Technology That Speaks for Itself: Nova, from Swedish Firm Veridict

Here’s a situation with which we can all identify.  You’re out of the office working from your smartphone, tablet or laptop and you are desperately trying to find out a crucial piece of information quickly.  Sure, you can navigate the web but wouldn’t be easier if you could just ask a question out loud, especially since the way we ask questions when we speak is a lot easier than trying to guess the right words to use in text form.

Swedish company Veridict has the answer – literally.  CEO Alexander Seward describes its new app Nova as ‘a speech-enabled multi-modal service fusion platform’ which in essence means that it integrates different information and communications services and then promptly answers questions from the user.  One of the biggest strengths of Nova is that it allows the user to ask powerful and information-rich questions in a similar manner to how someone would ask another human being.

Here’s an example. You can say things like “I’d like to go by train from Paris to Nice, sometime after lunch-time next Wednesday, but no later than six o’clock.” Within a split second, Nova will deliver suggestions of all trains that match those criteria.  If Nova cannot find anything that matches all your preferences, ‘she’ (it’s a female voice) will make a qualified guess of the next best offer.

After that, the user can start talking about the train in more detail, by using implicit references, like: “Are there any later departures?” or “I want to leave earlier”.  Nova also understands simple queries, like finding nearest restaurants or other points-of-interest.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But the reality is that Nova is the result of several years’ R&D by its engineering and computer science team.  Says Alexander: “Nova is based entirely on our proprietary, innovative core technology for speech recognition and spoken language understanding. Our motto is that Nova should always provide the fastest way from thought to action.”

The company was formed in 2006 as a research spin-off from KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, with the aim of focusing on advanced speech recognition products that push new boundaries in what is possible.   Alexander and his three colleagues are all from a highly technical background and could see that there was a real gap in the market for much more intuitive and comprehensive speech recognition tools.  Nova – currently in closed beta and due for launch later this year  – is the latest development from Veridict and is set to bring the power of advanced speech recognition technology  to the mass-market. 

Even before it developed Nova, Veridict was doing pretty well.  As well as private equity funding, the company is in the fortunate position of being in positive revenue thanks to its impressive roll-call of customers, including IBM, Volvo, Saab and TeliaSonera.  It is currently expanding and is seeking additional investment to support new jobs, expansion into new markets and other areas.  

The company has won several awards, including the VinnNu award from the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems and won the first prize for the Venture Cup in 2006, beating another 300 or so Swedish companies for the title.  More recently, Veridict won the The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority’s Innovation Award in May 2013 for Nova’s radio and media functionality.

But back to Nova, who is it aimed at?  Over to Alexander:  “Our end users are basically anyone with a mobile phone or a connected computer.  Initially we are focusing on the Swedish market and primarily business-to-business, but we have strong ambitions to become a global player.”

Integral to this is the fact that Veridict has built its product suite on the Windows Azure cloud platform.  Alexander explains why: “Azure is highly scalable, secure and reliable, so we know that we can expand our business to meet demand without any concerns.  As well as the technology itself, the support we’ve had from Microsoft has been very good, not just the resources we get through being a BizSpark member, but also the people in the local Microsoft team in Sweden have been very helpful.”

Nova is already developed for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, but as Alexander is keen to point out, “We have put great effort in designing the technology so that it is extremely simple to port to other platforms and operating systems, including iOS and Android.”

Even though Nova is not officially launched yet, Veridict is already planning ahead, as Alexander explains, “On the Nova service platform we have dozens of new services currently under development, including live public transport information, navigation, taxi ordering and nationwide directory services.  All of these will be accessible easily and quickly, using our natural language interface and natural language text input, depending on the user’s preference or situation.  I really believe that this is the way of the future.”

We look forward to reporting on Veridict’s future progress and wish them luck with the launch of Nova.