10 April 2013

LT2013: Status and Potential of the European Language Technology Markets - Key Extracts

Discover some key extracts of LT2013, LT-Innovate's landmark report on the Language Technology industry:

A new Ecosystem

New open paradigms, language‐neutral development platforms and multilingual development resources could foster disruption, particularly in Europe. (p. 5)

The ability to manage and process the tsunami of data across the world’s languages is one of the biggest challenges in the new ICT ecosystem, and one for which LT is a critical enabling technology. (p. 6)

LT is baked into the future of ICT in the mobile/social/global world of computing. (p.7)

In the era of semantics – when we need to know the meaning of the data that flows around the digital universe – Language Technology is essential for innovation. (p.8)

Although LT has been a commercial market for many years, only recently have technological conditions made it possible to exploit LT on a large scale. (p.9)

Markets for Language Technology

The fastest growth is in non‐European languages, though Spanish and Portuguese gain significance because of Latin American markets. Aside from English, Spanish and Portuguese, only five other EU languages (German, French, Italian, Polish and Dutch), out of 60 or more spoken in the Union, are published on more than 1% of the top million sites. (p. 10)

While the potential is for a single European digital market with 500+ million customers, the reality is a series of fragmented linguistic markets, none bigger than possibly 70/80 million customers, most much smaller. (p. 11)

At present no company or website could be genuinely global using the localisation techniques currently at our disposal. Only with large‐scale automation will the limited multilinguality of the web be transformed into a genuinely globally accessible medium. (p. 11)

Where language is the very stuff of our digital system – customer interactions, employee conversations, technical and scientific knowledge, cultural and social objects of all kinds – the era of the Lingua Franca is over. Interacting across the many languages of the digital world is no longer optional. (p. 12)

Europe’s share of the worldwide market will increase slightly to 38% over the five year period. However, that share is significantly lower (24% in 2015) for the software portion of the market... Factors that could change this include:

  • Faster and more extensive deployment of content applications in more European languages, in a coherent framework for all languages
  • Development – and integration – of speech components (for recognition, generation and identification/verification) in more European languages, affordably available for European application and solution developers
  • Large‐scale deployment of open source machine translation in open environments using shared resources
  • Large‐scale sharing of resources (paid and free) throughout the European industry
  • Development of vertical and industry‐specific platforms for LT development and deployment, engaging whole industries in cooperative initiatives (analogous to SWIFT in banking) (p. 21)

Collaboration between the industry and data owners will be needed. (p. 22)

Many IT managers are still relatively unaware of the benefits that LT can provide them... Suppliers, LT vendors and IT integrators should work closer and harder to identify killer business cases, increase market awareness and deploy market strategies understanding how economic return affects clients, developing modular/incremental products, and forging cross‐industry alliances for to strengthen market channels. (p. 24)

LT‐Innovate estimates that there are around 500 companies in Europe either actively developing Language Technology, or embedding its features in their products and services in an innovative way... The industry comprises mostly small companies, concentrated in the western and northern regions of the EU, with a mix of long‐established players but also a significant number of new entrants. A quarter of the companies are micro‐enterprises with fewer than 10 employees, while only 6% have more than 200 employees; almost the entire industry is composed of SMEs... Over half the industry comprises companies active for more than 10 years, many that remain small. The fact that so many companies fail to scale, even after years in business, is unusual in a technology industry, and indicative of the market context for LT in Europe: local/national companies with expertise in local languages serve local markets with services based on their own languages. This state of affairs is not likely to be sustainable, as cloud‐based language‐enabled services are launched on a large scale. At present, few European companies are in a position to compete in an ecosystem where access to technology, rather than narrow linguistic expertise, is the driving factor. (p. 25)

Innovation in the LT Industry

The dynamics of the general software market, and the limits of what is currently possible for niche LT SMEs, strongly suggest that a Digital Language Infrastructure for Europe could both unlock potential for the industry, and help meet the need for pervasive “multilinguality” in Europe’s digital economy. The industry itself should define the nature and content of the infrastructure, what features are appropriately shared and open, what should remain in the commercial IP realm. (p. 33)

The review of conditions in the LT industry suggests that collaborative approaches to the market could break through the fragmentation that is evident. (p. 33)

Asymmetric partnering for SMEs is a natural route to developing technologies in specialist areas with steep technical demands (heavy R&D), where domain expertise is key. Peer partnering takes the alternate route of creating new “breakout” categories of products or services through the collaborative combination of complementary technologies... Dominant markets are those where technical depth meets the greatest opportunity. (p. 38)

Interactive, Multilingual, Intelligent

The speech applications market shows immense potential, and it is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years... The market is mainly driven by the increased demand in the Mobile Devices segment. This segment is witnessing high demand for speech recognition applications because of the increase in the number of regulations on the use of mobile phones while driving. (p. 47)

We can debate whether the translation industry’s response to rapid globalisation and growth in content has been the right one. Has the industry made best use of technology to raise its capacity and stay profitable? Or has the content explosion marginalized an industry of artisans? (p. 55)

Intelligent content refers to content that is structurally rich and semantically aware, and is therefore discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable and which is not limited to one purpose, technology or out put. These technologies rely on underlying techniques and tools such as natural language processing (NLP),categorization and clustering engines, and statistical approaches for processing the outputs of human language, such as written or spoken texts. (p. 83)

Download the full report here.


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