Switch Raises $35 Million More to Power Cloud Telephony

San Francisco based Switch Communications today announced they raised $35 million dollars in a strategic Series C round, adding to their $18 million already raised previously. TechCrunch's Ryan Lawler has the news. Switch offers a cloud based telephony service aimed at businesses and enterprise customers and also supplies conference calling services under the UberConference brand.

The round is viewed as strategic because a large percentage of the new money into the company is coming out of Asia, and in turn the partners who are putting money in, which includes SoftBank, are connected to the mobile operators in that part of the world. For Switch this means a greenfield play in the areas of cloud telephony and conferencing, in a part of the world that is already mobile first, and lacking in wireline PBX competitors offering a no-hardware solution. The move into Asia by Switch comes at at time when 8x8 and Vonage Business are pursuing business in Europe which further underscores the strategic nature of the monies invested.


The Doctor Can "See" You Now

The headline says it all. Now, at least with United Healthcare, doctors can make house calls using video technology.  And this is a big deal, a point Wired touches on in their story.

It's a big deal because it offers patients and practitioners more options, but it's only the start. With WebRTC having a very secure data channel this means not only will video be what's transmitted to a doctor while you're being virtually examined, but with sensors and beacons, plus the cloud, all of your vital statistics like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, temperature can be transmitted as well. 

For the distance challenged it wouldn't be hard to overnight someone a scanning device to look at someone's retina or pupil and diagnose eye irritations or disorders.  Devices to blow into can record readings, or a hearing test could be administered using headphones and an iPhone or the audio system of a personal computer using the cloud. And, in the case of emergencies, now life saving instructions can be given while the doctor sees what's being done from miles away.

For years the insurance industry has insisted on a patient visit to the office. This has only raised the cost of healthcare, and in some cases forced doctors to either hire lower wage earning support personnel of make less money. With video appointments and diagnosis, services to book, schedule, report and resolve medical issues will be improved. A doctor's notes and the patients comments can be transcribed on the fly and part of the medical record for the doctor to review, not write. The images captured during the patient visit will be part of the file, so the actual bruise, burn, cut or wound can be seen after the fact and compared during the next "virtual" check up. None of this is done usually today, and what's more, given how from time to time people see different doctors for the same medical condition, the next doctor can quickly catch up on what was seen before, done before and form an opinion before the next action is taken.

So, yes. This is a big deal

 


Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret Is Out

Thirteen years ago, a serial entrepreneur, who I had worked with in the late 90s and early part of the start of the century, Adityo Prakash talked to me about an idea. The idea was to drive drug discovery, not the traditional way, purely in the lab, but through complex algorithms that would simulate certain interactions in silicon to find drugs for many diseases that impact human health.

 The 13-year quest of Adityo Prakash and Eniko Fodor’s Verseon, a story they kept by design as much as possible in stealth from a communications perspective, could become one of Silicon Valley’s best success stories of a company that has not been on the radar so far.

Last week Sky News in the U.K reported the plans for the company’s IPO. If Verseon is starting to come out of stealth mode then that is because they are ready to show the world just how disruptive the results of their drug development process can be. I expect to see this company go from strength to strength over the coming years.

In essence, what Verseon does is use complex proprietary algorithms to design new drugs that can’t otherwise be found. For the pharma industry this is massive because patents keep expiring on the current drugs and the industry needs these new drugs on a steady basis to produce better treatment outcomes for patients and keep up its many hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue.

For me, this is very personal. Back in 2002, when I was redefining my agency's direction, Adityo approached me for help. That was before he had raised any money. I took a gamble. I helped him with his brand design and initial website, and we brainstormed over Hawaiian food a few times, and together we came up with their original communications strategy. That strategy was to be in stealth mode to most people, while being just visible enough to those who mattered.

You see, at the time their idea was one of those great ideas that was too far ahead of its time. But, as pal Alec Saunders once quipped about what I do, it seems I had picked one that should keep getting bigger.

 

 

 

 


Twilio Goes Video, Puts Pressure On TokBox Now

For the past two years, when it came to WebRTC video many early developers would look at TokBox and use their platform. Today, the heavyweight of heavyweights in developer programs, Twilio fired a broad shot across the bow and entered the fray. This is big news for WebRTC because Twilio has the key part of the equation. The developers. And that means a lot more than what they have in their stack. Their entry also begs the question how Genband will react as they have been tossing Kandy around for months but with hardly any news about deployments.

