Hypervoice consortium

HyperVoice: Will it change telephony as we know it?

This week I took the opportunity to join a virtual conference introducing ‘hypervoice’.  The webinar demonstrated a new type of collaboration platform (Symposia) that allows you to tag all of the content shared, including the voice.  So what?

Well as explained by one of the Co Founder’s of the HyperVoice consortium, Kelly Fitzsimmons, for some time Kelly had been questioning why it was that you couldn’t share voice online in the same way you can share other social content.  So Kelly’s company

HarQen devised a system for marking up the audio of calls so that it could become searchable and sharable.  Again so what? What’s really the difference between this and just recording or transcribing a call and being able to refer back to it…then the penny dropped.

HyperVoice is a real-time means of seeing, hearing and checking what has been said.  It is also a means to tag important points, so that you can refer back to them once the call is completed (instead of having to play back an entire message). It also allows other parties, who may not have been present on the call to still participate.  They can do this by listening back to the call/conference/webinar and then actually provide input, which the other parties can then go back and listen to.  In this era of global operations, this poses quite a nice solution to trying to schedule calls when everyone can participate across multiple timezones.

I can also see quite a few vertical applications for it within contact centres for example.  Centre managers and coaches can tag important points of a call to highlight for training and quality.  I also see a great opportunity for marketing. It’s a means to make it very easy for customers/prospects listing to/watching a presentation to take a snippet and ‘share’ it!

I don’t know that this is the future of telephony but it is a very intriguing project and I think some interesting products will come from it.

For more information on the HyperVoice project visit http://www.hypervoice.org/

 

New Year

Telephony trends to watch in 2013

The rediscovery of voice

The first trend is the rediscovery of just how ‘useful’ and important voice is an application.  It’s interesting to hear viewpoints from companies who initially dismissed the need for voice in their communications platform yet, on integrating voice, have been surprised at the response from customers – it improves the customer experience.

Today there is certainly a myriad of different ways to connect/communicate. Some of them could be considered to be fundamentally different to using ‘POTS’. On-line self-service via the Web, for example, has rendered a lot of tedious contact centre activity (calling by phone) redundant, which has been a good thing. I’d say that’s a fundamental change. The whole gamut of social media activity, from texting to gaming and from Facebook to tweeting, has altered everyone’s perspective. The important point to consider is that each of these communication methods has its place in terms of when and when to use them to best effect.

But when it comes to ‘talking’ – to someone else – then I think we’ll still be doing that for some time to come. How we do it – physically – is another matter and, already, we’re doing it differently; it’s just that a lot of folks don’t even realise it. Broadband (or more exactly, bandwidth) is the key enabler and signposts the road to disruption (via perdition). Ubiquitous broadband should mean we can connect/communicate any way we can, from anywhere we happen to be, but part of that will still involve talking to another human being. Some of those methods will involve ‘voice’ as an application as we will still wish to talk to customers, colleagues and contacts.

Cloud telephony

This brings us to the second interesting trend. Many telecommunications (using the word in its absolute broadest sense) applications will be delivered via cloud-based platforms, Twilio,Aculab Cloud, for example.  By cloud-based I mean based in the public cloud, not a privately owned data-centre – that’s just hosting dressed up as cloud and will mean a number of the key benefits, such as scalability and redundancy are lost or diluted.

The interesting part is the underlying technology and the falling cost of developing or integrating a telephony system. From an end users perspective, to run an IVR system in the past you would have needed expensive TDM lines (now far less expensive, admittedly; due to competition from e.g., SIP trunks), expensive telephony servers, with specialist telephony cards inside, etc, etc.  These days, there is a switch from CAPEX to OPEX, from hardware to software and increasingly, cloud-based platforms (with high-level APIs) are being seen as viable alternatives. It’s easier to get started (from a development perspective) and it’s easier and cheaper to deploy solutions (from a customer perspective). Cloud-based platforms will also help reduce the costs of deploying technology such as TTS as it allows resources to be pooled and shared.

WebRTC is here to disrupt

November also saw the first GA version of WebRTC, available within Chrome and Yahoo, with a number of WebRTC apps announced such as Twelephone.  WebRTC should not be confused with click-to-call plugins (which are essentially requests for a call), nor should it be confused with web-based telephony clients, which allows for internet telephony but necessitates the download and installation of software.  WebRTC instead presents the ability for people to talk, simply because they are using a particular browser.  Why is WebRTC an important trend to consider? Well in many ways WebRTC is to VoIP that Voip was to TDM.  It will be disruptive, as the barrier to entry for companies with new services is reduced. In addition it opens up what you can do with voice (and indeed video conferencing).  Developers don’t have to be mindful of ‘telephony’ issues such as signalling.  They can just get creative…and a number are already.

Hypervoice is something to watch

Finally we have the concept of Hypervoice, which I touched upon in a previous blog.  It’s all about providing the ability to connect ‘what we say with what we do’.  It is a real-time means of seeing, hearing and checking what has been said.  It is also a means to tag any important points raised during a conference say, so that you can refer back to them once the call is completed (instead of having to play back an entire message). It also allows other parties, who may not have been present on the call to still participate.  They can do this by listening back to the call/conference/webinar and then actually provide input, which the other parties can then go back and listen to.  In this era of global operations, this poses quite a nice solution to trying to schedule calls when everyone can participate across multiple timezones.

One thing for sure, as a new wave of developers are able to enter the market and build-in voice or telephony to their applications, so new life is being breathed into the telephony market.  Voice is a killer app once again.

 

Telepgraph pole

When will the PSTN die?

How much time will it take to completely phase out PSTN networks and use VoIP as the de-facto telephony standard? Ten years, twenty? Never? Despite the maturity of VoIP as a technology, you will still hear the argument that PSTN has dedicated bandwidth as opposed to VoIP that runs on shared bandwidth.  The point is made that the latter is unreliable on public networks, such as the Internet.

Perhaps the first point to make is that VoIP isn’t a telephony standard.  There are many ways to implement VoIP; some are standards-based e.g., H.323, some are recommendations e.g., SIP 2.0 (IETF RFC 3261) and the emerging WebRTC standard, and some are proprietary e.g., Skype.  Nevertheless, the practice of handling voice over public IP networks is the future and will supplant the PSTN in time as it becomes the norm – the standard way of doing things, if you like.

It’s happening right now, but the tipping point isn’t going to be reached anytime soon, although that depends on what you’re
measuring.  In terms of the existing PSTN infrastructure, there is no compelling need to strip out technology that is doing its job perfectly well.  And the fact that enterprises, in particular, lack confidence in the QoS that VoIP is seen to offer vs. the public network (much of it unjustified), will only serve to slow the migration further and defer the tipping point.

More new VoIP equipment is now being deployed than new TDM-based equipment, that’s for certain and has been so for some time as the network providers build-out, expand and enhance their networks using new IP-based technology, rather than invest in more cumbersome, monolithic, proprietary, innovation-unfriendly and legacy TDM-based equipment. VoIP is being rolled out and operating alongside legacy networks, which are stagnant,and the tipping point will occur when the former outstrips the latter in terms
of global coverage.

The time when more VoIP than TDM equipment is in place, is fast approaching, but in terms of the PSTN being completely phased out worldwide, I think 10 years is optimistic…but it will happen.