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How WebRTC will deliver contextual communication and AI in the contact centre

Contextual communication, AI and chatbots are on track to revolutionise the way we communicate, prompting experts to herald the dawn of a major communications revolution. What about the contact centre, and how does WebRTC underpin this shift towards improved customer engagement?

More than just chatbots

Most of us have already grown accustomed to talking more and more with machines. Consumers have been given a taste of this new era of communication with the likes of Siri and Alexa, but we’re starting to see this new technology make its mark in the business world. Some contact centres, for instance, are starting to use chatbots to deal with common queries and complaints based on database suggestions.  We’ve also witnessed a number of councils using a form of AI as a virtual agent to deal with front line requests. As the number of interactions increases, we can expect to see robots like this learning rapidly and becoming more sophisticated.

However, the impact of AI and machine learning is greater than just for improving chatbots. If we look at the bigger story we can see there is another innovation gaining a foothold in the industry: contextual communication. Made possible by open web technologies like WebRTC, it enables context to be added to every communication to make customer interactions more efficient, personalised and engaged. These contextual communications applications mesh together pertinent information in real-time from CRMs and other databases. The end result is the ability to deal with customer enquiries via web video, chat box or through a mobile app.

The value of context

This is where AI can make a dramatic impact. Determining the right information and communication “context” to serve, informed by a wealth of data, leads to better decision making throughout sales or customer service processes. This ultimately leads to a greater customer experience and applies equally to customer-facing chatbots as it does to virtual assistants. Imagine a VA that could recommend the next course of action for a customer service agent or salesperson to take. Then, move it a stage further and consider that cognitive interactions will understand accents, sentiment and context. This will enable even greater personalisation and decision-making capabilities – a far cry from today’s annoying automated services.

This is how the future of enterprise communications is shaping up –  making communication “transparent”, so it’s integral and inherent in applications, and augmenting it with context. What does it mean for ITSPs? We can start with differentiated propositions offering huge productivity and efficiency gains – and a more natural communications experience for customers.

Join us next week to learn more

We’ll be discussing these impacts and more at the ITSPA WebRTC Workshop next Thursday 28th September, Central London. Both Tref and I will be keen to hear your views on contextual communication and how it can drive new revenue opportunities for ITSPs in the coming years. If you are in London and want to come along, register here – it’s free – using the member’s registration.

Other WebRTC content on this blog.

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Winners of Genband WebRTC Apps Competition

Metronet win prestigious WebRTC Apps competition.

The WebRTC apps competition we ran in conjunction with/sponsored by GENBAND came up with three clear leaders and one eventual winner. One entry showed how WebRTC would be monetized and the others presented their solution it as an an overlay to existing support services.

The idea was that entrants would be given free accounts on the Genband Kandy WebRTC Platform as a Service and then use those accounts to put together innovative service ideas.

The eventual winner was Metronet.

The judges were hugely impressed at the number of levels Metronet were able to utilize WebRTC and KANDY. The technology was used in a mobile devices, M2M connectivity to their monitoring systems and integrated into their core CRM platform. The solution also utilized messaging, file sharing, voice, video, conferencing and collaboration.

Metronet have based a large amount of their success in both their Data and Voice offering on their proactive customer service and saw the potential to be able use WebRTC to grow that service commitment still further. The underlying monitoring platform was already in place so triggering a the group message to the Engineering Application from there was quite simple. Metronet were able to use the KANDY reference mobile apps to very quickly allow the engineers access to the group from both Android and Apple mobile devices.

By then adding WebRTC calling into their NOC CRM they were able to build a consolidated environment fault resolution environment for voice, video, conferencing and collaboration with the result of a “cradle to grave” resolution for faults so inevtiably improving already impressive SLAs.

Everyone involved would like to congratulate Metronet for their entry and look forward to seeing more of their inventive use of the technology.

Stuart Goble, GENBAND VP Sales UK, Ireland and Nordics was pleased with how the competition and sponsorship went: “Metronet took a real business problem and defined a solution using KANDY technology.  The application is built with a combination of rich-messaging and real time voice and video provided by the KANDY platform.  KANDY provides a set of tools that makes the process simple for IT developers, allowing very specific applications like this to be cost effectively developed.”

In conclusion:

  • Winner is Metronet – WebRTC and Metronet portal advances engineer response
  • Second Place – Manor Telecom – WebRTC powers the “
  • Third Place – DRD – WebRTC powers Uboss Test line functionality

See our WebRTC section on this blog for other related posts.

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GENBAND Summer of Apps WebRTC Competition finalist Manor IT

WebRTC apps competition winners include monetisation of the technology

The WebRTC apps competition we ran in conjunction with/sponsored by GENBAND came up with three clear leaders and one eventual winner. One entry actually showed how WebRTC would be monetized and the others presented their solution it as an an overlay to existing support services.

The idea was that entrants would be given free accounts on the GENBAND KANDY WebRTC Platform as a Service and then use those accounts to put together innovative service ideas.

The first of the finalists was Manor IT:

Manor IT  

Manor IT’s “WebPhoneBox” entry impressed the judges as it directly monetized the WebRTC where as other entries used the technology to augment services improving existing commercial or business process functions. The Website allowed Manor to  address the maximum subscriber audience on two levels. Firstly it was designed so you could use the service without having a to register an account just like a “PhoneBox” but secondly the access could be from any device and network without having to download an app.

