Bizarre Biz Model #1384 - AskMeNow Mobile Search


At first glance, the fact that AskMeNow are launching a service that uses voice recognition for search queries over mobile phones seems like a good one. Right up untill you get to the bit i bolded in the quote below:

The caller won't be talking to a person. Instead, communication is with voice recognition software. But behind the automation are people at a Philippines call center transcribing calls, in case the software fails to capture every word, and looking up answers, which are delivered as a text message or email in about a minute, on average, according to the company.

yeah, nice one...


something like this

I saw something like this in the pharmaceutical industry and it solved a problem very well. It also created a new cottage industry, alot like call centers.

In pharma research (think clinical trials) data is still largely collected on paper (for many many reasons). The forms go here and there and eventually not only have to be scanned and/or hand entered but everything has to be done TWICE independently. Statistics are such that the chance of errors inroduced by handing are minimally likely to stay in the dataset if each step is done and checked twice independently. Oh, and every edit/change/question has to be documented, along with whatever was done to adjust or rectify the noted issue.

Enter low-wage foreign markets. Via the Internet, these data centers operate in real time with screens that display questionable scans. If you can imagine the operation of one of those captcha-crackin centers where the operator only sees the captcha and types in the answer... that is what it is like. The operator only sees the hand-written code and a box containing the OCR scan result. If a 9 scanned like a 4 with low confidence, the operator has it presented and can make it a 9. Another operator (perhaps across the world somewhere) is doing the same thing. if they disagree, it goes back into the hopper again (which of course gets documented).

After seeing it in action I can say:

  1. It is absolutely amazing how complex data systems can be built on economically feasible budgets today
  2. This kind of business model can work for many years, perhaps as a bridge to further development of the technology that will relace them (in pharma, the full electronic record is on the way but will take some time)
  3. There are many, many unexected opportunities for low-wage communities to compete in foreign markets successfully (although I assume they will have their own tech "robber barons")

It's an interesting service, but...'s mildly disconcerting not knowing whether your question is considered a freebie or a non-freebie. While it's just 49 cents for the latter category, that could definitely add up over a month!

So for Directory Assistance, I actually prefer Free411. Not only is it totally free (duh :D), but you also get your answer immediately AND are optionally connected to the person or business free as well.

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