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TMCNet:  THE 2012 MARKET leaders [Speech Technology]

[July 21, 2012]

THE 2012 MARKET leaders [Speech Technology]

(Speech Technology Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Speech technology's value and importance to those who use it are growing exponentially, so it shoul be surprising that it is becoming more pervasive in both enterprise and consumer applications. This is w we bring you our sixth annual Speech Technology Market Leader Awards. Here, you'll find the vendors responsible for shaping the speech technology market across six categories: speech engine, self-service suite, speech analytics, voice security, professional services, and mobile voice search. Before you invest in a speech technology system, see what industry analysts and consultants have to say about these leading vendors.

/ Bv the Editors of Speech Technoloav magazine / THE EDITORS OF SPEECH TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND THEIR DEEPEST GRATITUDE TO THOSE WHO TOOK PART, TO VARYING DEGREES, IN EVALUATING THE SPEECH TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY AWARDS. THIS ISSUE, AND THE AWARDS THEMSELVES, WOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE FOLLOWING JUDGES, ASSESSORS, COMMENTERS, AND RATERS: Dick Bucci, principal analyst, Pelorus Research; Deborah Dahl, principal, Conversational Technologies; Keith Dawson, principal analyst, Ovom; Tony Fillippone, executive vice president, sourcing, governance, and healthcare strategies, HFS Research; Donna Fluss, founder and president, DMG Consulting; Daniel Hong, lead analyst, global customer interaction, Ovum; Bill Livingston, managing director, VoiceProtect; Judith Markowitz, president, J. Markowitz Consulting; Sheila McGee-Smith, principal, McGee-Smith Analytics; Bill Meisel, president, TMA Associates; John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research, Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA); Peter Ryan, outsourcing practice leader, Ovum; Bill Scholz, president, NewSpeech LLC, Valene Skerpac, managing director, iBiometrics; and Paul Stockford, president and chief analyst, Saddletree Research.

CATEGORIES AND CRITERIA: Speech Technology magazine's Market Leader Awards name one Winner, two Leaders, and a Vendor Contender in each of six categories using a proprietary scoring formula that involves input from industry analysts and consultants. The selection of these leader companies was based on a composite of the judges' scores (based on a five-point scale, with 5 being the highest rating) in several areas, including affordability, customer satisfaction, ease of use, accuracy, speed, depth of functionality, and company direction. (The charts list only the top three criteria for each category.) We used a weighted scale for each of these criteria based on their importance to current or potential customers.

SPEECH ENGINE the market The future looks bright for the speech engine market. According to a March 2012 report from Global Industry Analysts, the global market for voice recognition systems and software is projected to grow 29.1 percent during the next few years, reaching $69.4 billion by 2015. The firm currently values the market at $49.2 billion.

The report notes that speech recognition has moved beyond corporate uses, dominated by interactive voice response (IVR) systems, to more consumer applications, including mobile phones and computers, car navigation systems, dictation, and voicemail-to-text.

the leaders Google won over analysts with its high accuracy rate, company innovation, and customer satisfaction.

"Google Voice Search and Google's Voice Actions, essentially a personal assistant, work well on difficult tasks and integrate both natural language processing and Google's search technology," one analyst says.

Consumers have been able to use Google Voice Search on mobile devices since 2008. In 2011, Voice Search became available on desktops using Google Chrome's API.

"Google has a very accurate and fast speech engine for a large number of languages," says Deborah Dahl, principal at speech and language consulting firm Conversational Technologies. "As people use the speech engine, Google is also using the users' speech to keep improving the recognition, so it is continually increasing its accuracy." Microsoft also rated well with analysts, who gave it high marks for accuracy and innovation.

"Microsoft's engine is quite accurate and fast," Dahl says. "Microsoft also makes it available in a variety of platforms, including the desktop as part of the Windows 7 operating system, as weU as the TeIlMe IVR platform." In February, contact center software and services provider 24/7 partnered with Microsoft to incorporate technologies for interactive self-service across mobile, Web, and voice channels, big data analytics, and speech and conversational interfaces to create a next-generation cloud platform for customer service.

the winner Nuance Communications scored big with analysts, who were wowed by the company's accuracy, innovation, and customer satisfaction. Its overall score, though, took a hit in the cost department.

Nuance went on a buying spree in 2011, acquiring companies including Vlingo, SVOX, Webmedx, and analyst favorite Loquendo.