To make a call the user logs onto ‘” website (currently this function is in beta and not openly available) and enters the dialed number, payment method and payment amount. This information is then securely passed to the Manor IT Application Server. Alternatively existing account details and DDI can be used.

The Application Server verifies the payment details with the appropriate financial house.

The destination tariff is identified via Manor IT’s JeraSoft rating platform providing a maximum call duration. An authentication token is then provided to the KANDY WebRTC platform and passed to the web browser which then initiates the call

The call can then be established through KANDY and via Manor IT’s Session Border Controllers utilizing and utilizing Manor IT’s full LCR. 1 minute before call is cleared down a pop up allows the user to top up the account.

Using this method of paying for a call groups of people can share PC or Tablet devices far more easily as logging out of the website or the time restrictions on the access keys meaning there is no fear of other users accidently using their credit. The inbuilt WebRTC protocol NAT traversal and variable codecs on the media path coupled with the use of HTTPS on the signaling path means that any network should be usable even if it is locked down for SIP (e.g. Hotel WIFI) or has complex NAT or bandwidth issues.

Overall this was a simple idea that used various properties of WebRTC to provide an innovative solution and Genband congratulate Manor IT and their development are Devine IT

See our WebRTC section on this blog for other related posts.

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Slightly confused of Lincoln

HP printer delivery either 09.13 or 13.56

You see before you a bewildered bloke. One where there is a risk of extremes of emotions on this, a pleasant if slightly breezy English summer’s day. My HP printer delivery is either going to be at 09.13 or 13.56.

HP printer deliveryComing out of the pool changing room this morning my pocket vibrated. It was a text message from DPD saying that my HP printer delivery will be executed (word chosen to startle, albeit momentarily) by Ian between 09.13 and 10.13 this morning. Impressivo I thought. Just time to get home and eat my banana.

Munching away at said banana at the breakfast table I logged on to the DPD website to see if I could physically see where Ian was. Confusingly the website told me that it wasn’t Ian coming but Dean. Wosgoinon I thought! The next minute  second text came in confirming that indeed Dean was the logistics operative entrusted with the delivery of my new printer. Not use of word delivery instead of execute. Gotta mix it up.

Now there are a number of possible scenarios that could explain this sitch:

DPD, on behalf of HP may have made a simple mistake in allocating the job to Ian. Ian may not actually be in today – annual leave or maybe even off sick. For Ian’s sake lets hope it isn’t the latter. Ian may also have enthusiastically shot off leaving the HP parcel behind. He may even have said “That’s too heavy for me with my bad back. Let Dean take it”.

It may also be that HP have erroneously shipped two printers and they have been shipped separately. In this case I’d probably be able to sell one of them on eBay. Result.

doorbell rings

That was Ian at the door with my part shipment. Everything but the printer itself! Ian enquired as to my puzzled expression (DPD drivers are known for their empathy – it’s in their training) and I was able to explain the events of the morning thus far, as conveyed to me by sms and to you in the copy above.

You need to know that the conveyor belt at DPD in Lincoln broke down this morning so when the four delivery lorries (big business this) arrived at the depot all the parcels had to be manually handled. Manual intervention, as I’m sure you all know, leads to mistakes and the two packages didn’t end up in the same cage.

The upshot is that Dean himself is bringing the actual printer this afternoon. “Funnily enough” said Ian “I have just seen Dean driving down Wragby Road in the opposite direction” I live on Wragby Road. Funnily enough I didn’t laugh.

Ah well (said in a somewhat sanguine voice). I’ll pop into the office now then and come back for lunch.

In case you didn’t read it the HP printer delivery was for this bit of kit wot I wrote about yesterday. The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw printer. Does double sided printing you know? :)

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I bought a printer

HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw

Good news – Your order for the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw has been accepted and we will start processing it now.  We will send you an email once your order has been dispatched.

You can track to your order online at any time by signing in to your account and then in the top right hand corner of the page hover over “Your Account“ and select “My orders” from the drop down menu.

If you provided a mobile telephone number you will receive a text message* the night before your order is delivered giving you the option to:

  • Select an alternative delivery date
  • Opt for delivery to a nominated neighbour
  • Collect the parcel from your local depot

You’ll also receive a text message on the delivery day giving you a 1 hour delivery window so there’s no need for you to wait in all day*.

I bought a printer. It’s the first one I’ve bought in 3 1/2 years. When I bought the last one I took out a 3 year warranty and it died on e earlier this week. It wasn’t in fact the printer that I originally bought that died but the fourth incarnation of the original. None of em lasted a year.

The warranty is up now so I figured I’d invest in something a little better. I bought a HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw. Still took a 3 year warranty though. Good value if you ask me.

In some respect this is a small admission of failure. I’ve been working as a paperless business. It isn’t totally possible to do that as legal documents often need printing. Moreover the family has specific needs. Printing boarding passes, homework etc I know boarding passes can be electronic but it isn’t always practical especially with a youngster flying to Madrid quite soon. Youngsters don’t always have phones suitable for airline apps/electronic boarding passes.

I am now strangely excited by the fact that I am about to be the owner of a HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw laser printer. This printer has a NFC interface so I should be able to tap it with my droid and print off a doc/photo/something else. Good eh?

None of this is what prompted me to write this post. It’s just the fact that I am going to get a 1 hour delivery window. Simple innit? Why can’t other vendors do the same? So do I know but not all. My daughter is about to return home from her year abroad and is sending a suitcase by courier in advance (so her mum can get a load of washing done probs). Mum, or someone has to wait in all day because we don’t get a delivery window. We do get a tracker on that one but not a 1 hour window.

