* Be sure to check out this month's
Tech-Savvy Interpreter video to see the Boostlingo platform in action: https://youtu.be/MCqVKXLy1YY
For this month's installment of the
Tech-Savvy Interpreter we're going to take a look at an ambitious
cloud-based over-the-phone (OPI) and video-remote interpreting (VRI)
platform called Boostlingo, "a next-generation interpretation
platform" that is looking to take on the leaders in the OPI/VRI space.
Boostlingo is not an interpreting services agency. It is a company seeking
to provide the platform that agencies and interpreters can use to offer
efficient and integrated OPI/VRI services.
For years, the big over-the-phone
interpreting companies have dominated for three main reasons. First, they
had the funds to invest in costly telecommunications infrastructure needed
to provide an on-demand interpreting service, like dedicated fiber-optic
voice and data connections, interactive voice response (IVR) and
automatic call distribution (ACD)
software. Second, they had the administrative wherewithal to keep track of
and bill for the thousands and thousands of short interactions interpreted
every day on their platforms. Finally, they developed vast networks of
over-the phone interpreters working in call centers and from home offices
to provide the service. This kept many smaller agencies and a lot of
interpreters out of this market segment. Boostlingo hopes to change
that. Here's how.
If you are an avid reader of the Tech-Savvy
Interpreter, then you know that I am a proponent of the philosophy
"crawl, walk, run," by which I mean that when it comes to
technology, it is usually best to start small, focus on a specific use case
and then grow from there. But when you are introducing a potentially
revolutionary interpreting delivery platform that creates a unified
ecosystem for interpreters, interpreter managers and end clients into the
OPI/VRI space, starting off small really isn't an option.
Boostlingo has "gone big" and
built a remote interpreting delivery platform (IDP) designed for
consecutive OPI and VRI that is coupled with a robust interpreting
management system (IMS). The platform allows interpreters, agencies and end
users to all maintain their own accounts to keep track of the interpreting
services they either request or provide. In other words, it is an OPI/VRI
marketplace of sorts. Companies can access a shared database of available
interpreters and interpreters can make themselves visible to multiple
companies over a single platform.
If you think about it, there are a lot of
moving parts that go into an on-demand interpreting assignment. Which
interpreters are currently available? What are their language combinations?
What certifications do they hold? On the client side, who is registered to
use the on-demand service? Whose account will get billed? What is the rate
the client has agreed to for the service? Those are just a few of the
things to keep track of. For a platform like Boostlingo to work, it must
keep track of all those moving parts and still be simple enough to offer an
interface for all its users that does not require a lot of training to use.
Another potential game-changing feature of
Boostlingo is the ability for smaller agencies to customize or "white
label" OPI/VRI services. As noted, large companies have dominated this
space because smaller agencies cannot realistically build the extensive
technological platform required for offering OPI/VRI. Using the Boostlingo
platform, they can offer full-scale OPI/VRI services and seek to operate in
a part of the market that has previously been reserved only for the big
The Human Factor: Partnership with
As many interpreting technology startups
learn quickly, having the "killer app," or the right technology,
is only one part of a successful strategy. The human factor -- in this case
the interpreter talent -- is hugely important. This fact was not lost
on Boostlingo. The startup has built two key channels for getting
interpreter talent onto its platform.
In November 2016, they announced a
partnership with ProZ.com to onboard interpreters to their platform through
the ProZ.com Certified PRO
Network (CPN). Previous attempts to crowdsource interpreters by other
startups have failed largely because they have not understood the
difference between being bilingual and being a trained interpreter.
Boostlingo gets it, and that is half the battle.
Building a critical mass of qualified
interpreters will be key to Boostlingo's crowdsourcing strategy. The
Proz.com screening process is a new addition to Proz.com's database that
seeks to identify and put in front of agencies trained, professional
interpreters. The screening process requires three professional references,
at least one interpreting certification from a recognized interpreter
certification body and adherence to ProZ.com's Professional Guidelines.
Interpreters holding certifications in medical (CCHI and NBCMI) and court
states and FCICE)
in the United States will probably be in greater demand as hospitals and
court systems are likely clients that will use the platform.
In addition to freelancers signing up
through ProZ.com, hospitals and agencies are also using the platform to manage
their interpreters and interpreting assignments. Each client using
Boostlingo has that ability to create a garden wall around their
interpreters and clients, a feature critical to convincing different
entities to use this cloud-based interpreting infrastructure.
