To spin or not to spin …

24 09 2009


Spinvox have developed a system which, among other products, offers a speech to text voicemail service which is ideal for deaf people who want to be able to use voicemail, such as business owners. I activated the service on my Blackberry and it works very well. When someone phones me, I don’t bother to answer it but let it ring. The phone picks up the message and Spinvox converts the voice message into an email or a text message, and sends it to you. It’s been really useful, especially as it also leaves a link to a voice recording of the message so you can ask a hearing person to listen to it if the email was unclear (lots of people mumble!). Spinvox also prints the caller’s number so you can call them back.

My Spinvox service is paid for by Access to Work. It costs £5 a month for the subscription service and 30 pence for each message converted. There is no software to download.

Spinvox won’t work with a Pay As You Go phone, it must be on a contract phone. It’s very simple to set up although their website is a bit of a nightmare. Spinvox are currently running a promotional offer, free voicemail until the end of 2009. They will convert your messages into emails for free (not text – shame!).

However. There are rumblings …. humans compromise service confidentiality (who cares? I’m deaf. I NEED a voice to text service) …. the company is up for sale with a pre-tax loss of £30 million in 2007 (what about the future?) … basically, they seem to be hiding certain issues.

Which is a great shame, as they scored a major deal with Telefonica who will roll out its Voice Message Conversion System (VMCS) across 13 Latin American countries this autumn. Spinvox say they are the only speech-to-text service in the world that is available in six languages – Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. But at what cost?

I’m not going to go into all the ins and outs of this issue as I’ve had one of those rare weeks. Meh. I’m just bringing it to your attention. For an interesting commentary on all this spin, check out this post after the jump and this post on Spinvox’s demo day.

Emergency SMS 999

16 09 2009

I’ve always felt hard done by when thinking about my safety. Being unable to hear on the phone, I would hate to be put in a position where I needed to call the police quickly if I was being mugged or burgled, or the ambulance service if there was an accident, or the fire service if I had a fire at home. I would always need to rely upon a hearing person to make that call. Assuming I could find someone quickly wherever and whenever that may be. Assuming they would be willing to make the call – what if they didn’t understand me or it was 3am?

But there’s hope. A new service is being trialled in the UK. You can now send a text message to the emergency services using 999 rather than a long number you can’t remember, or trying to call via Typetalk / Text Direct / Text Relay / Whatever It’s Called. This is fabulous news for people who can’t use the phone. You need to register your mobile phone with the service, which is very simple and takes 2 minutes.

Further details here: Emergency SMS

The RNID are running a survey on access to emergency services with the aim of improving access. More information after the jump.

New emergency text services

5 05 2008

A new emergency text service has been launched by police in Sussex. You can read about it here. To call an emergency service, send a text to 65999, starting with the word POLICE, FIRE, AMBULANCE, or COASTGUARD.

A similar service has started in Kent, send a text beginning with POLICE, MEDIC or RESCUE to 60066.

Bus passengers in Brighton and Hove can send a text if there are problems on the bus such as rowdiness. Text REPORT to 60060 and give a description of the incident, and your message will be passed on to the police.

It’s a shame the numbers are all different, unlike the national 999 number or 911 in the US. A national number would make more sense, wouldn’t it?

Bus trouble

22 01 2008

I saw an article in the London Metro today, talking about a new emergency text service in London which could go live soon. How many times have you seen violence on London transport? I’ve not personally seen any but I know of two people who have been attacked recently.
One was a friend of a friend. She was sitting on the train one evening, and a beggar came walking down the aisle asking everybody for change. He asked her for change and she said sorry but she didn’t have any on her. What he did next shocked me. He punched her in the face and broke her nose. Then he sauntered off. She sat there with blood pouring down her face and not one passenger offered to assist her.
I have a friend called David who’s deaf. One evening he was taking the train home from work and at London Bridge, some yobs got on and proceeded to tear the black rubber lining strip from the windows. David got up and shouted at them to leave the windows alone. The yobs set upon him and left him with fractures and a black eye. The police were called, another passenger offered his testimony, but they still haven’t been caught. Luckily, David is ok.

This new emergency text service means bus passengers will be able to discreetly raise an alarm by sending a code as a text message to a dedicated police number, this code being shown on posters around the bus. Each bus will have it’s own code letters so police will know which bus to target.

This is all very fine and dandy for hearing people, luckily it’s handy for deaf people too. I’d like to see this on all public transport.

Text in the city

2 12 2007

A new date texting service has been launched in London by Matchtek, called Smartdater. This service allows Londoners to meet others in their area via text, you have to register on their website and set up a profile. Matchtek identifies which of the profiles are compatible, and people can start texting each other. This service sidesteps the issue of exchanging numbers as everything goes through their server, and texts can be blocked by users. 30,000 people have already signed up. Welcome to the new age of sms dating.

– I still think this idea is weird!

Pizza by text

30 08 2007

Do you like Domino’s Pizza? They have launched a SMS text ordering service.

It’s a straightforward process.

You register on their website
Create a favourite meal and submit this to 61212 (Domino’s Pizza) with a memorable name for it.
Domino’s will send a text back straight away to confirm your order (at no charge to you) and give you an order reference number
Text ‘Yes’ to confirm your order or ‘No’ to cancel the order if you’ve changed your mind
o If you text ‘Yes’, Domino’s will confirm your order is on its way along with an order reference number and remind you of the payment method you’ve chosen
o If you text ‘No’, Domino’s will confirm your order has been cancelled and that you haven’t been charged.
If you change one of your previously created favourite meals, Domino’s will send you a text to confirm your details have been updated.

Domino’s Pizza by TXT will work on any mobile phone, but you can only send texts from the number you set up when you register with Domino’s. Domino’s don’t charge for the text service, just your standard network charges will apply.

It’s easy to change your favourite meals once you have created them. Just click on the Edit button after you have logged in. If you forget your memorable names, you can log in on their website at and see a list of your favourite meals with the names you’ve given them, the payment method chosen (credit/debit/cash on delivery), and collection/delivery options chosen. You can only order from your local store and orders can only be sent to the address given on registration. Don’t forget, the payment method you’ve chosen will stay the same every time you order that particular favourite Domino’s Pizza meal, unless you change it at

I’d like to see more businesses follow suit.

UK emergency text services

15 04 2007

Emergency text/sms services are being set up across the UK however there are teething problems. One problem is that some police forces require you to register your phone number with them first – which is okay if you are at home but no use if you are travelling into a different county and you then deal with a different police force. At the moment, every police force seems to be different, there should be a nationally recognised standard. There are problems with having a text emergency service though. Emergency text messages cannot be prioritised by the mobile networks and may take several hours to get through, as when Sally Geeson was trying to text for help. Unlike calls made from a mobile telephone, text messages do not give the location of the sender.

Avon and Somerset police haven’t got it quite right – you can only call them in an emergency if you’ve got access to a landline, and the time to write a fax or call via Typetalk/minicom. Great if someone is breaking into your house or if you’re kidnapped – I don’t call this equal access!

There are 43 police force areas in England and Wales, 8 in Scotland, and one force covers Northern Ireland. The following police forces have emergency text message services for deaf people – are there any others out there?

East Midlands
West Mercia Police
West Yorkshire
London – City of Westminster

Fife, Scotland

Northern Ireland

The CATS (City Alert Texting System) system is a text message service that will warn people of a terrorist attack, where it is taking place and what to do. You sign up to the service with the postcodes of where you live and work, at a cost of £1.50 for each postcode registered. Coverage is currently in these areas. CATS is about to launch an email service as well, which will deliver simultaneous email when an sms text alert is issued.

Check out the SMS Text Blog.