On the heels of this week’s unprecedented $13 billion mortgage settlement by JP Morgan Chase for its bad lending practices, a Spain-based speech analytics firm is targeting the financial services market with software tools to monitor and manage financial traders’ behaviors. Fonetic, a 10-year old private company, provides a cross-channel technology to analyze and decode trader interactions via speech analytics for phone, email and chat communications, and social media monitoring.
With a focus on insurance, telecommunications, government and finance, Fonetic has found particular traction in offering solutions for enterprises looking to comply with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This landmark piece of legislation was signed into law by President Obama in July 2010 as a response to the financial crisis of the “Great Recession” and serves as a regulatory tool to keep banks and financial services firms in check.
According to Simon Richards, global sales and marketing director with Fonetic, Dodd-Frank has had worldwide repercussions as any global financial services firm that carries out trades with U.S. banks must comply.
Fonetic’s technology takes unstructured data from voice, email and chat interactions to create a searchable database to analyze communications based on content, reconstruct trades, or identify risk patterns. The company names BBVA as a signature customer, who has been using the technology since 2009. Richards says Fonetic has only publicly been promoting their software as Dodd-Frank record-keeping solution since April of this year.
The company’s uses Nuance speech processing technology and Genesys SpeechMiner platform for call processing. With connectors into all sources of voice and text traffic into a bank infrastructure, the technology can handle up to 79 languages, but primarily caters to English, French, and Spanish.
Last week, Fonetics added voice biometrics as a way for banks to verify a caller’s identity, track their interactions, and authenticate transactions by traders. The company names Agnitio as the technology provider and offers voice biometrics as an additional feature for banks requesting authentication capabilities.
“For banks looking to implement a Dodd-Frank trading record keeping solution before the April 2014 deadline, Fonetic’s solution is still the only fully-functioning and proven platform available on the market, and we continue to drive industry innovation by being the first to integrate biometric voice analysis” said Juan Manuel Soto in a statement from last week.
The company is planning to open a U.S. office in New York City in the first quarter of next year, with designs on opening future offices in London and Singapore.
Genesys Labs has leaped ahead with its efforts to assimilate recent acquisitions by presenting three sets of options to its wide variety of customers and prospects. It has organized a set of contact center capabilities into three distinct “editions.” Each is a version of the Genesys Customer Experience Platform (CXP) but each is tailored to specific sizes of contact center implementations.
Recall that, thanks to its acquisition of Angel.com and Soundbite, Genesys already had a formidable set of routing and voice processing features and functions that have traditionally been marketed to companies with 250 seats or less. Add the analytic and workforce optimization (WFO) chops of Utopy, and you get an idea of what’s baked into Genesys Premier Edition.
This is the mix of inbound/outbound multi-channel routing and related services targeting medium-sized enterprises. The routing is core Genesys. “Proactive” notification/surveys had both been available from Angel and Soundbite, but now run on GVP, the Genesys Voice Portal, which is also the technology underlying Interactive Voice Response applications and services. Business Intelligence and Analytics are the mainstays of Utopy, a platform that supports workforce optimization (WFO), quality management (QM), as well as Speech and Text Analytics that ultimately enable such cool capabilities as sentiment detection, agent training, gender detection and isolating best practices.
Next “up the ladder” in the Genesys platform packaging is the “Business Edition.” This is for companies with more than 250 but fewer than 1,000 seats. For this “sweet spot” in the marketplace Genesys offers identical capabilities as Premier, but adds support of mobile marketing , applications and customer service, a strength of Soundbite. With mobile comes “Local Connect” as well. Finally the Business Edition packages Workforce management (WFM) features that are in line with the expressed needs of larger contact centers. Where Premiere is “cloud-only,” Business Edition services are offered in the cloud or on -premises – including instances that run on a new appliance – or self-contained server which requires very little configuration – measured in time and professional services costs. The appliance comes in two sizes. A version that is designed for 100 seats and one that can support 100-300 seats. They can be grouped to serve up to 1,000 users. Out of the box they are pre-configured as virtual machines supporting SIP and 3rd party session border controllers as well as VoIP headsets. “It’s all about simplification” in terms of procurement, set-up and implementation.
