Mobile UC is more than simply making calls to enterprise extensions ring on mobile phones or being able to channel all voicemails to the enterprise messaging servers. Mobile UC includes what for most users are the longest calls they take on their mobiles - enterprise conference calls - and the mechanisms that simplify initiation, management and control of the mobile conference call user experience.
One application-service is the InterCall Mobile Assistant which was first released in 2006 as a BlackBerry script that automated a user’s login DTMF sequence to their most frequent conferencing sessions. Today, the product name encompasses client software not only for BlackBerry, but Windows Mobile, iPhone and Symbian S60. Android support expands the addressable market to include a hot new class of mobile phone. The Android client is planned for release in the coming months.
The goal for the Mobile Assistant is to facilitate conference call initiation, joining and session management - making it easier for mobile users to create, join and manage their participation in audio conference calls. The Windows Mobile, Symbian S60 and BlackBerry client software is complemented with two important capabilities - Mobile Leader Smart Join feature and SMS Messaging services. The Smart Join feature recognizes the CLID of the leader’s mobile phone and automatically authenticates them to their conference bridge.
The SMS Messaging service alerts invitees via an SMS message so that mobile invitees with the Mobile Assistant can simply click the number in the SMS and join the call directly.
The iPhone Mobile Assistant is available for free download in the Apple iTunes App Store. Using a ‘profile’ metaphor, users define each of their conference authentication codes and detail where the bridge is to call, which can be a different phone number than the mobile. In this way, users can click and have the bridge dial out to start or join a conference.
This is an architectural distinction from the BlackBerry client. The BlackBerry client initiates the call to the bridge. The iPhone Mobile Assistant sends a message to have the bridge initiate the call to the iPhone. This mode of operation is necessary since the iPhone’s OS 3.x does not support multi-threaded operations. Apps shutdown once the dialer is initiated.
So, once the bridge call is accepted by the user, they can initiate the iPhone Mobile Assistant which then engages the control panel for call leaders who can view the participant list, mute selected participants from a list or mute all participants, lock, record, disconnect some or end the call. For iPhone OS pre-4.0 users, the client passes a message to the conference server which dials the iPhone. Once a conference call is engaged, users can control their participation more precisely using the client controls.
The company estimates that there are more than 100,000 downloads installed since 2006 and about 2,000 more each month.
Mobile Assistant is available for free download from the various device vendor app stores. Windows Mobile and BlackBerry users can download their versions of the Mobile Assistant from http://mobile.intercall.com. You can also download the appropriate user guide in PDF form.
InterCall continues to develop the mobile app portfolio (Android release is expected soon) with new features, and distribute the app at no cost to users. Enabling a more convenient conference call experience makes sense along several dimensions. Mobile Assistant:
These advantages are a important part of adding value to the conferencing service. And, enabling new features like the Active Talker which shows the name of the participants that is speaking on the list of participants, makes the user experience more productive.
An important differentiation in mobile devices has been pushed by the telecom expense management industry. It is the distinction between corporate liable and personal liable mobile devices. Corporate liable devices are those financed and supported by the corporation, by the employer. Personal liable devices are those mobile devices under contract by the employee. These distinctions are necessary in some industries because of the requirement for call recording (in the UK even mobile voice calls are to be recorded for regulatory purposes in the financial services industry), call detail record keeping, privacy and account records security and in others as a best practice just to make sure the employee is not making personal calls on the business mobile or on company time.
In Europe, where there are more mobile phones than people, that has been resolved in the past by users carrying two mobile phones - one for work, one for play. Other implementations have been dual-SIM mobile phones (almost as awkward as carrying two mobile phones) or call-by-call user accounting - annoyingly burdensome.
None of these are particular effective at separating out the personal and corporate liabilities. This challenge is likely to only get worse and more complicated as more and more consumers exploit the consumer models of smartphones and as mobile operators rollout very potent smartphones with very attractive data plans at better price-performance levels than the laggard corporate standard. Mobile operators and the device manufacturers continue to work very hard to bring innovative features and apps to users. Apple has shown the mobile industry how to harness an army of third party developers jazzed about the prospect of earning $0.75 for each of millions of mobile phones. In any event, separating out the corporate liable from the personal liable communications is going to get more difficult and the simpler solutions - multiple phones, post-bill analysis - are just not going to cut it for users or their managers.
Mobiso is an app-as-a-Service offering available for BlackBerry, iPhone and soon to be announced Android and Symbian devices that enables personal and corporate liable communications on the same mobile device. Users download a client software from the BlackBerry store or the iPhone store. Users then create a login id at the Mobiso portal, mymobiso.com. Activating the client and using the portal credentials allows users to immediately backup their smartphone contact details. For iPhone users (like me) this is a redundant contact store since I already sync my Mac Contacts with the iPhone. Microsoft Outlook users are able to sync the personal and corporate-defined Outlook contacts with their smartphone too.
