Weatherall Green & Smith

Company: Speech Recognition Company LtdCustomer: Weatherall Green & SmithSubmitted by: Media LinkThere’s a revolution quietly taking place at one of the UK’s biggest firms of chartered surveyors and property consultants — and it’s all down to the fast-moving world of speech recognition technology.Brian McLeish is a Partner at Weatherall Green ; Smith based in Chancery Lane, London. The firm was founded in 1860 and has more than 600 staff working from offices all over the UK and Europe.The revolution at Weatherall Green ; Smith started in a modest way over three years ago, when selected partners and staff began trialling early versions of speech recognition software using traditional headphones and mouthpiece for dictation.But it has really gathered pace during the last year with the introduction of IBM ViaVoice software and the Philips SpeechMike Professional trackball microphone.

“It was a bit of a nightmare at first,” recalls Brian McLeish. “The early versions of the software would only recognise discrete speech, spoken in a very slow, deliberate way — and some users felt a little self conscious having to wear headphones every time they wanted to dictate.”Another problem with the headphones was that you were physically attached to the PC and had to remove the headphones and put them back on every time you wanted to refer to something on the other side of the office.” Weatherall Green ; SmithPhilips SpeechMike changed all that — “I had thought many times when using the headphones that there must be a better way of doing dictation.

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Then I was asked to test the new ViaVoice software and SpeechMike, and they have made a terrific difference to the efficiency of the dictation process.”The speech recognition package was supplied by The Speech Recognition Company, a London-based value added reseller of speech software. Brian McLeish is one of six people at Weatherall Green & Smith who underwent a brief intensive training with the two products before putting them to the test in the office environment.But before all that could happen, The Speech Recognition Company helped Weatherall Green & Smith build a vocabulary tailored to their work. “Like most professions, chartered surveyors have a language almost of their own, using words which are very often not in everyday use,” says Brian McLeish.

“So we supplied a large number of our documents to the Speech Recognition Company to allow them to add many of these words into the standard vocabulary.”The great advantage of ViaVoice is that it recognises natural, continuous speech, speeding up the dictation process and achieving accuracy rates of around 95%.And as far as McLeish’s secretary is concerned — “She rarely has to type anything for me any more, I simply e-mail documents to her for formatting and processing. She’s now able to concentrate on administration and other jobs she didn’t have time for before.”And by using Philips SpeechMike for their dictation, Brian McLeish and his colleagues don’t have the inconvenience of having to remove them and put them back on every time they need to move away from the screen.Anthony Buxton, founder director of The Speech Recognition Company said: “The experiences of users at Weatheralls is typical of many other surveyors, as well as other professions and industries.

Speech software, when correctly implemented, adds value to many businesses.The Philips SpeechMike is just one example of how we can turn a software product into a useable solution.”** The new Philips SpeechMike trackball microphone offers users all the professional functionality of a dictation microphone, including play, record, fast forward and rewind. It also allows the user to navigate and control Windows 95 and Windows NT applications. This means the user can input speech when appropriate and work under Windows quickly and efficiently using a single input device.It rests neatly in the palm of the hand with the trackball situated between the left and right mouse buttons, allowing the user the flexibility to use either the left or right hand when inputting material.

The unit’s flexibility allows the user to configure SpeechMike to launch favourite applications such as electronic mail at a click of a button. Then using SpeechMike’s buttons, the user can perform all the functions of e-mail that once needed a keyboard. This includes creating a new message, addressing the message, recording and editing; finally closing and transmitting the message, all without once using a keyboard.