Tsahi also raises the same concern I have towards TokBox, but overlooks a key missing piece of the equation. That is the lack of Internet Explorer or Safari compatibility that plagues both TokBox and now will impact Twilio. Both would be well served by working with client, Temasys, whose commercial plug-in brings IE and Safari to WebRTC players. 

So for now, devs working with either Twilio or TokBox will still have to go to Temasys directly to license the functionality.

If I was a developer working on IoT products, apps for iOS or Android or someone looking to appeal to the millennial generation, I'd run, not walk, to Twilio's dev program as this will speed up the adoption of WebRTC even without Microsoft being friendly today. That day will come. Just like Christmas does.

 


Tame That Inbox (Until Something Better Comes Along)

Let's face it, like many, I have a love/hate relationship with email. While I'm doing as much as I can to move things over SLACK, Skype and Yammer, PushBullet, plus iMessage,  Facebook Messenger and Twitter there's still a lot of dependency on email no matter how much we all try to get off of it.

Thankfully, I'm starting to become much less "stuck" in my INBOX(es) and today got around to purging two of them. It all started with Mailstrom and SaneBox, a killer combination that are both metrics based. Mailstrom which I've been using since it was in Beta gives me lots of insight as to what's going on in my Inbox and has some very nifty and powerful unsubscribe features. Sanebox though has been for me, a lifesaver. I liked it so much I've added it to my personal email as well as my primary business GMAIL account. 

What SaneBox does is look at which emails I reply to and who I send email to, and then prioritizes the Inbox with only what it feels is important, moving the rest of the mail to SaneLater, a way of keeping my attention on the work that needs to be done, not getting distracted by newsletters, credit card charge alerts, renewals of services that are happening or distracting "sales" offers.

In essence, while Mailstrom lets me analyze the inbox on a very granular basis, and lets me know how much mail came in and went out the day before, SaneBox lets me focus on getting things done.

After two months of SaneBox I'm finding I'm out of the Inbox and into my apps more which led to my deciding to clean up both my personal and business email Inbox this morning. Three hours later I'm down to under 5 unread emails between the two. I've also unsubscribed from a bunch of lists that I either no longer need to be on, or never signed up for. I also deleted a bunch of emails that simply don't matter.

For me, until something better comes along, SaneBox and Mailstrom are my Inbox heroes.


Interesting Times in VoIP and RTC Comms

It's getting interesting again in the VoIP world. After months of basically not much happening, we're beginning to see the return of what Jeff Pulver labeled Purple Apps and Alec Saunders highlighted in his Voice 2.0 Manifesto of years ago. It's almost hard to believe this has all taken almost ten years or more to see the excitement really get rekindled again, but for some reason after years of "me too, me also" but not much "me different" I'm feeling that the winds of change are a comin'.

Let's start with Google. Today 9to5Google reported about GMeet, a service that will provide users with the ability to:

"schedule and join teleconference calls with one click. Instead of having to dial into a teleconference call, one user could create a meeting topic in GMeet, then invite everyone else to the call. People who received an invite would be able to then join the call with a single click."

If you think this is simply Google Hangouts, I'd say you're wrong. Hangouts is a cumbersome service to use, and from the summary it seems Google is striving for Apple like simplicity.

Next is the riveting debate about WhatsApp adding VoIP that pal Tsahi Levent-Levi of BlogGeek.Me penned yesterday. Tsahi takes WhatsApp to task for poor quality in Israel, challenging Facebook if they are using WebRTC (they're not--yet). But what Tsahi did was begin to expose the fact that WhatsApp really can be in the voice business, something I have been wondering about for years since I started using the next generation of the marriage of IM and SMS. 

Pal and uber analyst Dean Bubley wrote about the world passing the point of Peak Telephony yesterday. Dean's point is highlighted as he writes:

"In other words, between 2008 and 2013, the total net amount of outbound phone traffic in the UK, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands and US fell in absolute terms. In Italy, Germany and Korea it was flat. We are past the point of "peak telephony" in many markets."

