StrikeIron: Telephone Mashups Meet Web 2.0

StrikeIron Inc. along with Sylantro Systems and O'Reilly Media, has announced winners of the first-ever Telephony Mashup Contest. The event was held at O'Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference (ETel), and showcased how Web 2.0 meets telephony apps for VoiceXML, SIP, VoIP, PBX/IVR. IDN meets the winners, and looks at telephone mashups with a StrikeIron exec.

Tags: Mashup, Developers, Strikeiron, Customer, SMS, Support, Consumer,

StrikeIron Inc. has announced winners of the first-ever Telephony Mashup Contest. The content, jointly held with Sylantro Systems and O'Reilly Media, was held during O'Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference (ETel) and showcases how Web 2.0 meets telephony apps for VoiceXML, SIP, VoIP, PBX/IVR.

A "telephony mashup,?according to StrikeIron, is a voice, Web, or mobile application (VoiceXML, PBX, IVR, VOIP, SMS, Text Messaging, etc.) that combines content from more than one source to create a new user experience. Contestants had to combine content with telephony services (ex: VOIP, SMS, Text Messaging, PBX, IVR) to create a mashup is qualified for submission.

"By tapping into the vast marketplace of content and services leveraging our online data distribution platform, developers can help empower a new set of services for users,?said Bob Brauer, president and CEO of StrikeIron. For more on the emerging trends in "telephone mashups,?IDN interviews Dave Nielsen, Director of StrikeIron's Partner Programs.

StrikeIron provide a one of the industry's largest "marketplaces?for plug-and-play XML-based web services. Built on a Web Services Commerce Platform, StrikeIron's self-service marketplace is a place for services providers and consumers to publish, subscribe to, and build with. Sylantro Systems provides the premier software platform for business, consumer, and mobile hosted VoIP solutions. Sylantro customers include AT&T,, China Netcom, China Unicom and Covad.

Now, let's meet the 2007 Telephony Mashup winners.

  • First place: AfterHoursDoctorsOffice - by Thomas Howe. Using Amazon Mechanical Turk & StrikeIron SMS, this transcribes office voice mail left by patients for doctors, into text, which is then sent via SMS to the doctor

  • Second place - RoboCal - by Ted Gilchrist of Botcast Network. Using 30 Boxes & Google Calendar, this enables users to listen to events listed in 30 Boxes or Google Calendar. Can also save voice messages to your calendar

  • Third place - FishLign - by Claire Umeda & Dharmesh Desai of LignUp - using StrikeIron Driving Directions & LignUp Recording, TTS & Personalization performs Click2Call and customize a users web and voice experience.

    [Winners were chosen from a total of 19 entries. Each of 3 finalist demo'ed their voice application and to the O'Reilly ETel audience. Cash prizes of up to $1500 were awarded.)

    Now, our conversation with StrikeIron's Dave Nielsen.

    Integration Developer News interview with
    Dave Nielsen, Director of Partner Programs
    StrikeIron Inc.

    TOPIC: Types of Telephone Mashup Apps?
    IDN: You describe a telephone mashup as a voice, Web, or mobile application (VoiceXML, PBX, IVR, VOIP, SMS, Text Messaging, etc.) that combines content from more than one source to create a new user experience. Describe some of the more exciting applications?

    Nielsen: Sure. Think of your phone as a web browser, and the audio you hear as the content in your web browser. The audio comes from a communication server, which is similar to a web server. The communication server (IP PBX, IVR, VoiceXML, etc.) is where the mashup occurs.

    A simple example of a mashup might be alerts from an internet-based voicemail server which uses Strikeiron SMS to send notifications to the voicemail owner. The SMS message can include Caller ID info collected from a Reverse Phone Number Lookup API using the originating-callers phone number. Another example might be a Store Locator Mashup where a customer calls a company general number, provides a cross street and is provided line by line driving directions to the closest store location via SMS.

    TOPIC: Dev Opportunities for Telephone Mashups
    IDN: What kind of opportunities do you see coming for these "telephone mashup?applications? What tips can you offer architects and developers who may want to experiment?

    Nielsen: The mashup opportunities I see are in customer support, ecommerce and consumer groups. For example, a Click2Call support button on a website could connect a customer directly to a Customer Support representative passing the rep info about the specific product model the user is looking at. This will save time for both the customer and the support rep. In ecommerce, there are many opportunities, such as the Driving Directions example I mentioned earlier. And in the consumer space, mashups provide the ability for consumers to customize their web surfing experience and identity, much in the same way MySpace does.

    TOPIC: What Skills are Needed
    IDN: You make it clear that emerging services technologies (XML, web services, SOA, WSDL-type interfaces, etc,) will all be enablers for telephone mashups. But, what kinds of skills will devs need? Won't many of these apps be abstracted from the individual developer?

    Nielsen: Some technologies, like XML and WSDL, should be invisible. But understanding web services and SOA concepts are critical to building a mashup application that you and your company can rely on.

    There are many tools on the market that can help developers have insight into these invisible technologies. For instance StrikeIron has a tool called SOA Express for Excel. It allows developers to build a mashup in Excel, which they are already familiar with, and it can easily be put in the hands of a business user to execute. When mashups reach the state where they are able to be consumed by the entire business community, their value can clearly be monetized and they will become part of mainstream development tools. Understanding the disruptiveness of the technology can give you insights as to what opportunities they can empower and will empower in the very near future.

    TOPIC: Tools to Build telephone Mashups
    IDN: What type of tools are required to build such applications? Do you think Open Source frameworks, such as Eclipse and NetBeans, will support telephone mashups anytime soon?

    Nielsen: No tools are *required* to build such applications, but the right tool can help ... a lot. Open Source tools, such as Eclipse and NetBeans are right on the heels of Microsoft Visual Studio in terms of usability. But building telephony mashups require different tools. There are high-end commercial products from such companies as Sylantro and Tellme, which provide the tools to manage your telephony mashups. Asterisk, an open source PBX, has made it affordable for individual developers to get started.

    TOPIC: Career Impact of Telephone Mashups
    IDN: StrikeIron's whitepaper says development models will change to provide architects and devs a new range of modular and even hosted component options. Can you explain? How will these "integratable on-demand?approaches impact architects and devs in coming years?

    Nielsen: In StrikeIron's Whitepaper, Extending SOA and Internal Applications Using Commercial Web Services, we propose that businesses outsource applications to on-demand vendors which, in turn, outsource external data services components to suppliers such as StrikeIron. Expertise and economies of scale have made this process inevitable.

    Because the technology is beginning to standardize, architects and developers now have options to mashup more than APIs, but widgets too. As this happens, architects and developers will supply less heavy integration of customized services, and more flexible components that can easily be reused and repurposed, allowing them to support everyone in the enterprise.