I’m sorry to report that the 2008 O’Reilly Emerging Telephony conference has been cancelled. From the conference web site:
Due to changed circumstances since ETel 2008 was announced, we have decided not to move forward with the conference this year.
O’Reilly continues to be committed to exploring this space, and we welcome your interest and contributions to the conversation. Share ideas with us by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will also be winding down publishing on this site. It has been extremely interesting and rewarding for me to be involved with the ETel community these past couple of years, and I really appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to interact with you all. Thanks very much for your participation and support. I’ve learned a great deal and I know that the ideas and topics we’ve covered here will continue to push the communications envelope in many different ways. I’m sorry this site won’t be one of the places where this discussion continues, but I look forward to working with all the people I’ve met from the ETel site and conferences on other projects down the road.
An interesting move by Digium today as they’ve announced the acquisition of Switchvox, a provider of SMB IP PBX systems. Digium has an informative FAQ up on its site about the deal. This move gives Digium a turnkey SMB system, something they really needed, especially as competition for Asterisk-based systems has started to heat up. Switchvox has put a lot of energy into developing friendly and usable systems, something that Asterisk is not known for. Switchvox systems can also integrate with major CRM systems “out of the box”, an important need for many businesses today.
Digium is making a concerted effort to assure the open source telecom community that they are in no way abandoning their ideals of an open Asterisk, and there is a lot of language in that FAQ speaking to that. Most interesting perhaps, is this bit:
Digium’s plan is to take selected elements of the Switchvox solution and contribute them back to the open source community to enhance Asterisk as well as migrate Asterisk features forward into Switchvox.
Dan York has the best write-up on the deal so far, and I think he’s right on the money with this bit:
To me, what is far more compelling is that Digium just bought themselves a whole group of people who “get” the world of “unified communications”, business process integration, Web 2.0 mashups, etc.
Digium has had no story at all around “presence” within its core offerings. Now it does. While Asterisk has always been a platform play where you have the ability to integrate Asterisk with other apps, doing so has not exactly been for the faint-of-heart. Hire yourself some programmers and you can do pretty much anything with Asterisk… but that’s not something that many businesses want to get into. SwitchVox now gives Digium a way to do easy integration with databases and web sites. The integrations to Salesforce.com and SugarCRM are slick. The Google Maps popup is a seriously cool mashup! (And where is that on the roadmap of the mainstream vendors?)
Propel, the company behind the most widely used Internet accelerator by ISPs has just announced an interesting new product for consumers who want to manage their own bandwidth usage. The Propel Personal Bandwidth Manager (PBM) could be especially relevant for people who use Skype or other voip services and have experienced voice quality issues with their existing set up. As David Murray, Propel’s president and CEO notes, there are many apps these days that use your network connection, and they don’t always play nicely together. It’s certainly in a user’s best interest to be able to prioritize things like voice or streaming video above file transfers, bit torrents, and other non-urgent network apps, and it looks like PBM could be a great tool for this.
Propel’s PBM has an automatic mode where it will make it’s own decisions about which apps should get prioity bandwidth and how much in the background, and Murray expects this plug and play mode will satisfy the majority of users. To keep current with the various apps that deserve some level of prioritization, PBM works with a continually updated definition file, much like anti-virus programs. There is also a Traffic Monitor feature that displays your current system network usage in a Task Manager-style window and gives users more information about what exactly is using bandwidth.
It’s amazing to me that this product doesn’t already exist. (I know there are plenty of ways for technical people to monitor their network connection and bandwidth use, but I’m not aware of any simple products for average consumers). Propel’s PBM was shown publicly for the first time this week at the prestigious DEMO conference. It’s still in an invitation-only beta right now, but the Windows version is expected to be released sometime this fall.
Truphone participated in this year’s prestigious DEMO conference and the highlight of their presentation was showing off the running of their voip service on Apple’s iPhone. Andy Abramson has all of the details, as well as a video of the iPhone demonstration.
It will be interesting to see how (and if) Apple responds to Truphone. It looks like Apple has decided to start playing hardball with the hacking community that has so quickly sprung up around the iPhone, and it’s certainly plausible that AT&T is pushing Apple in that direction that as they stand to lose the most with the widespread use of iPhone unlocking software that’s currently under fire. Of course, they also stand to lose money if voip applications become popular on the device. It sure seems like a losing battle though, we’ve seen the first voip app for the iPhone now but it won’t be the last.
