SpinVox

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SpinVox Ltd.
Type Private
Industry Telecommunications
Founded 2003
Headquarters Marlow, United Kingdom and New York, USA
Area served Global
Key people Co-Founders Christina Domecq, CEO
and Daniel Doulton, Chief Strategy Officer
Employees 250 (2009)
Website SpinVox.com

SpinVox was a start-up company that is now a subsidiary of global speech technology company Nuance Communications, headquartered in Marlow, UK and New York, USA. It provided voice-to-text conversion services for carrier markets, including wireless, fixed, VoIP and cable, as well as for unified communications, enterprise and Web 2.0 environments. This service was ostensibly provided through an automated computer system, with human intervention where needed. However there were accusations that the system operated almost exclusively through the use of call-center workers in South Africa and the Philippines.[1]

Company history[edit]

The company was founded in 2003 by Christina Domecq and Daniel Doulton. The company had raised $200 million in funding.[2] Company accounts for the company in 2007 stated that SpinVox made a loss of £36 million against £2 million of revenue.[3] In July 2009, in response to cash-flow problems it asked staff to take all or part of their salaries in stock to reduce costs,[4] newspaper reports claimed that many employees are owed salary payments and that Associated Networks Ltd was considering legal action over unpaid server charges,[5] while other reports claimed that multiple companies were owed money for services rendered and were taking legal action.[6] In August 2009, a dossier, alleging financial irregularities, was circulated to shareholders,[7] leading to the company launching an inquiry into the activities of some senior executives.[8] Unaudited accounts for 2008 show the group’s pre-tax loss widened to £49m compared with £37m a year earlier [9] In September 2009, Invesco Perpetual stated that it had written down the value of its investment in the company by 90% and that Spinvox was for sale.[10][11] SpinVox was sold to US company Nuance Communications for $103 million (£64 million) in December 2009.[12]

Technology[edit]

The Voice Message Conversion System (VMCS) worked by combining speech technologies with live learning capabilities and human intelligence.[specify][citation needed] It was developed by the SpinVox Advanced Speech Group based in Cambridge, UK, led by Cambridge academic entrepreneur Dr. Tony Robinson and includes Cambridge University Professor Phil Woodland.[citation needed] The company supported the following languages: English; French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese.[citation needed] Parent companies such as Nuance Communications have claimed that "spinvox is offering something that is impossible to deliver now" [13] Patent applications filed by the company in 2004 and 2008 note that "because human operators are used instead of machine transcription, voicemails are converted accurately, intelligently, appropriately and succinctly into text messages"[14]

In 2009 SpinVox also acquired New Zealand based company Aangel Messaging, in the process gaining its second patent, 'Method and System of processing messages' which clearly outlines how Human transcribers can be efficiently used in real time transcription of voice messages.

SpinVox voice-to-text conversion services included voicemail-to-text, speak-a-text, blog posts, social network updates, blast and memo messages. SpinVox also operated an open API to enable any developer to create speech-to-text based Web or mobile applications.

Data protection issues[edit]

A 2009 investigation by the BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones alleged that the company transfers voicemail data out of the European Union to call centres in South Africa and the Philippines, in breach of its entry on the UK Register of data controllers, and that most of the transcription is done by humans rather than software.[1] SpinVox admitted that "parts of messages can be sent to a 'conversion expert'", but also claimed that "the part sent is anonymised so that there is no way of tracking back a particular number or person".[1]

SpinVox responded to allegations and stated that the company was in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. In a statement, the company said that the act permitted the processing of data outside of the EEA.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Cellan-Jones, Rory (09-07-23). "Voice-to-text service scrutinised". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-07-23.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Andrews, Robert (09-07-24). "SpinVox Investor: 'It's A Nice Problem To Have'". The washington Post. Retrieved 2009-07-28.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (09-07-24). "Voice technology firm hits back". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-07-24.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Andrews, Robert (09-07-13). "SpinVox Paying Staff In Stock To Save On Costs". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-07-23.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Bridge, Sarah (09-07-25). "Pay up or we could cut you off, SpinVox phone text tycoons are told". Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 2009-07-26.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Bridge, Sarah (2009-08-02). "Markets Creditors pressing SpinVox". Mail on Sunday - Financial Mail. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  7. ^ "SpinVox examines dossier claims". BBC News. 2009-08-10. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  8. ^ Walsh, Kate; James Ashton (2009-08-09). "Spinvox in probe over financial mismanagement". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  9. ^ Ashton, James (2009-08-23). "Spinvox widens losses by 30%". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  10. ^ "UK firm Spinvox 'put up for sale'" (in http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8250689.stm). BBC News. 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  11. ^ Andrews, Robert (2009-09-11). "SpinVox For Sale, Investor Says, As It Kisses Its Cash Goodbye". moconews.net. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  12. ^ Judge, Elizabeth (December 31, 2009). "SpinVox sold to US rival Nuance Communications for £64m". The Times (London). Retrieved 30 December 2009. 
  13. ^ "Spinvox "Faked" Speech Transcription Service And Broke Privacy". eWeek Europe. 09-07-23. Retrieved 2009-07-24.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (09-07-29). "Humans central in Spinvox patents". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-07-29.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ "Spinvox responds". Spinvox blog. 09-07-23. Retrieved 2009-07-28.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]