Sonocent to target US with learning software

Dave Tucker
Dave Tucker
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A SOFTWARE firm which helps students with learning difficulties create notes from audio recording is targeting the United States.

The Leeds-based firm, which was founded in 2007, has seen its turnover double to around £500,000 in its latest financial year and its head count has also doubled to eight as demand for its Audio Notetaker software has increased.

It now has more than 25,000 users and Dave Tucker, a director at Sonocent, said the business is “rapidly expanding”.

The idea behind the software is to avoid the time-consuming process of going through an audio recording to capture the relevant information. Mr Tucker said: “Our software is based on a visualisation of speech from audio recording.

“It listens for pauses between phrases and displays each spoken phrase on screen as a bar. It allows you to add meaning [via colour and annotation for example] so you can come back and listen to the important parts again. And because it’s visual it makes navigation easy.

“With the software you can just go from phrase to phrase. You can listen to the start of the phrase and if that’s not the phrase you want to listen to you can go on to the next one.”

He added: “A common misconception of the software is that it turns the audio into text. It doesn’t do that. It provides a platform to make working with audio incredibly easy.”

Sonocent, which has an office in South Wales as well as its office in Leeds, is due to launch version 3.0 of the Audio Notetaker shortly.

The new-look software allows you to create a key for colour-coding your notes, as well as capturing what is coming out of the computer speaker as well as what is coming in – so a two-way conversation can be recorded.

“So what our software allows students to do is not worry about capturing all the information in a lecture or a class or a meeting. They can record it and know it’s always there and it’s relatively accessible.

“They don’t have to think how to spell a word, how to re-phrase a sentence concisely, they just need to press a single button and mark a certain phrase with colour to achieve the same thing and capture that information”, added Mr Tucker.

Sonocent currently has two distributors in the UK, Iansyst, and Douglas Stewart Europe. And it has just signed a deal with Dell which will sell Sonocent’s products in North America. “I anticipate the US to be a significant part of our revenue within say 18 months to two years,” said Mr Tucker.

Although the software was initially developed for students with learning difficulties, other people can benefit from the tool, he said. “We know the tool can be used to great benefit by a large number of people but for the foreseeable future we are going to focus on education. So our next target market in education are international students and those students who really care about their learning, so law students, med students, postgraduate students. And distance learners as well.”

He added: “I think the next step for us has to be mobile. We’ve been prototyping an Andriod app for a little while.”

In the UK, the Government supports students in higher education who have a disability by providing extra financial help under the Disabled Students’ Allowances scheme.

Sonocent’s software is one of many specialist software programmes that can get recommended to students by the needs assessors, who suggest accommodations for each student.

“We don’t have any direct tie to this scheme ourselves, as we sell to distributors who then sell to resellers. Our resellers sell products to the entire disability market and so our product is sold to individuals, too.

“However because our main market is students at university who struggle with note taking and this is the group supported by the Government, it is safe to say that most of our sales will be due to recommendations from assessors,” explained Mr Tucker.

Sonocent, which recorded a turnover of £263,000 and pre-tax profits of £18,000 in the financial year to the end of June 2011, is continuing to recruit.