, gave up on the original system after it had difficulties integrating the product with its phone system. The university now uses Nortel’s Call Pilot unified messaging system. The university's IT infrastructure manager, Warwick Glendenning, says while he sees applications for natural language recognition technology on the university’s main switchboard, he is not likely to change back.

But other big users, including the TAB and Tranz Rail, are evaluating VeCommerce’s new system.

Tranz Rail information chief Bruce Caldwell confirms he is in the early stages of evaluating it and has also talked to other natural language vendors. He says the industry is at the stage where “linguistic computing is starting to work” and if it proved to be applicable, he would be interested.

The TAB is also in discussions for a phone betting system following large-scale rollouts of VeCommerce’s system for the TAB in Queensland and New South Wales, a site with over 1000 ports.

In Australia VeCommerce's users include the Australian Tax Office, David Jones, Regent Taxis, Caltex and Telstra Payphones.

Formerly called Scitech, VeCommerce combines the engine of US-based Nuance Communications with the revamped VoiceLink platform. It is one of six high-level Nuance partners around the world.

The system lets customers talk in a conversational tone into the phone and it asks questions back when it needs more information. It can “learn” new words and is marketed as a way to take over routine phone requests and leave operators to deal with difficult calls.

VeCommerce plans to target the financial services, transport and taxi industries in New Zealand, and has just launched VeQuote, a phone system that allows insurance customers to access vehicle, house and contents quotes and track claims. Behind the scenes, the application, which is claimed to have a 95% accuracy rate for Australian and Kiwi accents, extracts the relevant information and links into the company’s back-end to provide a quote.

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More about Caltex AustraliaDavid JonesNortelNuanceNuance Communications AustraliaTelstra CorporationUniversity of WaikatoVeCommerce

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