LocusDialog opens up to standards

Montreal-based Locus Dialogue Inc. (“LocusDialog”) says it will release an open standard auto attendant that allows users to integrate the product with third-party interactive voice response (IVR) platforms.

A voice-activated auto attendant prompts callers to state the name of the individual or department they wish to contact. The program automatically makes the transfer; callers need not use the telephone keypad to reach their correspondents.

LocusDialog’s new open standards auto attendant, dubbed OpenDialog, is based on Voice Extensible Markup Language (VXML).

Richard Martel, LocusDialog’s president, said many IVR vendors including Nortel Networks, IBM Corp., Genesis Global Inc., and VoiceGenie Technologies Inc., have adopted open standards to run, or interface with existing telephone systems, as well as run third-party applications on their platforms.

Martel said, if a user standardized on a VoiceGenie IVR platform, it could integrate OpenDialog into the existing system, instead of running it separately, as the user would have to do if it ran the proprietary version, which shares a name with its creator, LocusDialog.

“By taking the proprietary, core technology [of LocusDialog] and all the components of our packaged product and putting them to open standards, it allows those platform vendors to run the same auto attendant application, but with their platform rather than as a separate or foreign application,” Martel said.

OpenDialog runs on LocusDialog Speech Application Server, which employs Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating systems and connects to different IVR platforms via a gateway adapter. The first gateway adapter will connect OpenDialog to VoiceGenie IVR platforms and will be available in Q4 of 2003 through VoiceGenie.

The Peterborough Regional Health Centre in Peterborough, Ont. has been using LocusDialog for the past three years. Shane Paquette, manager of technical services for the Health Centre, said the institution chose a voice-activated auto attendant for the phone system because the centre serves a large rural area where not everyone has touch-tone service.

“We needed a way we when went into an auto attendant for those people to access the phone system and navigate through the phone system,” he explained.

When the Health Centre was looking to implement, it turned to Bell Canada, a partner of LocusDialog, which recommended the product.

Paquette said the system has been well received throughout the Health Centre, but there are a small percentage of external users who have a difficult time understanding the technology and, in turn, have a hard time navigating the system.

He thinks this might result from a generation gap, because the average age of Peterborough’s citizens exceeds the provincial average. However, he said before the project was implemented, the Health Centre held information sessions for the community that included seniors’ groups, and clerical and support people from doctors’ offices.

“People have a generally negative attitude towards auto attendants and I think you need to do as much of that up-front work as possible to try to make it as friendly as you can,” he explained.

The College of Dupage, in Glen Ellyn, Ill., is another LocusDialog user. Kay Dreyer, manager of telecommunications and voice services for the college, said the school was looking for a way to facilitate the massive amount of calls it handles.

She said the college processes in and out, about 3.5 million calls per year and has about 3,000 users and 34,000 students.

After looking for a speech recognition system for three to five years, Dreyer said Dupage selected LocusDialog one year ago because the college is a Nortel shop, and LocusDialog is a Nortel partner.

She said it integrated seamlessly. “We’ve been extremely pleased with it.”

The cost of LocusDialog and OpenDialog is dependent on the resellers. For LocusDialog the resellers are Bell Canada, Telus Corp., and NEC Canada Inc. Other than VoiceGenie, resellers of OpenDialog have yet to be determined and prices have not yet been set.

For more information about LocusDialog, visit