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Deeper analysis of VoIP

Archive for August, 2007

Third Party Voice Control

Posted by tggokul on August 30, 2007

There are enough mechanisms and more ( like JTAPI, TAPI) etc which allow you to write applications that can do third party call control. My question is, are there mechanisms to do third party voice control?

Let’s say that there are two ip phones which are controlled by your centralized IP PBX. Now I can write applications that can do a makecall(), answercall() etc on these two phones. But media will be to/from these phones. What I want to do is makecall() from one phone, but have the media terminated somewhere else.

I don’t want to connect and then do a transfer, that would be a round-about way. But having said that, if there are no other ways to do it, then this would be the way to take. Let’s come to the scenario where this would be useful ( would this be the next killer app?)

Let’s say I have a dual-mode mobile phone with wifi and let’s say that termination to a TDM line ( mobile/landline) is cheaper or has better quality through the GSM network. Or it could be as simple as I have way too much free minutes available during the weekend. Now, it is obvious I would be carrying the phone all the time. What if my wife is sitting somewhere else and wants to call somebody through my mobile GSM connection? Assuming she is connected on the Net, she should be able to reach the wifi enabled side of my phone and should be able to make a call out through the GSM world. But the media coming in should go to the softphone she has in her desktop/laptop rather than to the mobile I have.

The media will take the following route. Laptop->wifi side of mobile->GSM network->end user and vice-versa. This is more like a three party conferencing, only thing me sitting in the middle am not doing it, rather the third party is doing it. This would be the reason why I am looking for ways to do third party Voice control.  

You don’t need things like Skypeout minutes and you don’t have to be with the phone to make/receive calls. Say, I forgot to carry my phone. No worries, all I need is an internet connection and I can still use my phone. Something like a pc-anywhere on my mobile phone, only simpler and easier.

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Posted in Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS | Leave a Comment »

Is Skype a Web Application or a Telecom Innovation?

Posted by tggokul on August 29, 2007

The last two days has seen considerable discussions on the Internet thanks to some hard-talk by Mark Cuban ( Btw, I am an ardent fan of MC. How can you not like a guy who fights with NBA officials?).

Vijay toes a similar lines when comparing Telecom Innovation v/s  Internet Revolution. A very interesting read. My contention though is that there is so little to separate between the two. I say Skype is a telecom innovation. Skype is a Telco, so will be every other web companies ( like Google) soon. So where do we differentiate? Am very interested to know what all of you think about this.

Posted in Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

Cisco Microsoft Collaboration

Posted by tggokul on August 29, 2007

I was talking with one of the thought leaders/industry observer in the Unified Communication space and he came up with an interesting theory as to what areas Cisco and Microsoft can collaborate.

As you might already know, last week Steve Balmer and John Chambers decided to set aside differences, as they call it, “for the better good” ( Read “destroy Asterisk”) and work more closely so that they can offer meaningful solutions to the end customer. Based on the discussion I had with the gentleman mentioned above, it became pretty evident that Speech recognition is one such area where they most probably would work together.

Microsoft had a pretty vibrant Speech Recognition development team until one of the senior guys Kai-Fu Lee defected to the other side (Google). People who had been following that story would know of the legal battle that took place between Google and Microsoft when Lee left Microsoft. What is not commonly known though is that Lee was the chief evangelist of the Speech Recognition practice in Microsoft and most of the innovations in MS-Speech was his brain-children.So Microsoft kind of lost steam when he quit. They were already way behind market leader Nuance and this did not help their case. But it looks like they have started to become an active force in this domain. From what I hear, some releases are on the way.

Now about Cisco. Cisco has been way behind in the contact center business and even way behind when it comes to self service technologies ( IVR). Their product suite that includes IP IVR and CVP largely depend on Nuance for the speech recognition platform and licenses. So let’s say a customer wants Cisco CVP with speech recognition. He ends up paying a lot for Nuance licenses and since there is nobody really to challenge Nuance’s position, they have been having a free ride so far.

This is where Cisco and Microsoft could get together. Cisco, like a lot of other Microsoft products, could OEM MS speech and include it as part of its platform. What MS speech lacks today is credibility/customer base and if Cisco can OEM it, it would be a good start for Microsoft. It would help Cisco because the cost to the customer is less and a better value proposition. If Steve and John are going to put their money where their money is, Speech technology would be a good place to start!!!

Posted in Cisco | 3 Comments »

Congrats VoIP Supply

Posted by tggokul on August 27, 2007

Fellow blogger Garrett Smith reports that VoIP supply has been named as one of the fastest growing company in America. Congrats guys. I am sure you deserve it.

These kind of news makes you feel positive that there is still some money left in the VoIP business.

Posted in VoIP/IMS | Leave a Comment »

WordPress Maintenance during the Weekend

Posted by tggokul on August 27, 2007

How many of you were affected by the WordPress maintenance that took place during the weekend? I sure was one of them. When I tried logging into my blog on Saturday all I got was a blank screen and for sometime I actually thought that WordPress was hacked ( like Skype. Yup, I don’t believe in the official release from Skype that Windows update was the root cause. I believe they were hacked)

Half an hour later when I tried to re-login ,I got to my blog page but I got an error saying that Maintenance was going on and things would be normal in 7 mins. My waiting continued and when I went back to my page after 10 mins, I got the message that things would be normal after 20 mins. I didn’t bother checking after that and that evening ( after 4 or five hours), things got back to normal.

Again, on Sunday even though I was able to go to my admin page and do stuff I kept getting messages that maintenance would start in another half hour or something. Needless to say, I shut down my laptop for the weekend. Man, what a liberating feeling that is!!