I’m even tempted to “collect the parcel from a local depot”. Fwiw. I’ll let you have an update on the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw printer once I get it installed. Does double sided printing you know? 🙂

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How to be a woman in tech

How to be a woman in tech

When the wonderful @tref was looking for ‘women in tech’ to write a guest blog I had to answer a few questions: am I in tech, how did I get here, and what can I do to encourage others?

What do you do?

I perform the pivotal role of interpreting business needs to technical people and analysing the potential of technical developments for the board and business team.  To do this one has to be an excellent communicator, be able to manage demanding priorities calmly and effectively, and have an understanding of the evolving technical context.  The publishing company I currently work for is small but ambitious, constantly looking to implement new projects and initiatives.  The continually-evolving technical environment demands drive, the ability to evaluate systematically, and unswerving support for and appreciation of our tech team..

How successful is this?

The magazine I work for has had constant growth in both circulation and revenue.  This is even more impressive when considered against the backdrop of declining print in many sectors of the publishing industry and publishers’ struggle to embrace the benefits and culture of new digital technology.  The challenge is an ongoing one and not to be underestimated.

How did you get here?

I am living proof that coming from a non-technical background is not a barrier.  Women can combine their innate communication skills and strategic abilities with an analytical approach, to support and implement complex projects – ideal attributes for a digital world.

I first worked (in the distant past) at a small consultancy firm, initially as receptionist, moving on to the documentation department (they had the first word processors from the USA – with 8 inch floppy disks!), where I supported projects by creating inputs on punch cards for mainframe processing.  Exposure to the first home computers, the ZX81, C64 and Spectrum, led to playing with machine-code programming, contributing to ‘Zipper Flipper’, a game produced for the Spectrum, earning a grand total of around £4,000 in royalties!

I spent the next 20-odd years working with databases (dBase and Pervasive SQL) and personal computers/networks, principally specifying, implementing, and supporting software (developed in Psion Archive initially, then C and C++) to manage subscriptions and royalties for publishing companies.  At its height we provided software and support to over 100 publishers, sending billions of copies to subscribers, and processing millions in revenues.  (I also had two children).

Six years ago I joined the London Review of Books to lead a new team, initially to manage the build and implementation of a (then) new @LRB website and newly digitised archive (and no, I had never done that before).  This intense period of work culminated in a successful launch, on time, and very positive feedback.  Now I am an Associate Publisher and lead on the analysis of digital performance and the development of digital strategy for the business.

What about outside of work?

As a long-time supporter of Scouting, I used a global database to run an international educational programme for 40,000 people at a huge camp in 2007.  I have a great interest in the campaign for rural broadband access, which led to the choice of my MA research topic; “The use of social media in enhancing volunteer engagement”, a case study of a community website fighting for rural broadband in Cumbria.

I like to think that the re-evaluation of the ‘fibre tax’ and its impact on rural broadband initiatives was prompted in some part by my advocacy on behalf of rural communities with BDUK in 2010. As a follow-on from that discussion, I was invited to write a report for BDUK considering the implementation of a practical strategy to support data-led community-based decisions in the delivery of super-fast broadband.

I supported a local school in a voluntary role, working as part of their Membership and Development Committee and helping them to become the first state school to implement an alumni database and website.

How can I become a woman in tech?

Be curious.  I believe it is vital to examine how different sectors approach the use of technology and social media.  I believe that the educational, arts, public, private and voluntary sectors have much to learn from each other.  I am actively engaged and interested in the use of technology to empower individuals, companies, not-for-profit companies and charities.

Find your ‘digital north’.  I have often wondered why some people ‘get’ digital, and some do not – most often when facing barriers constructed of anxiety and fear.  I put my comparative ease with the digital world down to playing around with machine code and BASIC all those years ago.  So – make something.  It has never been easier to learn.  You do not need to be a coder to work in tech – but it really helps to understand the basics of how coding works!

venn_diagram_example (1)

Image credit: @davidshrigley

Be digitally creative. Take part in a hackday or two. I have been to several hackdays: Culturehack East, the National Archives hackday, EdTech hackathon at Google Campus, and Hackthespace at Tate Modern.  Meeting and working with people in a creative digital space is incredibly motivating and I have always learned a lot.  You do not need to be a coder to take part – just enthusiastic about digital.

Find your passion.  Mine is data – I love it.  This has led me to great conversations and connections – entity extraction from our archive with the BBC R&D department, for example.  I also have the innate conviction that you should build capacity over one-offs (almost) every time.  The exception is if you are making digital art!

Experiment.  If you have the opportunity to push the boundaries, take it.  I was lucky enough to run a fantastic digital project for The Space, a BBC and Arts Council project.  The project explored the idea of a ‘digital essay’.  The work, created in collaboration with the writer Will Self, and Brunel University, is called ‘Kafka’s Wound’.

Bring others with you.  This can be very hard to do.  There is fear and anxiety around the unknown.  I am about to run a second mini-hackday for my colleagues.  Last year we had a great day mixing up mostly non-techie people and letting them loose with paper and pens as well as laptops.  The results were brilliant and the follow-up survey provided both solid evidence of the benefits, and suggestions for improvements.

