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Publisher's Outlook
September 2002

Rich Tehrani

Sitting In Traffic, Contemplating Mobility (Engines)


My mental picture of Silicon Valley has always been one of a booming high-tech industry, millions of the worlds smartest people bustling about, creating immense traffic jams, occupying vast swaths of office space, and driving the cost of housing through the roof. Having just returned back from my second trip to the San Jose area in about six months, I can tell you that my mental image has changed. On the first of these recent trips, I noticed an absolute lack of traffic. I could make it to appointments on time and even had time for meals in-between. The most recent trip a few weeks back I noticed that about every third building was entirely for lease. It was not uncommon to see signs trying to fill 1,000,000 vacant square feet at a time! Surprisingly, traffic has begun to increase. While not nearly as heavy as it was a few years back, perhaps we can view this as a good sign?

Amid the empty space I did find many companies worth writing about: Some with new products, some with success stories, and some with grand visions worth sharing in these pages. One of the most interesting visits was to Net6, a company that makes a Mobility Engine or a network-based application gateway. In case you are wondering what an application gateway is (I was), it is also called a content transformation engine by Cisco who resells Net6s Mobility Engine as the CTE 1400. Think of this device as a rack mountable appliance, dynamically transforming Web-based content on a per device basis, allowing for a consistent user experience. While this solution has a variety of uses in the PDA and mobile phone spaces, it turns out that one of the areas that this solution can have a great impact is enabling IP telephony phones to become infinitely more useful. More on this later.

Using a program called the Design Studio a user can graphically design how a Web page will be displayed on various devices. A user (who by the way does not need to be a programmer) can select graphics from a page, clip the page, ignore parts of it and select other parts, and even rearrange the content to display on a variety of devices. Device definition files can be created for various devices telling the application how many colors to send, bandwidth limitations, and screen size. The Net6 solution takes care of transformation and optimization (very useful for slow connections) without the need to install any software on the client.

One demo I saw on a PDA displayed a Web page as a small graphic followed by a paragraph of text. I then saw the same page on an IP phone. This demo flashed the same graphic for one second and then displayed the text. By flashing the graphic, the phone user doesnt need to scroll down on the page and subsequently has a better experience reading text on a less than ideal sized screen.

The Net6 gateway can be anywhere in the network so naturally a service provider can host this solution as can the enterprise itself. There is a dizzying assortment of applications for this technology and if you are interested in seeing some for yourself, I invite you to check out go.net6.com on various devices.

Whither IP Services?
We talk about services in the pages of this magazine all the time, and yet, they arent being rolled out as fast as anyone would like. Until recently, service providers were the primary companies responsible for providing these services. Net6 gateways can be installed in service provider networks and provided as a service but Net6 sees a real opportunity in the corporate market and so do I. That is why they are working on an IP telephony-based package that is priced lower than their current products that have all the IP bells and whistles. So the question remains, what services can IP phones now take advantage of? Ive assembled a few here for you to peruse.

The education market where recent school tragedies have created an atmosphere where teachers need to keep in touch with other classes and school management at all times, is a place where always on communication is a must. Providing classrooms with an IP phone allows teachers to easily keep in touch. Another potential use is to send e-mail from the phone to the parents, for example, to inform them of their childs absence from a class. This can be done through Net6s Mobile E-mail Module.

Other applications include the streaming of music through the second channel of an IP phone allowing the user to use the phone as a radio that shuts off automatically when the receiver is lifted. This application can be extended to a hotel, which could allow users to be woken up with the streaming radio station of their choice. Hotels could allow their guests to program their own wake up calls on the phone as well. For those of you that travel, you know that the people with the worst language skills imaginable are handpicked to answer room service telephone calls. Not sure why that is but I would enjoy an application that allows me to order my egg-whites and oatmeal without the anxiety I usually feel that the room service worker taking my order hasnt a clue about what I am saying. Hotels can also work out deals with the local pizza place for one touch ordering and take a cut on every order or just charge a time based fee. The opportunities are certainly intriguing.

Another important application is streaming of presentations from the CEO or training information or even daily morale boosting messages to the staff. How about emergency broadcast; allowing a whole building or campus to be contacted simultaneously through a voice broadcast. The phone is a much more urgent communications mechanism than a PC. An emergency message can be broadcast following a piercing tone, similar to the emergency broadcasting system tests we have all come to know and love.

IP phones are obviously more powerful than any phones we have seen before because they are Internet appliances and to date there has been no concerted effort to allow the entire army of these devices in the workplace to do more than they currently do. Weve seen phone specific applications but never anything this broad reaching. The simplest application of corporate directory browsing is perfectly suited to IP phones and usually already exists on an intranet. Technology such as that provided by Net6 is a perfect way to allow all IP phones and devices within an organization (or beyond) to have access to this repository. The best part of all of this is that there is no hard coding needed to make this happen.

We have certainly seen our ups and downs in the technology space these past few years and that hasnt changed in twenty years. It is exciting to see innovation still taking place. History has shown that times like these are when the tech leaders of tomorrow are born. Lets just hope there is someone inventing a solution that will minimize the traffic jams in Northern California when the technology market starts to flourish again.

[ Return To The September 2002 Table Of Contents ]

World Class Conference. World Class Location.

Speaking of traffic, lets zip down the coast a bit to San Diego, cross the Coronado Bay Bridge, merge onto 4th avenue, make a left onto Orange, and as we turn right into the parking lot of the majestic Hotel Del Coronado, let out a sigh of relief. For not only have we arrived at one of the nations premier resort hotels, weve arrived on October 1st, just in time for INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO.

As always, the conference promises to deliver the best education our industry has to offer. The editors and publishers of Internet Telephony magazine worked hard to come up with a new and enticing conference program, guaranteed to provide attendees with a world-class education on the technologies and trends shaping our industry.

And the majestic location, overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean, is one of the best places to get away from the distractions of everyday life and to focus on obtaining the knowledge that can only come from the experience of the most sought after assembly of experts in the field of IP telephony.

I look forward to seeing you at the show next month. If you havent registered yet, I urge you to do so on our Web site at www.itexpo.com. And if you find yourself in a bit of traffic on Coronado Island, rest assured, everyones going to the same place The Hotel del Coronado and INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO.

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