Unified Communications Featured Article

UM/UC Gets Another Boost From SpinVox's "VoxLinks"

January 20, 2009

Messaging is an increasingly important component of unified communications (UC) for a number of practical reasons, including the fact that text messaging has become “real-time” through Instant Messaging and mobile SMS, but also because text messages are much more manageable, self-documenting, and resource-efficient than voice messages. Such benefits contribute to the goals of UC to minimize human latency in business communications through individual end user productivity (UC-U) and thereby also increase associated business process efficiencies (UC-B).   

However, typing text message input has always been slow and error prone and the holy grail of business messaging has been to use the convenience and efficiency of voice for message input, but the efficiencies of text for message retrieval and management. The first step in this direction took place a couple of years ago when SpinVox, among others, offered a telephone answering service that allowed callers to leave traditional voice messages, but enabled the recipients to retrieve those messages in text form.
What Message Recipients Really Need
There are really two kinds of actions that message recipients have to take when they get notification of a new message:
1.      Retrieve the message
2.      Respond to the message
Both actions need flexibility to meet individual user needs for handling different kinds of messages and that’s where the power of unified messaging (UM) comes into play for UC. Recipients need to retrieve messages in any form that is convenient for them at the moment, especially when they are mobile, and they also need to respond/reply in any modality that is appropriate. If most people are like me, we respond immediately whenever possible, either to satisfy the time needs of other people as soon as possible or simply because we might forget about it.  
Until recently, enterprise “unified messaging” technologies (UM) supported the capability for flexible message retrieval by primarily converting text messages to voice for notification and delivery by a voicemail system. Voice messages were also made a bit more manageable by using an email screen interface for retrieval, but the actual voice message retrieval and voice response had to be supported through a telephone and voicemail system.
SpinVox’s “VoxLinks” Cross-media Message Service For Recipients
SpinVox’s new service addresses the practical needs of the mobile user as a recipient to reply/respond to SMS text messages in voice. Expanding upon the success of it’s original voice-to-text-messaging service offered through wireless carriers, and more recently through enterprise providers like Avaya, VoxLinks provides any transcribed voice message that is delivered by SMS, with a “click-to-reply” voice option, as well as a “click-to-listen” option to hear the original voice message that was transcribed to the received text message. Now recipients can “Have their cake and eat it too!”  
SpinVox is planning to bring speech recognition to messaging technologies to provide a variety of public services for mobile users. This should fit in nicely with UC service requirements for “click-to-call” and federated telephony presence management, as well as provide speech interfaces for mobile business applications. The latter should enable speech input to mesh efficiently with visual outputs for mobile devices. However, the proposed services will need to support regulatory compliance for business use and that is something that has not (yet) been publicized. So, stay tuned!
What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Art Rosenberg, a veteran of the computer and communications industry, contributes his column, The Unified-View to unified communications. To read more of Art’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jessica Kostek

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