Connect. This is fairly obvious.  I can trace much of what I have achieved in the digital space to the decision in 2009 to find out what Twitter could be good for, and if I could make a difference using social media.  I have met many, many people on Twitter before meeting them in real life (and some I am yet to meet).

Draw.  Use paper and marker pen.  If you can’t draw something, it’s very hard to explain it, even to yourself.  It works for me (and I am terrible at drawing).

Listen.  Engage with your technical people – have discussions, find out what they find interesting, ask questions, encourage everyone to speak. Understand as much as you can.  Be patient.

Volunteer.  Use your technical knowledge to support a local cause that inspires you, be that World Scouting, community broadband, or your local school.  If you find others there to work with, all the better, but I have often found myself the lead in terms of technical understanding.

Get to grips with business.  All technology is embedded in a business.  Understanding the structure of business and how it works is vital if you want to straddle the tech and business divide.  Running my own business was the foundation of my expertise, backed up with an MA in management, which I really enjoyed.

Explore organisational culture.  Understanding the culture of an organisation will help you make moves towards organisational change.  If you work in an organisation that is not a start-up (likely) then there will probably be a big shift required in order to embrace and take advantage of the opportunities digital can provide.

Look ahead.  See what’s coming up – keep an eye on it.  Expend some budget on R&D and make some of the advances in tech real for your organisation – it need not be expensive (cardboard headset and smartphone to demonstrate 3D video, for example).

What’s next for you?

As everything continues to shift the possibilities have never been more interesting.  I am looking at how the cultural sector is adapting to digital, and there are some big projects out there.  In my dreams I will one day do a PhD.

Final words?

Follow your interests. Become (almost) indispensible.  Experiment. It’s great if you can manage it!

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco by Liz Fletcher
Network filter bypass solutions by Rhosyn Celyn
Network Automation by Leslie Parr
IX model defended by Valeria Rossi
Board level veteran sees progress by Lesley Hansen
Rural broadband solutions by Chris Conder
Pebbles, Pebbles everywhere by Sarah Baskerville

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The conversation is moving to a few places online

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Expensify – another online revelation

Expensify makes expenses simple to submit

Everytime I find a new service that I think is great and realise it’s been around a while makes me realise how behind the times I am. All my LONAP expenses now go on to Expensify. It’s like my experiences with Uber and AirBnB. Just so easy to use.

I know that most of you will have been using the service for yonks so you’ll have to bear with me. I now scan in my receipts using the Expensify Android app and they appear in my account all broken down into VAT etc. Add a category from a drop down box and submit report. Magic.

It even has the facility to email receipts. So Uber taxi trips, where you get sent the receipt as soon as the trip is over, are just forwarded to [email protected] and they appear in my account. Oo. Other than restaurants and bars why would I ever ask for a paper receipt again? Hotels can usually email you a PDF receipt.

Sometimes you do have to wonder whether technology makes life harder than easier because it is prone to go wrong. I have to say though that this isn’t my experience with the aforementioned applications.

So now I do all my accounts online using Freeagent, pay my bills automatically (actually only HMRC payments are automatic – they don’t give you a choice 🙂 ) using Lloyds online banking, file my expenses online, book my road/train/planetravel online and upload the receipts via email. I also sell event tickets using the Eventbrite cloud service and I use Google Apps for business in which all my work is done online.

Like I said, sorry if none of this is new to you. I was so excited I had to get it off my chest:) Most of my working life I’ve had to submit expense receipts with forms filled in. There have been times when I’ve had six different currencies to account for. Six different forms. Not any more  mwahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaa.

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Microsoft message to renegade professionals – Stephen Elop #uncompromise

Stephen Elop – CEO of Microsoft message to employees.

Stephen Elop’s message to Microsoft employees feels like an address to an army that knows not all of them will come through the coming battle.

The organisation is huge. In the Microsoft message Elop mentions Salo, Oulu and Tampere, Finland. Beijing, San Diego,  Hanoi, Dongguan. Manaus, Reynosa and Komaron, Hungary. It’s a massive job ensuring that the whole organisation operates efficiently. One of the contradictions of modern business life is that it would appear that you need to have scale to compete but with that scale it gets increasingly difficult to get anything done.

I was pushed an advert for Microsoft Surface recently – Twitter or Facebook maybe, not sure where I first saw the link.  There was no reference to Microsoft in the ad. Clearly they are trying to develop an identity for Surface but it suggests to me a lack of confidence in the parent brand. Surface is here being pitched at the office worker, the renegade professionals as Microsoft seems to want to call them. Leaves you thinking that Microsoft is concentrating on the business market, at least for the Surface.

The Enterprise is going to be the last stronghold of the Microsoft OS. Its Alamo maybe. Although I have recently bought a Windows laptop this was only to run one specific application. I have 4 kids. Two have moved away from Microsoft (Macbook Air and Chromebook). Of the other two one needs their PC for gaming and the other for video processing. Neither can afford a Mac which would probably be their first choice and if the games move entirely online as they inevitably will that barrier to using a Chromebook will be removed. I have no doubt that cloud based video processing will also become mainstream. Might already be able to do it for all I know.

Microsoft is trying very hard to stay in the game. It recently announced an increase in the bundled online storage to Office 365 customers from 20GB to 1TB. Office 365 costs anything between £60 and £380 a year per person, depending on what you go for (£220 if you take out Access and Publisher). I was going to say it is heading in the right direction but they have 8 different bundles – 12 if you count MAC. Not exactly simple messaging.

