Chris Kranky

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Isn’t it all about data?

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

united_example1I remember as a kid the excitement when we finally got a “push button” telephone. It was the cool thing to have. It also sparked the introduction of the multibillion $$$ market for IVR systems. It allowed me as an end point to send some data to the far end. It was pretty limited (12 digits only) but it was enough and it was standardized. With DTMF there is no “man in the middle”. I pressed the button and you at the far end heard it and did whatever you wanted to do.   Telcos introduced DTMF in 1963 mainly as a way to dial calls faster, they 100% missed the data piece.

In 1988, the CCITT introduced the famed “Red Book” which detailed how ISDN was supposed to work. The hope for ISDN was that it would enable a seamless voice & data path between me, the sender and you, the receiver.  The intent was for there not to be a “man in the middle”. Unfortunately, telcos spent years arguing amongst themselves about the standard (mostly about interop between networks).  In the end, ISDN was nothing but a new way to send 1963 voice. Once again, they 100% missed the data element.

It’s 2013 and I’m watching all sorts of cute WebRTC demos. The focus seems to be on video and loads of discussion about voice (for some reason we love to argue about standards for voice?). Are we missing something (again)?

The secret weapon to WebRTC will be the data channel.

Let me give you a very simple example. Suppose in the future I call United Airlines using a WebRTC enabled URL on my smart device. No I don’t have the United app on my phone. Suddenly, United’s call center has a direct voice & data connection to me with no “man in the middle”.  They can easily present customized and useful information and take/act upon my input. It might be as simple as how long  my expected hold time to reach an agent is.  Think about the possibilities, free from the burden of adhering to some narrowly defined specification but utilizing the power of  the broadly defined WebRTC spec. All of this, mind you, within a browser window.

None of us like listening to long announcements, all of us hate music on hold and if I never hear again, “please listen carefully as our menu options have changed“, the world will be a better place. IVR will be forever changed.

Even more amazing is that your run of the mill HTML/JS coder will be able to develop these capabilities without learning the intricacies of communications and develop it with tools they’re already familiar with and no need to have specialized test equipment. And best of all, there is no “man in the middle” to control the interaction. There’s just you and me!