If you are not aware, Vodafone UK recently decided to remove the User-Agent field from the mobile browser headers. This means a web developer can’t tell if the user browsing to their mobile site is coming from a mobile device or from the PC. In my opinion, shared by many others, this will have many adverse effects on all companies that rely on delivering customized content to each user’s device.
Vodafone has done this to maintain the walled garden, essentially take control. They are maintaining a whitelist of partners where they will deliver the mobile optimized site; this means if you are not on the white-list, then your site will go through the Vodafone transcoder and likely render much uglier than your mobile optimized site.
However, Vodafone UK is allowing startups to apply to the whitelist program but this of course means that your service is subject to Vodafone, meaning an off-deck mobile content download site would probably be rejected.
I’m hoping this doesn’t perpetuate to other operators; this is the walled-garden at its worst.
A recently published patent is causing significant speculation that Google may be entering the mobile payment space with a simple system that utilizes SMS messages to effectuate mobile payment transactions. Coverage of the patent can be found at SEOptimize, as well as at Ars Technica. The full patent application is here.
Much of the coverage suggests this application might part of the build up to a ‘GPhone’. However, I’m skeptical. With the entry of everyone from Bank of America to Paypal into mobile banking, it seems only logical that someone at Google would seek to establish a presence in this emerging market. The claims in the patent application make little to no reference to an application - refering simply to SMS messaging - suggesting this patent application may be independent of any GPhone that Google may be contemplating.
In either case, Google’s work in the mobile payment space continues to validate the emergence of mobile payments as a potentially mainstream application. While I feel there may yet be identity and other security issues that must be addressed, such a system could significantly lower the overhead small business owners face in processing credit and debit card payments today.
The Worldwide Lexicon, an open source project I have led for several years, recently published a suite of collaborative translation tools that enable you or your readers to create, edit and share translations to and from almost any human language. We have been testing the system throughout the summer, and in this article I explain how you can use WWL to make your site or content accessible in many languages.
WWL applies the concept of user generated content, similar to systems like Wikipedia, to the task of creating, improving and sharing translations for texts. The system does not use machine translation, but instead relies on people. Human language demands people to comprehend it, and while machine translation has improved, even accurate machine translations are not usually enjoyable to read. The key insight in WWL is that a website that has an audience will have bilingual readers, often without knowing it. These people are both interested in and more knowledgeable about the subject matter, so some of them will be willing to translate it, whether for goodwill or for money. WWL creates a simple way for a website’s readers to contribute, edit and share translations.
We began testing the system with a Word Press plug-in this summer, and have since released PHP libraries, as well as a Firefox extension. More tools are planned for release soon. The system is open source, and we are encouraging developers to embed this process in a wide range of platforms. The ultimate goal is to make collaborative translation a checkbox option on most publishing platforms, so that anyone who wants to be accessible can be. Since the release of the Word Press plug in, WWL has logged users in 107 countries representing some 50 languages, with over two-thirds of the users coming from outside the United States, suggesting a pent up demand for multilingual publishing tools.
WWL is easy to incorporate into a wide variety of web services. In this article, I’ll describe how to use the different tools we’ve created so far, and how they can be adapted for custom use.
O’Reilly author and ETel regular Brian McConnell has just published a thought provoking essay, The End Of The Language Barrier. Brian is the the leader of the Worldwide Lexicon project, which we’ve highlighted here before. He predicts that the language barrier, at least for published content, will be history in less than three years. In his essay, he argues that the real breakthrough is social, not technological, and that people will organize themselves to create and share translations for interesting web content, much as they already participate in collaborative systems like Wikipedia. If his essay is any sign of things to come (it has already been translated into 5 languages), this is a trend worth watching.
The MVNO market is a tough one, and most companies who have tried to make it work have flamed out. Amp’d was the most recent MVNO to go belly-up, after burning through $360 million. There’s a relatively new entrant in the field that just got some backing called Kajeet, which is targeting the “tweener” market. (For those unfamiliar with the term, “tweener” is the new term for “pre-teen”). Kajeet has just announced that they have received $36.8 million in Series B venture capital funding led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson Growth Fund.
From the press release:
kajeet is the first pay-as-you-go cell phone service made from a kid’s point of view. Unique among pay-as-you-go services, the kajeet Configurator offers numerous ways for tweens, teens and their families to tailor the service to meet their needs. kajeet lets tweens and teens customize their mobile experience in ways that suit their world while offering their parents comfort about the role mobile technology plays in their lives. The kajeet service and phones are available at Best Buy, Limited Too and Longs Drugs Stores and at www.kajeet.com.
