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On Fertile Ground

BY MARC ROBINS

 

An IP communications specialist�s idea of nirvana might be a place where all networks, all systems and devices, and all applications are completely IP-based � where the pure waters of IP course through the land, nourishing all manner of rich multimedia, multimodal, and multipurpose services and applications.

Of course, nirvana is still a dream and the land of IP is still a work in progress. A number of direct IP and SIP peering initiatives point the way to a world where legacy TDM network infrastructures are a thing of the past and where conversions from TDM to IP and back again are the thing of nursery rhymes.

The reality, obviously, is that we�re living in a mashed up world, where both legacy and next-generation must coexist with each other for some time, and we must find innovative ways to disrupt the status quo and deliver the next great killer app. It may come as a surprise, but this state of coexistence � the crossroads, if you will, where the Internet and Web, corporate LANs, PSTN, and wireless voice and data networks meet � is actually proving to be a great fertile ground that is spawning a host of new, innovative companies, technologies, products, and services.

I�m talking about companies like EQO, Iotum, FruCall, IPcelerate, and Tello � companies that have come up with products or services that not only bridge the old with the new, but also innovate brand new capabilities that make communications more manageable, more efficient, and more informative.

The first three have found ways to extend the capabilities of mobile communications and enrich the user experience in the process. Given that mobility and wireless communications are so critical to our business and personal lives, it�s not surprising that finding ways to improve or add new twists to our mobile calling experience is a major focus for a number of companies. (It also doesn�t hurt that there are now around two billion mobile phones in use around the world.)

EQO (www.eqo.com) has staked its fortunes on extending Skype (News - Alert) to mobile phones. Now in beta, EQO just won the title of �Most Promising Start-Up� at the 2006 British Columbia Technology Impact Awards ceremony. In a nutshell, EQO is an application suite comprising EQO Mobile and EQO PC. EQO Mobile is a J2ME application that runs on your mobile phone. EQO PC is a plugin that runs on your PC, connecting your Skype user account to your mobile phone via EQO�s secure, always on network. In order to extend Skype onto your mobile phone, you need to create an EQO account and install both applications.




From there, as long as EQO is running on your mobile phone and your computer, and as long as Skype is still connected to the Skype network, you can easily use the software to keep in touch with your buddies while on the move. When you call a Skype buddy or another number through the EQO client, or someone calls you from Skype, EQO routes the call to your phone over your regular wireless voice service using SkypeOut. The benefit is that you can make and receive Skype calls from anywhere on your mobile handset, without needing a highly advanced, expensive 3G mobile phone and without being connected to a high-speed wireless data network.

Iotum (www.iotum.com) attacks the mobile communications market from a call management angle. According to the company, the typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, e-mail, instant message, or other distraction. This constant interruption wreaks havoc with our focus, and disrupts and impairs our productivity. We need a way to help determine which communications are relevant and know that important calls will always get through to us.

Enter iotum�s Relevance Engine: the world�s first smart platform that prioritizes all voice communications. By mapping inbound communications to work behavior and priorities, iotum�s service dramatically improves productivity by ensuring that inbound communications are relevant. Iotum�s service is easy to set up and seamlessly connects to calendar and IM tools to determine how specific calls should be handled. It can be set up to making filtering and routing decisions based on who�s calling, the time of day, calendar events, and more. The company is partnering with cellular, VoIP, and incumbent PSTN service providers around the world to add value to existing services.

Finally, FruCall (www.frucall.com) is a new company I�ve posted about in my blog, Beyond VoIP. FruCall is a new voice commerce service that solves a problem most of us have when we�re out and about shopping retail. Since we�re not yet at the promised land of ubiquitous broadband wireless access and easy to use and highly portable devices for doing a shopping.com price search as we�re rolling down the aisles of Target are hard to come by, we need another solution. If you�ve ever tried to use your cell phone�s built-in browser to do an online search, you know how frustrating an exercise this can be.

FruCall utilizes Voice XML and speech technology to offer shoppers the ability to check the Internet for the lowest prices on items they�re viewing live in a retail store�s aisle, simply by calling an 888 (toll free) number from their cell phones. Once they find the right price, they can even buy the item in question from Amazon.com or other shopping sites (new partners are being added frequently and the company is in discussions with CNET to utilize its superb pricing engine.)

FruCall is also currently in beta, and you don�t need to register to try it out. So, next time you�re out shopping, call FruCall at 1-888-DO-FRUCALL (1-888-363-7822) before you take an item to the register and see how much you can save. IT

Marc Robins is Chief Evangelism Officer of Robins Consulting Group, which offers an array of services to the IP telephony industry. He has been involved in the telecommunications industry as a reporter and analyst, trade show producer and publisher, and marketing executive and consultant for more than 24 years. For more information, call RCG at 718-548-7245 or e-mail robinsconsult@optonline.net.

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