For firms that have embraced the cloud but have compelling reasons to keep customer data or other elements of a Genesys-based solution inside their firewall, there is a hybrid version of the Business Edition. The same holds true for the high-end Enterprise Edition. This is where the acquisition of EchoPass, which closed on November 14th, comes into play. Echopass is one of the largest hosted contact center service providers in the world and has more than a decade providing services built on Genesys infrastructure to large corporations. For the high-end implementers that mix of functions expands to include more robust support of “cross-channel” transfers and escalation, routing to remote agents and knowledge workers and deeprer integration with back-office IT systems. Of course, at this level Genesys is also prepared to offer professional services as required for customization and integration.
Earlier this month, Opus Research organized and produced Voice Biometrics Conference London 2013. This was the tenth VBC event hosted by Opus and featured case studies, industry experts, and technology providers showcasing the latest in strategies to prevent fraud with multi-factor authentication and improve the customer experience.
In this video below, produced by Nuance Communications, several of the VBC London speakers and attendees — including representatives from DBS, ING Bank, Vodafone, Australian National Tax Office, Aite Group and others — share their insights on the value proposition for voice biometrics and predict how future applications in multi-channel environments and mobile commerce will help drive adoption.
Barely four months have passed since Aspect’s acquisition of Voxeo and the parent company is already aggressively marketing a robust, cloud-based contact center service called Zipwire, based on Voxeo’s core technologies. Targeting “small-to-medium businesses” (SMBs), the sweet spot of the new offer is contact centers in the 250 agent range, but Aspect says that the solutions scales “up to 1,800″ simultaneous users. For Voxeo, this reflects remarkable speed for incorporating the fruits of an acquisition into its primary offering.
Aspect is offering a 30 day “try-and-buy” introductory offer for up to 10 seats in for selected customers in North America. This amounts to a “no-risk” option for companies to implement the solution without disrupting existing systems and implementation. Small businesses are the immediate beneficiaries, but Aspect’s emphasis on the ability to scale up indicates that larger companies can avail themselves of this cloud-based approach to customer care.
Aspect tells us that a number of companies in North America are already trialling the system. That said, general availability is scheduled for January 2014 in North America. Channel partners will be able to start marketing Aspect-based solutions in the second half of 2014, which corresponds to the introduction of Zipwire in broader, global marketts in the second half of 2014.
IBM is following its own best practice as it moves the “cognitive computing” tools and resources that comprises Jeopardy-winning Watson into a developer-accessible, cloud-based resource. For readers who don’t recognize the reference, IBM’s Watson (with a human-like text-to-speech front end from Nuance) became a Jeopardy fan favorite as it defeated the two winningest contestants in the history of the game show. Since that time, IBM has continued to make significant investments in Watson, but the big news is that now it is ready to share those resources with a broad community of application and service developers through what it calls the “Watson Developer Cloud.”
Think of it as an “Instant Ecosystem.” It has already announced a set of initial partners that span retailing (Fluid Inc.); healthcare (MD Buyline, Welltok, Healthline), and the community of creative independent developers (eLance). These folks are provided with access to IBM’s core technology and development tools, but they will also benefit from the strength of globally-recognized brand and considerable largesse when it comes to marketing and support. It’s a win/win situation whereby partners bring their domain knowledge and creative ideas and everyone benefits from the investment that IBM has put into Watson over the past several years. Most importantly is the underlying “Content Store,” a knowledge-based in the cloud that is an aggregation of information and data from a multiplicity of sources. As IBM puts it in a background piece, the Content Store contains “general knowledge, industry specific content, and subject matter expertise to inform, educate, and help create an actionable experience for the user.”
If you’re looking for a definition of Big Data, there you have it. I personally don’t like the use of the term “actionable” because the first definition in many dictionaries is “grounds for a lawsuit”). The good news is that a second definition, “having practical value,” is more to the point. IBM recognizes that the value of computers systems that understand an individual’s intent (whether spoken or keyed it into a form or search box) will be its ability to help people solve problems. It is interesting that there is so much focus on healthcare in the near-term. That is turning out to be a very crowded field. It is gratifying to see that a retailing specialist is also among the initial partners. But in the long-run, “Powered by IBM Watson” is destined to permeate a wide spectrum of both mobile and Web-based commerce.
