8/9/2005 - Ever since the first voice conferences were introduced many years ago, if participants were unfamiliar with each other's voices or the line conditions were poor, there was the same question hanging in the air. Who's talking right now? And all too often the conference recordings were not available to participants, even today.
Getting voice activity data from at times, multiple active talkers, in a continuous manner, and the presentation of this data to the conference participants, were typical problems that always induced headaches for developers of conferencing and collaboration software.
The need to have a single normalized voice transaction recording that includes both interaction between the caller and speech enabled IVR (Interactive Voice Response), and interaction between the caller and the novice contact center agent and agent's coach (that is the person whose 'whispering' to the agent, the caller cannot hear), makes contact center application developers scratch their heads. There was no really simple way to have both IVR sessions and the coach recorded.
It does not need to be that difficult, or at least folks at Uniqall think so. Earlier today, Uniqall has made available for free evaluation and download, the first beta of its upcoming Gridborg HMP Server 1.1 software. Gridborg HMP Server will be the building block that is going to make life easier for developers of advanced voice conferencing, collaboration and contact center applications.
In the Gridborg HMP world there is no physical analog ports on voice cards or their digital TDM equivalents that are restricted by the processing capabilities of a particular DSP behind them. There are just virtual VoIP front-end resources, with all the processing power that a host processor may provide.
In that context, it was simple to add to those virtual front-ends, the feature of continuous sound energy detection. If requested, virtual front-ends will keep sending to the application that created them, asynchronous events on every significant change of sound energy detected. It is then up to developers to choose the best way to present it to the conference participants. It may be for instance, a color-intensity coded sign next to participant's icon, a photo, or a video stream. Suddenly, the ever-lasting conferencing puzzle is on the verge of extinction.
Within Gridborg HMP Server 1.1, all front-end and player resources have the capability to send differently preprocessed audio to any number of other resources. Per instance, single front-end resource may send one audio stream to a ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) engine that does not want AGC (Automatic Gain Control) applied on its input and another one to a recording resource for the purpose of voice transaction recording, which by its very nature, requires through AGC normalized audio.
In addition, all front-end and recorder resources can simultaneously receive audio from any number of other resources. All such concurrently received audio is going to be transparently mixed before reaching the target resource. That opens up numerous possibilities.
With Gridborg HMP, it is quite simple to envision solutions for the above-mentioned scenarios that negatively affect contact center developers. Imagine the caller, TTS (Text To Speech) part of IVR, ASR part of IVR, the agent, the agent's coach and the recorder resource, each participating in its very own and distinct conference; or perhaps better to say, what once used to be called a conference. Each of those conferences is governed by its own distinct set of rules. Then take a piece of paper and draw a matrix of who hears what, with the recorder resource being able to hear everything. Mark differently, audio streams that should be normalized, and those that should not. And Voila -- problem solved. By the way, do you wish some soothing music in the background that is not going to be recorded at all but is just there to calm down any potentially nervous folks involved in those calls? No problem, add another player resource into your matrix as well. Mark separately its (lower) volume level and do not forget that the agent, the coach, and the recorder should not hear it at all. Now you can spend 15 minutes coding it all together.
So the entire conferencing paradigm is turned upside down. By replacing formal conferencing resources within Gridborg HMP Server 1.1, with its mighty audio routing and mixing capabilities, Uniqall is going to give the incumbent voice and conferencing cards vendors a run for their conferencing money.
"Moving a conferencing bridge from the TDM to the VoIP side of the telephone network and from voice cards to an advanced HMP solution such as Gridborg HMP Server 1.1, from the developer's viewpoint, provides several areas of instant gratification. No more thinking about a constrained number of conferences and conference participants. No more caring about the processing power of individual DSPs in an attempt to avoid ugly media processing or functionality tradeoffs. Or even worse, counting timeslots available between some main-board and its daughter-cards." said Boris Pavacic, CTO of Uniqall, Inc. "Finally, developers may concentrate their attention and effort on practical problems that their customers have instead of on solving particular voice card low-level puzzles. To put it simply; there is no more previously unavoidable, unproductive juggling -- it is a different world now."
Other new and upcoming features in Gridborg HMP Server 1.1 include support for plugable codecs, VoIP QoS (Quality of Service), T.38 FoIP (Fax over IP), and Redirect Number support. Gridborg HMP works on x86 processors within both Windows and Linux environments. Support for additional operating systems and processor architectures will follow in subsequent minor releases.
HMP (Host Media Processing) is the concept where both network connectivity and media processing are solved in software, thus freeing developers of computer telephony applications from the need of having expensive voice cards included in the equation. Other HMP vendors include Intel/Dialogic, Eicon/SoftIP, Aculab/Prosody S, Brooktrout/Snowshore, NMS/PacketMedia and Commetrex/Bladeware.
About Uniqall, Inc.
Incorporated in the USA with headquarters and development in Zagreb, Croatia, Uniqall is the world's first Host Media Processing vendor with no legacy telephony board hardware business as well. With its low cost structure, Uniqall is dedicated to providing the best HMP products at extremely attractive pricing points.
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