Nuance Plans Industry-Specific Speech Apps

The speech vendor is releasing applications suites for six verticals to help companies voice-enable tasks such as bill payments and address changes.

Continuing its push into packaged applications, Nuance Communications Inc. on Wednesday plans to release a set of voice application suites aimed at vertical industries.

The Menlo Park, Calif., company is announcing its Nuance Flexible Applications Suites, or what it is calling Nuance FASt, for six different verticals, said Joel Riciputi, a senior product marketing manager at Nuance. The industries are credit card financial services, retail banking, insurance, wireless telecommunications, wireline telecom and utilities.

Nuance is launching a total of about 70 applications across the suites that can help companies in a particular industry route calls and authenticate callers using speech-recognition and text-to-speech technologies, Riciputi said. The applications address common tasks such as paying a bill, changing an address or conducting a transaction.

The suite for credit card companies, for example, includes speech-enabled applications for caller identification, card activation, account payments, address changes, recent transaction lookups and gathering rate information, Riciputi said.

Nuance about a year ago began to focus on offering packaged speech applications. The initial focus was on applications that are applicable across industries. It launched a speech-enabled call-routing application in 2003, and last month added one for caller authentication.

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Increasing demand for speech applications led Nuance to package them for specific industries, said Matt Keowen, Nuances director of corporate marketing. The applications provide voice user interfaces and best practices for speech dialogs, voice prompts and speech grammars.

The applications require the Nuance speech-recognition engine, but they can be run on the Nuance Voice Platform as well as on third-party IVR platforms, officials said. Pricing for the suites starts at $40,000 per application.

In other speech-industry news, speech vendor ScanSoft Inc. on Tuesday announced broader support for the emerging speech standard, Media Resource Control Protocol (MRCP). The company has added MRCP support to SpeechWorks products such as SpeechPearl speech recognition, RealSpeak text-to-speech and the OpenSpeech MediaServer 2.0.

Last week, ScanSoft announced the addition of a new female text-to-speech voice, called "Steffi," for its SpeechWorks RealSpeak and RealSpeak Solo. It also agreed to acquire Telelogue Inc., an Iselin, N.J.-based provider of automated directory assistance applications for telecom service providers. Terms of the cash-based transaction were not disclosed.

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