Mitel routes calls by word of mouth

An updated version of a Mitel Communications Systems

speech recognition system allows users to route their office telephone calls to any phone number, including those of mobile phones, with voice commands from any wired or wireless telephone.

Mike Berlin, Mitel’s vice-president of messaging and applications, said that one of the major improvements in the new version 2.0 of the Impressa Speak@Ease Attendant is the enhanced capability around a mobile application.

“With that mobility application, you have the ability to route your office calls to basically any telephone number that you have set up within your personal directory,” Berlin said.

According to Ottawa-based Mitel, the Speak@Ease Attendant allows users to route calls to pre-programmed numbers; route calls to another number for specific time periods; and query call routing status.

“There are very few people who have developed an area of expertise around speech recognition at this point,” Berlin said. “If you look at our normal competitors, most of them are not providing things like that yet. What we’re doing is empowering the user at the desktop or the client to formulate their own call routing topology so they can say where or when calls are received.”

Steve Duncan, Mitel’s product marketing manager, said the system is a stand-alone server that the user attaches to the company telephone system. Speak@Ease Attendant will inter-operate with the existing system.

According to Duncan, the technology comes from a partnership with Nuance Communications based in Menlo Park, Calif. With the help of Nuance, Mitel will continue developing voice-driven solutions for the enterprise voice, messaging and call centre markets.

“They develop the algorithms or the engine that does speech recognition, and what we’ve done is build an application around that,” Duncan said.

Mitel said its speech processing applications strategy demands multi-platform compatibility with both IP communications systems and traditional private branch exchanges (PBXs). Speak@Ease attendant is compatible with Meridian 1 Communications Systems PBXs from Nortel Networks.

Iain Grant, analyst and managing director of the Yankee Group in Canada, said there could be a major market for speech recognition projects if they work as promised.

“Voice recognition is pretty underwhelming to date,” Grant said. “It requires a good microphone and good diction. I can get some speech processing from directory assistance.”

Grant said call routing is a benefit that is “certainly more intuitive than dialling in routing codes.”

He also noted the support of cross platforms is a good touch.

Mitel said Speak@Ease 2.0 is fully bilingual, available in both English/French and English/Spanish versions, and recognizes names and commands spoken in either language without a language prompt.

“The important part (of the Speak@Ease Attendant) is the Multilanguage feature,” Grant said. However, he suggested that Mitel add more languages preferences to cover a larger market.

“Demand is certainly growing,” Berlin said. “From a selling opportunity, it is a market that is expected to blossom over a very short period of time.”

Berlin also noted security features are a standard of the system’s capability.

“The algorithms that are used to verify voiceprint are more unique than a fingerprint or eyescan,” he said.

Spea k@Ease Attendant is available. Pricing depends on configuration, and size of enterprise. Mitel is on the Web at