"Nuance is innovating in many ways, such as its NDEV program, which lets developers add speech to their mobile apps using cloud-based recognition technology," says BiU Meisel, president of TMA Associates.

In addition, "Nuance's speech recognition technology is dominant in medical transcription and desktop dictation, and is accurate at a level that would be considered magic a decade ago," one analyst says.

Though the company won't say, Nuance is also believed to be the speech recognition piece of Apple's voice assistant Siri.

Meisel calls Siri a "tipping point" for speech recognition technology. "The change in perception has opened opportuni ties... that could lead to impressive growth in the use of speech technology." - Michele Masterson vendor contender AT&T, which made the leaderboard Last year, scored with its high accuracy rate.

"[Its] speech recognition... is as good or better than any commercial recognizer I've ever used," says Bill Scholz, president of AVIOS and NewSpeech, "and response time is nearly instantaneous" with a good-quality Internet connection.

AT&T plans to release its Watson Speech application programming interfaces [APIs], which let developers create apps and services with voice recognition and transcription capabilities, as well as a software development kit that can be used to create software to capture spoken words and send them into the network for transcription. The APIs will first be available for Androids and iOS, with more coming for gaming, social media, speaker authentication, and language translation.

SPEECH SELF-SERVICE SUITE the market After falling off dramatically in 2009, the market for voice self-service systems continued to rebound last year. Global Industry Analysts (GIA) estimates the current market at $1.5 billion, and projects it will reach $2.78 billion by 2017, driven largely by a growing use of systems for outbound notifications, new pricing strategies, and the further development of such open standards as VoiceXML.

The economy also shaped the industry in other ways. Companies focused their attention on customer retention, customer acquisition, and customer satisfaction ratings, leading them to look to optimize their IVR technologies. This brought many opportunities for replacements and upgrades, which made up the bulk of purchases in the past two years. There are, however, still far too many legacy systems in use, analysts maintain.

Another driving force in the industry is the move toward multichannel self-service, extending the customer experience to mobile and Web platforms. Though analysts have observed that vendors still struggle with integrating the various channels and sharing information across them, some firms have already made great progress in this area.

Additionally, "progress made in customizing interactions and deploying speech tactically has produced some outstanding implementations," observes Dick Bucci, principal analyst at Pelorus Associates. "The kind and reassuring voice of a human agent is still preferable but hardly necessary." GIA also expects opportunities for self-service systems from developing economies, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, small and midsized businesses are likely to overtake larger enterprises in their quest for the latest selfservice technologies, according to the analyst firm.

the leaders Contact Solutions, 2009's category winner, was propeUed back to the leaderboard this year by high marks in depth of functionality (4.1) and customer satisfaction (4.2). In fact, Sheila McGee-Smith, principal at McGee-Smith Analytics, notes that "the services component delivered by Contact Solutions keeps customer satisfaction high." "Contact Solutions offers continuous improvement with its speech solution," adds Paul Stockford of Saddletree Research.

Voxeo, which won the category in 2011, fell a notch, despite an industry-leading score of 4.3 in cost and high customer satisfaction marks. Analysts were particularly impressed with the company's adoption of voice standards.

"It should also be commended for reaching out to small developers through its Prophecy and Evolution products," says Deborah Dahl, principal of Conversational Technologies.

Bucci agrees. "The Prophecy platform complies with all of the latest standards and comes with extensive tools and... ser vices to help create custom solutions." He also praises Voxeo for its "integrated support for multiple self-service channels," including voice, text, mobile, Web, and social networks.

the winner Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories has freed itself from the shackles put upon it by Alcatel-Lucent (which hurt the company's ratings in the past). As a stand-alone company backed by Permira Funds and Technology Crossover Ventures, Genesys is putting renewed focus on the customer experience, analysts note. It leads the field in depth of functionality (4.3), ability to customize (4.5), ability to integrate (4.3), and customer satisfaction (4.5). Genesys "continues to push the envelope for self-service," McGee-Smith states.

Stockford says it has "a distinct advantage in this market." "Genesys has long deployed advanced speech technologies, from the most basic to advanced natural language understanding," Bucci says. "With its new Conversation Manager, Genesys appears to be ahead of the pack in the way it automates social media queries." - Leonard Klie vendor contender Cisco Systems, which won the category in our first installment of the Speech Industry Awards in 2007 and then fell off the leaderboard, this year reappears as a viable contender, with a score of 4.0 in customer satisfaction and ability to customize and integrate its solutions. "As part of its Unified IP solution, Cisco's offering is highly customized and easily integrated," Stockford says.

