Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The return of the telephony apps-Phone service applications

There was a time during late 90s when VXML was king and telephone applications ruled. Everybody wanted to build telephone applications. But somewhere down the line, telephone applications lost out to web applications. The reasons are many:

1.Closed nature of the telephony applications controlled by a few big telecom companies.
2.New technology stack to be learnt by developers.
3.Large setup costs and costly telephony hardware.
4.Technology gap. Voice based technologies were not upto the mark, especially speech recognition.

On the other hand web based technologies did not have these problems and they became the mode of choice for information dissemination.

Things started to change with the advent of open source telephony and voip, specifically Asterisk.Points 1 and 3 in the above list were voided by open source telephony stacks. Voip was a major disruptive technology for phone service applications. People were able to setup communication platforms and build telephony applications in their homes. But still points 2 and 4 were coming the way of widespread acceptance of telephony applications.

Though point 4 is still a long way away from being 100% point 2 has a found a solution in the form of cloud telephony. A lot of companies have come up in the recent past which provide a cloud telephony option. All cloud telephony service providers have the following things in common:

1.They provide a web based API using which users can call telephony applications like dial, get dtmf, record audio, play audio etc.
2.They take care of hardware setup and phone number provisioning so that you can worry only about your application.
3.Most of them have a pay for what you use policy so the initial setup costs are negligent.

This technology has had a disruptive effect on telephony applications. Now developers can use their existing programming skills of java,php,ruby,c,c++ etc to develop telephony applications. This has led to a spurt in telephony applications with an innovative mix of web applications with telephone based services.(TwitterVoice)

With the advent of KooKoo these kind of services are available in India also.

Some well known cloud telephony services are:

1.Tropo
2.Twilio
3.Cloudvox
4.Invox
5.IfByPhone

In a later post I will discuss about innovative ideas to build voice applications.