In the UK, the Register reports that EE, a distant relative of T-Mobile in the USA, is following on their USA siblings IMS based Wi-Fi calling with the introduction of the service. While Three (3) has had an app based Wi-Fi calling service for a while, this is the first pure Wi-Fi calling capability by a UK mobile operator.

"Subscribers will not need to install any special apps: their phones should be able to seamlessly and automatically send and receive text messages, and make and receive calls, via wireless networks when there is no cellular network signal. You're out of luck if there's no usable Wi-Fi to latch onto, obviously."

TMCNet's Rich Tehrani took time recently to interview Comunicano client, Temasys. In an interview with CEO Chip Wilcox, Tehrani elicited a lot of candid insight on the Singapore based company's efforts to address browser interoperability with WebRTC. Tehrani's opening paragraph pretty much nails what Temasys is doing to solve the problem that faces service providers and users.

 "Temasys is spearheading the effort to alleviate the interop challenges facing the WebRTC community"

Maybe its me, but I'm feeling the vibrations coming again in VoIP, largely around WebRTC at the core, where ten years ago SIP was IT. As services like ScreenHero, Apper.In and others get embraced by services like Slack and HipChat you can just feel the changes coming our way..and for that, I'm thrilled to be "watching" out for you.....

 

 

 


Muni Broadband Still Mangled By Incumbents Political Clout

If you look at the US Telecom preemptive lawsuit against the FCC's Net Neutrality action taken this week and then look deep enough at what is being done in Tennessee you'll likely see the same players working behind the scenes to limit muni-broadband providers expansion out of governmental footprint.

The incumbents already have easements and rights of way, usually grandfather agreements dating back to the last century, where there was only one telephone provider, cable tv was a dream, not yet a reality. The cable guys had to fight, buy and struggle to get the same access, which they eventually did, and as more new communities sprung up, the cable guys got rights at the same time as the telco.

That was before others came along who wanted access. Now with success stories like the Chattanooga public gigabit broadband network that have proven models that can work elsewhere, state government wants to restrict their expansion efforts.  But really, do government leaders want to limit the growth, or are they simply following the requests of their political donors.

One doesn't need to be a genius to figure out that for the USA to be competitive there needs to be more competitive carriers, both public and private to deliver faster, better and more reliable competition for broadband.


NFL to Stream A Game is a Big Deal

The National Football League is going to stream a football game next season. On face this may seem more like an experiment as the game will originate in the UK as part of the NFL's global marketing effort. But OTT delivery of sports content will mean much, much more to the league and the broadcasting world which is why new startups like client, YIPTV are poised and well positioned for a new era of how sports is broadcast.

That's why I think there's more to this, a point that is called out in the Wall Street Journal story. The "more to it" deals with the NFL looking to emulate what Major League Baseball is already doing with with their app based delivery, and really what is being done by the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) which took less money from USA Networks for the broadcast rights in exchange for creating their own WWF Network.

Already more content is being produced and viewed, plus the control of the entire telecast that the WWF produces is not regulated by the USA Networks Standards and Practices. It also means that all sponsorship and ad revenue, after selling expenses, remains with the WWF.

For the NFL and their current broadcasting partners (the networks like Direct TV, NBC, CBS, ABC/ESPN, TNT) this is a big deal because sports ad revenues and sports related advertising represents a proven advertising delivery method to reach the adult male audience. At the same time, a web or app OTT streamed telecast, completely owned and managed by the NFL means they get to keep the ad revenue vs. get paid for the games rights by one of their partners and that's where it gets very interesting.

The NFL will then know exactly who is watching the game. You may need to log in, or you may have to register the app. There will be a cookie dropped on your laptop or smart device in the browser. This means targeting advertising can be delivered to you as it becomes very easy to drop a commercial into the stream just for you vs the same commercial that's seen by everyone watching a game on television where localization is more difficult beyond the local market area vs. the national television spot.

Then there's the interactivity that you don't have with over the air or cable, which the webcasting provides. Imagine you're the ad manager for State Farm Insurance and you spend millions a year buying commercials with the NFL but you don't easily know which new customers came in as a result. Add a link, have a prospect trigger a call back from their LOCAL agent, and not only will the ad manager know which ad did what, they will know what the outcome was (call, followup, insurance policy written) and then be able to allocate the costs and the revenue to the specific commercial.

