Back to the basics with one number only

Jay Hutton has stopped giving numbers to phones and started giving them to people.

Hutton, the president of messaging solution developer Voice Mobility International, says this is was one of the features many customers said they wanted when polled in a survey.

“The number one thing that came out that they all liked was the concept of having one number,” he said. “Given the fact that all of us are besieged by different types of messages on a daily basis, that is a critical piece.”

Vancouver-based Voice Mobility has launched the UCN 100, its newest next-generation messaging product and service. UCN 100 is aimed at mobile telecommunications providers and competitive local exchange carriers, along with ASPs, ISPs, government offices and business owners. The platform, which is also being deployed in the U.K. and Europe, North America and Asia, solves a difficult problem for users, the president said.

Hutton said service providers are in the position of having older voice mail systems that can’t provide new messaging and call management services, or worse, the platforms are at the end of their life cycles and aren’t being developed or supported.

“It makes exchange more powerful,” he said, “in that format is your voice mail and in that format is your e-mail and, of course, as you are becoming more mobile and using wireless devices, then your desktop is replicated in a mobile environment.”

Norm Jacquard is the director of business development at the living lab at Innovatia at Aliant, an e-business incubation company that researches and develops new Internet-based services for broadband networks. He said his company was implementing the new system into his network right now.

“We are implementing and learning as we go along,” he said from his Halifax office. “Currently, we have deployed some parts of it already. Fax to e-mail we have deployed over the last six months. We have thousands of subscribers on that now.”

Jacquard said this system offers an obvious benefit for customers because they become in charge of communications completely.

“If you don’t have it, and you give out a business card to someone, and it has your pager and your cellular and your phone number and home phone…and the person who is calling you is the one in control,” he said. “Somebody, barring some legal restraint, could call you a 1,000 times in a day. Now, you give out one number to anyone. You have taken the control away from whoever is calling you because, depending on where and when you want to be called, well, you get to decide that.”

The system boasts real-time call connect; one number reach that unites multiple phones, faxes and wireless devices; flexible handling of faxes; the ability to retrieve voice messages from e-mail, the Internet or any phone; and the ability to use distribution lists to send messages to more than one person.

“No matter where I roam that number is the number you need to reach me. I may be at a land line, but it doesn’t matter where I am because that number is virtual and I can attach that number to any device I may be at,” Hutton explained.

“All the things that we take for granted in the voice mail world, now apply to e-mail, because my voice mail is delivered to me as an e-mail.”

Jeff Roach, e-business strategist for Fundy Computer Services in New Brunswick, said that because he uses e-mail to “do everything,” he has been looking for a system like this for years.

“It’s a great way for me to get fax out of my life,” he said. “I absolutely hate fax. I think it is a technology that never should have been invented.”

That being said, Roach found some usability issues with the UCN 100.

“We didn’t find it easy to set up,” he said. “One of us here had to fight with it for half an hour and we are pretty technologically advanced group here. I don’t think the packaging and marketing were very easy to use.”

He continued that the first e-mail he received about the system gave him his user name and password, but didn’t tell him what the e-mail was about.

“The log-in page wasn’t the first page I saw, it was the second, and the log-in page doesn’t even identify what I am logging into,” he said.

Mark Olsen from the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) said the offering has great potential, but, like Roach, said it is fraught with some challenges as well.

“There is great potential there, especially for mobile users, but it is tricky,” he said from his Calgary office. “You are so dependant on all the devices on the other end, the challenge of any carrier looking to implement this is providing the extra functionality without killing themselves with support costs.”

Prices for the product vary, depending on packages. Voice Mobility in Vancouver is at UCN 100 is available now.