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Free IBM Voicemail Transcription with Incredible PBX 2020

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. The pricing structure is second to none. On the Standard Pricing Plan, voicemail transcription is 2¢ per minute with no rounding of minutes. Or, for voicemail transcription in most households, choose the LITE plan which offers 500 minutes a month at no cost and with no per minute rounding. When the messages are delivered by email, you’ll get the voicemail recording in MP3 format AND transcribed text courtesy of Watson TTS. With the new IBM services, all you’ll need are your Watson STT API Key and the URL for access to Watson. With the new setup, your username is always apikey.

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. It’s worth stressing that IBM doesn’t round up minutes unlike some competitors. So transcribing three 20-second messages counts as a single minute of usage.


Overview. What we’ve done today is integrate the Watson STT API directly into Incredible PBX 2020 voicemail systems. We started with Nicolas Bernaerts’ terrific sendmailmp3 script and revised it a bit to support Watson STT. If you have deployed Incredible PBX 2020, then the setup only takes a couple of minutes.

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:

Configuring SMTP for Outgoing Mail Delivery

Regardless of your PBX platform, you obviously need outgoing SMTP email working reliably in order to send voicemail messages to your local email address.

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

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

If you never receive the email, edit /etc/hosts and insert noreply.incrediblepbx.com just before the localhost entry. Then edit /etc/hostname and insert noreply.incrediblepbx.com as the only entry. Finally, issue the command: hostname noreply.incrediblepbx.com. Now send another test email. If you still don’t receive the email, chances are very good that your hosting provider is blocking SMTP messages from downstream servers. Either the Incredible PBX 2020 tutorial for CentOS 7 or the Raspberry Pi will walk you through the setup process to use Gmail as an SMTP Relay. Then send yourself another test email.

Obtaining IBM Cloud Speech to Text Credentials

Follow this link to set up your IBM account and obtain credentials for both Speech to Text (STT) and Text to Speech (TTS) services. Please note that your STT and TTS API keys will NOT be the same. So don’t accidentally use the wrong one.

Creating IBM Watson Credentials


Configuring Watson STT Voicemail Transcription

1. Log into your Linux CLI as root.

2. Navigate to /usr/local/sbin.

3. cp -p sendmailmp3.ibm sendmailmp3

4. Edit sendmailmp3 and insert your STT API Key on line 21. Verify URL for your region.

5. Edit watson-test and insert your STT API Key on line 3. Verify URL for your region.

6. Test your Watson STT setup: ./watson-test

HINT: Verify you’ve used correct region URL and STT API key, not your TTS API key!

7. With valid credentials, result should be: we don’t have tech support

8. Set up voicemail for an Incredible PBX extension with your email address.

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

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


Originally published: Monday, March 25, 2020

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