Musings of an Internet Marketing Consultant
Musings of an Internet Marketing Consultant

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Voice 2.0 Builds Momentum

PhoneGnome offers Relevance-based Call Management with Iotum's Relevance Engine .

Over the past few months I have been a beta tester for the iotum Relevance Engine which has a number of interesting applications that are providing a taste of what my future real-time communications activities may have in store.

One of the first applications that Iotum has built automatically manages incoming phone calls and directs them in context to an appropriate home, business or mobile number or to voice mail. Iotum’s engine is an expert system that understands my work environment and helps me prioritize which calls are important and which ones can wait, under different circumstances based upon:

  • Who’s calling
  • What I am currently doing and my schedule for today (according to Outlook)
  • My availability (according to MSN Messenger)
  • My assignment of up to five priorities for my Outlook contacts, and
  • My designated business hours
Martin Geddes included a request for such a call management service in his "wish list" of premium services for which he'd "gladly pay some small up front fee and a regular subscription" charge as part of a proposed Skype bundle for small business.

For a benchmark example of a response Skype can now look to iotum; this agreement between PhoneGnome and iotum demonstrates a revenue generating service that manages my calls based on my work environment.

One of my challenges as a beta tester of iotum, was their assignment of a new phone number in order to participate in their trial. However, I have a lot invested in my current business number. My workaround was to forward my regular business phone number to an assigned "iotum" number and then have the call processed by the iotum engine based on the above factors. Not a simple, lowest cost, user friendly process for achieving this goal – but it's a beta test, right?.

This all changes today with the announcement of a partnership between Iotum and TelEvolution, whose PhoneGnome appliance has received widespread acclaim for its unique ability to seamlessly merge PSTN and VoIP services. PhoneGnome enhances a traditional phone line with a VoIP service that provides an automatic least cost routing of outbound calls via either the PSTN if a "local" no charge call or a "long distance" call over a designated VoIP service if calling outside the local calling zone. At the same time, as with all VoIP services, it provides the ability to add calling features such as Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, No Answer Transfer, etc. managed through a web interface yet maintains access to essential services such as E911, home alarm systems and 800 numbers.

As a result of this announcement, PhoneGnome now adds an intelligent call routing and management service: the ability to direct inbound calls according to "Relevance" of the caller in the correct context at the time of the call. For instance, if the caller is a key "VIP" customer, it would be forwarded to my mobile number, unless I was currently in a meeting in which case it would be sent to voice mail. But, if iotum identifies via Outlook that this caller is someone with whom I have a meeting scheduled later in the day, the call would be sent to my mobile phone regardless of my current availability status. Another input to the handling of a call may also be my current MSN Messenger status. It's all very powerful and the Iotum expert system works automatically and transparently, in the background changing my call management preferences as I go about my day working between my home computer, my laptop and scheduling and attending meetings. I set the rules; I get to change the rules.

The key breakthrough about this announcement is that with PhoneGnome, Iotum can now be incorporated into your existing phone service:

  • no need to get a new phone number (or to have number portability),
  • no need to wait for the legacy phone company to offer the Iotum service.
  • PhoneGnome users will get some of the innovative new applications that Iotum is building around their Relevance Engine (such as the Iotum-Pronto Conference Call Manager demonstrated at DEMO 2006)
It does require you also have a broadband Internet service. Simply purchase the PhoneGnome appliance and pay a monthly fee for the Relevance-based call management service. There is no ongoing subscription charge for the PhoneGnome appliance itself; you do need to sign up with a VoIP service for handling long distance calls at low VoIP rates which are usually a combination of a monthly fee for North American calls and per minute rates for overseas calls.

As Bruce Stewart says in his more detailed description and review of this partnership,

"This deal makes sense on so many levels. Both services are really easy to set up and use and complement each other nicely."
From a market perspective:
  • Outlook is the most widely adopted Personal Information Manager in the enterprise space
  • Sources of contextual information (information that can help identify where I am and what I might be doing) can potentially come from additional IM applications such as Skype, Yahoo and AOL
  • VoIP-based solutions, including solutions incorporating Skype, are driving down the costs associated with implementing and operating PBX’s across geographically dispersed enterprises
  • Voice 2.0 services, such as Iotum’s call management, are agnostic with respect to service providers, hardware vendors and carriers
  • The combination of Iotum and PhoneGnome bridges Voice 2.0 services into Voice 1.0 phone installations.

I think we're going to see a lot of partnerships of this caliber with iotum. And the potential partners are Skype, Yahoo, MSN and AOL at the consumer level or one of the PBX providers such as Nortel, Panasonic, Linksys (Cisco), Avaya or any other potential VoIP-based PBX manufacturers at the enterprise level. The major question is: when will these players realize that offering intelligent premium services, such as the Iotum Relevance-based Call Management service, is a key stepping stone to their future growth beyond the legacy telephone system.

iotum sounds exciting, but PhoneGnome is a rip-off.

It's just a locked, private-label Sipura SPA-3000 that is sold for MORE than a retail Sipura and doesn't include any VoIP-to-PSTN calling plan.

Geez! Any of a zillion VoIP providers will give you a Sipura FOR FREE if you sign-up for any calling plan such as the ZingoTel plan which is only $4.95/mo so what's the deal with trying to sell a totally locked Sipura for more than retail ?????

Hopefully, you'll allow comments on your blog as this is more than search engine fodder.

The VoIP watch guy is apparently paid to promote PhoneGnome so he erases any critical comments about his "baby".
PhoneGnome is a whole lot more than just a Sipura 3000. It's an application platform. Buy PhoneGnome and you can choose which VoIP provider you want for LD. You can choose the VoiceMail service you want. And so on...

Plus, you keep your existing phone number. It's just VoIP enabled.
voip providers

Here's some useful info on voip providers which you might be looking for. The url is:
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