My Bedroom – Your Call Center

In the mid 80s I saw my first call center in Atlanta, GA. While I can’t remember why I was in Atlanta, I definitely remember the impressive tour. Seats for 400 agents were set in a theater like hall. The CEO of the company sat on a raised platform and oversaw his troops.

While such call centers still do exist, many have moved to a much more cozy atmosphere, your bedroom. Working from home, is a win win situation for both companies and employees. VoIP services have enabled home workers for a few years already, but until recently they did not fully emulate the call center functionality such as what I saw 20 years ago in Atlanta.

In addition to sophisticated queue routing capabilities, call centers must have management tools so
managers can track calls status in real time. At the Flat Planet Phone Company, we have recognized these needs. We have developed two solutions for customers who want to deploy distributed home based call centers.

First, we have enhanced the basic Flat Planet Hosted PBX to include enhanced queue management, Call Spying and Call Whispering. These 2 functions let a manager listen on an agents call and talk to the agent without the customer hearing the manager.
These functions are now included for free in the standard FPP Hosted PBX.

Today we are taking the solution to the next level. We are integrating with a 3rd party solution that includes central real time graphs & reports, so the manager can see how employees worldwide are handling there calls, without intruding into the privacy of the employees bedroom…

Now you can have your cake and eat it too! Allow your workers to work from the comfort of home, but still be in control. A great solution for the current economy.

Please don’t pick your nose, you may be on camera….

In the summer of 68, my father was a volunteer at the Democratic convention in Chicago. While the convention made history due to the violence that erupted around it, I remember it for a different reason. My father came home after the first day at the convention and told us how there was a note on each seat “Please do not pick your nose, you may be on camera”….

Fast Forward 40 years, cameras are everywhere. No matter where you go, you can not escape being filmed. Surveillance cameras are everywhere! Without thinking too much, I recall 3 recent events that were recorded on camera.

The most famous was the landing of the plane on the Hudson River.

Last week a terror attack on a Jerusalem expressway by a tractor driver was filmed by highway surveillance cameras ending with the shooting of the attacker.

Sad but funny is a video that caught a number of robbers breaking into a jewelry store in Jerusalem, while an armed guard points his gun at them. That doesn’t fluster the robbers and they throw a plate of glass at him and take off with baskets of gold!

The world has changed, no longer do we need to be reminded that we may be on camera, we are!

How does this affect your life?

Why I Removed The Twitter App For Facebook

Luca made an interesting point today:

It is very useful when you just update Twitter a couple of times during the day, with messages like “Lunch”, “Dinner”, “Office” or “I wonder why You Exist”. On the contrary, if you use Twitter intensely as I’ve been doing for the past weeks, it becomes a real pain for your Facebook friends. I’ll tell you why.Why I Removed The Twitter App For Facebook, Mar 2009

 

Quick & Dirty Summary of Ecomm by Dean Bubley

For those of us, who didn’t make it, Dean’s summary is enlightening!

I’ve been pretty saturated with the content from the presentations over the last three days, plus chatting to a broad range of people, some familiar friends and some newcomers.

It’s difficult to pick out specific highlights, especially as some of the coolest stuff I’ve heard before. But some of the things that stick in the mind are:

* An endless procession of telecom web API platform providers, all of whom are talking about cool mashups, CEBP and assorted other voice apps. Ribbit, Jaduka (under new CEO-ship of Mr Mashup Thomas Howe), Adhearsion, IfByPhone, Voxeo, Metaswitch and others. All pretty cool, although they still seem to me to be very fixed-voice focused.
* iPhones everywhere. OK, there’s huge uptake of them in the US, and they are very cool. But addressing the Apple market is still only a tiny slice of the world mobile phone user base.
* Surprisingly little about handset web runtimes & widgets
* A cool service called TokTok from DiTech Networks, which injects voice commentary as an extra overlay into live phone calls – allowing voice interruptions or whispers while you’re on a live call (“Your football team just scored!”) etc
* A supercool presentation from Ge Wang of Smule – the company that does the “lighter” app for iPhones. They do really clever things with the audio on the device, which also means they can do apps like the Ocarina flute, for which you blow into the handset microphone
* Rebelvox, which has an interesting “timeshifting” voice technology, which essentially acts as a hybrid between push-to-talk and voice messaging and telephony. This is essentially another form of “non-telephony” VoIPo3G.
* Lots of the usual rhetoric about net neutrality, lobbying on fibre and spectrum etc. It’s always worth getting a reminder about how competition just doesn’t work in US telecoms – and how much resentment the various carriers seem to be able to garner. Coming from the UK, with copper, cable, fibre, 5 3G operators and 20+ wholesale/unbundled local loop operators I still find it hard to get too exercised by this whole issue. Although I agree with Brough Turner that it would be nice to find a way to push 100Mbit/s to everyone.
* I still find it difficult to get excited – or even vaguely interested – by Twitter. Although I can’t justify it yet as it’s still growing, I’m enjoying using the term “legacy Twitter” just to annoy the more evangelical enthusiasts. (I also like terms like “legacy IMS” and “tyranny of the SIM card” – religious extremists usually have the least sense of humour about these sorts of things, so deserve to be wound-up occasionally). By next year’s eComm, I expect to be able to say Legacy Twitter without the irony.
* A couple of speakers (including Alan Duric from Telio) have shown really cool fixed IP-screenphones for use at home. Someone else showed one from Verizon. I think that these sort of terminals (with integrated web services on a decent-sized screen, and useable videocomms) could well extend the life of the “landline” despite the usual “cutting the cord” rhetoric prevalent this side of the Pond.
* I’ve seen absolutely nothing new here to suggest that Android will be important, especially in 2009/2010. As before, I think it’s foolish to write off Google, but I still can’t see the appeal or relevance of the platform to anyone except a few developers excited by the prospect of open source.
* Some good commentary from Google’s Washington counsel about net neutrality – “network netrality is about the outcome, not the path”. Basically saying it doesn’t need extra regulation -pointing out that most broadband providers currently don’t mess about with access pipes.
* Fascinating presentation from Cullen Jennings from Cisco about the possibility of network operators limiting the numbers of TCP connections per user, as a sort of back-door way to do traffic and application management.
* The Calliflower platform from Iotum looked highly usable as way to do easy web-based teleconferencing and collaboration. I might actually try this out myself.
* Fonolo’s “deep dialling” into IVR systems is still cool (as it was at least year’s eComm)
* Interesting discussions & presentations about new approaches to spectrum management – especially extending beyond the “white space” paradigm to a better way of reclaiming and exploiting underused spectrum, even if it is currently licenced to someone. A lot of this seems to revolve around US issues in rural areas that are underserved by fixed broadband. As a native central Londoner I tend to switch off when people start talking about rural connectivity, but I recognise that the US has quite low population density so clearly this is an important topic here.
* Skype announced its free licencing of its wideband codec, which seemed well-received among people I spoke to
* Interesting presentation about “natural interfaces” from Microsoft, plus a great future-looking video, revolving heavily around e-paper, touchscreens, speech input etc.

