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Speech technology for the process industry

05-30-2008 01:38 PM CET | IT, New Media & Software

Press release from: BASF IT Services

Today, the four-year EU project SAFIR (Speech Automatic Friendly Interface Research) came to a successful conclusion. One of its results is a new application developed by BASF IT Services that can be used to voice-activate IT systems within the process industry. The application, named SAPHER, is primarily designed for those involved in hazard containment, such as fire departments.

The goal of the SAFIR (Speech Automatic Friendly Interface Research) project was to develop technologies that enable companies, authorities and organizations in Europe to access data simply and securely with the possibility of entering and receiving data in an audible way. A total of 20 European companies and one Chinese enterprise were involved in the project that was co-financed by the EU. This included companies that had developed applications for particular target groups as well as companies that had adapted speech technology to the new requirements.

Together with these partners, BASF IT Services worked on SAPHER with the aim of developing a new type of access to hazardous substances information systems. The application was tested in a pilot project involving the BASF SE fire department in Ludwigshafen. SAPHER is based on the Voice Query Language (VQL) speech technology system, which was specially developed for use in industrial applications by the initiator of the project, the Belgian company Voice-Insight.

In the future, SAPHER will be able to supply fire service personnel with information about hazardous substances on-site, via a speech dialog system. The SAPHER application runs directly on a mobile device worn by fire fighting personnel. Important data can be transferred to the device before the operation begins to ensure that certain information is available even without a radio network. Both the radio and the cable connection between headset and mobile device rely on specialized technology. As a result, voice recognition quality is superior to that possible via telephone – as used for example in timetable queries or directory assistance. This is essential for use in an industrial environment where such a system must recognize a wide variety of complex terms.

“For BASF IT Services, this new solution makes a highly promising start to our extension of the implementation of speech technology to further application areas within the process industry. In doing so, we will continue to cooperate closely with our partners from the SAFIR project,” comments Dr. Ralf Sonnberger, Managing Director of BASF IT Services.

The future uses of SAPHER are not limited only to activities within the environment, health and safety (EHS) area. The design of the technology also enables it to easily voice-activate IT processes used in other industrial workflows.

Speech dialog with a computer is advisable in any situation where personnel must keep up a constant exchange of data with an IT system, and yet retain unimpeded use of their hands and their vision for other activities. Prime examples of such scenarios are provided by mobile data entry in manufacturing facilities, crop protection work or agriculture in general. Voice-activated solutions are also particularly suitable anywhere where the environmental conditions have formerly prohibited the use of a computer. The use of speech technology could for example simplify repairs and maintenance of machinery in complex facilities, as managed by energy or utility companies. A third potential area of application is the voice activation of logistics processes throughout the entire supply chain management, covering manufacturing, warehousing and shipping.

Press Contact:
BASF IT Services
Media Relations
Katrin Kanellos
Phone: +49 621 60-58497

About BASF IT Services:
BASF IT Services, a BASF Group company, is among the leading IT service providers for the process industry in Europe. The company employs some 2,400 employees and recorded an annual turnover of €405 million in 2007. The company’s key strengths are Business Solutions, Managed Services and Business Process Outsourcing. This expertise is based on years of experience in providing solutions to the world’s leading chemical company, BASF. Today, BASF IT Services operates one of the world’s largest networks and approx. 3,600 servers for some 60,000 users in more than 280 locations. The globally active company is committed to standardising and developing customer-orientated, solutions. BASF IT Services is certified under the international quality management standard ISO 9001:2000 and the international standard for information security ISO 27001:2005. More information about BASF IT Services at

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