Compare this with Google Apps for Business which is £33 a year per user or £6.60 a month if you go for Vault. Couldn’t quite make out  what Vault offers and was not really interested enough to drill into the detail. Security stuff. The basic Google consumer account is free and includes all the apps (doc, sheets etc). These accounts give you 30GB of Drive storage. There isn’t a free Microsoft account other than the straight Outlook email service which comes without Office applications (natch).

A Google  1TB storage plan is about £6 a month – $10 – couldn’t find a GBP pricelist. The base Google price is roughly £70 a year for the free gmail account with 1TB storage. So now there isn’t much difference in pricing between Microsoft and Google (aside from the fact that you get apps with the latter and these apps are part of Microsoft’s core business so they can’t give them away for free) which is great because here competition is driving down costs.

There will inevitable be a market for Microsoft’s cloud services because they have such a huge installed base with their existing Windows OS’. I think it is going to be very hard going for them though. You only have to look at the action around the #uncompromise hashtag used in the Surface ads. There isn’t much. What does that tell you?

More as it happens… (ish)

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Office365 – How Low Can You Go ?

It seems to me that a tipping point has arrived for businesses large and small, many of which after having drastically cut back on their IT spend over the last few years now find themselves coasting into 2014 on the fumes and vapours of Windows XP and Office 2003/7.

Andrew Beardsmore is a new contributor to and this is his first post. He’s been obsessed by tech for two decades and has spent most of that time fixing everything from networks to netbooks. Now he’s sharing the knowledge, and the obsession.

I recently had a bit of a tweetup with @EvanKirstel regarding Microsoft’s amazing deal with Office365 (check it out at:

It seems to me that a tipping point has arrived for businesses large and small, many of which after having drastically cut back on their IT spend over the last few years now find themselves coasting into 2014 on the fumes and vapours of Windows XP and Office 2003/7.


Home users who extravagantly trotted off to Currys/PCWorld during their “hey, we’re going bust” sales and splurged on full versions of more recent MS Office software (though intending to only blow a few hundred quid on a chunky Windows 8 laptop) probably won’t have heard yet of Office365. They also may not have noticed those early ChromeBooks, or if they did they weren’t entirely convinced by the PCWorld sales folk when faced with what looked like Ubuntu. That is, Ubuntu without a hard drive…or apps.* Their new high capacity laptop hard drives, overflowing with growing photo libraries from flashy megamegapixel point-&-shoots, are already laughing at their puny free two gigabyte Dropbox accounts, and buying yet another discounted external USB hard drive ‘My Brick’ to backup and fill with all their pics and videos of school plays and homework projects, as well as every family member’s iPad/iPod/iPhone backup…well, it just seems so ‘2011’, doesn’t it?

Now these home users are included in this mini-cloud revolution also. (Not every household bought a NAS — though perhaps they should have — as they ARE expensive. Expensive, anyway, when compared to the wares peddled by Microsoft.)

In my opinion, the principles are broadly similar whether you are purchasing enterprise licensing or you are a home user “with a lot of stuff”.

  • Both need humongous space and/or backup and want a whizzy new version of Office.
  • Both want to be able to access it all whilst mobile (even if your mobile data provider hasn’t heard of your holiday home’s postcode, and thus offline editing is also needed).
  • Both want to share and collaborate.

With monthly offers that include an Office365 subscription (spanning multiple devices and user accounts) AND one terabyte of online storage now available for less than the cost of three lattes, just how cheap does it all need to be? And would you trust it if it got any cheaper ?

How does $7 a month sound? (In dollars because — Yup — stateside rollout first.) For this amount you can put Office365 on your PC and get a terabyte of storage thrown in. Make it $10 and you can install on five PCs and have as many as five user accounts (each with its own terabyte of online storage). A terabyte? That’s one thousand gigabytes for those of us with suntans and more interest in Wimbledon than “The IT Crowd” reruns.

Interestingly, Microsoft commissioned a recent survey and decided that about three quarters of us only have about thirteen gigabytes of ‘stuff’, so one thousand gigabytes should pretty much cover it. To be honest, though, this number sounds like it’s been picked more to justify their updated freemium offering of a fifteen gigabyte deal.

Many will forget about their Dropbox accounts, mothball their GoogleDrive accounts, lose the power supply plugs and mini USB cables for their ‘My Bricks’ (and never again dream of owning a NAS). They’ll take the plunge into subscriptions-based software purchasing** just for the great one terabyte ‘giveaway’ alone. Got a smartphone that you take pics on? How about letting it backup all those precious shots automatically to OneDrive (smile!).

Think about it. Never again will you need to go through a ‘fork-lift’ upgrade process between versions of Office — remember the advent of the blasted ribbon in Office 2007? — as your device will instead accept the more frequent but gradual improvements and changes in the same way your smartphone updates its apps whilst you sleep. It will backup and sync continuously, silently, all the time. If you’re a small to medium business, what this means is that the guy who takes the backup tapes home every night and puts a new one in every morning won’t have to continue to lie each time he forgets. Or you can rethink your price plan with MozyPro, or whoever. The AD-like control you get over the data it handles will sufficiently please both your sysadmin and your CIO/CISO.

