ABOUT


Swampfox was founded on the desire to bring exceptional Avaya Experience (and Voice) Portal and Avaya Call Center based products and services to market. The Swampfox engineering team created UCC Speech Access (now one-X® Speech) for Avaya, as well as much of the Voice Portal/Experience Portal platform. The team led by Bob Cooper, previously the Chief Architect of Voice Portal and Avaya Intelligent Customer Routing (ICR), and Rick Ulmer, former development lead for UCC Speech Access and Voice Portal. Together, along with the Swampfox engineering team, they have developed and deployed solutions at many of Avaya's largest and most innovative customers.

Recently, Tom Hanson has joined Swampfox as VP of Marketing and Strategy. Prior to joining Swampfox, Tom worked closely with the (then Avaya, later Swampfox) engineering team to bring to market the award-winning Avaya Voice Portal and Avaya Dialog Designer products. He later became the Director of Product Management for Avaya's Voice Self-Service and Outbound Solutions, where he owned P&L and product authority for Experience Portal, Orchestration Designer, Proactive Outreach Manager (POM), Intelligent Customer Routing (ICR), Proactive Contact (PC) and the Avaya/Nortel/Periphonics Media Processing Platform (MPS) IVR product line. Previously, Tom also led the Contact Center, Center of Excellence, at cloud CRM provider RightNow Technologies (acquired by Oracle) where he worked with a team of contact center consultants, product managers, and professional services professionals.

Swampfox has extensive experience in VoiceXML, CCXML (outbound, complex call control, call recording, conferencing, call redirection, etc.), SIP, Video/IVVR and knows the internals of Experience Portal and Voice Portal better than any other integrator.

Swampfox is an Avaya Platinum Dev Connect member.

Swampfox has extremely strong ties with Avaya with engineering, architecture and product management leadership that defined and delivered the Avaya Self-Service roadmap for more than ten years.

Swampfox was founded on the notion that applications that use Experience Portal should have the same foundational strengths found in Experience Portal itself. Avaya's Experience Portal has been recognized by Gartner Group and Frost and Sullivan as the leading platform within the contact center industry for automated experiences. With more than 20 percent marketshare worldwide (as of 2015), Experience Portal is far and away the most deployed enterprise voice portal solution.

The Columbia, SC, team grew organically from software startup Conita Technologies. Conita was founded with the vision that a "personal virtual assistant" (PVA) could be of great assistance to a user in the same way that a nurse or administrative assistant could be of great assistance to a surgeon or business executive. In both cases, the assistant's value is directly proportional to smoothness of the working relationship. In the real world, this relationship evolves and adapts over time, thus ultimately becoming more beneficial. In the same way, the PVA's role is one of convenience.

Those with the greatest need for a PVA spent time away from their desks but still needed to have instant access to data and people and be aware of evolving events. Therefore the initial market for the product set was in the mobile productivity space.

Conita believed that the capabilities of a PVA would vary by industry and by company and therfore did not try and build a one-size-fits-all service. Instead, a more ambitious task of building a platform (PVAServer) and service creation (PVAStudio) environment was tailored for the targeted channel. The goal was to abstract away the complexities of speech recognition and telephony and let the designer focus on user interaction and data access. VoiceXML, CCXML and SCXML were not yet mature, and, therefore, the team created a language suited for complex interactions that allowed existing scripting languages to be used to access backend data. It allowed the PVA to interact with the user via speech, DTMF, and wireless devices. For example, when a user was in a meeting, they could set the PVA to alert one for further instructions via a handheld device instead of placing a call.

To help seed the market, Conita built an application to run on the platform, PVAExchange. This not only showed what could be done, but also helped refine what services should be provided natively by the platform (versus what should be managed by an application.) PVAExchange allowed one to fully exercise Microsoft Exchange as a unified communications and messaging platform through one's voice. One could access their inbox to:

  • read, reply, and forward messages, and read attachments
  • schedule appointments, and accept and reply to meeting requests
  • manage tasks

In addition to these standard functions, one could:

  • place phone calls by speaking a number or a contact's name
  • conference calls together
  • screen callers

If one received a call while you were already engaged on another call the PVA would ask the caller for his/her name and then whisper it to you. One could then ignore it (which sent the caller to voice mail) or have the caller join your call and form a conference. Though not part of the standard PVAExchange product, Conita also showed partners how this could be extended to carry out other actions on that same inbound call, such as directing the caller to someone else or sending him/her a specific message.

