Verizon Wireless "They're Watching You" as You're Now Their "Person of Interest"

As the hit CBS series "Person of Interest" winds down its run, the line "they're watching you" never rang more true that it does today, especially if you're a Verizon Wireless customer who has installed their mobile app so you can manage your account better.

Unfortunately, the app does more than that, and with the acquisition of AOL, all kinds of "marketing" led initiatives are starting to be unfurled by the telco giant. One of those is the "tracking" of customers physical movements. As one telecom attorney I spoke with about this said, "one would think after the super cookie issue they would know better." But nothing was as damning as the comment to me by a long time Verizon Wireless enterprise facing sales executive. "We know when Google folks visit Salesforce and who they are seeing. That gives us a good indication of what's about to happen." He then went on, "It's (i.e. the tracking) one of the most asked questions we're hearing from enterprise customers..how do I turn it off?"

I learned about this wandering by the Union Station Verizon store in Washington, D.C. two week ago. I was asked by the app what I thought about my experience today in the store. Only problem was I didn't go in the store. The same thing happened as I was having coffee in a cafe next to a Verizon Wireless store in Del Mar, and again after I had walked into the store to ask what they heck was up with the tracking of my movements.

The store rep said, "oh if you don't like to be followed, you can always delete the app." To me that was a stupid, untrained, and ignorant response, but also, pretty straightforward. I then called support and was told to turn off a few things in the app, but they already were. After the rep said she would turn off the marketing functions I checked my phone and found that one of the toggles that had been off, was now on. I immediately turned it off. Then I dug deeper into the Verizon app location setting on the iPhone app management inside the settings app, and there I turned off the actual link between the phone and the app

Candidly, a great app to manage usage and your plan, which was a nice service to have, has been ruined by wanting to know more about the customer than should be known. By forcing an opt-out vs. encouraging an OPT IN, this is a less than desired move by Verizon's leadership to allow this. If it was the first time I've encountered this type of thing from them, I would not be so concerned, but it's not. Back in the early days of data cards, they had Smith Micro create some type of tracking software that wormed its way into your Windows PC. Again, without telling anyone about it. 

Where is all this going? Beacons, sensors and apps on mobile devices can be a good thing. There's some  technology that's coming from companies likeQualcomm that work at the chip set level which could allow marketers to really be smarter in how they deliver messages to customers and prospects, and how employees of companies can be made to be smarter using AI, machine learning, big data and the cloud, but it needs to include some greater degrees of control by the user.  While using mapping software is great, I don't want my every visit to the gym known, or to the ice cream shop later because the next thing you'll see is ice cream being offered at the gym.....The same is do we really want Macy's knowing we were shopping at Bloomingdales, or that I was at the car dealer twice this  past week (with two different Audi's for annual servicing) as that could be misinterpreted as my having car trouble. Next comes the level of encryption of our "data" that's been collected. Of course if Verizon was using the data to install microcells where coverage isn't so great, that would be a useful outcome, but instead of "cells" for coverage they're more interested in what they can "sell" in the way of ads...

To be fair with Verizon, I did call their PR team. All three calls went unreturned..I guess they don't want to talk about it.


Uber Picks UberConference and Dialpad to Modernize Business Communications

Ride sharing service Uber is following Lyft for a change. While Lyft has been using Los Angeles based Telzio as their communications provider, Uber has turned to Dialpad in addition to using UberConference, The choosing of cloud based communications solutions providers is making it far easier for both companies to communicate better internally and get things going faster, as the game changing ride services both expand into new cities and countries around the world.

Dialpad founder Craig Walker told VoipWatch exclusively yesterday, "we started working with Uber as they were heavy users of UberConference for a while before we even launched Dialpad. Both products fit their culture of innovation and disruption, so Dialpad was a natural fit once they started looking for a modern business communications service."

The move to adopt what Walker has labeled "modern business communications" falls well in line with a long belief that disruptive startups, especially those from Silicon Valley, want more and want different in what their telco can provide them and are bypassing the long established companies like AT&T and Verizon.  Instead the newly minted, high growth companies are choosing to embrace the more nimble, service providers that have come on stream post the birth of the cloud era.