SPEECH ANALYTICS the market This year has seen a rash of merger and acquisition activity in the speech analytics market In February 2011, HP bought next-generation analytics platform provider Vertica; in July, Verini purchased Vovici, a provider of enterprise feedback management solutions; and in October, Avaya acquired Aurix, a United Kingdom-based speech analytics and audio data mining company.

Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting, says that in 2004, there were only 25 traceable speech analytics implementations. Today, there are more than 3,170.

"Quality assurance has been done the same way, mostly manual, since the contact center has been around," Fluss says. "There's a new sheriff in town, [and] that sheriff is analyticsenabled quality assurance. It makes so much more sense to use automation to do things like mining the appropriate calls. Once you get it in for analytics-enabled quality assurance, you can be positioned to do more and more with it.

"Speech analytics remains one of the most exciting technologies in the contact center," Fluss continues. "The long-term benefits... are unbelievable, and it's just going to get better." the leaders Call Miner ranked highly among analysts, who praised its accuracy, customer satisfaction level, and depth of functionality. In 2011, the company launched CallMiner Eureka 8, with a capability for automatic quality monitoring called Auto QM. Eureka AutoQM allows 100 percent of contacts through any channel to be monitored automatically, compares agent and customer behaviors against standard assessment categories, and proactively elevates any activity of special concern.

In 2012, CallMiner partnered with ResponseTek, a provider of customer experience management software solutions, to offer a combination of capabilities to drive rapid improvement in quality and customer satisfaction metrics. The addition of CallMiner's speech analytics allows ResponseTek to interpret unstructured voice feedback, providing contact centers with a complete understanding of customer experience drivers.

Perennial favorite Verint once again scored well with analysts, who cited its accuracy, depth of functionality, and high customer satisfaction. The company bolstered its offerings with the purchase of Vovici in mid -2011. The acquisition gave Verint scalable enterprise feedback solutions it can incorporate into its VoC Analytics platform.

"[This is] a strategic move that will fill a void in the market by enabling customers to extract tremendous value from this emerging tool set for the chief customer officer," said Dan Bodner, CEO of Verint. "It will offer... customers another means to extract critical information through sophisticated enterprise feedback and robust analytics, to better anticipate, understand, and act on the voice of the customer, helping foster more loyal customers and drive more profitable. ..outcomes." the winner For the sixth consecutive year, Nexidia takes top honors, impressing analysts with its accuracy, depth of functionality, and high customer satisfaction.

Nexidia's highlights this year include its release of Search GRID, a software development environment that provides architecture for developers to integrate Nexidia technology into their own applications with the latest Web-services interfaces.

Nexidia claimed a major breakthrough with its core phonetic indexing and search technology. Central to this advancement is an optimized representation of the phonetic index created for each media file This enhanced index provides a greater than 300 percent increase in search speeds, yet retains 100 percent accuracy. These results apply equally to all types of searches, from adhoc queries across large data sets to the structured analysis and reporting provided by Nexidia's Enterprise Speech Intelligence (ESI) product suite. - Michele Masterson vendor contender Analysts praised Aurix's accuracy and ease of use, and gave it a high customer satisfaction score. The company was acquired in 2011 by Avaya.

"Aurix brings a robust set of analytic tools. ..that will add an important component to the... service that Avaya delivers to their enterprise customers and to their customers in turn," one analyst notes.

VOICE SECURITY the market Voice security is reaching a level of maturity and viability thanks to technological advances that have helped it overcome organizational barriers and build user acceptance. In addition, companies have finally figured out how to use voice biometrics to provide real-world solutions, like fraud prevention, authentication, speedier and more personalized access to customer service, and convenience.

The technology has gained wider acceptance following several large government projects, but adoption is also being influenced by large private-sector projects. The most common commercial applications to date have been in the financial services, insurance, and telecommunications industries, but many have identified the medical field as an industry rife with opportunities, particularly as it moves to meet government mandates for electronic health records (EHRs).

