An industry group is launching a programme to test web developments for compliance with the latest versions of the Voice Extensible Markup Language (VoiceXML) standard.
VoiceXML is the standard scripting language for rendering web pages over the phone, and received accreditation from the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) in March.
The VoiceXML Forum is made up of vendors including IBM, AT&T, Hewlett Packard, Lucent and Motorola, and will launch its VoiceXML Platform Certification Programme in the next quarter.
VoiceXML applications will allow customers to talk in conversational language to voice-enabled web servers, place orders or get product information straight from back-end enterprise databases.
This could help companies cut call centre and agent costs significantly, and even yield new up-selling opportunities.
Currently in the pilot phase, the Forum's programme comprises a series of tests to determine whether a VoiceXML platform is fully compliant with the latest release of the specification, 2.0.
Dominic Cameron, VoiceWeb director at lastminute.com, said that a voice-enabled website would have cost £600,000 a year ago, but is now a tenth of that.
"Open standards like VoiceXML have eliminated the proprietary players, and you can now use PC-based platforms," he said. "There are also visual tools to manage voice applications, so the overall cost has fallen hugely."
According to the VoiceXML Forum, more than 10,000 commercial VoiceXML-based applications have been deployed worldwide for applications such as customer care, directory assistance, telematics and unified messaging.
Lastminute.com, BA and Lloyds are among the few UK companies that use voice-enabled websites. "The UK is a couple of years behind the US in this," said Cameron.
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