I’m curious about this “demanding niche market.” Do others see this as a large untapped demographic for mobile operators? I’m the father of a tweener, and so far we haven’t allowed him to have a cell phone (though he has definitely been asking). I don’t think having the option of a tweener-oriented MVNO and it’s associated feature set will change my opinion about my child’s need for a cell phone, but maybe other parents feel differently? Let us know in the comments.
With the last few days breathless reporting of Nokia and Apple’s various product launches, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important factors for mobility…power! There’s been a pair of interesting battery developments in recent weeks.
First up, Trevor Baylis (inventor of the clockwork radio) launched the Eco Media Player, an iPod-esque handheld portable digital media player that gives 40 minutes of audio playback from a minute of winding (imagine what kinda power MPEG clips’ll need!).
The fact that wind-up technology is finding its way into mobile technology is noteworthy, particularly as sporadic power is one of the key issues for users of mobile handsets in the developing world. However, Baylis’ talents might have been better spend creating a universal wind-up charger for existing mobile devices…would you rather have an Eco Media Player or an iPhone with an optional wind up charger?
In other developments, researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have fashioned a combination battery/super-capacitor from carbon nanotubes and paper which means the batteries can be ‘printed’ into any shape with no loss of efficiency and indeed ’stacked’ to enhance output…and get this, it can also be fueled by blood, sweat or urine!
Find out more at…
ok… more on the geotagging photos sent to flickr via shozu and my Nokia N95 GPS-enabled smartphone. I’ve recently been doing some research to figure out exactly how to geotag my photos, and get them up on flickr then view on a map. From the outside looking it one would think, “no problemmo”, however, things are not often as simple as they would seem. Luckily there’s a couple of good third party apps that work very well. Those of you that depend on out of the box functionality that wil accomplish this will have to try again!
LiveContacts localizer now supports nokia N95 - plots mobile locations on Google maps
Well, its been some time since I’ve added any updates… my bad! To catch up I’m glad to share some of my Nokia N95 tales, tips, and otherwise interesting discoveries.. enjoy!
While it takes Nokia’s marketing department to task, this rather off-color comparison of the E70 to the iPhone from maddox’s The Best Page in the Universe has to be causing some smiles back in Finland. I’m having trouble finding a suitable passage to quote here on our family-friendly site, but suffice to say he really doesn’t like the iPhone…
I saw many interesting speech technology and telephony-related innovations at SpeechTek last week, but here’s one that’s at the top. Jonathan Tyler, CEO of Voxeo, gave me a personal demo of their new integrated BusinessVoIP service.
Some background. Voxeo is a hosted services provider for speech recognition, text-to-speech, and related services. They handle both inbound and outbound calls. Voxeo also provides a free download of their SIP-based platform, called Prophecy, and they just released version 8. (Disclosure: Voxeo and I have a business relationship, and many of my clients use their hosted and server platforms.)
For some time Voxeo has been providing BusinessVoIP to allow developers to send/receive PSTN traffic, but with this new release they include a new level of integration. If you go online to your hosted account and select an application that’s hosted, you can determine how the traffic for this hosted application is routed: to the hosted platform; to your servers; or it can be routed to your servers with an overflow/failover to the hosted platform.
Not bad for a free-to-developers service. I’m looking forward to the full rollout of this service; it solves the problem of hosted vs. servers very neatly.
Dan York broke the news from VoiceCon that IBM has just announced its acquisition of WebDialogs, maker of the popular Unyte web conferencing and collaboration software that works in conjunction with Skype (and other platforms). I think that’s great news for WebDialogs and the Skype ecosystem, and a smart move by IBM. We featured WebDialogs in a recent ETel article, Skype Developer Program: A Tale of Pioneering and Persevering, about their successful partnership with Skype. They clearly see the value in working with developer programs like Skype’s (even when it can be very challenging at times), and I think are now reaping some of the rewards for that kind of forward thinking.
The Call for Participation for our next Emerging Telephony conference is now open. This is my favorite conference of the year, and not just because I work for O’Reilly. ETel has become a showcase for the most interesting and innovative things happening in telecommunications. We welcome plenary submissions for our audience of people who, like you, are pushing through the boundaries of communications into new ways of thinking and doing. Topics will be centered around the innovations and projects occurring at the intersection of voice, instant messaging, the mobile ecosystem, and the Web. ETel will be held March 3-4 in San Diego, California. The deadline to submit a proposal to speak at ETel is September 17, 2007.
