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VeriSign Eschews Keypads for Voice Registry Service

In this day and age of multiple choices and avenues with which to pursue them, businesses are acknowledging the fact that customers can become frustrated by using phone keypads to conduct transactions. Because of this, online trust service provider VeriSign Inc. said Monday that it has begun accepting applications from businesses that want to register their company names through its Global Voice Registry Service (GVR).

For that, Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign is turning to voice, or speech recognition technology to allow firms to register names by eschewing the keypads for a human voice. GVR mirrors VeriSign's domain name registry, which handles more than five billion transactions or connections daily, in that it uses domain names to connect users to Web sites instead of long IP numbers.

As with most typical voice recognition applications, the GVR works with matches phonetic pronunciations of words and phrases with VeriSign's database. When the match is made, the caller hears a customized confirmation identifying the registered business and is connected to the appropriate phone number.

"The Global Voice Registry will allow callers to just say the name of the business and get connected," said Pete Nielsen, managing director, Global Voice Registry, VeriSign. "And it gives participating businesses a new way to extend their brands, since the name they have promoted for years is now their 'phone number.' Connecting businesses and consumers will be easier, safer and more convenient than ever."

Market research firm IDC seems to agree that businesses may turn to voice recognition-fueled networks to conduct transactions.

"The traditional means of servicing customers are not sufficient in today's increasingly multidimensional environments of physical, virtual, and mobile markets," said Mark Winther, IDC's group vice president of Worldwide Telecommunications research. "Customer communications need to be more frequent, more convenient, faster, easier to access, and more personalized. Network-based voice services deliver on these criteria. Through their impact on customer-facing applications, they are gaining convincing economic justification."

Because voice recognition application development is relatively nascent, most research firms can not adequately gauge the value proposition of the technology for enterprises, but implementation, Winther said, is "not without its challenges."

"Purchasing speech-processing software and server hardware requires large amounts of capital," Winther said in a research note. "Additionally, several critical components - such as voice-user interfaces, content, voice technologies, call routing, and network management - must all work together to create a compelling user experience that actually delivers improved automation rates."

VeriSign has already added a few partners looking to create business voice dialing applications and services for carriers that will take advantage of the GVR, including Preferred Voice of Dallas, Texas, Sharemedia of Rockville, Md., and Telelogue of Iselin, N.J.

When honed, the service will work on any phone and with any phone company through February 28, 2002. However, to take advantage of this opportunity, businesses must apply for the service. If their application is accepted, they will be able to deliver branded confirmations to callers, as well as receive reporting services and other benefits for the business as well as the caller. VeriSign said it hopes to make the service available to phone users, through wireless and traditional wireline carriers, in 2002.