These newer companies are the earlier adopters of where businesses are going, and they want services that are easy to deploy and cloud based, just like the way their own businesses are based, using similar service from the likes of Amazon Web Services. So while they still need and require the core features that the traditional telcos provide, these new companies also need modern era features that were birthed by companies like Skype and GrandCentral (Walker sold that to Google and led the transition to GoogleVoice. Google are  now investors in Dialpad) with the online management that Vonage and 8x8 pioneered in telecom.

These new, modern services and the companies delivering them are largely being fueled by API's both public and private. The API's are spawning a new economy, new ways of doing business, and entire ecosystems. That's something that will be well talked about and explored at All About The API, the upcoming conference being held in Las Vegas in July.  An example of how API's work is best seen in the Dialpad app today on the iPhone and iPad. By connecting to an SMS interconnection provider like recent Vonage acquisition Nexmo, Twilio or Syniverse, modern UC companies able to enable SMS to the desktop and from within their apps, much like iMessage or Google Hangouts. The API's allow for the interconnection and interfacing to between customers and the carriers in the middle making them the modern day middleware. 

And, Apple, long resistant to opening up the iOS dialer to Unified Communications providers gave them a big shot in the arm on Monday. At the World Wide Developer Conference Apple announced the opening up of the dialer on the iPhone. This is a significant move as it will allow unified communications providers like Dialpad, Telzio, 8x8 and others to no longer need to use plain vanilla softphones that have been the only way users could interface with UC providers.  Once released the UC players will be able to make use the iPhone's native dialer as the front end for dialing, while allowing their own apps to be where the more customized features are placed.

"Since launching GrandCentral and Google Voice nearly 10 year, we always were frustrated by the inability to make our services work smoothly with the iPhone. The announcement today opens the market up to the type of competition Judge Green envisioned back then. Now businesses again can choose. Of course, I hope they choose Dialpad," said Walker.

The opening up of the iOS dialer by Apple parallels that 1984 decision in opening up the Bell System to alternative long distance carriers. Previously, the only long distance carrier that a caller could use was the one that was aligned with the local Bell operating company, and that was usually AT&T. With the Telecommunications Act of 1984 consumers and businesses were free to choose any long distance carrier. In essence, with Apple opening up the dialer, they are doing the same thing, turning the mobile operator into a pipe. With LTE and LTE-A coming online, those in the more built out mobile high speed data areas will be able to avoid using their mobile operator for voice, and text, and move everything over to the data side where a more feature rich experience will be had.

"This is the missing link that we have been waiting for on iOS ever since the first iPhone came out. Android has had this for years, and Apple did add VoIP specific features a while back such as  battery saving via the background notification feature, but we have been missing the ability to have a VoIP services coexist on an iPhone," said Peter Rank Schrøder, CEO of Telzio. "This will make life much easier for anyone using a secondary number such as a business number, on an iPhone."

Apple's move further makes the mobile operator, the modern day "dumb pipe" something smart entrepreneurs like Walker have been exploiting for years dating back to his days at the original Dialpad, and which new kids on the block like Schrøder are also breaking new ground.

 

 

 


Yahoo Messenger-Going, Going, Almost Gone

For those of you who remember Yahoo Messenger, which was at one point wanting to be able to be like Skype oh so many years ago, it's going to go away. But, don't think it's really gone as last year Yahoo introduced a combined platform that marries WebMessenger with app based Messenger. 

Both Yahoo and Microsoft at times had visions of telephony being part of their respective messenger platforms as noted in the various posts linked to below. Given the interest in messaging bots and platforms one has to wonder if both companies giving up the ghost of messaging came too early, opening up the door to platforms like WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, LINE, QQ Chat, Kik, Telegram and so many others. 

One of the features of Yahoo Messenger that garnered attention back in the VoIP hey day was it's interoperability with Microsoft Messenger. That functionality was killed off in 2012 after launching in 2006. One can only imagine what may have happened to Messenger had Microsoft not bought Skype.

This makes one wonder how many people are still on AOL's AIM and ICQ, the two biggest forerunners of messaging apps that many of us grew up using.