Many will consider Microsoft’s new 1TB + Office365 $7 per month subscription a no-brainer. And, if you’re bulk buying for business, the deal gets even better, as according to the third link I offer below it is just $2.50 (yearly commitment). Such a huge saving is certain to ensure your continuing position with the company, that is if you can persuade your CFO. And if against all odds it turns out to be a rubbish idea and they fire you, well, they can just cancel your user subscription!

N.B. I wonder how many smaller partnerships and LLPs will be tempted to take the home licensing route on their mixed-usage mobile devices…pay the $10 five-user rate, out of guilt, and call it BYOD when it’s in the office?!

*Company-wide Chromebook deployment: Great way to to upgrade to a modern OS, get a new office productivity suite, AND equip your workforce with mobile devices for less than the price of a desktop refresh. I want to know more about the experiences of companies who have ‘gone Google’ in this manner. I like what I have seen so far with Google Appcare. However, having recently dropped their cloud offering’s pricing, I wonder how they feel about Microsoft’s new deal? To quote mine host, it’s “certainly warming up in the cloud wars”).

**Just quietly say ouch and forget it’s happening.

Chase the following links for specific details and price plans for Office365 and OneDrive:

Thanks for reading. You can find more on the subject of Office365 and similar tech at

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The #orlandoroadtrip Day 6 #GBP14 conference proper begins

genband sponsored car aat the #GBP14 conferenceDay6 of the #orlandoroadtrip began with a conversation in the lift.  I was stood there in my Hawaiian shirt with a Genband Perspectives 14 badge hung around my neck when a girl started talking to me: “We don’t have your name in the UK”. She had read my badge. I dunno. I told her I was from Lincoln!

Breakfast was a bacon bagel sandwich with HP sauce (brought my own) , glass of milk and tangerine juice.

The #GBP14 conference proper has begun. I’m going to share some highlights which will in the main be sound bites and general impressions – there isn’t time to do full blown blog posts on every subject.

Genband Perspectives 14 was opened by Genband CEO David Walsh. Impressive guy. His talk made me think of one I attended where Marc Benioff, CEO of used the word “awesome” about fifty times in every sentence, interspersed with “amazing”. The only common features of the two talks were the fact that they were both American and both leaders in their field.

Walsh was a very believable individual. I switched off when listening to Benioff – it was a pure sales pitch. I paid attention to the Genband CEO. My own experience of working with Genband has really been limited to their SIP Applications Server combined with a smidgeon of Session Border Controller. Walsh showed there was a lot more to the company.

His talk was generally an observation that the market was both moving and growing very quickly and that technology companies needed to make investment bets up to seven years before the market is ready for their products. What he has done at Genband is to assemble a set of capabilities through the acquisition of business who have already made these significant investments.

To understand the way the world is changing it is useful to look at some businesses in similar markets. Spotify is now worth more than Warner Music, Uber is worth more than Avis and Hertz combined and Instagram worth more than Kodak.

You can arguably take company valuations with a pinch of salt. In the high technology game people seem willing to pay stupid money for the promise of future returns. Notwithstanding this the comparisons with old and new are valid.

As a startup businessman I try to only use modern technology. For example doesn’t have a phone number. We rely on OTT services such as Skype and Google Hangouts, only use online banking and use SAAS products such as Freeagent.

We got a nice quadruple play case study from David Walsh as to life in the cloud based world. Kids these days arrange parties using Tinder. You tick on people’s images you might like to invite along and if they approve of your image you are both hooked up.

The quad play goes like this:

Use tinder to find a date
Use uber to get a taxi to the date
Use opentable to grab some dinner with the date
Use airbnb to get a room…

Apparently this is an evolution of the triple play presented at last year’s Perspectives13 conference. One wonders what a five play might look like in 2015.

More later. Ciao amigos…

Complete set of really fantastic posts on the #orlandoroadtrip  to date:

Day 5 – golf
Day 4 – Kennedy Space Centre
Day 3 – Hawaiian Shirts, alligators and beer
Day 2 – BA2037
Day 1 – Ronnie Scotts & The Haywood Sisters

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MAC Code for Banks

Are MAC codes for banks long overdue?

Was discussing banks with Bloor on Facebook. He paid his credit card off early but the bank still took the payment as Direct Debit meaning he had paid it twice. Apologies forthcame and situation was rectified but then the DD wasn’t taken at all the following month so he got stung with a penalty charge. Again it was sorted but when things like this happen they can take days out of your life. It’s a bit like calling an insurance company or HMRC but takes even longer.

I had a situation recently where I paid a mortgage off but the bank still took the DD for it. Sigh… It did get sorted but the person at the bank, who was most helpful said that DDs are entered into the system 10 days or so in advance of the money being taken (as I recall – if not 10 days it was a simlar timeframe). Most banks will be the same. Their systems are antiquated.

I’m not sure it matters which bank you are with and changing banks is a pain in the arse anyway. We concluded that what was needed was a MAC Code system for banks. One that provided all the information needed to transfer not only your account but all the Direct Debits as well.

If nothing else this would prompt banks to be more competitive. If it was easy for people to move then they’d soon get their collective act together.

Banana cheescake…

Apps Bad Stuff business applications Cloud End User Mobile mobile apps

RER B to CDG Terminal 2

For some time I have been thinking of writing a post while on the move, to see what that might bring to the page. Hardly original, the idea is somewhat out of my wheelhouse, if for no other reason than the fact that I truly loathe typing anything longer than a text message on a virtual keyboard. Not that I have some kind of a hoity-toity “They aren’t true keyboards” attitude (though I do, and they aren’t), but as a touch typist who has been clocked at 120 wpm (words-per-minute, for the acronym challenged) I find it wickedly frustrating to have to look at the keys to form the words that are in my head…not to mention slow down said head to capture the whatnot those words form. Still, being a staunch proponent of digital progress (mostly), for you, friend reader, I will endure. And perhaps even have a little fun, too.

