Category Archives: Voip

“Your local friend” – business idea for travellers

Use case

Many people come to the foreign countries and feel lost/confused traveling around and/or getting services. If possible, they like to go places with a local friend who will point out the best features, explain how things work and/or translate the requests into the local language. This is a service for those who do not have such a friend.

Basic business flow

  1. A service kiosk in the airport (visitor’s center) would hire out he mobile phones with GPS/Camera built-in. A visitor picks up the phone and gives his language preferences.
  2. At any point, the visitor can call the local service number on speed-dial and they will be helped with services that voice+GPS+SMS+Camera can do. For example:
    1. The agent answers the call in visitor’s language and can translate the communication between the visitor and locals (via speaker phone). If it is a sign, poster or written material, it can be photographed and sent to agent for explanation.
    2. The agent knows where the user is located (via GPS) and has internet access to street directories, toilet maps, phone directories, public transport, traffic maps, Google Earth view, local rules, etc.
  3. Therefore the agent can advise the visitor on any issues that visitor needs resolved (in their language). Any notes can be sent via SMS to ensure understanding/recall.

Additional features and up-sell opportunities

  1. If the visitor brought their different-standard phone over, use the service interface to automatically copy the phone numbers onto the new handset with automatic cheap rates via (for example) Rebtel number substitution. Or phone/Skype integration.
  2. Provide alarm, booking, etc services
  3. Provide audio tours via integration with GPS and IVR system
  4. If the visitor provides their social network credentials, integrate with those systems to post sent geocoded pictures to user’s account and/or provide two-way integration between SMS and Skype
  5. Provide language lessons (speed dial 8 for the “target language” taught by “your language” tutor)
  6. The service can be pitched as for emergency use only, so that the fee for hiring the phone without actually using it would be similar to car insurance (couple of dollars per day).

Revenue

  1. The revenue would come from charging for the services (probably per minute) and for mediating 3rd party solutions such as Rebtel (surcharge per minute). Some services that are mostly IVR interface could probably be cheaper than human assisted ones.
  2. None of these services require phone agents to be present in the target country, only the sales agents and DID phone numbers. SIP trunks allow for that.
  3. Even sales agents could be minimised with booking the phone over the Internet, etc. Depending on the cost of the phones, they could be prepaid service or Credit Card deposit type.

This idea is released under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

My phone company wants to be a friend

My VOIP phone company (Lingo) has just announced that they are now on MySpace. I have heard of car companies doing that, but it feels rather weird when a utility company wants to do the same.

I can see two reasons they could be doing that:

  1. They are not doing too well and are getting desperate. They used to offer $25 as a referral fee and remind of it every 6 months or so. Now, it is $50 and they mention it every email they send. To me it means their cost of acquisition has gone up with more and more companies entering the VOIP provider market.
  2. They want to look hip and new and differentiated from old-school telcos. It seems to work to some degree, as they already have more than 60 friends and even some comments.

One thing for sure. They now have a public forum, where they had none before. It would be interesting to see how they will handle the first negative comment about their service. If they are really getting into MySpace for community, rather than just for the image, they will learn the lessons from other companies that had to deal with public complaints.

Gmail + VOIP = great reference system in the Net cloud

My primary phone number is provided by Lingo – a Voice over internet provider. One of the features it has is server based voicemail with the message automatically forwarded to my email. A feature like this would (AFAIK) be very expensive from a traditional provider, but usually comes for free from most VOIP-based providers. Some providers (like PhoneGnome) even bridge your old-system line to the new functionality automagically.

My primary email system is Gmail and that’s where my voicemails get forwarded to. This means that I can read my messages and listen to voicemails from any location with internet access. Which I do. I don’t even call the voicemail portal anymore when I get home; I check my Gmail account instead. Furthermore, since Gmail’s storage is constantly growing, I haven’t had to delete a single voice mail message yet.

Combined VOIP+Gmail setup allows me to recall past events very fast. For example, I had lost someone’s phone number and needed to urgently call them. Fortunately I did remember that – some time in the past – they called me in regards to a particular subject. I did a Gmail search for that subject and found another email from the same day. I then used Gmail’s advanced search (after:2006/11/19 before:2006/11/21 has:attachment) and the voicemail and the originating number came up immediately. I could then download the voicemail message to confirm that I had the correct person and number. The whole process took 3 minutes and less than 10 clicks.

This is just one small feature of the new telephony, but even this one feature makes it very hard to go back to old providers. To those with broadband internet, I strongly recommend VOIP providers (if not necessarily Lingo itself). I am certainly looking into even more exciting possibilities offered by companies such as GrandCentral, PhoneGnome and Voxeo.