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FTC’s $50,000 Robocall Challenge nets 744 ideas to shut down robocallers

The Federal Trade Commission will now pick best tech to help stop robocall menace

By Layer 8 on Thu, 01/31/13 - 12:50pm.

The Federal Trade Commission today said the submission period for its Robocall Challenge had ended and it got 744 new ideas for ways to shut down the annoying automated callers.

The FTC noted that the vast majority of telephone calls that deliver a prerecorded message trying to sell something to the recipient are illegal. The FTC regulates these calls under the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Challenge was issued to developing technical or functional solutions and proofs of concepts that can block illegal robocalls which despite the agency's best efforts seem to be increasing.

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The FTC Robocall Challenge is now in the hands of the judges which include Steve Bellovin, FTC Chief Technologist; Henning Schulzrinne, Federal Communications Commission Chief Technologist; and Kara Swisher of All Things Digital.

The FTC said the prize will be awarded to an individual, team, or small corporation (10 employees or less) if a solution is developed based on the following criteria:

  • Does it work?: How successful is the proposed solution likely to be in blocking illegal robocalls? Will it block wanted calls? An ideal solution blocks all illegal robocalls and no calls that are legally permitted. (For example, automated calls by political parties, charities, and health care providers, as well as reverse 911 calls, are not illegal robocalls.)
  • How many consumer phones can be protected? What types of phones? Mobile phones? Traditional wired lines? VoIP land lines? Proposals that will work for all phones will be more heavily weighted.
  • Is it easy to use?: How difficult would it be for a consumer to learn to use your solution? How efficient would it be to use your solution, from a consumer's perspective?
  • Are there mistakes consumers might make in using your solution, and how severe would they be?
  • Can it be rolled out?: What has to be changed for your idea to work? Can it function in today's marketplace? (Does it require changes to all phone switches world-wide, and require active cooperation by all of the world's phone companies and VoIP gateways, or can it work with limited adoption?) Solutions that are deployable at once will be more heavily weighted, as will solutions that give immediate benefits with even small-scale deployment
  • Additionally, organizations that employ more than 10 people may compete for the FTC's Technology Achievement Award, which does not include a cash prize.

Among the myriad entries,