Even in the age of instant messaging, the classic phone call is still king in customer service. While platforms like chats and SMS can work fine with friends, most contact with businesses is still conducted over the phone. More importantly, it is the model that call centers use for interacting with customers, making it essential for many of the less frequent yet often critical communications that people have with companies.
For most folks, this remains a relatively convenient way to get things done, and helps the service provider engage with their customers on a more personal level.
There is one group though for whom this model continues to pose a significant challenge to getting even some of the most basic tasks done: the estimated 70 million deaf people and others with hearing impairments.
Call centers are unlikely to make the necessary changes any time soon as doing so can entail costly integrations of systems, and including a TTY machine and operator is generally not a viable option.
In looking to find workable solutions for this problem, an Italian company called Pedius based out of Espoo in Finland may have found an answer with their newest app, which is available on Android and iOS.
Founded in late 2013 by CEO Lorenzo Di Ciaccio, CTO Stefano La Cesa, and their Lead Developer Alessandro Gaeta, Di Ciaccio tells Geektime that the idea for the app came when his deaf friend Gabriele was in an accident. Gabriele could not call for an ambulance or a tow truck since neither were equipped to help the deaf.
So far, they have received €410,000 in seed funding from TIM Ventures and Embed Capital and Sistema Investimenti in December 2014, which along with an additional grant, gives the Pedius team a war chest of €435,000 to work with moving forward.
Pedius is a voice-to-text and text-to-voice service that is fully automated, negating the need to have human interpreters in place to facilitate communication for the hearing impaired community. When a deaf person uses the app to make a call, they are able to write out their message, and the person on the other end will hear it via a spoken voice message. When they receive the call, the hearing person will first be played a message explaining that “This call is made via Pedius, a phone service for deaf people,” explaining the computerized voice. Conversely, when a call comes in, the user will see the call come up as text.