AT&T launches mobile interpreting service for government

Despite years of research into automated language translation programs, nothing beats human interpreters. A new service focused on government users allows law enforcement, first responders and other personnel to access an interpreter from their mobile devices. 

The AT&T On Demand Interpreter service provides professional interpreters skilled in more than 170 languages that can be reached 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To access the service, registered users push *4 on their mobile devices, which directs them to a voice recognition system that asks them to speak the name of the language they need.

The service, targeted to federal agencies, health care workers and businesses that encounter language barriers, is designed to enable users to communicate with limited or non-English speakers in their native languages. AT&T is working with Language Line Service, an interpreting and translation company.

Language Line has worked with federal agencies, but its interpreting services were traditionally done through call centers and 800 numbers, rather than with mobile devices, said Louis Provenzano, Language Line’s CEO.

Language Line employs about 6,000 interpreters. Of those, 1,000 are cleared for sensitive government work, but Provenzano said the service is for nonclassified use.

AT&T conducted a soft launch of the service in January with some beta clients, but the service was officially launched June 18, Provenzano said.

The On Demand Interpreter service will deploy in two phases. The initial phase focuses on federal government and business customers and will then extend to state and local governments, health care, small businesses, and individual consumers later this year. The second phase will provide the service globally, he said.

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