A voice portal (sometimes called a vortal) is a Web portal that can be accessed entirely by voice. Ideally, any type of information, service, or transaction found on the Internet could be accessed through a voice portal.
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A mobile user with a cellular telephone might dial in to a voice portal Web site and request information using voice or Touchtone keys and receive the requested information from a special voice-producing program at the Web site.
Voice portal interaction may involve audible speech, speech recognition or a telephone keypad interface. Depending on the user's needs, voice portals automate call routing to access information from a variety of sources (flat file, multidimensional databases and web page content, for example) or to live agents.
There are two major categories: A consumer voice portal provides general access to information; an enterprise voice portal provides customized access to customer support.
Consumer voice portals appeared in the late 1990s. Tellme Networks and Quack.com were among the first providers. The services integrated speech recognition and text-to-speech. capabilities with Internet-based technologies such as databases and application servers. AOL acquired Quack.com in 2000 and relaunched the service as AOL By Phone. Types of information commonly accessed through a consumer voice portal include weather, sport scores and stock quotes.
Enterprise voice portals manage inbound and outbound voice traffic and agent controls to manage calls within the enterprise. Hosted versions use IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) to ease integration issues and provide support for TDM (time division multiplexing) and VoIP (Voice over Internet protocol).
Avaya, Cisco and Genesys are among the leading providers of customer premise-based enterprise voice portals.
The term Vortal is also short for vertical portal.