Also driving adoption is a greater push toward multifactor authentication, which could pair voice technologies with PINs and passwords, facial recognition, fingerprints, iris scans, and security questions, for example. And while multifactor authentication will be the hot-button issue for the next few years, companies will continue to struggle with it, according to experts.

the leaders Nuance Communications, which won the category in 2011, quietly acquired PerSay in December 2010, then snatched up Loquendo last summer. Many wondered whether it would be able to merge the varied organizations, sets of customers, and separate biometrie engines into one platform while continuing to support all three or migrate customers to the new offerings. It would seem those fears have been laid to rest. "Nuance has very strong technology, experience, and marketing due to acquisitions," says Judith Markowitz, president of J. Markowitz Consulting.

In fact, combining the companies yielded Nuance industryleading scores in accuracy (4.3) and company expertise (4.8). The one flaw with Nuance's technology, however, is cost, according to analysts, who gave the company an average score of 2.2 in that area.

VoiceVault, which many have identified as a smaller, more agile voice biometrics vendor, has a long history in the financial services and healthcare industries and shows no signs of giving up market share any time soon. Just the opposite, in fact: As the healthcare industry moves to adopt EHRs, VoiceVault is already positioning itself to grab the lion's share of new business this will create.

The vendor, which won the category in 2008 and was identified as a leader in 2011, also offers lower-cost cloud-based enterprise and mobile platform solutions. It scored high among analysts in company expertise (4.2), ease of use (4.0), and customer satisfaction (4.0). It has "good tech know-how" and is "reasonably good in marketing," Markowitz says.

the winner Spanish firm Ag it io, which won the category in 2007 and was named an industry leader in 2008 and 2010, this year reprises its role as the top vendor in the category. Analysts propelled the company forward with an industry-leading 4.3 in accuracy (tied with Nuance), a 4.3 in company expertise, and a 4.0 in customer satisfaction. The company boasts a solid foundation in forensics and law enforcement, but with the recent release of its Kivox speaker identification engines, it hopes to expand its presence in the commercial and mobile sectors, where analysts have said it is less skilled. - Leonard Klie vendor contender Russia's Speech Technology Center (STC) earlier this year launched a government program in Ecuador to capture voiceprints of criminals upon their arrest. The technology has collected tens of thousands of voiceprints and could store 1 million.

That comes on the heels of a similar project in Mexico to create the world's first nationwide voice-based identification system, the largest government project to date. According to Markowitz, the company "knows the forensic market very well," and its customers are very satisfied. Many feel STC has yet to establish its presence in the commercial market, however. It has identified that as a strategy going forward, which could position it to take even more market share from some of its much larger competitors.

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES the market With the economy just now starting to recover, many companies cut hack on their IT expenditures and resources. In many cases, an unfortunate consequence of this was the wholesale elimination of contact center positions, which presented a world of opportunities for outsourcers that can run a company's entire customer care and support operations. For that reason, we've refocused attention in our professional services category this year to recognize the vendors that provide this level of service.

Call center outsourcing has ushered in a radical paradigm shift in the way businesses handle customer service, and it's about a lot more than putting an agent in a seat with a script and headset. Many companies are finding that they can better serve their customers without sacrificing the fiscal and human resources necessary to run these operations on their own.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't the usual challenges. Price sensitivity is, of course, a big one, given the economy. Clients are continually looking for cheaper rates and high service quality levels. Many outsourcers have addressed this by offshoring operations, but political pressure and other outside forces could soon bring onshoring back into fashion. Also coming into vogue are call center operations that let agents take calls from their homes.

For companies hesitant about giving full control of their call center operations to a third party, the hybrid approach is always an option, and it's one that service providers are being forced to add.

the leaders Sykes is considered a leader in the industry primarily because of its ability to execute, for which it received a score of 4.2 from analysts. "Sykes has proven itself to be a stable and trusted competitor, offering a great breadth of services that has meant great service to its customers," says Peter Ryan, outsourcing practice leader at Ovum.

John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), takes it a step further. "Beyond very high-quality interaction outsourcing, Sykes has impressive references for incorporating upsell/cross-sell into service interactions, generating revenue for their clients, as well as social media offerings, including community management," he says.

