HP buys Swedish VoiceXML company

Hewlett-Packard Co. plans to expand its OpenCall business unit with the purchase of Swedish VoiceXML company PipeBeach AB.

PipeBeach of Stockholm makes interactive voice products for speech-based information portals, such as sports and traffic information systems and phone banking. Ed Verney, director of interactive media platforms in HP’s OpenCall unit, said HP has been working in the VoiceXML area for some time, but that it would have taken a further two years to develop products of a similar quality to PipeBeach’s technology.

HP will take PipeBeach’s principal products, including SpeechWeb and SpeechWeb Portal, and integrate them into its own OpenCall suite of telecommunication software, it said in a statement.

SpeechWeb is a VoiceXML platform that lets applications and services, located on standard Web servers, be accessed over the phone. It can automatically understand speech in 30 languages, and can also turn text in those languages into speech, according to PipeBeach’s Web site.

SpeechWeb Portal makes it easier to give access to different information databases through one phone number, and to personalize services, according to PipeBeach. A provider just has to link the SpeechWeb Portal software to a database to produce a voice service, Verney said. “It’s removed a lot of the guess-work,” he said.

All Stockholm staff have now agreed to work for HP, Verney said. “That was a value point in buying the company,” he said. The chief technical officer of PipeBeach, Scott McGlashan, is co-chairman on the WC3 (World Wide Web Consortium)’s working group on Voice XML, and will continue to work for HP, Verney said.

Voice-based systems are increasingly being used in place of live operators for information and assistance, as automated services cost approximately US$0.50 per call compared to US$5 per call to a human operator, HP said in a statement.

Verney said he was not able to give the value of the deal.

Visit www.hp.com for details.