I don’t see anybody else reporting these in the blogosphere; So I am assuming only a few of us were affected by this. I am trying to think of a  conspiracy theory for this attack against me, but I can’t come up with one sane explanation 🙂

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Call Center : A correction

Posted by tggokul on August 24, 2007

I had posted earlier on IP companies and their attempts at entering the call center business. As rightly pointed out by Jim of Skypejournal, the posts comes across as saying that Skype was the one doing this. That is not correct. OnState is the third party offering this service. I guess my post was not worded well to reflect this.

As for the other points Jim has raised, I have replied to that in the comments section of his post. I still believe converting a VoIP client to an Agent Desktop is not an easy act.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Most Companies Don’t Understand Call Center Business.

Posted by tggokul on August 23, 2007

It has become the norm these days that if you are a player in the IP communication space, you think it is just a natural progression to cater to the Call Center needs. And looks like Skype is no exception. Let me get this out on the onset. IP Telephony is NOT the same as IP Contact Center. If you have agents on IP phones (be it Skype/Cisco phones) it does NOT mean you have a contact center solution on IP.

I don’t blame companies that think “Hey, I have a softphone that can do voice/chat. I think I have a call center solution”. Why, because I used to think that too in my previous assignments. Now that I am with a predominantly focussed Call Center solutions provider I understand that there is a vast difference between me making a VoIP call and an agent doing the same.

This is how the progression should be. Companies that have vast expertise in Call Center technolgies ( be it the traditional TDM ACDs/IVRs) must lead the way and adopt IP as their underlying platform not the other way around, where IP companies start providing contact center solutions. The problem with the latter is that, they are just “emulating” the older solutions and as far as I can see there is no real innovation.

Yes, Presence based ACD ( i.e an agent transfers the call to the subject matter expert based on the expert’s availability) is something only an IP solution can offer and I am sure this was based on the presence model that IMs used to offer, but still these applications are the exceptions rather than the norms. For example lets take Cisco’s ICM ( Cisco’s ACD). What does it do that an Avaya AES or AIC does not do from a feature set point of view? Answer is nothing. So where is the innovation?

Now coming to what triggered me to write this post. In the news-item mentioned above, Skype is offering live-chat to customers. OK, so what is so great about that? Who does not give that? What is so “intelligent’ about that? The customer gets to speak to the subject matter expert. Again, so what? It also says that Skype will provide configurations to switch between Audio/Chat windows. That shows how primitive the thinking is. Have Skype’s people ever gone into a Call Center and had a chat with the floor managers? The first thing they want is an unified screen. Any novice will tell you that. What are the integration touch points that Skype provides? Do they have connectors to MS CRM, Siebel CRM? Or are they going to provide even more “configurations” to switch between three windows!!!!

Enterprise Telephony will soon merge into Contact Center Telephony. I envision that happening in the future. But not today and the people who would need to drive it are the experts and not the novices.

Posted in Cisco, VoIP/IMS | 2 Comments »

Scope for Innovation in IPv6

Posted by tggokul on August 20, 2007

Vivek has a post on what he thinks are the different areas where companies can innovate when the move to IPv6 happens. A very good read.

I am still very curious to know what will happen to all these NAT traversal techniques like STUN/ICE etc. Never understood why they had to be this complex. Really hope to god that this becomes a little more simplified. But somehow I believe we techies will still find a way to complicate things 🙂

Posted in VoIP/IMS | 1 Comment »

Buzzworks & SearchtoPhone : Same Apps in two different parts of the world

Posted by tggokul on August 17, 2007

I know what Buzzworks are trying to do, since they demoed their product in Proto.in. I have been intending to write more on their product but never got around to it. Today GigaOm has a piece on a company called SearchtoPhone and once I read what they are upto, I thought it was time I wrote about Buzzworks.

Basically, this is Buzzwork’s premise. You want to reach one of your neighbourhood services but you don’t know whom to call. So you call up a number and do a voice search ( through open source speech recognition) and the centralized software searches for the most likely candidate and calls them up for you and you get to talk to the guy whose service you want to use. But from what I see, SearchtoPhone is more or less similar except for one bit that the author neatly summarizes

Using voice recognition and knowledge of your location, Search-To-Phone determines merchants or service providers who might be able to help. These businesses receive calls from Search-To-Phone and listen to your recorded job request, decide if they want to talk to you further, and place a call to you via Search-To-Phone. Your phone number remains private.

Interesting to see two companies in entirely different parts of the world coming up with similar ideas at the same time. Had they been big companies, this is when the litigation would start 🙂 Of the two, SearchtoPhone has a slighter edge because the caller maintains his privacy. Having said that, it shouldn’t be too long for Buzzworks to incorporate this feature as well.

I don’t know about what powers SearchToPhone’s software. But in case of Buzzworks it is open source all the way ( Asterisk, openSER and oopen source Voice recognition software). So I am going to take an educated guess that Buzzworks would be the cheaper solution.

The problems I see either of them facing is that they have to work with the service providers and that requires lot of time and patience. On the technology front,  I am not a big fan of Voice recognition software ( yes, that includes leader Nuance as well) and the accuracy is not something I would bet my life on. Buzzworks would have more problems because they are powered by open source ( not sure how stable that would be) and secondly, the dialects/languages in India are so much and I would be surprised if accuracy is more than 20%.

Two companies that I surely will be following for the next few months.

Posted in PROTO, VoIP/IMS | 6 Comments »

Attack of the Big Brother

Posted by tggokul on August 16, 2007

Ram reports that the India government is planning to log all calls from/to all phones. He has raised valid concerns about privacy ( or the lack of it).

This reminds me of one scene in the Simpsons movie releaseed 3 weeks ago), where they show a million guys listening to conversation across America and one guy gets to hear something and shouts out something like “Finally we found something’. There are lot of good things that the Indian government can learn from its American counterpart. Encroachment of privary sure is NOT one of them.

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »