Speaking hardware: what are the DSS and DSSPro standards?

Digital Dictation Hardware Healthcare facilities setting sail for speech recognition are typically advised to equip their physician staff with digital dictation devices that support the DSS or DSS Pro format. The reasons? Optimal sound quality and sampling rates; both key ingredients to a successful speech recognition experience.

A bit of history first. The .dss format was created by a voluntary organization called the International Voice Association (IVA), formed jointly by Grundig, Olympus and Philips back in 1994. DSS is maintained as a manufacturer-independent and international standard for professional speech processing that can be used – under certain conditions – by any manufacturer, as long as it is used in professional devices. This guarantees the user a secure investment in terms of the procurement, use and future compatibility of his systems.

DSS offers high audio quality and allows a high compression rate without noticeable loss of quality, as well as low energy consumption. The compression was to permit efficient memory usage and data transfer for digitized speech. The quality had to be retained so that even quietly spoken passages could be clearly understood and speech recognition could be applied. At the same time, everything had to be accomplished at a reasonable computational expense in order to keep power consumption in check because mobile dictation devices are frequently used for extended periods.

DSS is often called “MP3 for Speech”. As a compression algorithm for speech, DSS is comparable with the music format MP3. Although the sound quality differs only negligibly from the uncompressed original, .dss files are very small. This allows them to be transferred quickly to the PC and easily sent by e-mail. Because the technology only compresses the parts of speech that are truly important, the standard practically filters out the concentrated speech of a dictation without losing quality. A 10-minute dictation that requires only about 1 MB in the .dss format, requires up to 12 times as much memory with typical compression.

In March 2007, the IVA launched DSSPro, presenting it as being “far more than just a speech recording standard – DSSPro actually allowing far-reaching management functions for the workflow,” thanks to the following new functions:

  • Support of real-time file encryption during recording to protect confidential dictation data.
  • Higher 16 kHz sampling rate provides a more natural playback of human voice as well as optimized quality for speech recognition.

Popular digital dictation devices supporting the DSS format:

Philips SpeechMike range (PC microphone)
Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9360
(mobile recorder)
Olympus DS-3300 (mobile recorder)
Grundig Digta CordEx (PC microphone)

Popular digital dictation devices supporting the DSSPro format:
Philips Digital Pocket Memo 9600 (mobile recorder)
Grundig DigtaSonic xMic (PC microphone)
Olympus DS-4000 (mobile recorder)


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