Nuance Communications has released its “Next Generation Dragon Drive” integrating the fruits of its acquisition of Tweddle Connect with its broadly deployed line of Dragon-branded automotive offerings. As a result, drivers have new alternatives when it comes to taking advantage of speech-enabled services in cars. In addition to the mainstays of phone control, messaging, navigation and control of the audio entertainment supported by the car’s dashboard mounted “head unit,” drivers or passengers will be able to avail themselves of “fully customizable content and app delivery services.” In other words, if they want to access their accounts on Pandora and listen to their personalized playlists, they won’t be restricted to the services supported by the auto manufacturers’ exclusive deals with Sirius Radio, Rhapsody or other streaming content providers.
Dragon Drive’s secret sauce is a new “hybrid” architecture. In addition to Dragon Speech — which is an automobile-hardened, natural-language speech recognition resource — Nuance is introducing two new components. First is Dragon Link which is a communication management component that coordinates interactions between an app running on an individual’s smartphone and resources running on the car’s head unit. It takes care of authenticating the driver and and employing his or her user profile information for apps and services once they enter the car. But the real master of ceremonies is called Dragon Drive Connect; it is the result of the Tweddle acquisition and serves as a content delivery and user management service.
Dragon Drive Connect integrates or delivers content and applications that have been optimized for in-car use. Its line-up already includes social network leaders like Facebook and Twitter. It also includes services from Yelp, Infogroup, Slacker Radio, TuneIn Radio, Deezer, Rdio, AccuWeather, OPIS/ Gas Buddy, Xignite, STATS, INRIX, TomTom, West World Media’s Cinema-Source, MovieTickets.com, Reuters and others.
As vice president and general manager, automotive, Nuance Mobile, Arnd Weil, explains, Nuance knows that the tug-of-war between embedded resources in cars, mobile devices and “in the cloud” is not a “winner-takes-all” battle. That’s why Nuance has opted for a hybrid approach which, in effect, will provide a much more robust user experience. Weil expects one of the first areas where users recognize improvements is in the area of “Points of Interest” (POIs) that has always been problematic for providers of in-car navigation systems. Taking a connected approach will allow the Dragon Drive system to take a more dynamic approach to handling input that includes POIs. The system will have a larger vocabulary and will do a better job of associating natural language input with geographic locations. As a result there will be no more guessing games and fewer outright FAILs.
The Dragon Drive system is already taking on more of the attributes of an in-car personal virtual assistant by moving from pure “command and control” of in-car systems to a natural language input approach to task completion. Because car manufacturers have made significant investment in their own, branded speech-enabled systems and services, Nuance does not aim to replace them. Rather, they plan to do a better job of bringing the right resources to bear in order for drivers to reach their objectives safely.
As for availability, the expanded Dragon Drive platform is available in 12 languages, including U.S. and U.K. English, Canadian and European French, American and European Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Korean and Japanese – with additional languages to be made available over the next year. It is currently deployed with Audi, BMW, Daimler and Toyota.
Verint Systems Inc., a global leader in contact center monitoring, recording, analytics and “enterprise intelligence”, has agreed to acquire voice-based fraud prevention specialist Victrio. Financial terms were not disclosed. To this point, Victrio had marketed its solutions as an independent company often in conjunction with Verint’s rival, NICE Systems.
Victrio’s efforts have landed a set of marquee customers that include one of the largest commercial banks in the world and a leading issuer of payment cards. Based on months of real world results, Victrio’s clients are finding that voice-based fraud reduction has measurable impact on fraud loss. As Mark Lazar, Victrio’s CEO, explained, “We’ve brought the ‘data science’ into the mix and proven that our solutions can work at scale.”
