Zero Keyboard

Building a solution to capture customer data

Finland-based Blucup was on a mission to solve a common problem: how can salespeople capture customer data and generate leads while on the go?


“We were wondering why customer data in CRM systems is frequently out of date and why there are so many complications with data quality,” says Jaan Apajalahti, CEO of Blucup, which was founded in 2013 and now has offices in Helsinki, Finland, and Palo Alto, California. With 10 enterprise customers already on board, 50 others in the pipeline, and $650,000 in venture capital, Blucup is poised to open its US sales division in Spring 2016.


“We decided to design a solution to easily input data on mobile devices, on the spot, without typing,” Apajalahti says. “We knew that would be the fastest and most straightforward way to get complete and accurate information into business systems.”


Blucup began developing the Zero Keyboard mobile application, which sales reps could use to record customer information quickly with their iOS, Android, and Windows devices, and then automatically add the data to their customer relationship management (CRM) system using touch gestures, voice, and pictures. No typing.


Finding the right components

Apajalahti remembers learning about Microsoft Cognitive Services at a conference in 2015. At the time, Blucup was experimenting with different kinds of open-source voice and image recognition software, but none provided the range of features and the data quality it needed.


Blucup decided to investigate two of the Microsoft Cognitive Services offerings—the Computer Vision and Speech APIs—and found they were the ideal components for the company’s Zero Keyboard app. “Without these APIs, our product wouldn’t be a product at all,” Apajalahti says. “They are necessary components of the Zero Keyboard. We were lucky that at the same time we started our product development, we happened to find Microsoft Cognitive Services. It made everything possible.”


By including the Microsoft Computer Vision and Speech APIs in the Zero Keyboard mobile app, Blucup made it possible for sales representatives and other users to record voice memos and take photos of business cards or identification badges, translate both speech and images into text, and upload the data into their CRM system. The app also enables sales teams to create a set of questions designed to capture certain types of information; use touch gestures to enter responses; link CRM information related to accounts, contacts, and business opportunities to the questions; and then update or create CRM data from the answers.


“With Zero Keyboard, people don’t forget or make mistakes,” Apajalahti says. “They have accurate information recorded in the moment. Zero Keyboard gives people a faster, easier way to perform a mandatory task and get more out of it,” he says.


Offering customers precise, high-quality results

With the Speech and Computer Vision APIs from Microsoft Cognitive Services, Blucup has created an app that provides customers with accurate results and rich features—all while reducing internal development time.


  • Highly accurate results

Apajalahti says the Computer Vision API is extremely accurate, delivering consistently high-quality data. “We tried many different options for Zero Keyboard, and this is the best-performing API we’ve found—our customers get accurate results.”


“Image capture quality is very important. Otherwise, the text translation becomes gibberish,” he says. “Yet, even if a picture is a little blurred or shaken, the Computer Vision API can still do the job.”


  • Better features for customers

Using the Speech and Computer Vision APIs helps Blucup meet the needs of customers in unexpected ways, according to Apajalahti.


“If you leave a voice note or take a picture, we don’t try to produce the text immediately as we do with touch-gesture information, because translation errors are more likely with voice and image data, and customers may end up spending time correcting minor mistakes and getting annoyed,” he says. “Instead, customers take pictures and record voice notes quickly, and then we process them in the background using the Speech and Computer Vision APIs.”


  • Rapid development

Apajalahti says the Zero Keyboard developers were very happy with the APIs offered through Microsoft Cognitive Services. “It was a combination of easy access to the APIs and a very developer-friendly environment,” he says. “And once we started using the APIs, we realized the quality was exceptional. From a developer standpoint, we got the APIs working very fast, they did what they were supposed to do, and the results were outstanding. It was a good match for us.”


Blucup is already excited about continuing to incorporate new features. “Microsoft Cognitive Services gives us a huge range of opportunities,” Apajalahti says. “It’s a perfect match for us now, and in the future when we want to add more features to our app. The Computer Vision and Speech APIs are extremely powerful.”

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