Cisco WebEx will use voice tools to exploit ‘next frontier’ of data insights


Cisco’s flagship collaboration suite, WebEx Meetings, will introduce a voice assistant alongside transcription and translation tools to help customers mine insights from the voice data collected by the platform.

The added tools, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), will allow teams using the platform to streamline the entire meetings process, from automating aspects like minute-taking, and recording actionable items.

In addition to an Alexa-like voice assistant, real-time transcription tools will combine with advanced analytics so businesses can derive insights from the voice data that’s collected internally during all meetings.

This technology, which Cisco adopted following its Voicea acquisition in September last year, generates a word cloud following each meeting, and automates clips and videos that can serve as packaged highlights. The system, moreover, can be trained to learn corporate taxonomy specific to each business.

“Voicea users have reported saving more than six hours per week per user with more actionable and efficient meetings, and we believe Webex users will experience similar results,” said VP and GM for team collaboration at Cisco, Sri Srinivasan.

“We’re excited to bring this and other cognitive features to the 300 million users we already serve with Cisco Collaboration. This technology will fundamentally change how we are able to deliver massively personalised experiences and transform the way we work.”

The company says the added automation, particularly on action points and highlights that can be distributed to absentees or attendees to serve as reminders, will lead to more productive meetings overall. The engine can also determine information such as what the meeting was about and even the tone of the meeting.

The addition of aspects like live closed-captioning, meanwhile, will allow people to tune into meetings remotely while they're in busy or noisy environments. All users, meanwhile, will be able to read back through a transcript that’s automatically generated to recap on certain points and even search this for particular information.

Cisco’s Webex assistant and voice tools feed into the company’s idea of "cognitive collaboration", which essentially amounts to giving customers the right information, at the right time and in the right context. This is, as the company sees it, paramount to giving businesses the ability to gain insights from a new pool of data that’s been relatively untapped.

“We think of transcription and the capabilities around it ... as the next frontier as information as a currency,” Srinivasan added. “It is the next data quorum – the largest data quorum – that we can create at Cisco collaboration.

“And when you think about 300 million users across calling, across meetings, starting to bring this information forward, we are able to bring that information – that data – and convert that into information. So there’s a number of capability sets that come; for example, analytics at the end of the meeting.”

The firm also moved to quash any concerns from businesses over whether Cisco might itself gather their voice data, suggesting that users can set their own privacy controls, and that all its services are GDPR-compliant. All data is also end-to-end encrypted, which customers can either manage themselves or give Cisco the keys to.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.