Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Voice Over IP Goes Home

From Slate, an article about Vonage, a new entrant in the Internet telephony market. The difference between these guys and the other players? Vonage lets you plug a regular telephone into your broadband connection – and voila – dial tone. Flat rate $40/month for unlimited calling, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID.

On its own, that’s pretty revolutionary. (It would cut my monthly calling by about half.) But the more exciting prospects are that as this technology takes hold in the house, home telephones will actually get smarter. Think about telephone technology today – all of the innovation (if you can call it that) has gone into clearer signals without wires. The focus has been on the signal – not on the data. The only real evolution with home telephones has been Caller ID – and that’s been around for nearly 10 years.

Once your phone calls are coming in over the Internet, phone handsets could simultaneously match an incoming call with the Google reverse lookup of the caller’s name and address. Or let’s say you call a pizza delivery service – at the same time you’re calling, you could see an interactive menu on your screen. A few taps and you’re done.

This kind of innovation already exists in the corporate market. One of my customers in the UK uses our software to provide a real-time feed to their VOIP handsets displaying the caller’s name, profile, all activities the firm has had with the caller in the past 90 days, and other relevant data that makes the recipient of the call informed about who they’re talking to. It’s possible because the VOIP handset can send data via XML to our application server. (They match the incoming caller’s number to our database, then use the search result match to send XML data back to the handset, which the handset then translates to presentable text. Very cool.)

Just think about what will happen when you can do the same from a home phone.

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