The user interface challenges were substantial, as it had to adapt to new users who knew little, as well as extremely advanced users, who knew every interaction by heart. The speech recognition grammar was almost entirely flat (i.e. one could move from one set of functions to other functions without going through intermediate steps) and did not enforce a "treelike" mental model. The product had built-in feedback mechanisms as well as scheduled newsletters that helped train the user community both implicitly and explicitly. Even the newsletters were delivered to the user based on when he/she was added to the system. At the time, speech-recognition vendor Nuance recognized PVAExchange as probably the most aggressive use of their technology that they had seen. To date, there are few comparable systems in the business communications space even with the advent of Apple Siri and Google Now.

The Voice User Interface (VUI) team had a genuine passion for the difference between public-facing versus private-facing applications and how the subtle use of sound and the need for adaptability could impact communications and context. Primary research through human interaction studies were performed and over ten patents were submitted and granted.

The product was engineered to be deployed behind corporate firewalls, be managed by an IT staff, and provide enterprise-level scalability and failover. As such it was architected with management servers and media servers working as a holistic solution. It was from this architecture that much of the original Voice Portal architecture and design stemmed.

Members of Conita came from companies well versed in real-time, scalable systems including NCR and Avtec. NCR, at the time, built SMP Unix servers (NCR Columbia built the OS, Compilers, firmware, hardware, etc.) for enterprises so the requirements of the typical Fortune 500 company were well understood and a requirement from the start. Avtec built real-time communications equipment for mission critical installations for railways, airlines and police departments.

The founding of Conterra/Conita

In 1996, Columbia, SC-based, small, yet innovative, software company, Conterra Software, was acquired by the high-flying Silicon Valley-VC backed General Magic. Conterra, led by Jeff McElroy, had the concept of a "wildfire-like" virtual assistant that General Magic believed could play a substantial role in their Internet-like commerce service. The Columbia team built a prototype of the personal virtual assistant using technology from Nuance (speech recognition) and Dialogic (telephony interfaces). The team of C++ developers took just a few months to provide the initial prototype. While General Magic decided to build Portico as a consumer service, the Columbia team had its sights set on building a platform that other integrators (such as an IT group within a fortune 500 company) could customize a PVA without having to know the details of speech recognition or telephony protocols.

In 1998, with some initial seed money from General Magic, Conita Technologies was born. From there, Conita built the products mentioned above (PVAExchange, PVAServer, and PVAStudio) and received venture capital and private funding from companies like SAIC/Telcordia. Avaya became an OEM customer of Conita's and eventually purchased the company.

That core engineering team that was Conita is now Swampfox.

The Swampfox team has a broad range of skills, and the members have worked on many different projects throughout their respective careers. Team members have from ten to over twenty-five years of experience. The Swampfox team has a proven record of developing sustainable solution architectures that can be built to evolve in an ever-changing marketplace. Every solution Swampfox delivers for a client include those core values in delivery and support.

The team has extensive experience in complex user interface design, including voice, video and graphics, as well as Unix and Windows OS internals, communication protocols, business application integration, real time audio and video processing, VoiceXML/CCXML, and call center integrations..

Avaya Voice Portal, in our opinion, is an exceptional platform. At its core, it is a CCXML platform, not just a VoiceXML platform. The difference is fundamental. VoiceXML was created for a very particular type of call flow. In this call flow all sessions start as a result of an inbound call, only the original caller can ever interact with the system (no way to do functional 'find me follow me' interactions), there is no way to support asynchronous events (interrupt a wait treatment to send the caller to an available agent) or do any kind of complex call or media control (take back and transfer, conferencing calling, call recording, answerless call routing, call progress/answering machine detection, etc.). If the platform supports the features, CCXML, together with VoiceXML, provide an elegant way to expose them to the application writer. Other platforms have had to resort to extending VoiceXML into a proprietary collection of platform-specific extensions.

Due to its flexibility, Voice Portal can be used to provide services that in the past had to be realized using custom dedicated solutions, if they could be realized at all. Swampfox is happy to help you with any and all of your application/deployment needs; however, here are a few projects that are of particular interest.

Swampfox is happy to work on any project that, at this stage of the company, is Avaya Voice Portal related; however, we have a keen interest in two markets in particular - healthcare and legal. If you would like to know our plans in either of these spaces, please contact us.