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

 


Why T-Mobile Is Winning Customers

I keep watching as T-Mobile is winning new customers and have to admit, that having been one of their customers for over 15 years, as well as with Verizon and AT&T, the Magenta network is constantly getting better. And they are doing a better job than the competition of telling the world that they are.

Honestly, I haven't used my Verizon iPhone 5 that much since the iPhone 6s arrived. The first reason was how poor the voice quality on Verizon has become, especially on calls routed via Google Voice or Switch to the phone. This is the opposite when compared to T-Mobile, where the audio quality is either HD when the other party is calling also on the T-Mobile network, or just better, because their network isn't as crowded. 

The second reason was obviously that I had new iPhone 6's (6 and Plus) that were only GSM editions. 

The third was  even more important. When I'm on T-Mobile's LTE network and using a conferencing service that has an app, like WebEX or GoToMeeting, the audio quality exceeds Verizon and AT&T, though the coverage areas is not as large.  Too often, especially on AT&T if I'm in motion on the highway, I'll drift from LTE into 4G coverage. Out here in San Diego, in the areas surrounding I-5 I found that T-Mo's LTE coverage was not as geographically wide, but where it was, it really was and it didn't come and go as often as AT&T does. 

Lastly, I'm a big user of iTunes Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn when I'm in the mood for music, and while I also have access to SIRIUS XM in the car and via their Apps, sometimes I just want my music or the music I like. T-Mobile's unlimited music delivery means none of what I'm listening to goes against my data cap.

My primary iPad, the iPad Air 2 is also on T-Mobile, so while I haven't yet given up my iPad on AT&T's SIM that is totally and will forever be "unlimited" I found that for the most part I'm not lacking in coverage that often.

Ironically, where I have found T-Mobile to be weakest is at major airports, and that's something they need to address. But it comes at a time when I'm also finding AT&T's coverage in some airports to be less available as airports like San Diego have modernized, but their DAS system is virtually non-existent, if they even have one.

Right now, I'm loving how good T-Mobile is. I'm sure though that the Blue and Red guys will catch up, but by then Sprint will have expanded their network enough to be someone to consider again.

P.S. And, there's one massive reason why they are winning too. It's all in the customer service. Over the past seven months every single need I've had has been addressed professionally, and within the day, on a par with American Express' level of care. 


Just Call Me - Conference Call 3.0

I have seen the future of Conference Calling, and it's "Just Call Me."

Just Call Me was created by Voxygen, the UK telecom product design company started by Dean Elwood (VoIP User, Truphone, etc.) Voxygen started up a few years back with the premise of approaching telephony as "Voice as a Service", the new Just Call Me service is currently only available for O2 users in the UK, but given Voxygen's relationships with Telefonica and other mobile carriers I suspect that won't be the case for long. (To learn more about Voxygen check out the profile from back in January by pal Martin Geddes.)

The quick start guide and video on the O2 web page is a great place to start as it makes it easy to understand how the service works, which is simplicity itself:-

  1. The organizer schedules the call and invites participants

  2. At the appointed time the participants just dial the organizers mobile number to join the call.

No PINs, no dial-in codes.

For those who are asked to join but didn't receive an email invite, they just call the organizers mobile number and the organizer allows them to enter. What's really cool though is the ability for the organizer to direct non call participants to voicemail. This "in call" and in session whisper feature allows the right non-invitees to join the call, while keeping the organizer squarely in control. The host just dials “321” from their mobile to join. If they need to dial in from a landline (deskphone for example) there’s an admin code enabling that.

Available now in the UK, the elegance and simplicity of the service has me wanting to use the service. Beyond the simplicity of Just Call Me, it also overcomes the two biggest hassles I have found with conference calls of late. First, is simply getting people to be able to log on via apps. The second is the disruption that’s caused by echo and delay that third party services seem to arise on IP calls due to a multitude of network, software and hardware.

What Voxygen has done, by integrating the service within the mobile operator's network (O2), helps avoid much of that, as the service has the backbone reliability that carriers and operators can provide. This level of quality can only be achieved because mobile operators have interoperability standards they must follow for calls to pass between networks. Apply that approach  to conference calling, and you have a far better base to build on top of. That's something that has been missing from all the new over the top types.

 

While services like GoToMeeting, WebEx, Calliflower and UberConference run over the top (OTT), what Voxygen has done is "Through the Telco" or "TTT" as Elwood calls it. It's an approach whose time has come, and for constant conference call participants, something that has been needed for a long time.


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.

 


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.


