Monthly Archives: March 2008

Mobile 2.0 Perspective

There are quite a few roundups you can get on the web regarding “Mobile 2.0” or “Phone 2.0” or even “Telco 2.0”. Rudy De Waele of m-trends gives regular presentations on Mobile 2.0 at various conferences, as well as blogging on the topic at m-trends. I think his latest presentation is a great introduction to the whole area, and for the most part, it can stand alone, although I know the value is greatly enhanced if you can listen to the man himself run through these slides.

eComm Part 7: FonCloud / Fonolo – mapping the “dark matter” of the phone system

Shai Berger from Fonolo gave a very entertaining talk at eComm about their new service being launched later this year. What they do is (to me) pretty wacky: they “spider” the phone system. In an analogous way to how web spiders crawl websites to assemble linklists, Fonolo’s “crawls” the IVR systems of some of the world’s leading companies.

That’s right – they actually dial them and navigate the system, using a mixture of automated dialling, speech recognition, DTMF and recording, followed by some “post production” analysis in certain cases by human beings.

The result?

Fonolo

They create a map of what they call “phonespace” – in effect a map of the IVR nooks and crannies of (say) American Airlines, or Amex, or other mainstream Fortune 500 companies that have a high touch-rate with consumers over the phone.

Having built the map of phonespace, what can I do with it? Well, if you’ve ever wanted to skip the pre-amble propaganda advertisement that often greets you when you arrive at someone’s IVR system (“Welcome toMegaCorp, the home of the fluffiest widgets in the world, with our new Fall Season Lemur widgets now available!”) while you’re thinking, “I just want to cancel my order!!”, and get straight to the section you’re interested in , then Fonolo may be for you.

Having registered with Fonolo, you select the section of the target IVR you seek (say, change of address), and wait. Fonolo triggers a call to the target IVR, navigates to the relevant section on your behalf, and then calls you when it’s arrived at that section. You just wait for the call, then carry on once Fonolo connects you. They call this “deep dialling” – in effect – going straight to the section that you want within a labryinthine IVR system – and it’s a very interesting idea.

And that’s not all. It also creates a call history of all the calls you make, so that you end up with a record of all the calls you made, when you made them, what section you called, and so on. And even better, it records the calls so that you have a permanent record of the interaction! I can think of several customer service experiences where I would loved to have had a recording of the call. I suspect you can too.

All in all – pretty wacky, and I like it. I do worry about several things with regard to this service

  • Being able to cover enough of the relevant target destinations for people (mapping enough terrain)
  • Keeping the map of phonespace up to date (there’s likely to be regular changes to IVRs, or even deliberate changes when and if the company detects it’s being spidered and decides to “fight back”)

Despite these potential issues, I really like the idea, and am keen to give it a try when the beta is open to the public. I’ll report back once I’ve taken the tour.

eComm Part 6: FireEagle

FireEagle presented at eComm a few weeks back. I like this service. I saw an initial pitch about it at the FOWA event in London last year, and have followed it since then. It’s quite simple, at a high level: decouple your location from (say) a device or some web site or web service that knows where you are, and offer your location instead to FireEagle. FireEagle is itself a web service with an API (as opposed to trying to be a destination website). It sits there on the internet and does two main things that you can control in some detail:

  1. How and from where Fireagle might regularly acquire your location
  2. How, when and to whom FireEagle might share your location

That’s it in a nutshell. Turns out this can have many potential practical uses, and be quite powerful. To see it in their own words – take a look at the presentation (key slides for an exec summary are 20 and 21). We have some interesting thoughts about how to use this with Dial2Do.

eComm part 5: VoxBone and iNums

Great article here on VoxBone’s announcement about iNums at eComm. I had planned to write this announcement up as part of my eComm post-match analysis, but now I don’t need to 🙂

eComm Part 4: Ribbit

Yes, I know they describe themselves as “Silicon Valley’s First Phone Company” which for some reason comes across to me as a little bit smug, or something. But Ribbit is well worth a look, and had one of the better sessions at eComm.

Crick Waters from Ribbit gave the pitch, and man, he packed a lot in! He had an incredible number of both web pages and widgets set up to show off the power of the Ribbit platform, and the new Amphibian service they recently announced. And fair play to him – they all worked well, all ran smoothly, and he fitted it in the allotted time. Bonus points for that!

So – what’s Ribbit all about? Well – it’s a few things right now, which could be both an asset and a problem wrt positioning. Here’s my take, mingled with some of my notes from the talk, plus some experience with the APIs and Developer pack.

