I Would Like to Buy 2 Vowels: AI

by Dave Michels

Today, two communications companies bought to two NLP voice technology companies.

  • Cisco announced intent to acquire privately-held Voicea. Voicea provides meeting transcription, voice search, and can identify conversational highlights/action items.  It helps teams have more productive and actionable meetings by turning talk into action.
  • Vonage announced it acquired certain assets from Over.ai including its technical team and intellectual property from i.am+ — an AI technology platform co-founded and co-owned by musician will.i.am.

In both cases, the companies had previous partner relationships in place before the acquisition. These are an expansion and commitment of known technologies.

AI is poised to dramatically change enterprise communications. Conversational data contains previously untapped data. For the past several years, we’ve been harvesting textual data (think of how Google and Facebook target ads) and now we can do the same with spoken data – spoken on the phone and/or in a meeting. NLP is broader than TTS as it gives meaning to communications.

For Cisco, this marks the Collaboration team’s first acquisition under the leadership of Amy Chang, and it complements its prior acquisition of MindMeld. The acquisition will go under Sri Srinivasan who heads Webex Meetings, Teams, and Devices — though I expect there will be some carryover into Webex Contact Center. Voicea can supposedly accurately summarize conversations or identify key sentences — if this is true it’s game changing.

Vonage will use the acquisition as both an acqui-hire and jump start into conversational AI technologies. Over.ai joins a long series of strategic acquisitions at Vonage as the company builds out its technical arsenal. Over.ai is based in Israel, and will roll into Vonage’s R&D technology hub in Tel Aviv — expanding it to over 100 employees. The Over.AI team will report to CTO Sagi Dudai. Over.ai’s toolset lets customers schedule automated calls and respond to feedback options, and its campaign management tools initiate calls from other apps, like CRMs.

Other AI plays in this sector include 8×8’s acquisition of MarianaIQ, LogmeIn’s Bold360, Dialpad’s acquisition of TalkIQ, and Avaya’s Intelligent Wire (via Spoken). Of course Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have extensive AI technologies within their enterprise comms offerings.