There are many commercial voicemail transcription services for Asterisk® PBXs, but none hold a candle to the speech-to-text (STT) quality of the IBM Cloud offering known as Watson® STT, formerly known as Bluemix TTS. And there’s more good news. Not only is the quality second to none, but so is the pricing. On the Standard Pricing Plan, your first 1,000 minutes of voicemail transcription are FREE every month. After that, it’s 1.3¢ per minute. Nine years ago, we introduced Google transcription for Asterisk voicemail messages. As with most things Google, the licensing terms changed regularly and voicemail transcription became more convoluted until now it has become next to worthless. So today’s IBM solution provides the same functionality minus the hassle. When the messages are delivered by email, you get the voicemail recording in MP3 format AND transcribed text courtesy of Watson TTS.

IBM Cloud’s STT solution is a real game-changer for one simple reason. Their STT API performs more accurately than any speech recognition engine in the world. As an added bonus, you won’t have to worry about Google breaking our middleware every month. 1,000 free minutes a month translates into roughly 30 minutes a day. If you have more than a half hour of voicemails every day, then you probably should consider hiring a secretary. Short of that, you can pay IBM 1.3¢ per minute and let your customers yack all they like. That works out to less than $1 an hour, still pretty cheap secretarial help. It’s worth noting that IBM doesn’t round up minutes. Transcribing two 30-second messages counts as one minute.



Overview. What we’ve done today is integrate the Watson STT API directly into existing Asterisk voicemail systems. We started with Nicolas Bernaerts’ terrific sendmailmp3 script. It works on both the Wazo and FreePBX® platforms. If you have deployed Incredible PBX®, then the setup takes a couple of minutes. For everyone else, there’s an additional configuration step using your favorite GUI. To get started, you’ll sign up for an IBM Cloud account and obtain your credentials. Next, you download today’s script for your platform and insert your credentials. Finally, you set up voicemail on the extensions desired and insert an email address for each voicemail account. On generic FreePBX systems, you’ll need to add the name of our script to manage your voicemail recordings. And, regardless of your PBX platform, you obviously need outgoing SMTP email working reliably.

Start by sending yourself a test email and get that working first:

echo "test" | mail -s testmessage yourname@your-email-domain.com

What About the Quality? Here’s the bottom line. Speech recognition isn’t all that useful if it fails miserably in recognizing everyday speech. The good news is that IBM Watson’s speech recognition engine is now the best in the business. If you want more details, read the article below which will walk you through IBM’s latest speech recognition breakthrough:


Creating an IBM Cloud Speech to Text Account

1. Create an IBM Cloud account here.

2. Confirm your registration by replying to email from IBM.

3. Login to IBM Cloud using your new credentials.

4. Agree to terms and conditions, name your organization, and name your space (STT).

5. Add a Payment Method for the Standard Pricing Plan under Manage -> Account.

6. Select Resource and choose Watson Speech to Text service.

7. Select Low-latency, streaming transcription.

8. Select region, organization(should be your userid), and space.

9. Scroll down and be sure to select Standard Pricing Plan. Then click Create.

10. When Speech to Text-kb opens, click Service Credentials tab.

11. Click New Credential button. The default will be Credentials-1.

12. In Actions column, click View Credentials and copy your username and password.

13. Insert deciphered Watson STT API username and password below.

14. Logout by clicking on image icon in upper right corner of dialog window.

 

Installing STT Engine with Incredible PBX for Wazo

1. After logging into your Incredible PBX for Wazo server as root using SSH/Putty:

cd /usr/sbin
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/sendmailibm.tar.gz
tar zxvf sendmailibm.tar.gz
rm -f sendmailibm.tar.gz

2. Edit sendmailibm and insert Bluemix STT credentials on lines 29 and 30. Save the file.

3. Edit bluemix-test and insert Bluemix STT credentials on first two lines. Save the file.

4. Copy the updated sendmailibm file to sendmail:

cd /usr/sbin
cp -p sendmailibm sendmail

5. Test your Bluemix STT setup: bluemix-test

6. Result should be: please record your message after the beep

7. Set up voicemail account for a Wazo extension with your email address.

8. Place a test call to the extension and record a voicemail when prompted.

9. Your message will be transcribed and delivered via email.

 

Installing STT Engine with Incredible PBX for RasPi

1. After logging into your Raspberry Pi server as root using SSH/Putty:

cd /usr/sbin
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/sendmailibm-raspi.tar.gz
tar zxvf sendmailibm-raspi.tar.gz
rm -f sendmailibm-raspi.tar.gz

2. Edit sendmailmp3.ibm and insert Bluemix STT credentials on lines 28 and 29. Save file.

3. Edit bluemix-test and insert Bluemix STT credentials on first two lines. Save the file.

4. Copy the updated sendmailmp3.ibm file to sendmailmp3:

cd /usr/sbin
cp -p sendmailmp3.ibm sendmailmp3

5. Test your Bluemix STT setup: bluemix-test

6. Result should be: your dictation is now being processed and emailed please wait

7. Set up voicemail for a RasPi extension with your email address.

8. Place a test call to the extension and record a voicemail when prompted.

9. Your message will be transcribed and delivered via email.

 

Installing STT Engine with Incredible PBX 13-13

1. After logging into your Incredible PBX 13 server as root using SSH/Putty:

cd /usr/local/sbin
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/sendmailibm-13.tar.gz
tar zxvf sendmailibm-13.tar.gz
rm -f sendmailibm-13.tar.gz

2. Edit sendmailmp3.ibm and insert Bluemix STT credentials on lines 28 and 29. Save file.

3. Edit bluemix-test and insert Bluemix STT credentials on first two lines. Save the file.

4. Copy the updated sendmailmp3.ibm file to sendmailmp3:

cd /usr/local/sbin
cp -p sendmailmp3.ibm sendmailmp3

5. Test your Bluemix STT setup: bluemix-test

6. Result should be: we are now transferring you out of the company directory…

7. Set up voicemail for an extension and include your email address.

8. Place a test call to the extension and record a voicemail when prompted.

9. Your message will be transcribed and delivered via email.

 

Installing STT Engine with VitalPBX

For those using VitalPBX with or without Incredible PBX, we’ve written a new tutorial to walk you through the procedure to get voicemail transcription with IBM Watson STT up and running. Here’s the link.

Installing STT Engine with Legacy FreePBX Servers

1. Follow steps #1 through #7 from the Incredible PBX 13 tutorial above.

2. Choose Settings -> Voicemail Admin -> Settings in the GUI.

3. In the format field, insert: wav|wav49

4. In the mailcmd field, insert: /usr/local/sbin/sendmailmp3

5. Click Submit to save your settings and then Reload the FreePBX Dialplan.

6. Place a test call to the extension and record a voicemail when prompted.

7. Your message will be transcribed and delivered via email.

Update: Matt Darnell reports that, depending upon your existing setup, you may need to add the unix2dos and lame packages with legacy FreePBX servers to get MP3 messages delivered correctly.

 

Originally published: Monday, March 12, 2018





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