I first thought to try my hand at mobile writing with the no-longer-so-recent (February) announcement that Microsoft was offering an iOS7 version of their Office 365 applications for free. As the Guv’nor of two iOS7-cursed devices (the iPhone 4 I whinge here about replacing on a somewhat regular basis, and an iPad Mini pass-me-down), this news pricked my eyes, and I quickly grabbed up the apps for both Word and Excel. I didn’t fire ’em up for use right away — AppleKory and my keyboard hadn’t left the building, so why bother? — but I was content knowing I had the apps, for…well, whenever.

One day shortly thereafter, it was whenever. I was at Cafè Lomi, just sitting there watching the wheels go ’round and ’round (I really love to watch them roll), when I thought I’d go all mobile-writer-guy on the good visitors of I pulled iPadKory from my bag, coded it, and punched the icon for Word. Nice looking app. Opens straight to a New Document page, serving up all kinds of document templates, such as Brochure, Invoice, ProposalSchool Newsletter. Colorful. Friendly. Microsofty.

I punch New Blank Document. I get a Word-looking page with a orange bar near the top that reads Read-Only. To create and edit, activate with an eligible Office 365 subscription.

2014-05-14 00.41.58

Hmm. That doesn’t sound very free. Or friendly. I do happen to have an account, though, so maybe it wants that (though I was already thinking how lost the casual first-time user without such an account would react on seeing the top-screen note). I punch Activate, which leads immediately to a Subscription dialogue. All of a sudden I am no longer having fun. In for a penny, though, right? I follow the path of dialogue windows, employing my credentials as needed, until I am finally staring at Buy a Subscription. I only need to shell out $99.99 a year to use my sweet new free Office 365 iOS7 application!


Disillusioned, discouraged, and feeling just plain ‘dissed, I slapped iPadKory shut, threw it in my bag, and left for home. “I didn’t really want to write a post on a tablet using a virtual keyboard anyway. Phooey.” And the Word app? Deleted, with prejudice (except, that is, for my reinstalling it today to check my memory for this post and to grab screenshots).

And that is where it all would have stayed — at “Phooey.” — had Google not made their own announcement of a free Google Docs app a couple of weeks back. Of course, I immediately DL’ed the app, and this time I launched it forthwith to make sure it could actually be put to some use.

Voila, enablement. And as for writing on the run and virtual keyboards? Well, I made it this far…

2014-05-14 01.39.06

Related posts:

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Net Neutrality and Telephony

Net neutrality and VoIP telephony – thorny issues the industry needs to negotiate welcomes “VoIP Week” contributor Rob Pickering, CEO of ipcortex.

Most folks who work in the VoIP industry have at some point been subject to a casual horror story from a new acquaintance about evil VoIP and how they tried it once and that it nearly brought their business to its knees. My heart sinks whenever I realise that this is the direction in which the conversation is going, at which point I usually find myself wishing I’d said that I did something less controversial for a living…like writing computer networking software! I listen, though, nodding politely, already forming a conclusion — after all, it would be unlikely that the problems experienced were due to a fault in their equipment or termination provider, both of which are probably perfectly reliable. No, a lack of a suitable quality of service (QoS) between their premises and termination provider is almost always the culprit in such circumstances.

The UK service provider industry has developed lots of solutions to the QoS problem, and things are far better now than they were just five or ten years ago when the market was in its infancy. The quality and availability of last mile circuits, particularly in metropolitan areas, has massively improved with successive advancements such as LLU, FTTC, FTTP, and cost-effective, high bandwidth Ethernet IAD type circuits. There has also been a trend towards integrated providers delivering the whole service — access circuit, Internet and telephony — as a single package. Behind the scenes, this may or may not translate technically into a full end-to-end in-house QoS-managed solution, depending on the provider and sometimes the geography of the customer. It does, however, assign commercial responsibility for delivering a fit-for-purpose solution to a single party, and this can only produce a better quality outcome for the customer.


Such an approach is certainly not universal. The US market has developed differently, for instance, and most VoIP termination providers don’t get deeply involved in provision of access circuits, instead opting to rely on decent low loss, low jitter transit or peering arrangements, and their customers’ own commodity access circuits. Often they will do a bit of automated “connection testing” as part of their signup process, however in general customers on unsuitable circuits tend to weed themselves out.  This does produce some benefits for customers, including more transparency with regard to costs, as well as a bit less lock-in as there is no commercial linkage between access and over-the-top (OTT) voice service. Today, in fact, several of those US suppliers are entering the UK market with this same business model.

Which brings us on to Net Neutrality. Whenever this subject comes up, we tend to think about its obvious effects on consumer entertainment services. The future development of the telephony industry is, however, intimately linked with this issue. Whilst the raw, per-consumer bandwidth requirements of a VoD service like Netflix is greater, the network characteristics required to deliver a reliable telephony conversation of at least ISDN quality are in some ways more onerous. Though buffering can always be used to counter horrible jitter on the underlying path for a video stream, and content caches are already used to reduce transit requirements, neither of these methods can be used to reduce the pain on a real-time voice conversation. If telephony providers can no longer get good, zero-packet loss, low jitter transit, or peering with many leading access providers, then an entire business model may very well be frozen out.

