Caught in the Crossfire

September 01, 2011

If I Had a Million Dollars: Applying Concepts like Presence to the Legacy Wireline World

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2011 issue of Next Gen Mobility

VCs know a very important truth: “It’s not the idea, it’s the management that counts.” The problem is that often a good idea is lost in the management.

I have been privileged to be around a lot of good ideas, most of which morphed into markets and have lead to people being employed. So I will take it as a win. However, the good ideas are left out there like the punch line without the straight man.

For this article I want to invest some time talking about the concept of presence on the legacy phone network. 

When ICQ first started delivering a presence experience it drove a great deal of interest and lead to AOL (News - Alert) acquiring them. Presence was the best way to discover the availability of an end user on the dial-up Internet. On the broadband Internet it is assumed and readily available on platforms such as Skype (News - Alert) and Facebook. Unified communication embeds it in the systems.

In the dial-up world the presence server was an over-the-top solution that waited for the client to login into the server. Often the links on the keep alive were flaky, and people would bounce in and out of presence like animated rodents in a Whack a Mole game.

Various labs in the incumbent carriers played with and filed patents to integrate presence into the SS7 network and enhance services such as find me/follow me, call forwarding, etc. However, the vision of these patents was of a POTS system alive and well and not one in decline. 

Today the presence of someone is not always about immediate real-time discussions. Posting to a wall a status assumes the right people eventually see it, and that they can respond when they want to. Near real time is more than adequate for a majority of our conversations, which is one of the reasons why POTS is in decline.

So why not enable POTS to be part of this world? I think we should, and unlike touch-tone I think we should give it away, because it will make the legacy system more relevant.

Here is the prototype I want you to do in the lab. Most labs can do this in their sleep. If not, give me a call and I will bring the team (and the bill) that can do this for you. 

Establish a SIP/presence server that supports rich media communication including text, video, and voice. You will want to support a speech recognition system, because you are going to fork text messages and convert them to speech that can be heard from the POTS line. You are also going to convert the reply back into text.

The POTS lines will have to be reconfigured in your number portability system as if they were wireless, since otherwise you will not support text. Ideally this system should have the ability to enable security and DNS, and you may want to consider it as an HSS/HLR.

Now comes the tricky part. You are going to use the SIP URI of the phone number to forward to the customer’s e-mail. Do not require the customer to be loyal to your e-mail system. It is irrelevant. You simply want to forward.

If customers want to connect to cell phones from another operator, fine; e-mail accounts from the cable operator, go ahead. You are accomplishing the No. 1 goal: to make the old phone relevant to their current life.

However, you can do more now that you are part of the mix. For example directory services, which most of us outsourced long ago, we can now leverage to cut some deals with Craig’s List, Angie’s List, or a search engine to bring relevant data to in text or voice.

Voice mail can be converted to text and posted in e-mails and not sent via wave file. In fact, voice mail can join the near real-time world and be used for posting from the POTS line.

The big issue you face is supporting a lot of aliases for login and registration. While I hear of many people that are content with Facebook (News - Alert) being their login, I recommend you support that cautiously. While you do want customers to do whatever they want, the reality is that security issues will be blamed on you when Facebook starts posting sexting on some Weiner’s wall. That just means you can sell security services.

Carl Ford (News - Alert) is a partner at Crossfire Media.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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Meet the Editorial Team

Rich Tehrani,
Since 1982 Rich has led TMC© in many capacities. Rich Tehrani is an IP Communications industry expert, visionary, author and columnist. He founded INTERNET TELEPHONY® magazine...Read More >>>
Carl Ford,
Partner and Community Developer, Crossfire Media
Today as a partner at Crossfire Media, Carl is developing programs that bring to light an understanding of the issues required for delivering broadband wireless Internet...Read More >>>
Erik Linask,
Group Editorial Director, TMC
Erik oversees the editorial content and direction for all of TMC. Erik has contributed literally thousands of features during his 5-year tenure, with a focus...Read More >>>
Paula Bernier,
Executive Editor, IP Communications Group
Paula oversees editorial content and operations of INTERNET TELEPHONY and Next Gen Mobility Magazines. Bernier is...Read More >>>
Paula Bernier,
CTO & Executive Technology Editor
om is executive technology editor for TMC® Labs, the industry’s most-well known and respected testing lab, and ...Read More >>>