Empowering the hearing-impaired: Enel’s partnership with Pedius
Independence is a precious commodity for those with hearing impairments, which is why startups like Pedius are playing a vital role in fostering more inclusivity in everyday activities.
According to the World Health Organization, over 1.5 billion people live with hearing loss globally, and this figure could increase to 2.5 billion by 2050. Hearing loss can result in various challenges, such as difficulty communicating with others and delayed language development in children. These challenges can lead to social isolation, loneliness, and frustration, particularly among the elderly population who are experiencing hearing loss.
Enel and Pedius are working together to provide greater independence for individuals with hearing loss. Pedius is a mobile application that enables the deaf and hearing-impaired to make phone calls without intermediaries, and this partnership with Enel is making this technology more accessible and widely available.
Giving back independence to the hearing-impaired
Lorenzo Di Ciaccio, founder of Pedius, first came up with the idea while watching a television interview with a deaf man, named Gabriele who was unable to contact emergency services after a car accident. Di Ciaccio recalls thinking that it was “absurd that the technology wasn’t available for Gabriele to call a tow truck or an ambulance.”
Realizing that Gabriele was not the only person facing this problem, Di Ciaccio spent the following six months working tirelessly to develop the technology that would later become Pedius. After more than 2,000 test calls made, Pedius was officially launched in 2013.
Although the technology that makes Pedius work is complex, the use of the app is straightforward; it uses sophisticated Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology which converts sounds into text and vice-versa. When making a call, users can either speak or send a text message to the receiver. Pedius converts the message into a voice recording which the call receiver hears. When the receiver speaks their response, Pedius records the reply and converts it into a message for the user to read in real time. The only requirement for using the app is a working internet connection.
“To date, there is only one other application in France that offers a similar service to ours, but it is only for voice recognition, meaning it translates the words of the speaker into text and assumes that the deaf person can speak but not write”, affirms Di Ciaccio. He continues by stating that “all other services require an interpreter as an intermediary, so the deaf person is not independent”.
A stronger, more united partnership
The collaboration between Enel and Pedius began in 2013. It was driven by a need identified by the Human Resources department to provide support for the inclusion of deaf employees. Thanks to Pedius, Enel employees with hearing impairments are now fully integrated by enabling them to make calls, interact with the Group’s call center, as well as take part in Skype conferences. The technology also offers telephone services to the deaf, whether they are current customers, or potential customers who may be interested in getting information about Enel’s services.
After almost five years, Pedius and Enel are strengthening their partnership by introducing a new solution for Enel customers with hearing impairments. The solution provides tablets to support Enel customers who visit stores that directly translate the operator's words onto the tablet, allowing for easy communication between customers and employees.
“In addition, Pedius has implemented a translation service, and Enel's international presence has enabled us to validate our solution at Enel Peru for the last two years,” Di Ciaccio affirms.
Creating global accessibility footprint
Pedius is available in eight languages: Italian, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Chinese, and Cantonese. In addition to telephone services for users, Pedius also offers employment inclusion services for deaf employees, supporting them in telephone communication with colleagues and suppliers and providing subtitles during conference calls.
In addition, it provides call center services that are accessible to companies, enabling individuals who are deaf to connect with the company's customer service through Pedius technology and communicate directly with the operator.
“Over the past five years, Pedius has taken many steps forward, the first of which was entering the Chinese market through a partnership with CSL, Hong Kong's leading telecommunications operator, in 2019”, Di Ciaccio mentions. Thanks to its partnership with Enel, Pedius has also grown in Italy and have been able to enable emergency and public utility services. Since 2018, the startup has gained around 23,000 new deaf users, bringing the total number of app users to 47,000, while adding 22 accessible services for private and public companies, as well as emergency services.
Enel’s support for Innovative Startups
Enel is known for supporting innovative startups and fostering innovation in the energy sector. In recent years, Enel has established partnerships with several startups working on cutting-edge technologies like Pedius.
“The fact that a major player like Enel believed in our service and activated many channels of accessibility for deaf people has brought us a lot of visibility, especially in the eyes of other companies who have decided to embark on the same path of accessibility for deaf people with us”, Di Ciaccio explains.
Enel's focus on innovation has led to the development of new products and services that benefit both Enel and its customers. The partnership with Pedius is a prime example of the Group’s commitment to supporting startups that can help improve the lives of people with disabilities.
“In our collaboration with Enel, what sets us apart is that we have implemented multiple services catering to both deaf employees and customers, making our partnership a comprehensive effort towards achieving 360-degree accessibility”, concludes Di Ciaccio.