CallWave pioneers 'application centric' phone services

VoIP opens up a world of new features for all sorts of phones

The first comment I got on my first broadband phone column: "Why do I need that VoIP junk? My cell phone does everything I need."

That’s true if money’s no object, or your company pays your cell phone bill. But if you've ever felt your wallet wither while talking on a cell phone - especially when you’re within earshot (so to speak) of a traditional telephone, I bring good news.

The technology behind broadband phones (VoIP) can also give you more control over your phone calls. Every phone call can now be intercepted, enhanced with new features in the background, and delivered to any phone.

If you worry about exceeding your cell phone minutes, consider a new product called CallWave for mobile phones. With CallWave’s Mobile Call Screening Service ($3.95 per month), you can let cell phone calls go to voice mail and listen in on the message, just as you do with an answering machine. If you decide to grab the call, press one button and start talking. If not, leave it to voice mail. 

The service also includes a feature called Mobile Call Transfer, which can kick in some real savings. Sitting at home and your cell phone rings? Screen the call, hit the button to accept the call, then transfer the call to your home phone. Pick up your home phone and start talking without burning a single cell phone minute.

Don’t care about cell phone savings? Remember cell phone reception inside many homes and offices stink. Why dance around by the window trying to get better signal when one button transfers the call to your traditional or broadband phone, where quality is fine?

Dave Hofstatter, president and CEO of CallWave , says I need to add to my list of new phone technology names. Vonage and other broadband phones are “phone-centric,” Skype and other PC-to-PC phones are “computer-centric,” and CallWave now pioneers services for cell, traditional and broadband phones that I'm calling “application-centric.”

"We invented this with a unique interpretation of what VoIP really means," Hofstatter says.

What’s innovative is that CallWave sticks an application service platform in the middle of all telephone calls. When a call comes for you, CallWave grabs it, routes it to its server in central Nevada, and grabs all sorts of information from the Caller ID data and other sources. Just a little thought shows how many ways your phone calls could be better.

Think of the in-line phone application server like a specialized Web server. What if Caller ID information was enhanced with full user details, including location? What if your phone number triggered customer tracking software that put your sales history on an agent’s screen as soon as you said hello? What if your name automatically routed the call to the right agent without navigating a menu system?

We'll check back with Hofstatter this summer when CallWave’s small business service suite will be finished. This application-centric phone model means VoIP technology can benefit even those diehard phone traditionalists who'll never abandon their traditional phone lines.

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Ready or not, VoIP

Network World, 01/24/05

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