With analytics the ad manager will be able to determine which commercial spot works best with which demographic audience. The ad manager will also be able to determine which agents closed the highest percentage of leads that were delivered. With things like call recording the ad manager can then listen to the actual sales calls and analyze the selling technique, language used that led to a successful or failed close. And due to analytics, the entire process using CRM technology means from impression to closing can be tracked for ad delivery effectiveness.

This also has implications to the local teams in the NFL markets.

Right now broadcast revenues are divided evenly between each franchise, but as revenue begins to be tracked for everything sold via the NFL that happens on the Internet, the ability to assign actual revenue creation by franchise area creates a whole new model that doesn't currently exist.

Who wins? Who Loses?

The NFL and the franchise owners will be big winners over time. The more the league's NFL Properties division can control, the less money that will go to the rights holders. The more the NFL can sell in merchandise for their licensees without having to go through a retailer, means greater margins for both the league and the brands selling things like jerseys and caps for starters.

Thus while Apple, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are likely thought of as the next bidders for rights, you can't rule out Amazon either. As a matter of fact Amazon with their delivery and logistics operations could end up being the ideal partner for the NFL.

Amazon with FIRE could deliver the content easily. With FRESH the customers could order in advance their Sunday Tailgate at Home Food package. With same day delivery or next day delivery Amazon customers could order replica uniforms, caps, program books, highlight reels, etc. And because all of this is analytics based, the ability to predict and produce changes the paradigm of everything from production to delivery, thus making Amazon a significant potential partner for the NFL.

For current Internet related companies that have skin in the game like Verizon Wireless and Comcast/NBC/Universal, there has to be a lot of wonderment. Clearly they both win on the data side, but in the case of NBC, they'll lose on the ad sales side but I suspect they, being in the position they will be in, will find a way to create a sales consortium with other cable operators and the likes of Google to develop new sales and delivery traffic reporting models to insure they still make their 15 percent.

So, while this may be just one game, don't be deceived. It's a big deal and one that will be looked at as truly game changing.


The Comunicano Daily for Thursday December 17, 2014

 
 
 
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Changes. Lots and lots of changes in mobile. T-Mobile rolls a stash of data. Doctors make video house calls. Sprint drops their sponsorship of Nascar. Those stories and more are all just below...So now onto the news..

 

 
 
 

T-Mobile Allows Subscribers to Hold on to Unused Mobile Data

 
  T-Mobile USA, the fourth largest wireless carrier in the United States, said on Tuesday that it would allow customers to roll their unused mobile Internet data into the next month's billing. Or, as John Legere, the company's chief executive, put it in a video broadcast: "What you don't use, you won't lose."  
 

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A Doc in Your Pocket: Doctor on Demand Gets Smarter

As you travel to your destination this holiday season, you may be bringing bags filled with presents - as well as runny noses, colds, flus, extra stress and high emotions. And there's a good chance that you'll see your primary-care doctor or psychologist before the year is out.
 
 

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T-Mobile US confirms 700MHz LTE network live in Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Minneapolis and Washington DC

TeleGeography's free daily email summary of the world's top telecom news stories.
 
 

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You may wonder why Sprint is giving almost 15 months of notice to NASCAR that it's dropping its title sponsorship. The reason is simple. It will take a long time to find a sponsor ready pony up the kind of money it takes to sponsor and support such a massive sponsorship every week during the NASCAR season...

 

 
 
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Sprint to Drop Nascar Partnership After 2016 Season

Sprint has decided not to extend its Nascar title sponsorship for the Sprint Cup Series, citing the need to focus on its core business. After the 2016 season, the telecommunications giant will allow the partnership to expire. Nascar has partnered with Sprint for years.
 
 

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In light of the Sony hack encrypted email is going to be the rage. Obviously, with Gmail and Google Apps so widely used, Google is sending a message that they're getting ready to offer that to their users.

