RWS discusses details of European Parliament contract

RWS announced last week a major contract with the European Parliament to provide live translation and transcription services. The contract joins RWS with multiple companies, including Cedat85 and Bertin IT, in a consortium to deliver the services. MultiLingual spoke with George Bara, VP of Strategic Partnerships and RWS’s Delivery Manager, to learn more about the contract. 

MultiLingual: Tell us a little about the bidding process. What did RWS do to get ahead of the competition?

George Bara: The bid process was organized in several phases, from pre-selection of suitable vendors to a preliminary award to three selected consortiums and a final evaluation of the best solution to be implemented moving forward. RWS’ approach was to create a consortium with the best complementary solutions for the speech processing part, Cedat85, and Bertin IT, and address the solution outcome by combining its state of the art machine translation technology with the vast language expertise it acquired in the decades of providing localization services on a global scale.

ML: In August 2020, news broke that Translated was selected to provide translation and transcription services for the European Parliament. Was that part of the same process? 

GB: Translated.com and Microsoft were the two other consortiums that were selected alongside RWS in the initial evaluation phase of this project. All three consortiums were awarded a contract to build a solution supporting 10 languages in August 2020, with RWS being ranked first. The final evaluation of these three solutions ended in September 2021, with RWS ranking once again as the best solution and being awarded the main contract for further developing the platform and adding language support to the remainder of the total 24 languages.

ML: Translation services for an international political body must require a high degree of precision. How does RWS guarantee that for the European Parliament?

GB: The solution is a pure software solution utilizing Machine Learning AI software, with no human intervention. The European Parliament came up with a very professional and tailored evaluation methodology for the project: provide a near real-time translation of the EP’s plenary session to people with hearing impairment and potentially supplement human interpreters’ work. Evaluation of the quality of transcription and translation was a key factor in deciding the winning solution; metrics such as word error rate and usability of translation output were consistently used to measure all solutions from all competing consortiums, with latency metrics to ensure a good user experience.

ML: How was this platform developed? How long did it take?

GB: The consortium started developing the platform and underlying speech and machine translation engines after the first project phase award, roughly 15 months. It is a Software as a Service platform accessible through a web user interface that connects to the EP’s plenary sessions audio streams as they happen, and displays the transcription and translation in the user’s desired language, in near real-time.

ML: Could you give me some practical examples of how this will reshape the way the EP does its business? What does the before-and-after look like here?

GB: This is the first and most important project of its kind for a public sector institution, paving the way for the adoption of AI solutions on a global scale. The European Parliament was bold enough to „dream big” in addressing the issue of citizen access to information, and choose an innovation partnership framework for a fully automated solution, working closely with the vendors throughout the process. Having an “always-on” digital solution that can accurately translate the plenary sessions speeches opens many other opportunities for communicating with citizens across all the 24 EU languages, efficiently and on time. There are already other areas of the Eps activity where this solution is being deployed, to cover as many speech translations needs as possible, complementing traditional interpreting services and even remote simultaneous interpretation platform in use.

ML: What does this deal mean for the future of RWS? What about the future of international affairs?

GB: For RWS this project meant entering a new area of Linguistic AI solutions: automated speech translation. Already a long-time supplier of machine translation to the world’s most prominent government organizations and agencies, partnering with a leader in speech technologies such as Cedat85 resulted in the creation of a joint solution that will be applied to many other verticals and use-cases, from remote online training and web meetings to secure device-deployed solutions for regulated industries and legal use.

Cameron Rasmusson
Cameron Rasmusson is a writer and journalist. His first job out of the University of Montana School of Journalism took him to Sandpoint, Idaho as a staff writer for the Bonner County Daily Bee. Since 2010, he's honed his skills as a writer and reporter, joining the MultiLingual staff in 2021.

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