New Canadian voice recognition player comes in loud and clear

A new player in the voice recognition tools business has emerged and will focus its efforts on developing its products with mobile field workers in mind.

Halifax-based OKAMLogic Inc. launched in August 2000 and kicked off its business with a contract from Halifax-based Aliant Inc. to build a wireless voice recognition commerce gateway, which was completed in spring 2001.

“And what we’ve concentrated on to date is building applications which will utilize our gateway to be used by field workers in the energy [and] utilities industry to do their jobs,” said Grant Sullivan, OKAMLogic’s vice-president of business development. So far, the company has stayed focused on serving Eastern Canada-based clients like Aliant, but Sullivan said OKAMLogic plans to expand to the rest of Canada and, in time, to other countries.

OKAMLogic’s core business is defined as providing “voice service logic,” Sullivan said. Its applications take advantage of infrastructure within the network for voice recognition services. The company offers a set of software modules that act as voice-enabled user interfaces. Its end-users tend to be mobile field workers in the energy, utilities, telecommunications, transportation and distribution and logistics industries.

“We build software that allows access to electronic information using any telephone,” Sullivan said. “Our solutions allow those field workers…to access, update and distribute enterprise information using their existing devices, which [are phones],” Sullivan said. He added that personal digital assistants (PDAs), laptops or other wireless devices are not necessary to achieve the results necessary for effective mobile field work. Access to enterprise information can be achieved with a voice-enabled gateway. OKAMLogic calls its product the Wireless Voice Commerce Gateway. Using a phone also cuts down on training time – everybody knows how to use a phone, he said.

It’s common knowledge that voice recognition tools (both voice-to-text and text-to-voice) have had their technological glitches. Even television’s The Simpsons parodied the technology. “Beat up Martin” became “Eat up Martha” when transferred from voice to text on a handheld device. According to Sullivan, while the technology is still not perfect, it has matured greatly.

“It’s still to be seen, really, where the limits of that technology are today and how effectively we can build these solutions,” he said. However, the technology makes it much quicker for mobile workers to get access to information. The spoken word is quicker than keying in requests.

According to Sheryl Kingstone, program manager, customer relationship management (CRM) strategies at Boston-based The Yankee Group, many companies are focusing on voice recognition technology to make it easier for mobile workers to access company data, but a lot of them are coming at mobile access from the data side as well, such as through PDAs, laptops, etc.

“[Voice recognition] is still in its infancy and…it still needs a lot of work,” Kingstone said. She added, however, that companies involved in the technology’s development are making a lot of progress and voice recognition is becoming more conversational and accurate.

OKAMLogic is on the Web at