How do you think the industry will develop? Vertically integrated one-stop shops for network access and telephony, or universal OTT providers? I’d love to know your thoughts.

VoIP Week Posts:

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Irrationally looking forward to meeting Pardeep or hello Pardeep goodbye Galaxy Mini

Some of you will have been following the story of me being without my phone for over a week now. I well I am irrationally excited to tell you that it is nearly here. I’m sat at home in the conservatory waiting for Pardeep.

Pardeep works for courier DPD. I know exactly where Pardeep is. I’ve been following his progress with great interest to the point where I’ve been constantly refreshing my screen to see if he is getting any nearer my house.  The screen shots at the bottom of this post tell the story.

There are a couple of very slight disappointments. The first is that there is a lag between the status shown and Pardeep’s real location. As he pulled up outside my house I wanted a screenshot of him doing so. It didn’t happen and the next time I looked, which was when he had gone, the status of the delivery had changed to “your parcel has been delivered”. Not a major issue, just a very slight disappointment:)

The second disappointment was that I wanted to take a photo of Pardeep. He was a very cheery bloke. The problem was that the device I would have normally used to take the photo was the one being delivered by Pardeep. He wouldn’t have wanted to hang around while I opened the box, took out the phone, inserted the battery, SIM, SDCard, entered my credentials and waited for all the device updates to happen.

Hey, no big deal:) The updates are happening right now. I am pleased to tell you that my wallpaper and lock screen photos are back in place although little things such as the screen lock, lock screen message (Tref’s phone) and misc other settings such as which icons go where have to be manually redone.

I can tell you that the last time I used this phone appears to have been on Shakespeare’s birthday, 23rd April, because that is the date of the most recent SMS restored by my Samsung backup account. The SMS, fwiw, is from my wife and it says “Powerpoint for beginners”. What gets backed up where is something I will have to check in making any decision to move handset vendors.

All my apps are being reinstalled. I’m not totally comfortable about all the permissions I’m having to give. Security around what an app can and can’t do is is something that the Android will need to sort out. It also seems odd that the “internet” app automatically installed on the home screen is not Chrome. It must be something Samsung has chosen. IE perhaps but there is nothing to tell me what it is. That one won’t last.

Anyway follow the progress of Pardeep as he winds his way through the sleepy streets of Lincoln towards my house, dropping parcels off on the way:

parcel status DPD1

parcel status2

DPD parcel status

DPD parcel status

DPD parcel status

DPD parcel status - delivered

Other good parcel delivery reads:

iPad tracked whilst on TNT overnight delivery

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Using FreeAgent for personal expenses & discount referral code

trefor_150Following on from my post on FreeAgent yesterday I got home to find the details of the online banking for Time to get the accounts sorted out.

All of the set up costs for the business have come out of my personal account. This includes a chunky legal bill as well as ad hoc events such as champagne celebrations in the Savoy a few pints of half and half in the British Legion. Now that the bank account is accessible and money is starting to come in it is time to square things up.

At lunchtime today I fired up  FreeAgent.

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How intelligent are your employees? Do they need managing? Shirley

intelligent employee managementThe question is whether this van belongs to a company that manages intelligent employees or is it into managing employees intelligently? I’m not sure. Were I the thinking man I could look it up on their website – address prominently displayed (and proudly no doubt) on their van. Nah.

There is a supplementary question and that is at which point does an employee rate as having sufficient intelligence to qualify for management 1 to be managed. Or is this a red herring? Presumably all employees must have some degree of intelligence.

This could be a tool for HR departments to improve morale. If they were to tell everyone that they were intelligent and were therefore employing methods for managing intelligent employees it might give everyone a boost. Mightn’t it? Even those staff without PhDs. Yes even if the sum of proof of your intelligence is your Cubs Scout 25m swim badge (freestyle) you could start to feel good about it. Yes master.

One does hope that in the course of managing intelligent employees it is done

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Dell Vantage Club & Google+ instant uploader

view out of the dining room window of SoHo House club on Greek Street

Another interesting photographic weekend with the Galaxy S3. I was in Liverpool for a family party, staying at the Crowne Plaza on the Waterfront. Lots of photos – 3.3GB worth – 1,134 files. The hotel had a free option on its wifi, notionally for email & light browsing. I didn’t do any speed testing but when I got home, 150 or so of the pics had already been uploaded to Google+ using the free wifi and instant uploader.

This has to be the way to do it. You find your pics automatically backed up without thinking, as long as you chose the “wifi only” setting on the phone. The rest of the pics were taken off the phone before they had a chance to upload – I’ll have to adjust my “transfer policy” to give them time to upload.

me with me dear old MamThe inset photo is of me and me dear old Mam on Friday night at a private Davies dinner in the hotel. The header photo is the view from the private room at the SoHo House club on Greek Street in London Town. I was there for a Dell Vantage Club event where the topic of conversation was BYOD. I have to say I am becoming increasingly impressed with these Dell events. Dell is restricting the Vantage Club to 350 CIO/CTO types and it is a great forum for networking with others in the industry. I even bumped into a Timico customer there – great stuff.

PS I’m going to also have to start a policy of filtering the photos I keep on the laptop and offloading the rest to an external hard drive where they will provably never again see the light of day.