IBM Unveils New Speech Recognition Applications

Customers Can Escape Endless Maze of Touch-Tone Driven Menus

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February 23 - 23 Feb 1999: -- Somers, NY -- IBM today announced products and strategies that join the power of advanced speech recognition with the telephone, allowing businesses to provide a new level of customer care and efficiency.

IBM's ViaVoice telephony solutions -- based on 30 years of speech recognition research -- will help companies around the world build and integrate applications that support conversational dialog between customers and computers, allowing the telephone to become a fundamental extension of the computing environment.

"Our goal is to extend speech recognition to everyday applications like the telephone -- which we view as the ultimate thin client," said Jerome Beard, assistant general manager, IBM Speech Systems, "ViaVoice gives the control back to the caller and makes it easier for companies to provide their customers immediate access to information from anywhere at any time."

These new solutions are based on one of the world's largest commercially available speech vocabularies, enhanced developer tools and breakthrough speech technologies, including the new ViaVoice Directory Dialer and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) applications. Starting in March 1999, IBM will ship ViaVoice Directory Dialer, a voice-activated telephone directory solution that was first piloted at one of the largest call centers in the world -- IBM's North American Call Center which serves customers as well as 200,000 IBM employees. In addition, new ViaVoice telephony developer tools and applications based on NLU will be rolled out throughout the year worldwide.

ViaVoice Directory Dialer
ViaVoice Directory Dialer allows a company to deliver automated directory assistance and call routing. Users need only dial one phone number and, after a quick prompt, state the name of the person they want to call; the caller is then connected to that person's extension, or provided requested information such as e-mail address, pager or fax number. ViaVoice Directory Dialer will eliminate the endless maze of touch-tone driven menus, enabling access to data quickly and easily.

Based on IBM's "fast match" and "stack decoding" patented technologies, ViaVoice Directory Dialer provides fast and efficient service. The technology is capable of handling in excess of 250,000 names, more than 20,000 in any one location, making it the ideal choice for business of all sizes. Its Web-based system allows an administrator to monitor and conduct on-the-fly updates and customization anytime, from any location.

Pilot Program Proof
Before announcing ViaVoice Directory Dialer, IBM deployed the technology internally at its North American Call Center. In its first month of operation, ViaVoice Directory Dialer reduced the average call duration by 40 percent and enhanced its employee care and support, especially among mobile workers. This e-business solution now off-loads more than 80,000 internal employee calls per month, freeing up operators to deliver improved support to external customers.

At Prudential Securities, ViaVoice Directory Dialer has been implemented as a pilot in its Telephone Operator Service Center.

"The pilot of ViaVoice Directory Dialer is already absorbing 10 percent of our daily call volume," said Vincent Campagnoli, senior vice president of communications at Prudential Securities. "The technology eliminates the delays callers experience while waiting for an operator or opening an online directory. At the same time, it relieves the bulk of easy-to-respond-to internal calls, allowing operators to focus on more complex inquiries."

ViaVoice Telephony Technical Requirements & Pricing
ViaVoice Directory Dialer is priced according to the size of the directory, hardware and services. The product runs on IBM's Netfinity server with a Pentium II® 400 MHz processor(s), under Windows NT® and a Natural MicroSystems analog or digital telephony interface board. For more information, customers can visit or call 800-426-7777 in North America, priority code: 6N9BB001. Outside North America call (01) 416-383-9224.

New Generation of Speech Recognition Technology
Today's existing Natural Language Recognition (NLR) solutions allow callers to make requests for information in a directed dialog mode. This means that they must be specific when answering the machine's question, such as "say a stock name." With IBM's Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology, users can have a conversation in the same manner they would speak with a real person (i.e., "I would like to transfer $5000 from one mutual fund to another"). NLU conversational dialog technology can be used for a variety of application such as airline reservations, mutual funds, stocks or banking services. Additionally, users have the freedom to ask for the information they need in a variety of ways to achieve the same result -- "sell half of fund A" or "sell 50 percent of fund A" -- and the computer will intuitively know to clarify with "Did you mean Class A shares or Class AA shares?" IBM's NLU-based telephony will eliminate the frustration of menu-driven services, improving ease-of-use and overall customer satisfaction.

IBM is actively selling its NLU Mutual Fund application to large financial organizations. In addition, IBM has created a toolkit that simplifies the developer's task in building these conversational applications. ViaVoice Telephony Speech Recognition is available on the Corepoint ™ Integrated Voice Response (IVR) platforms in the Windows NT and AIX® environments, and will be available on other IVR platforms later in the year.

Throughout 1999, IBM plans to deliver ViaVoice telephony solutions tailored for financial, academic, medical and other industries, delivering enhanced customer service and support environments that provide information from any location -- twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, IBM will provide ViaVoice NLU toolkits and runtimes to customers, IVR vendors and application developers worldwide.

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