On BlackBerry, but not iPhones, the Mobiso client monitors whenever a call has been completed and pops up a dialog box so the user can key in their CRM notes about the customer session. This is annotated to the call logs which can be uploaded on command, or on some scheduled interval to the Mobiso portal. The call logs can be parsed - personal versus corporate calls - and then processed for accounting treatment and or uploaded to the CRM implementation. I saw the SugarCRM synchronization of call logs as part of the demo, which was quite functional, but would really need to become an integrated and automated synchronization triggered by the uploading of the call logs. Integration with Salesforce.com or other sales force automation or CRM products or services are easily enabled through the use of common file formats and uploading processes.
Overall, the functionality of Mobiso is quite good at improving the productivity and accountability of sales persons or those needing to account for their call activities such as accountants, engineers and lawyers. The administration service allows an enterprise to establish Mobiso as a corporate standard app and then facilitate business intelligence gathered from managing dozens, hundreds or thousands of devices.
Mobiso is the creation of Lyrix, a software developer that has been innovating around interactive voice response and speech technologies for a number of years. As an extension of Mobiso, Lyrix also offers a cloud-based speech processor that can initiate calls from your Mobiso directory with only a spoken command. The capability is part of a cloud-based speech activated auto attendant service that can process calls to employee mobile phones, employee desktop phones or any other setting in the Find Me Follow Me service.
To administrate or configure their service, users call into the service using their mobile, which automatically recognizes the CLID and authenticates the user (just like most mobile operator voicemail servers) and can activate unified communications services such as Find Me Follow Me settings or place calls to 'Mother', 'Janice Jones mobile' or any other contact. The service now supports Skype-to-SIP interfaces, so callers can reach employees supported by Lyrix using their Skype accounts.
Economically, Mobiso is a sound offer. Free to get personal call detail logging (not on iPhone) extensions and contact backup in the cloud (over the air too). About $2/user/month to get enterprise-wide business intelligence on mobile calling patterns and another $2/user/month to get the speech-enabled auto attendant service.
Critical to Mobiso's success is the channel to market. How can they integrate their offer into the work flows and meta-call processing demands of enterprises and their users? So far, the focus has been on Wireless Expense Management companies as joint-marketing partners and the introduction of the free client downloads, generating thousands of users of the free client and service which hopefully leads to enterprise/administrator service sales.
Alteva, the largest licensee of Broadsoft softswitch product, which is also positioned as an enterprise hosted VoIP company announced the Alteva Anywhere service. This capability leverages the hosted VoIP capabilities of the Alteva service and integrates any mobile device directly into the call flow, making one-number service possible for Alteva customers.
Louis Hayner, Alteva CTO described the service as a fixed-mobile convergence offering by incorporating enhanced simultaneous ring functionality. Customers call a user's office number, and it also rings the programmed mobile phone - just like simultaneous ring - but, from this point on, the call flow differs from simultaneous ring service.
The caller ID of the caller is presented to the mobile phone and not the ID of the office phone. My previous experience with find-me follow-me services presented me with the caller ID of my office DID, forcing me to listen to the recording of the caller's name to decide to accept or not. For busy people, this is a painful and sometimes inappropriate interruption and process step if the call was not the important call they had hoped it would be.
If the call is accepted on the mobile phone, the user is presented the message "Press any key to accept the call." This is a necessary to make sure that the caller is not presented to the mobile voicemail service. Part of the goal of the Alteva Anywhere service is to integrate the mobile device more directly into the operational environment of the desktop phone and the Alteva hosted service. It also makes one number more practical with only one voicemail service, which could be presented to the mobile phone as a wav file in a push email-capable smart phone.
Importantly, at any point in the call, the user can signal the Alteva call server using the # sign button. Then, through a series of DTMF commands and context-sensitive audio prompts, the caller can be transferred to the deskphone, another coworker or some other landline or IP phone. Other services such as international calls from mobile at landline calling rates, call recording of mobile calls, or enterprise call masking (caller ID of calls from Alteva Anywhere users appear as enterprise calls and not the mobile number of the mobile phone in use) can also be enabled with this capability.
Similar to the design of the SkypeToGo service, Alteva's design would have users call into their voicemail service using the mobile phone, authenticate themselves and then select the option to make an outbound call. This service then dials the international number (which could include calls to Canada) and thereby avoid the typically $0.20/minute charge to Canada or $0.69/minute charge to France.