Editorial: From HD voice to Smart Calling

Since this venture fired up back in 2009, the world has (slowly, painfully) started to move away from narrowband and into better voice quality.

It will take (painfully, still) longer before the mobile world has adopted HD voice as its de facto standard, with delays to Voice over LTE (VoLTE) continuing to pop up despite more press releases about SRVCC and promises for more HD voice.  Even the consumer broadband world (outside of the U.S.) is moving to HD voice, as evidenced by recent service rollouts in such places as Lithuania, Turkey, and the Middle East.

Better voice quality, at least the idea and concept for it, has started to take root as service providers and services alike embrace voice as a hands-free user interface.

Hardware vendors have seen the light, with more of them putting two and three microphones in phones, tablets, and even laptops to do better onboard noise cancellation and voice processing. Dual speakers have become popular, enabling stereo and spatial audio effects with off-the-shelf devices that would have cost hundreds of dollars and specialized hardware a decade ago.

But for the most part, voice is still very “dumb” and frankly (with no apologies to the UC crowd) very dis-unified from other data types.  You make a phone call, taking notes on the side, you hang up, that’s it for over 70 percent or more of the business world. Follow-up is down through email.

Voice mail, this year’s whipping boy, can provide some intelligence via speech to text services, but the email transcript is often garbled.

Calls are recorded in various financial, health, and legal industries for regulatory requirements, but unless something goes wrong, the raw recordings typically don’t get reviewed.

Call centers represent the pinnacle of Smart Calling usage in the business world.  All inbound calls are recorded.  At the end of the day, the recordings are processed via speech-to-text with the resulting text data mined for best practices, improving call center agent performance, and sifted for competitive intelligence – who is offering deals to switch services, typically.

The greatest barriers for any business to engage in Smart Calling have been analog phone systems and the high cost of systems capable of grunging through narrowband recordings.  With businesses moving to IP PBXes and cloud-based services, voice is now (literally) data.  It can be recorded and processed just like any other inbound data type without the overhead of having to have humans transcribe recordings.

But voice also becomes more in a digital context.  People can stop taking notes, because transcriptions of calls become automatically available.  Indexing makes those transcriptions searchable for sales leads, support disputes, accounting review, and all other aspects of operations. 

HD voice and its successors are the building block for Smart Calling.  In the weeks to come, you should hear more about Smart Calling over at TMCNet, discussing recording, voice biometrics, voice analytics, and Hypervoice practices. 

Why am I pushing Smart Calling now? We have the technology (apologies to Oscar Goldman) for services to be delivered in a cost-effective manner.  Cloud-based VoIP/UC services are a dime a dozen, so carriers are going to have to get smarter and more innovative about offering value-added services that deliver better, more productive voice services on top of vanilla voice – while adding to ARPU.

— Doug

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