Conference Call with Thomas Howe of Jaduka

Hear Thomas talk yesterday at eComm how they are bringing voice to existing enterprise applications.
http://apps.calliflower.com/conf/show/46956

Thomas explains what makes them different from all the other API Telephony companies. In a sentence – Jaduka is “dropping voice into business processes”. Listen to the recording, you will learn a lot about where the business market is going.

DIDx Executive banned from Germany

The last and only time I was at CEBIT was about 15 years ago, and I have no plans to go again. But it seems from the email I received today that Germany does not welcome those who do want to come to the mega exhibition. Even someone who is well known in the VoIP industry. Here is an email that I received this morning. Weird. It would be interesting to hear the other side, though I doubt if the German Embassy reads my blog…

Dear M Maeir,

We are sorry to inform you that our team from DIDX will not be exhibiting in the Cebit 2009 show and nor will be speaking at the event.

The reason for this is the denial of visa to our company’s CTO and President. By the Government of Germany for the participation, saying that we did not present enough evidence for a legitimate travel to Germany, even though the payment receipts and invoices of the exhibition booth were attached, along with supporting letter from Cebit CEO and US Commercial Councilor in Germany.

We apologize for this last moment cancellation, but the German Embassy replied after almost 3 weeks of application, and meeting with our staff 4 times and asking for further evidence.

We hope to see you in dozen’s of other events in future, list of which is available on www.didx.net/events/

2009 – The Year of the Telephony API

Today is the first day of Ecomm. This is a conference on steroids, from what I can follow on twitter, every 7 minutes someone is presenting new ideas, new services and new startups.

My friend Dan York has been hinting the last few days about a big announcement from his company Voxeo. At 12:27pm PST today they launched at Ecomm, their new “cloud API for telephony” – Tropo.com.

With Tropo developers can with very small effort and a few lines of codes integrate telephone services into their app. For example build a IVR in a couple of minutes and then run it in the Tropo cloud. No need to buy phone numbers, servers, bandwidth or offices… My only issue is that their charge of 3 cents seems a little steep to me

It seems that with the advent of APIs from companies such as ifbyphone, jaduka, ribbit, lypp (where did they go?), cloud processing of telephony applications is coming of age. 2009 is the year of the Telephony API!

Big News – Thomas Howe joins Jaduka

When we met last month in Miami, Thomas hinted to me that he was about to make a big move. Well yesterday the news came out that he is joining NetworkIP subsidiary, Jaduka as CEO. Some of you may ask Ja-who? So here is some details of the company as described by Alec Saunders

Historically a player that has shunned the limelight, NetworkIP nevertheless built a solid business – 6 billion minutes of traffic annual — on providing hosted calling card services to vendors wishing to develop retail products without needing to buy infrastructure. Last year, NetworkIP announced Jaduka – a subsidiary focused on monetizing the infrastructure built by NetworkIP in a different way. Instead of providing hosted calling card services, Jaduka would deliver voice services to enterprise via APIs that could be integrated with business processes.

There is no question about it that Thomas, definitely one of the smartest people I have met since I started my VoIP adventure is the man for the job. As Andy Abramson wrote

Mr. Mashup. He’s the king and well documented here in the past for his accomplishments. He’s also the former CTO of Comverse and well versed in more than just telephony. Thomas gets data. He nails business process cold. A solid two way player, Howe would be as comfortable in the executive suite as in the lab, as his infectious personality, quick mind and agile programming ability makes him a consistent high scorer.

Unfortunately I can not make it to Ecomm this year, so I will salute him from here. Good luck my friend and bon voyage!