Friday, 30 April 2010

Interacting with the electorate using technology

It may have escaped your notice, but the 51st state of the Union, that's Britain (or England as most Americans like to call it) by the way, is holding its elections six months ahead of the usual mid-term elections. Like the other distant states, Alaska and Hawaii, Britain maintains the habit of 'doing its own thing'. There are regional governments here too, however, the upcoming elections are neither for the Welsh Assembly nor the Scottish Parliament; they are purely for the Westminster Parliament.

One thing that's created a stir over here, this time around, is the presidential style television debates between the party leaders. These have been entertaining or boring, depending on to whom you talk. I think, though, that the organisers have missed a trick. Or, they've not had the courage of their convictions - or the party leaders have 'chickened out'. I mean, come on, they could surely have gone for a bit more audience participation. How much of a risk would that really have been?

Some or other enterprising customer from Aculab's developer community would willingly provide state-of-the-art call centre technology in order to liven up the debates.

The kinds of technology I mean are things such as:Call Centre Lady LR.png
  • Outbound call centre dialling to canvas voters 
  • Inbound mass calling platform to register voters' opinion of the participants immediately post debate, such as the poll conducted by SKY News after the debate it hosted
  • Conferencing platforms to enable voters to participate directly in the live TV event, posing questions to the leaders in real time

For Aculab, these platforms use media resources that can be considered our core competence, such as active speaker detection, support for multiple voice codec types (fixed, mobile, narrowband, wideband), TDM and IP connectivity, highly effective call progress analysis (CPA) and automatic call distribution (ACD).
These technologies have been used numerous times to build systems by our developer partners such as Dolphin Systems, Future Technologies and Noble Systems.

Perhaps the use of some of these technologies might be a turn off for the typically reserved British nation, or perhaps it was thought that just having the three main contenders on screen for 90 minutes would be enticing enough in its own right - but I for one did not persevere to the end, and went channel hopping in search of the World Championship snooker instead!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Serving the needs of critical communications systems

Recent emergency situations, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and this week in China bring it home to us that when disasters like these occur, the emergency services and the general public who are directly affected rely heavily upon communication systems to co-ordinate rescue efforts and receive the most up-to-date information.

As a supplier of enabling technology that often gets installed into the communication systems used by emergency services, Aculab has a duty to enable such systems to operate flawlessly, to provide communications clarity and to offer utmost reliability.

Several recent technological advances are playing their part in providing world-class Integrated Command and Control Systems (ICCS):

The first example is a technique we have developed to enable the concept of equipment duplication used in TDM communications systems to give 'five 9s' reliability in an IP-based communication system. The Dual Redundant SIP Service (DRSS) enables the SIP stack used for the call control to be duplicated over separate hardware platforms to give much improved fault tolerance capabilities. By keeping the two SIP stacks synchronised, a call being set up or in progress will not  be dropped even if the main server fails mid-call or during call set-up.

Another example where new technology will give advantages to emergency communications system developers is in the adoption of video codecs and wideband audio (HD voice) codecs on communication platforms. In a critical communication scenario such as a 999/911/112 call, to be able to have the best call clarity is obviously an advantage. In the UK, a system called Silent Solutions is used to deal with silent calls made to the emergency services. Accidental 999 calls happen all the time, but how do operators know when a silent call can actually be a real call for help? In a recent murder case, a teenager was abducted but managed to make a 999 call on her mobile, however, she was unable to speak and the call was disconnected moments later. Had this call been a wideband call, then the operator might have been able to make out more of the low level background conversation and determine that this girl was in danger.

Video communication capability can also offer extended benefits to emergency communication systems - sometimes providing a visual link can portray a situation in greater clarity and with greater speed than an audio conversation alone. For emergency calls to/from people with disabilities such as deafness, the ability to convey a message visually can be vital.

To find out more, the emergency services page on the Aculab website is a good starting point; or if you are planning to be in London next week at the BAPCO exhibition, then drop by our booth (452).

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Extending Innovation: Aculab's Prosody X powers Comsys' new 'MVNO-in-a-Box' solution

I am always pleased to share information about how Aculab's customers are using our enabling technology products for their end users. Comsys, a long standing Aculab customer, has launched its 'MVNO-in-a-Box' solution, which provides all the tools necessary to start an MVNO within a short timeframe.
An MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) is a company that provides mobile phone service without having its own licensed frequency allocation of radio spectrum and, in some instances, it will not have all of the infrastructure required to provide mobile telephone service.

Virgin Mobile successfully launched its mobile virtual network in the UK in 1999, reselling capacity from T-Mobile. It now has over 4 million customers. The US has also seen MVNO success from multiple MVNOs. Denmark-based company, Tele2, who uses some of Comsys' products and services for its solutions, has successfully implemented and rolled out its MVNO services in Demark and other European countries.

Today, many mobile providers are focusing on niche markets with fewer subscribers, meaning that they need to ensure a high degree of flexibility whilst retaining a low initial investment. As a result, Comsys has developed the 'MVNO-in-a-Box' product, which contains everything that a company needs to start its own MVNO or MVNE (Mobile Virtual Network Enabler). The 'MVNO-in-a-Box' solution offers flexibility, scalability and minimal initial investment. It includes a number of communications services, such as pre-paid and post-paid voice services, data communications, video, provisioning, messaging, voicemail, HLR, CRM tools, and data warehousing.

You can learn more about the Comsys 'MVNO-in-a-Box' solution by visiting and don't forget to visit Aculab's website to find out about the products used in the solution.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Which wideband codec to choose?

 In the second part in my series of articles on HD Voice, I discuss the wideband codecs currently available and deployed, and suggest which might be the best choices for a wideband voice platform. Part 1 in this series discussed the question of how much bandwidth do you need for voice solutions.

Wideband (up to 8kHz audio bandwidth) codecs currently available and deployed include: