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The Unstoppable Wave of Development in Interpreting Technology
Posted by Hélène Pielmeier on February 22, 2017  in the following blogs: Interpreting
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Situations where individuals don’t speak the same language abound. Settings for interpreting range from courts, to health care, immigration, public safety, tourism, and trade. CSA Research tracks interpreting technologies that support the coordination and delivery of interpreting services. Changes are happening rapidly in this growing market sector, with new offerings constantly modifying the technology landscape. Let’s look at four developments that are paving the way.

Integrated IMS-IDP Solutions

In our research, we defined two main technology types: 1) interpreting management systems (IMSes) – the workflow applications designed to schedule and manage interpreting assignments, whether on-site or remote; and 2) interpreting delivery platforms (IDPs) – the applications designed to support the delivery of spoken-word language services. While IMSes and IDPs fulfill different functions, we predicted that integrating these two types was the next logical move for their developers. That’s what we have seen with Boostlingo, TikkTalk, and Akorbi’s unified multilingual communications platform (UMCP).

We discussed Boostlingo’s combined product with Bryan Forrester, the company’s CEO. It has a simple interface to book in-person interpreters and access on-demand over-the-phone (OPI) or video remote interpreting (VRI) services. The company sells exclusively to language service providers, which is great news for LSPs because the more visible players such as Stratus don’t particularly like working with channel partners to deploy their products. “By consolidating tools, we want to help LSPs scale and achieve higher gross margins,” said Forrester. Boostlingo chose a hard-to-refuse approach: It has no long-term contracts or renewals. Forrester explained the platform makes sense as soon as LSPs handle in excess of 50 in-person interpreting sessions or 500 minutes of OPI or VRI per month.

Boostlingo’s Interface
Source: Boostlingo

Integration of VRI with Telehealth

Another disruptive type of integration recently came from InDemand Interpreting, a video remote interpreting company focused on health care. Unlike other VRI providers that seek to broaden the use of their technology as they strive to become the telemedicine platform of choice, InDemand chose to offer connecting to other developers’ offerings. Casey Zanetti, VP of Marketing, stated: “We are not trying to be ‘the’ telehealth solution. We want to let clients use their solution of choice and integrate to it.” While the integration widget and API are currently only available for Vidyo, a platform commonly used in telehealth, InDemand plans to expand to other platforms based on client requests.

This move shows that VRI providers need to make a strategic decision about their product expansion initiatives. They have two choices: 1) venture into telehealth themselves, but they should go in knowing that they will have a tough time clawing their way in the market as they fight against established giants with decades of experience; or 2) they can integrate with existing platforms and be the glue that works behind the scenes to grab an even larger share of the VRI minutes needed to facilitate interactions with patients. Mordor Intelligence projects the global telemedicine market to reach US$34 billion by 2020. Based on VRI’s close relationship with the health care sector, we expect other providers to follow suit.

InDemand Clarity Connect Interface
Source: InDemand Interpreting

Remote Simultaneous Interpreting

The RSI category welcomes a new competitor to this tight-knit club: Headvox. This sector appeals to new developers leveraging the technology developments that now make RSI possible. Headvox comes as a user-friendly platform that allows a variety of setups: one-on-one, webinar, and conference modes. The platform supports a video component to view participants and slides – something that not all RSI solutions offer.

Here, too, the developer seeks LSPs to resell the product. Frédéric Eppendahl, Headvox founder and CEO, observed that: “Direct clients have limited interest in RSI offerings right now and LSPs have to create the need.” As with many IDP platforms, the technology provides the chance to provide access to previously untapped market segments. However, the appearance of IDPs precedes the mainstream need for them, which requires vendors to have strong go-to-market strategies to thrive.

Headvox' Interface for Online Meetings
Source: Headvox

Interpreting Consoles

In simultaneous interpreting settings, interpreters typically use a console to monitor the source language and broadcast their interpretation to another language channel. But Linguali promises to disrupt the console market. Its product, Linguali-IS, is not an RSI platform because all the interpreting is done on-site. This new platform eliminates: 1) old-fashioned custom consoles in favor of computer-consoles; and 2) headsets, which it replaces with smartphones loaded with an app and equipped with earbuds. RSI providers such as Interprefy have already proved that the use of smartphones and earbuds is a viable option to deliver interpreting and Linguali’s solution is poised to exploit that opportunity.

This exhibits the natural trend for developers to gravitate to commercial, off-the-shelf technology instead of custom hardware. By taking proprietary if not pricey hardware out of the equation, you significantly reduce the equipment cost related to simultaneous interpreting and can set up the session more quickly. Such reductions always open up the door to win more interpreting jobs. James Anderson, managing director at Linguali, shared that his company has seen “clients no longer just providing interpreting for an opening and closing session but now also providing a full day of interpreting at events.”

Linguali’s Digitized Simultaneous Interpreting Platform
Source: Linguali

Bottom Line

What do Boostlingo, InDemand, Headvox, and Linguali tell us about the interpreting market? Rapid innovation, if not disruption, is in the air. For those providing or buying language services, it is crucial to stay on top of developments in the field. Interpreting is undergoing a major shift. While many of the solutions are still trying to find their place in the market, it is undeniable that the interpreting landscape will rely increasingly on various forms of software and hardware.

Take note

On March 27 we’ll present at GALA in the interpreting track: “A Cure without a Disease? – Sustainability in Interpreting Technology Solutions.”

Upcoming Research

Our next interpreting technology update will cover developments in wearables set up with machine interpreting capability.


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