This article originally appeared in Cloud Computing Magazine Q4 2012
Most people think of the cloud as being removed from the local environment because, after all, it requires the addition of a browser to access. But thanks to innovation from the people at Plantronics (News - Alert), the cloud can now reach through the browser and closer to the user than ever before. In fact, the company has an SDK, which for the first time bridges the worlds of mobile and enterprise communications as well as computing. While CTI or computer-telephony integration is not a new concept, Plantronics uses its Spokes software as communications middleware to seamlessly connect mobile telephony with cloud-based or on-premise enterprise software.
Moreover, the headset can now provide contextual information to applications such as the mobile call state, mobile Caller ID, proximity, presence and wearing state. One of the more compelling new apps that uses this interface is Popcorn from ThreeWill; it integrates with a PC/laptop, Chatter, Salesforce.com (News - Alert) and mobile devices while monitoring incoming phone calls. When one comes in, it pops a screen based on caller information in corporate databases. The problem being solved is mobile workers have work calls coming to their cell phones which don’t necessarily provide complete details regarding the caller.
How this differs from a traditional screen pop, in this case, is the call is coming over the mobile network so the enterprise PBX is out of the loop. Instead, the caller ID information is transmitted over Bluetooth to the Spokes software by Plantronics, which gives other applications access and these apps can in-turn query corporate databases in the cloud and in the data center.
Moreover, Popcorn allows the user to quickly type in notes, which are automatically placed in the appropriate customer record saving time and effort.
Another company using the Plantronics APIs is Datahug, they have solution that looks at a person you are in contact with at a company and ascertains via social networks and emails which other people in the company has contacts in your organization. Until now, Datahug could not sift through telephony data but it now can, thanks to the middleware-nature of the new Spokes APIs.
The good news for cloud, and software developers in general, is they now are able to determine if a user is wearing their headset, if it is in use, whether the user is close to their cellphone and PC. Think about security apps that can lock the PC or mobile device if a user wanders off. Or call center software that can ensure calls aren’t routed to an agent who just took off their headset. Then there are apps that will likely be created for a crisis situation where a building needs to be evacuated rapidly.
One interesting idea is with the desire of consumers to share every detail of their lives online, perhaps the ability to share your location status and headset status will seem worthy of tweets and Facebook (News - Alert) posts. Or perhaps there will be some new mobile social network that leverages these APIs – like Instagram.
Don’t rule out predictive applications that can guess your intent based on whether you are about to wear your headset such as waking up your monitor and flashing the weather and sports scores on the screen of your laptop.
Of course this is just the beginning. Plantronics is actively working to open up more information to developers such as the caller ID of incoming calls to desk phones. Currently most softphones do have Spokes caller ID support. Perhaps most interesting for a company that literally invented the modern headset market is Plantronics is now transforming itself from a hardware company to a major hardware and software powerhouse.
The company first told me about this news over five years ago but at that time weren’t able to go into detail. They just told me, “Rich, we are onto something big.”
And as a result of their diligent work through the years every application now has the ability to get rich contextual information relating to users. How this information is used could potentially be transformational but I wouldn’t consider any of the above examples a killer app.
Then again Twitter (News - Alert) more or less started as a service where people shared information regarding the type of sandwich they were about to eat and look what happened to them.
What this tells us is if developer and user adoption is strong, Plantronics will have built an ecosystem just like Apple (News - Alert) – albeit smaller. And for the company, partners and its shareholders this could be something really big indeed.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi