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VoiceXML certification plan set

The VoiceXML Forum last week launched a pilot certification program that marks the start of its effort to promote interoperability of voice applications across platforms, tools and applications. According to Ken Rehor, chair of the Forum's VoiceXML conformance committee, the VoiceXML Platform Certification Program will consist of a series of tests designed to determine whether a VoiceXML platform is fully compliant with the latest release of the specification.

CT Labs, an independent testing and analysis lab serving converged communications product manufacturers and call centers, will perform the tests, Rehor said.

"This pilot program is exciting to us because it's our chance to get the first batch of vendors through the new program," Rehor told eADT. "Eventually, we will be implementing a kind of a three-pronged approach to make sure that the market has widespread interoperability and a lot of vendor choice."

VoiceXML (Voice eXtensible Markup Language) is a markup language used to describe an interaction between a caller on a telephone and a server. It uses XML tags to describe the call flow. It was written by the VoiceXML Forum in 1999, which contributed it to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 2000.

Three VoiceXML toolmakers -- Forum members Vocalocity, VoiceGenie and Voxpilot -- are scheduled to begin working with CT Labs this month to test their platforms. VoiceGenie and Vocalocity both develop platforms that are used by service providers and enterprises, Rehor explained, so their platforms will be running on-site in CT Labs' facility in California. European company Voxpilot, whose product portfolio includes an online development environment and an outsourced VoiceXML gateway, will be tested remotely.

Initially, the certification program will test for compliance with the VoiceXML 2.0 Candidate Recommendation and the W3C's VoiceXML 2.0 Implementation Report, according to the Forum. Following the completion of the pilot program, VoiceXML platform vendors and others will be able to submit their products for testing and certification by the Forum. VoiceXML-certified platforms will be listed on the Forum's Web site.

The Forum intends to expand its VoiceXML certification program in the future to include VoiceXML-compliance certification of applications and tools. The group announced a developer certification program last June. Rehor said that teams of VoiceXML Forum members have been working with Prometric, a provider of testing and assessment services for information technology certification, academic admissions and professional licensure, to develop the testing program - basically an online exam.

Although the platform certification program is in the pilot phase, the Forum is making the Conformance Test Suite available for free download to anyone who wants it. The idea, Rehor said, is to give other vendors a head start on certification.

"Customers are asking for independent verification," said Rehor, who is one of the original authors of the VoiceXML spec and a principal founder of the VoiceXML Forum. "Vendors can and have claimed anything. We want everyone to have a common understanding of what the standard is; we want everyone on the same page."

Now that the W3C is the formal steward of the VoiceXML specification, education and certification have become the core work of the Forum, Rehor said. "Educating the developer community and certifying that they understand VoiceXML helps everyone," he said. "It gives [the developers] credentials that they can market to employers. It helps employers to know that they are getting qualified people. And it drives adoption of the technology."

More information about the VoiceXML Forum's Platform Certification Program is available at www.voicexml.org.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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