Enterprise Connect and My Views from Afar

I just read pal and uber analyst Dean Bubley's recap on the first day of the 2015 Enterprise Connect that's being held in Orlando. I have to admit, that the lack of excitement in Dean's post came through, further underscoring a feeling I have about events, conferences and summits being less and less about the news and really coming back to being what trade shows were created for. To sell.

That makes it far less interesting to people like Dean and I, who are looking for the next big thing and how to propel it. You see, today, you don't need a trade show to launch a service or product. Apple and Google prove that all the time, as the media and analyst are all so connected these days that a good story gets told and retold regardless of where it's announced. 

Dean's comments about WebRTC are very much also in line with mine, and I'd go one step farther. At a conference like Enterprise Connect the news or solutions we're going to hear about are those that solve the problems that the enterprise has, not the ones that mobile operators or ISP's have. Save those angles for other events that are more targeted.

To go farther, I'm not surprised that the WebRTC angles are all around Skype replacements and VoIP parallels when in reality there's so much more that can be done with WebRTC and things that are far more exciting like sensors, beacons, IoT and Wearables to me. But, those are not yet ready for Enterprise Connect, but give it a few years.

 

 


Honored and Humbled-IT Expo 20 Years of VoIP Pioneers Panel

I have been both honored and humbled at the same time. Two days ago, TMC's Rich Tehrani presented some of my closest friends in world, some who are or have been clients and I with an award.

That award is all about our contributions that made us Pioneers in VoIP by helping make the industry what it is today. For me, it was about as emotionally charged as the day I graduated Temple University, my wedding in Montpeyroux, when I produced the retirement night of the Flyers' hero and longtime captain Bobby Clarke, or the night I brought him out of retirement in 1988 to play against the Celebrity All Star Hockey Team. 

Being up on stage with Jeff Pulver (Von, Vonage), Craig Walker (GrandCentral, Switch, UberConference, DialPad), Andy Voss (NeuEra, Sansay), Mike Tribolet (Vonage, Dialpad, YipTV), Alon Cohen (VocalTec, Phone.com) and Danny Windham of Digium was a rush.

It was a rush because when I first started VoIPWatch, back in 2003, I did it for four reasons:

  1. To be asked by media about the subject and to be an authority about it.
  2. To speak at conferences
  3. To attract new clients
  4. To make new friends

I can safely say those goals were met and continue to be met every day. 

It was also great to see Rich start the IT Expo Hall of Fame and induct friends Alon Cohen and Jeff Pulver. I'm happy to have contributed my part in making that possible too. So if there's one more guy who belongs up on that list of Pioneers. It's Rich himself. He's done as much as anyone to help propel the industry, so while he moderated, he just as easily could have been one of us.

As for whom else could be on that list of pioneers, I've got a few in my mind who can't be overlooked at all.

  • Erik Lagerway for XTEN and what is now Counterpath, as well as many other VoIP based businesses.
  • Dr. Ed Guy and James Tagg, for their work with Mobile VoIP at Truphone
  • Alec Saunders who created iotum and what is now Calliflower
  • Ben Lilienthal of HiDef Conferencing for bringing us HD before its time
  • Jeff Bonforte and Michael Robertson for giving us SIPPhone and Gizmo Project
  • Nicklas and Janus for giving us Skype
  • Om Malik for BroadBandits and the start of GigaOm the first mainline publication to give a SIP about VoIP plus for his willingness to give me "link love" when I needed it back at the start of this journey.

You see, there are many pioneers, so to be singled out on the first panel, and part of the first ballot inductees into what really is the Pioneers of VoIP Club is truly a big honor for me.

Thanks TMC. Thanks Rich. And thanks to all the people I was there on stage with. To be honored along with each of you is to be truly humbled.

 


Citrix Wants To Be In the Phone Business with Convoi

Citrix, best known to many readers here for GoToMeeting and many other enterprise services is getting in the phone business. The are quietly inviting GoToMeeting users into a soft launch for Convoi and they are aiming it to be your second line on your mobile phone, but with features that are geared around business, all based on an Over The Top (OTT) approach.

Convoi

Key highlights include a second number, voice calls and text. Much like Line2, FLYP or the original pioneers in this space Truphone and TalkPlus (both at times Comunicano clients). What's interesting is that Citrix's Convoi is how they upfront are linking it to conference calling, something I'm waiting for Switch to do with their sister UberConference as a native service.

Convoi2

Will Convoi go where others before it haven't? Maybe. And that's because they have likely leveraged the Citrix network, lots of experience at building scalable technology, are adding WebRTC smarts from their free three party GoToMeeting service and just sheer marketing muscle.