Talk2 touts service for voice-enabling applications

SALT LAKE CITY -- Talk2 Technology this week is expected to announce a service for carriers that is designed to speed the adoption of voice-enabled applications for accessing corporate e-mail, intranet and database servers in large companies.

Talk2's service lets businesses provide access to corporate resources such as e-mail and HTML documents from a phone without requiring any reconfiguration of servers, or additional hardware inside a company. The service would be available through incumbent local exchange carriers (ILEC), application service providers (ASP) and wireless providers, and sold under those providers' brand names.

Users of Talk2's service dial an access number and PIN to connect to the system through a carrier's network. With voice commands or through a touch pad, users choose what information they want, such as e-mail, calendar entries or database and HTML data from corporate servers. Users can configure preferences to voice-enable other information resources, such as stock quotes and news Web sites. Web content is made compatible with the Talk2 system using VoiceXML, a voice-enabled version of the XML standard that tags data as being compatible with a text-to-speech application.

"The service is an easy way for corporations to voice-enable information from e-mail or intranet servers," says Darren Wesemann, Talk2's chief technology officer. This ease of use comes from the fact that no changes need to be made to servers or network equipment to enable the service, he adds.

A corporation would use its existing WAN connection from a carrier, and install Talk2's Spontaneous Virtual Private Network [sVPN] on an e-mail or intranet server. The sVPN software provides a one-way, 192-bit IP Security tunnel from a resource server to the carrier network.

On the carrier side, Talk2's middleware runs on transport equipment, such as a softswitch or Class 4 or 5 switch. This software is used to communicate and relay data between a customer site and Talk2's data center.

Carrier networks are connected to Talk2's data center via a DS-3 or OC-3 link. The data center houses Talk2's Unix-based software platform, which is the core of the service. This software provides text-to-speech engines for e-mail and VoiceXML interpretation, and forwards the content back to the carrier's network for delivery.

"Talk2 is the first voice-portal service company I've seen that is built for carriers and takes into account how carriers build out their networks, and the scalability they require," says Mark Plakias, vice president of voice and wireless commerce for Kelsey Group.

By making its software compatible with most telco switching equipment, Plakias says, Talk2 avoids having to place its own boxes in a carrier's central office. This will ease service deployment and improve scalability for carriers, while making it more reliable for corporate customers, he adds.

Plakias' firm predicts that the number of voice portal users will grow from 1.8 million this year to 45 million by 2005. Companies in this market include HeyAnita, TellMe Networks and BeVocal.

Talk2 says it is in trials with seeveral ILECs, ASPs and wireless provider partners, but would not name any. The service is now available to carriers.

Talk2: www.talk2.com

This story, "Talk2 touts service for voice-enabling applications" was originally published by Network World.

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