 

 
 
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Google's alpha-stage email encryption plugin lands on GitHub

Google has updated its experimental End-to-End email encryption plugin for Chrome and moved the project to GitHub. The firm said in a Tuesday blog post that it had "always believed strongly that End-To-End must be an open source project." The alpha-stage, OpenPGP-based extension now includes the first contributions from Yahoo's chief security officer, Alex Stamos....
 
 

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NBC wants to make sure you can watch their content. Anywhere. But they've put a few catches to insure that their cable subscribers only see it--for now.

 

 
 
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NBC to roll out live streaming - but not so fast, cord cutters

Saturday Night Live isn't live streaming just yet. NBC has announced plans to begin live streaming its network shows, but cord cutters won't have access to the new service. The peacock network will start streaming to mobile and desktop devices on Tuesday, but viewers will need to provide a login tied to a cable subscription to gain access.
 
 

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Google Ventures is moving big time into healthcare. 

 

 
 
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Google Ventures Shifts Focus to Health Care

Google 's venture-capital arm is moving strongly into health care and life-sciences startups, mirroring shifts at the Internet giant. More than one-third of the money Google Ventures invested in 2014 went to health care and life-sciences companies, up from 9% each of the prior two years.
 
 

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While Marriott and Sheraton have already stated their no-key required, no check-in approaches, along comes Hilton with their own claims.

 

 
 
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Hilton's digital check-in and room selection rolled out worldwide

17 Dec 2014 | Get Free Access to Breaking Hospitality News Here [News, Information Technology] Hilton Worldwide has announced that its pioneering digital check-in and room selection technology is now live across more than 4,100 hotels spanning 11 brands worldwide. This includes more than 260 hotels across Europe, Middle East and Africa.
 
 

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Comunicano client PixiePath's CEO Bryan Field-Elliot was was interviewed on That Drone Show this morning. You can hear via YouTube just what PixiePath is all about.

 

 
 
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PixiePath CEO On Drone Fleet Management Platform

You can watch PixiePath CEO Bryan Field-Elliot talk all about Camera Drones, Quadcopters, Multirotors and more Video Podcasts at ThatDroneShow.com

 
 

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The next set of stories are all about drones. How they get used, where they can and can't and what may keep them from transforming business and privacy as we know it today.

 

 
 
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The Future of HealthTech - Ambulance Drones

In December 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos caused quite a stir with the announcement of his company's plans to offer 30-minute product deliveries via unmanned aerial vehicles (more commonly referred to as "drones"). Drones have been deployed by the U.S.
 
 

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Drone Shows L.A.'s Expo Line Route from a Bird's-Eye View (VIDEO)

L.A. has become a drone development center, in part because of Hollywood's desire for great aerial shots, and in part because of the tech explosion in Silicon Beach and Downtown L.A. A journalist can pick up a phone and find out if any of the city's hottest drone companies has...
 
 

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New York City's Drone Ban Would Be the Strictest in the Country

​A New York City council member is introducing legislation that would ban drones in the city, according to draft legislation obtained by Motherboard. The bill would amend the city's existing administrative code on aviation to severely restrict drones within city limits, essentially banning them except under very specific circumstances.
 
 

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Flying a drone in the UK: What you need to know

Drones of all shapes and sizes will be popular Christmas presents this year, but while some of the most dramatic videos are shot by flying over skyscrapers and famous landmarks, few pilots are aware of the laws preventing drone flying in built up areas.
 
 

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Conferencing Services Aligning With The Mobile Operators-All About Net Neutrality

This statement in the ComputerWorld article about Sprint and AT&T Mobile offering next generation conferencing services from UberConference and Cisco is really all about. Net neutrality and parity. 

Because of this over-the-top services debacle, the net neutrality debate takes on greater meaning. If carriers can offer their own content and services on their own networks, they don't have to worry as much about whether they are throttling somebody's else's third party service, and they don't have to levy a higher charge on that third party to give its service greater priority on a busy network.

What this also means is interconnection agreements between the carriers and the mobile operators also need to be honored. Thus if data traffic between Sprint and AT&T have to be treated the same as if they were on each other's owned and operated network, a call to Uber Conference from AT&T over the mobile app (if Uber offers this) would have to be as if it was ending up on AT&T and vice versa. This is a very important point and fact as we migrate from circuit switched voice to LTE Voice and VoLTE.