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Tatiana Helenius
Tatiana Helenius
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SpeechWorks Users Trade-in Their Technology

Once exotic financial instruments are becoming commonplace investment tools. So, too, speech recognition software, as the technology stabilizes, is beginning to find a welcome in the financial world. Altech (formerly Applied Language Technologies) has found their new SpeechWorks product to be so well-received that they've changed the name of the company to SpeechWorks. Their flagship product is already in place with online brokerage houses digiTrade and E*Trade.

The software runs on a variety of platforms, including offerings from IBM, Dialogic and Intervoice. Unix and NT users can also take advantage of the technology. A unique feature of the product is natural language processing, and it is this feature which most strongly appeals to financial firms, according to SpeechWorks' CEO Stuart Patterson. "The fastest-moving part of the brokerage industry are those firms that have adapted to the Web. We find they have also embraced speech enabling. Our system, through natural language processing, allows a user to speak naturally, as there are over 30,000 different combinations of words to indicate any particular stock or exchange." Examples of this are the "Big Board," or "limit price of 50," or "500 shares at market."

SpeechWorks recognizes the many ways people might refer to dates, names or number combinations. The technology, in the case of E*Trade, supports quotes and trades, with a quick response time.

SpeechWorks solved three problems for E*Trade, says Michael Welton, manager, international product management at E*Trade. "Firstly, we had to solve the problem of how to attract non-PC fluent customers to our online trading service. This product gives E*Trade the platform to attract potential non-PC fluent, yet literate, confident, customers who might not have previously considered E*Trade an investing alternative."

Similarly, some existing E*Trade telephone customers haven't opted for standard Touch-tone service. This gives them an alternate way to engage the E*Trade system. Thirdly, says Welton, elaborating on the "Touch-tone-challenged" illustration, particularly busy cellular phone users aren't going to want to fumble with typically miniscule buttons in order to place a trade. "This system is a full-function speech-recognition system. All functions can be driven by your voice and thus are easily used."

For more information about SpeechWorks, see the company's Web site at www.altech.com

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