Start-up: Iotum – Simply Relevant Communications

Alec Saunders is launching a company based on the answer to the question…"How much is Voice 2.0 like Web 2.0?".  From my earlier posts you already know my position… I think Web 2.0 serves as a proxy of how Voice 2.0 services can and will evolve… Services like Iotum.com.

Alec offers some Web 2.0 guiding principles that one <Iotum> considers important to developing a Voice 2.0 solution:

*) Data is the Next Intel Inside
For competitive advantage, seek to own a unique, hard-to-recreate source of data

*) Users Add Value
Don’t restrict your "architecture of participation" to software development. Involve your users both implicitly and explicitly in adding value to your application.

*) Network Effects by Default
Set inclusive defaults for aggregating user data as a side-effect of their use of the application.

*) Some Rights Reserved
When benefits come from collective adoption, not private restriction, make sure that barriers to adoption are low. Follow existing standards, and use licenses with as few restrictions as possible. Design for "hackability" and "remixability."

*) The Perpetual Beta
Don’t package up new features into monolithic releases, but instead add them on a regular basis as part of the normal user experience. Engage your users as real-time testers, and instrument the service so that you know how people use the new features.

*) Cooperate, Don’t Control
Offer web services interfaces and content syndication, and re-use the data services of others. Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely-coupled systems.

*) Software Above the Level of a Single Device
Design your application from the get-go to integrate services across handheld devices, PCs, and internet servers.

If you were to apply them to voice, the implications are quite profound.  You might expect:

Data driven communications: Opt-in services, such as directories, spanning many carriers, would be a logical outcome here.  Data concerning users, usage patterns, and relationships amongst users will be a key part of this world.  By default, this information will be collected as a natural outcome of the service.  In contrast with today’s world, the usage of data in the communications infrastructure is quite limited.  Much valuable data is collected, but then used for mundane but necessary tasks like billing.

Instant feature deployment: Features can be added at any time provided they are added server side.  Skype is on a 30 to 45 day release cycle at the moment, but that may slow as the sheer mass of clients in the market changes.  At this point, they have a problem which is that protocol changes will require the replacement of all existing clients, unless 100% backward compatible.  A Voice 2.0 application shouldn’t have that constraint.  Again, in sharp contrast to today’s world where even the most uncomplicated features go throught 12 to 18 month trial cycles.  The trial, as we know it, will disappear in a Voice 2.0 environment.

Programmability: Today’s telecom infrastructure components are programmable, but only by skilled technicians with access to lab equipment.  In a Voice 2.0 world, lightweight programming models will allow loosely coupled services to access information and services exposed by other services.   It’s not just data, either.  We should expect to see publicly exposed API’s for session control as well.  This will lead to an open market place for competing services, and more importantly, to new, previously unheard of services.  Again, this is a very different world from the status quo in the telecom industry. 

Today, the companies most nearly executing against this vision are doing VoIM.  Even so, they all have proprietary client software, and none are executing on data driven communications strategies.

I like Iotum’s vision, value proposition and biased toward a Web 2.0 approach to Voice 2.0.  I’ll be watching closely how they execute.

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