The latest news from Skype about their recent major outage is pointing the finger towards the autmatic Windows Update feature. Well, to be fair, they are actually blaming a “a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm which prevented the self-healing function from working quickly.” But the latest post on the Skype blog indicates that the chain reaction was initiated when a large number of Skype clients were rebooted in the same timeframe, due to a routine Windows Update.
While it does seem plausible that a massive concurrent restart of Skype clients could cause some grief for Skype’s network, that doesn’t explain why it took 2 days to restore service. And I’m also left wondering why previous Windows Updates haven’t caused similar problems. What do you think, is there more to this story?
A troika of ETel alumni - Martin Geddes, Dr. Norman Lewis & Keith Wallington - were recently interviewed as part of a panel session at Telecom TV…
…the highlight of the 22-minute show? Norman’s characterisation of the prior ‘Soviet’ model of telephony :)
I have been a T-Mobile customer for several years, and while I have had issues with their customer service (like all phone companies, it’s trying) I have been happy with their phone service. As phone companies go, they are an innovative company, and have done a great job carving a niche out for themselves among the youth and small business markets. This week, I upgraded to their new Hotspot@Home product, and while the iPhone has been sucking all of the air out of the room in recent weeks, I concluded that this is a much more disruptive, and useful, service that other carriers will be wise to watch.
So over the past several months, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time following, reading and developing widgets for a variety of platforms. I’ve classified widgets into three platforms:
1. Web - These would be widgets you would embed or develop for portals such as Myspace, iGoogle, Netvibes or Facebook
2. Desktop - These tend to be more full-featured widgets since they operate on the desktop; examples include the Google sidebar, Yahoo Konfabulator or Vista widgets
3. Mobile - This would include a variety of mobile widget platforms including Nokia’s Widsets or ULocate’s Where.com
Anyways, in 9 months of widget development and exploration, this is what I’ve noticed:
1. When designing my widget, I need to optimize for different tiers. I design a medium-tier version for the web where I may not have a lot of CPU or access to certain functionality. I design and build a lower-end version for the mobile and a high-end version for the desktop.
2. For each platform (web, desktop, mobile), I’ve had to port across a variety of vendors - in some cases, this may take as long as a week.
3. More recently, some of my widgets were being denied submission for failing to meet certain style guidelines such as title color or font.
4. I signed agreements with some vendors to gain access to special functionality such as access to location information or file-system access on the computer.
5. Once I submitted my widget into the provider’s directory, promotion and discovery became another major hurdle
Tim Panton, Westhawk’s Technical Director and one of this year’s keynoters at ETel, has just informed me of the launch of a closed, thousand user trial for their Phone from HERE service, based on the Corraleta technology demonstrated at ETel.
Registering for the beta, adds a new link to your LinkedIn profile, from which contacts can call you - from directly within your browser.
You can call Tim, using the demo link on his profile - simply click Call Me FREE with Corraleta, ‘trust’ the applet being installed and make sure you have a mic plugged in :)
I called Tim using this link and was surprised at the call quality and user experience - it works and it sounds pretty good! The beta won’t incur any costs or reveal your number but includes 50 minutes of talk time. Sign up at http://www.phonefromhere.com/talk/register1.xsql and let Tim know what you think.
I’d be interested to hear from ETel readers on the applications of this technology, where it might be deployed and most importantly, the user experience. Is voice now just a feature?
Ace! Someone’s fulfilled my wish for a user-generated mobile coverage map!
The newly launched SignalMap (thanks Gizmodo!) allows users in the US to see how Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile subscribers rate their coverage quality, on a Google Map. Of course, you can also add your own reception markers to the maps.
Unfortunately, the service only covers the US and a handful of carriers - but as the creators say ‘beta is an understatement’ ;)
Wired’s cute article on Ten Reasons To Throw Away Your Cellphone is unintentionally funnier each time I visit the page.
Right after reason 10 - It turns you into a public annoyance - there’s a large ad box variously showing O2 and Blackberry banner ads… oops!
The article’s worth a quick scan - if only to help us nod self-righteously in agreement, just before caressing an iPhone ‘Add To Basket’ button ;)