Real-time Communication Cloud: Can You Take Advantage of It?
Like it or not, many technologies in IT industry have a new tag called “cloud” these days. Tonight I came across yet another one at a SDForum emerging technology SIG meeting. It’s a great presentation Tropo & Moho: Disrupting telco with simple cloud-based communications by Jason Goecke, VP of Innovation of Voxeo Labs.
The company was started at Silicon Valley in late 1990s’ and almost went belly up in the Internet Bubble. It then relocated to Orlando FL and became profitable slowly thereafter. Now it’s emerging again with some cool technologies, mainly the communication cloud service.
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Their cloud service is quite different from what most cloud companies offer in that it helps to build voice, IM related applications. To do that, the computing cloud has to connect to the telephone system, and be able to handle voice in real-time. This sets a high bar for most start-up companies. If we have to put the service into one of the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, it fits in the PaaS where the platform is for real-time communication applications.
After signing up at the web site, you will get an account with a phone number, Skype accounts assigned to you for free during development phase. Then you can create scripts, which call their APIs, to handle incoming calls or call out. For example, you can have a voice based weather query application. Whoever calls the phone number can enter a 5-digit ZIP code and get the weather forecast back in voice. Their cloud does not have weather database, but you can use Yahoo weather Web Services to get the text back and synthesize the voice back to the caller.
Besides being driven by the caller, the application can also been activated with SMS or from the Web. Once started, the application can place calls to any phone numbers. A typical use cases for this is for notification. For example, government can call every family in an area before a hurricane comes; commercial companies like Toyota can use it to call customers whose cars should be recalled, etc.
The applications can also be interactive, meaning it takes inputs from the callers and react correspondingly. This can be very useful for product survey in which different questions are asked depending on the previous answers.
Nice thing about their offering is that it can be packed in a box and run inside an organization as a private cloud. This makes a compelling case for all enterprises who want flexibilities and controls.
Technically, there are many different technologies involved: media server, software DSP, SIP server, voice recognition, text to speech engine, web portal, billing, analytics, Web Services, scripting engine, etc. Understanding and integrating these together can be overwhelming for any companies. Leveraging the cloud service simplifies it to a small set of APIs.
Now having introduced all these, you may have some ideas on how to leverage this. For one thing, you can add more interactions to your customer facing Web sites. When confused, a customer can click a button on your web site and connects to a live person.
If you manages virtualized infrastructure, you can design a simple application which calls you when there is a critical alarm is triggered. You can enable your users to start, stop, and delete a virtual machine with a normal phone. This may make your users a little nervous. But if they can use a phone to check out their billing info, they will definitely appreciate.