West, which also scored very high for its ability to execute (4.0), was considered by analysts to be a leader in its staffing options. "West is a focused organization that has made a solid offering with its work-at-home program, and it's been solid in its on-shore and off-shore delivery," Ryan says. "They've really kept their eyes on the ball the last couple of years." the winner Teleperformance, the clear favorite among analysts, beat out its competitors by more than three-tenths of a point, with a 4.2 overall score. Its ability to execute score was 4.5, more than three- tenths of a point ahead of the rest of the field, and its 4.2 in number and breadth of services offered also led the field. "Teleperformance sets the standard for contact center outsourcing," Ryan states emphatically, praising the company for its wiUingness to go to new locations, incorporate new technologies, including social media, and implement security provisions. Ragsdale adds: "They get high ratings for handling multichannel [interactions]." - Leonard Klie vendor contender Convergys, the most widely known outsourcer among the analysts, also scored high in number and breadth of services (4.2) and ability to execute (4.0), but fell behind on cost and company direction. "There's significant potential for [Convergys] to remake itself," Ryan says. "There's been a lot of confusion, but they appear to be turning the page, re-establishing themselves as a contact center player and broad-based business process outsourcing provider." In May, Convergys announced a leadership shake-up. It said the changes would align the leadership team with Convergys's sharpened focus on its customer management business. Among the moves, Andrea Ayers, president and COO of customer management, will succeed Jeff Fox as president and CEO.

MOBILE VOICE SEARCH the market The mobile voice search field exploded this year, due in no small part to the rabid fascination with Apple's voice assistant, Siri, on the iPhone 4S. While Apple doesn't have a stranglehold on the market, it is nipping at the heels of Google Android-enabled phones. The competition bodes well for the entire smartphone market.

When Verizon, the number one wireless carrier in the United States, released its earnings report for the first quarter of 2012 in April, it reported sales of 6.3 million smartphones during that time period.

AT&T, the number two carrier, sold 5.5 million smartphones in the first quarter of 2012, exceeding a first -quarter sales record set last year. Smartphones represented more than 78 percent of postpaid device sales.

A 2012 report from eMarketer estimates that almost 116 million Americans will use a smartphone by the end of 2012. By the end of 2013, that number is expected to jump to 137 million, and by 2016, an estimated 192 million will have one.

"Everyone is aspiring to reach a mobile authence with devices," one analyst says. "There's a lot of incentive for companies." the leaders While its Siri voice assistant has garnered headlines, Apple didn't grab the top spot this year, but is gaining in market share. According to analysts at Wireless Intelligence, although Android devices are now thought to account for over half of all U.S. smartphones in service, the latest figures indicate that new buyers are choosing the Apple device over competitors.

A comScore survey published in May measured the smartphone market for the three-month period ending March 2012 versus a three-month average ending December 2011. Analysts found that Apple had 30.7 percent of the smartphone market in the United States and 14 percent of the mobile market in 2012's first quarter. Indeed, Apple says it sold 35 million iPhones in the January-to-March quarter of 2012.

Microsoft, which didn't place in the top rankings last year, gained favor with analysts, who gave it top marks for its accuracy and customer satisfaction. The company's TeIlMe software for Windows Phone 7 also took high marks in the user interface category.

"The Bing voice search app is pretty accurate, reasonably fast, and has a nice user interface," one analyst notes.

the winner For the fourth year in a row, Google bested its rivals in the mobile speech category, and scored particularly high in the accuracy category. Analysts cited the general voice search app for iPhone and Android and the Android "typing replacer" functionality, which lets users fill in forms by voice.

"Both are extremely accurate, reasonably fast, and have user interfaces that take advantage of multimodality," an analyst says. "The speech recognition is not only very good, but it's continually improving." Google continues to refine and update Google Translate for Android, which supports text translation among 63 languages, voice input in 17 languages, and text-to-speech in 24. In 2011, the company released an update to Google Translate for Android's Conversation Mode feature, enabling users to translate speech back and forth between 14 languages.

Google made a splash this year when it launched Google Voice for Android with Ice Cream Sandwich voicemail integration. The mobile app allows users to view and listen to voicemails on demand directly from the call log on an Android phone. The messages can be slowed down or sped up, for those who are trying to catch a phone number or get to the end of a call quickly. - Michele Masterson vendor contender Nuance Communication's 2011 acquisition of previous analyst favorite VLingo surprised many. The former foes see the deal as a $5 billion market opportunity as demand soars for voice assistance and natural language solutions.

Steve Chambers, president of sales and marketing at Nuance and executive vice president of its enterprise division, says the move would help Nuance compete in the mobile space. "With the integration of our voice recognition and natural language, we're in a great position, with no shortage of people who want this technology." (c) 2012 Information Today, Inc.

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