The end game, however, is to allow clients
to also share their interpreter resources, if they choose to do so. The
effect will be the creation of an interpreting marketplace where
interpreters can receive assignments from many different sources. In the
best of all worlds this will lead to the more efficient use of resources
and more job opportunities for interpreters from multiple clients. This is
an idea that several interpreting marketplace startups have had in the
past. However, none has been able to successfully execute this idea at
scale...yet. Boostlingo is well on its way to doing so.
Interpreting in the Cloud
Boostlingo is 100% cloud based and runs on
PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. It can interact with traditional phone systems,
cell phones or through apps installed on smartphones or tablets using VoIP
and WebRTC technology. It can handle both audio and video calls. It is
platform agnostic. From a technological standpoint, what they have built is
impressive. In theory, this means that interpreters can take OPI or VRI
assignments using a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. In
practice, it will be important to see how these assignments are carried out
and what works well and what doesn't.
Cloud technology makes it technically
possible to interpret while sipping Mai Tais on the beach (as one of my
interpreting professors in the 90s said he hoped to do), but that does not
mean that it is advisable or could ever be considered a best practice. The
same goes for working from coffee shops, noisy airports and the like. Just
because you technically could do it doesn't mean you should. Interpreters
will still need a quiet place to work without interruptions.
With an ecosystem as comprehensive as
Boostlingo's, there are a lot of moving parts and people with different
roles on the platform -- interpreters, interpreter managers, agency
administrators, clients and client account administrators, to name a few.
Each has its own set of capabilities and specific access to relevant parts
of the system. For this column, I'll focus on the interpreter interface.
The interpreter interface allows you to take
audio and video calls from a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. Since
the platform is currently designed to handle consecutive interpreting in
OPI and VRI settings, it is simple to use and easy to connect and
disconnect. Currently, the video resolution maxes out at 720p with 30fps.
That's standard for web conferencing today, but barely passable for VRI
between visual and spoken languages. ASL interpreters I have spoken with
have said 720p at 60fps makes their job much easier.
It is important to note that the Boostlingo
platform currently allows only point-to-point video connections, which
works fine for the vast majority of VRI scenarios today, where the parties
who need the interpreting service are in the same physical space and only
the interpreter needs to connect remotely. Boostlingo techs shared that
multipoint video is on their development roadmap, which is important since more
interpreted interactions are now taking place with the parties in different
locations (e.g. telemedicine, where doctor and patient are in separate
places, or attorney-client conferences that take place via
One of the biggest challenges in interpreter
staffing today is performance evaluation. For decades, the standard has
been if the client didn't complain, things must have gone well. Hardly a
best practice. With the advent of user rating systems (e.g. Amazon's product
ratings, Rotten Tomatoes aggregate ratings for movies or Uber's driver
ratings) consumers have become accustomed to giving a quick rating to just
about any experience or product and checking these ratings when choosing a
product or service.
Boostlingo has included a 360-degree rating
tool (1 to 5 stars) for two variables -- experience and call quality. Both
the client who requested the interpreting service and the interpreter
complete this step at the end of each call, hence the 360-degree nature of
the rating -- both client and interpreter are rated. As an interpreter
completes more remote assignments, his/her rating begins to stabilize as
more data is available to calculate the average rating from all
interactions. The same is true for the client. The five-star rating system
provides both client and interpreter with a quick way to assess their
experience and an incentive to perform at their best. if the client is
using the app for OPI or VRI, the interpreter's star rating appears below
his or her picture when connecting to a call.
Although these quick rating systems leave
much to be desired and allow for no nuance or feedback, they may serve as a
step forward from the no-complaints-all-must-have-gone-ok strategy.
Boostlingo has built an amazing system that
has the potential to expand the reach of OPI and VRI interpreting. It is
one very important piece of a larger puzzle to make language services more
available than ever (the other two being client adoption and interpreter
recruitment). To riff off a celebrated phrase from the old Kevin Costner
movie "Field of Dreams,"
-- they have built it, now it will be important to see who comes.
Do you have a question about a specific
technology? Or would you like to learn more about a specific interpreting
platform, interpreter console or supporting technology? Send us an email at