  • It’s a telephony platform designed for developers from the ground up. So, take a regular telephone company, subtract 99% of the employees and all of the end users (called subscribers in telephone-land), keep a small cutting-edge element of core telecom technology (oh, say, a Lucent certified carrier grade CLASS 5 soft switch), then add a Web 2 layer of goodness on top, and you have yourself the basis of a platform. Offer a rich API to web developers, and they can start creating web applications that have telephony functionality stitched right in, so that calls and texts can be triggered, received, and even transcribed as part of the application flow. The API looks pretty well thought through for a version 1 release, and contains lots of the typical functional goodies that we like to see, such as call control, messaging and even some transcription capability. More on this when we’ve got something up and running using it.
  • It’s a company composed of “netheads and bellheads” – as in – Telecom Industry veterans and Internet Industry (Software) people. Often in conflict, these groups tend to be mixing it up these days and creating some of the next-gen communication players.
  • One of the interesting user-facing aspects of the offering is that Ribbit made a decision to go with Flex from early on – the Rich Internet Apps platform from Adobe (as they say – “expressive” internet applications. That was probably a brave move when they called it (a year or so back), which now looks pretty enlightened. Flex lets you create some very swish stuff in the browser, and it seems to have some momentum behind it.
  • It’s a telephony service that you, me or anyone with a phone can use. Well – Amphibian is. It has a range of GrandCentral (one number for life, acquired by Google) features in there, plus a bunch of others that take advantage of the Ribbit platform. Looks very attractive, but can’t see how I sign up right now. Will report back when I’ve had a chance to take it for a spin. In reality – Amphibian looks to me like a showcase for what Ribbit can do. In effect, it highlights one of the dilemmas that anyone launching a platform has: platforms are boring. The nerds look and the platform and go “cool”. Others tend to go : “so uh, what could I do with that?”. Amphibian answers that question by showing one possible viable business that can run on the Ribbit platform. The model is a monthly subscription plus additional costs for value-adds (such as transcriptions).

If I step back far enough from both the platform and the service, I think I hear Ribbit saying: “See the way GrandCentral was bought for $50M by Google? Well Ribbit lets you knock out 100 such services in double quick time, because it’s a platform“. All in all – Ribbit looks very, very interesting. I think if they really take off, you’ll hear less about Amphibian because, if they succeed, they’ll spawn (sorry) a thousand such services/businesses that will drive traffic and revenue through their platform. Ambitious, and very cool.

DevJam, Mobile 2.0 and Dial2Do next week @ CTIA

DevJam

Next week the Dial2Do team will be in Las Vegas for CTIA 2008. We’re kicking off the week by taking part in the Mobile Jam Session, where we’ll be discussing everything to do with “Mobile 2.0”. If you’re in to anything to do with Mobile meets the Web2 ecosystem, then get yourself over there and pitch in. The Jam sessions are primarily for developers, are very relaxed and informal, and some great people turn up and participate. It’s free and you can sign up on the website.

We’ll be in LasVegas for the week, and we’ll be exhibiting our wares and showing off Dial2Do in action on our stand (The Ireland Pavilion) at Stand 627-G. If you’d like to meet up – drop us a line at help “at” dial2do “dot” com.

Stop by, say hello. We’ll give you a demo and maybe even buy you a coffee. If it’s later in the day we might even nab a beer 🙂

eComm Part 3: FrogDesign and the Singularity

Mark Ralston of Frog Design gave an excellent talk, with beautiful slides, at eComm last week. I’d heard of Frog Design before – their reputation precedes them.

He had a couple of key things to say, the chief of which I think is this: we may have just witnessed, with the iPhone, a “Windows 95” moment. That is, a moment when a shift occurred, and there’s “no going back”. In the case of Windows 95, this was “no going back to non-Windows-based computing, command lines, etc” and where perhaps the appeal of the PC was irrevocably broadened and shifted for good.

In the case of phones, it’s possibly about what a phone actually is any more. When you use it to email, surf, play music, IM, take photos, check stocks, check weather, play chess, games, and a zillion other stoopid and entertaining things, and, oh yeah, make phone calls, is it really a phone (as we used to know it), or is it something we still call a phone, but now irrevocably different? Discuss 🙂

Validation for his perspective comes from many places, including the fact that Nokia, the leading phone manufacturer in the world, has been telling anyone who’ll listen that it’s a computer company now.

I think what Mark was getting at is that the “it” – phone, communicator, tiny-computer-that-fits-in-my-shirt-pocket or whatever-you’re-having-yourself has now firmly stepped away (for good) from its roots as “phone” – a thing I make calls with. And that has consequences, not just in the design and conceptual area where Mark operates.

I’ve heard many carriers/operators discuss the iPhone as a “game changer” and use phrases like “raising the bar” and so on. In their own way I think, this is what they’re getting at: there’s no going back to phones as “just phones”, or phones as “primarily a phone, that can also surf”.

Another talk well worth checking out when the video is up there on the eComm site.