That message was not lost on Verint and many of its existing customers. Nancy Treaster, SVP and General Manager of Strategic Operations at Verint, explained that Verint has been responding to RFPs from its existing enterprise customers with the Victrio’s solution. In many cases it offers a packaged solution that merges Verint-based portfolio of contact center software with Victrio’s services to bring a complete, risk-based fraud prevention solution.
As part of Verint, Victrio will see a large number of opportunities to augment Verint’s line of Actionable Intelligence® products and services for its global installed base. The ties with Verint also bring Victrio ready access to the call recordings that are the raw material for the database of voiceprints that are foundational to passive, predictive fraud detection. The respective sales teams will find themselves in front of new categories of decisionmakers, as well. Verint will find that its salespeople can take their message to top security and risk management executives who often pay short shrift to the problems that arise in contact centers; at the same time, Victrio will have a strong story to tell to the folks who want to limit their exposure to phone-based fraud without putting callers through time-consuming challenge-question-and-response rituals.
A silent winner in the acquisition is voice biometric engine provider Agnitio. It is the provider of the core voice biometric processing platform for Victrio’s solution. It also provides the speaker identification software that is a key component of Verint’s line of Security Intelligence solutions. Both Verint/Victrio and Agnitio will be present, as featured speakers and sponsors, at Voice Biometrics Conference-London (November 6-7).
Virtually every mobile phone, PC, tablet and laptop that has shipped in the past three years is equipped with a camera. As described in this report, voice security specialist SpeechPro offers a novel way to combine voice plus facial recognition to achieve very high levels of confidence when authenticating the identity of individuals carrying out personalized commerce, communications and collaboration.
Nuance Communications has acquired Interactive Notification specialist Varolii. Though the financial terms of the deal were not discussed, Nuance executives were very pleased to explain how the acquisition of Varolii is destined to help the company fill the growing demand for integrated, multichannel customer care and support offerings. Since its inception in 1999 (as Alertline), Varolii has built a customer base of over 400 businesses with over 75 million customers. It’s basic stock-in-trade involves initiating outbound alerts (as voice, SMS text or email) designed to trigger direct responses from the individuals who receive them. These alerts fall into two categories – “Contact Center” applications are notices of past-due bills, appointment reminders (for doctors), prescriptions refills or flight cancellations – designed to trigger an inbound call or direct connection to an IVR or live agent.
The other category, “Incident Communications,” represent a cloud-based expansion of Nuance’s traditional customer base and application expertise. Over the years, Varolii had carved out a market niche among utilities, government agencies and other companies with an interest in informing citizens or customers of power failures, threatening weather or other service interruptions.
In late 2011, Opus Research calculated that stand-alone interactive notification service providers generated roughly $320 million in annual revenue and was poised to grow to $500 million by the end of 2014. Market leaders at the time included Varolii (now part of Nuance), Soundbite (recently acquired by Genesys Labs) and Adeptra (now part of FICO). Varolii, itself is the product of a merger of a company called PAR3 and Envoy Worldwide. Chicago-based Centerpost, which had built its reputation by providing outbound notification to United Airlines passengers (among others) had been acquired by West Corporation in 2007.
Over the past four years, Varolii had made investments into technologies that beef-up its core “Interact Platform” to support its range of services. It is now capable of initiating high volumes of outbound messages that conform with business rules that are a product of deep analytics of what has worked in the past as well as the rules that ensure conformance with industry regulations and strictures. There is also a analytics platform called Varolii ID, which keeps track of each individual’s preferred response channel, how they respond, when they do and what has worked in the past.
For several years, Nuance has enabled its customers to offer similar services through the Nuance Notification Hub (NNH), which will continue to be marketed primarily as a premises-based solution. By Nuance’s estimation there is as much as 45% overlap in their respective customer bases. Nuance has found those customers to be highly complimentary of Varolii and pleased that Nuance will be moving forward with a complementary set of products and services.
Integrating robust outbound capabilities into enterprise multichannel customer care and eCommerce strategies is a fast-growing phenomenon. Based on feedback with existing customers, Nuance expects to see strong demand for inbound/outbound solutions integrating the “best of ” Nuance and Varolii Nuance will make the “best of” applications and features of both NNH and Varolii Interact available through a cloud-based or hybrid delivery model.