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Technology / AI and automation


Speech Plus Inc, Mountain View, California, has a new software product that uses the company’s proprietary voice output technology to provide the newspaper industry with a more cost-effective way to dispatch up-to-the-minute information to distributors. The new product, called the Automated Dealer Message Dispatch System, is an automatic messaging system that reads current assignments, memos and complaints from subscribers to newsagents over the phone. The product was developed jointly with the Dallas Times-Herald, which served as the beta test installation. The system is now in use at that site, and as part of the agreement, the Times-Mirror Corp, former parent company of the Dallas Times-Herald, retains non-exclusive rights to use the software in other newspapers it owns. Speech Plus will market automated system to other newspapers that are using the Collier-Jackson information management system. Newsagents like the new system because they don’t have to wait for an operator and there is a record of the messages, says Mike Zgraggen, assistant circulation systems manager at the Dallas Times-Herald. The system runs on Speech Plus CallText 5100 voice servers connected to Hewlett-Packard HP3000 computers. It operates in conjunction with the CJ/Circulation system from Collier-Jackson, which is widely used in the newspaper industry. Messages to newsagents are entered into the CJC system by terminal operators, as either memos from management or service complaints from subscribers. When newsagents call in for current messages (typically several times a day, according to Zgraggen), their calls are handled by the Speech Plus system. The system greets the caller and asks for a route code and security number to be entered using the telephone pushbuttons. It then extracts any new messages from the CJC system and reads them to the newsagent. All transactions are integrated directly into the circulation database for a complete audit trail and management reporting. The first turnkey business application to be introduced by Speech Plus, the Automated Dealer Message Dispatch System software costs $25,000, including onsite training. The CallText 5100 voice server control unit uses proprietary text-to-speech technology to convert information stored in the host computer into synthesised speech. It connects to the host computer via asynchronous or SDLC interface. CallText systems can be configured to handle more than 200 simultaneous callers.

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