Given a name like CompuBlox Inc., you'd think this biometric security software firm in Toronto would be good at piecing things together. Ironically, the company's recent attempt to update its telecommunications infrastructure fell apart.
CompuBlox employs people who spend plenty of time at their computers, according to Soren Frederiksen, the company's president. It would be nice if they could access their voice mail messages from the screen, he said.
"The other thing is we're a rapidly growing company that would like to be able to expand our phone system," Frederiksen said. "We always have network cables running everywhere, so how can we run extra phone lines? Plus, we all log onto our computers from home, so we would like to be able to re-route our phones with our computers."
IP Centrex seemed to be just the technology CompuBlox required. It promised hosted network management, single-wire architecture for both phone and computer connectivity and those unified messaging features Frederiksen talked about.
But ultimately IP Centrex was not to be for CompuBlox. "We decided not to go ahead," Frederiksen said. He would not elaborate on the "political" circumstances that drove the IP Centrex project off the rails.
Judging by the words of industry analysts, CompuBlox is not the only company to walk away from IP Centrex. They say the technology engenders scepticism, thanks to its association with an earlier platform, Centrex. Although an established telecommunication technology, Centrex has a chequered past - a history of poor service that IP Centrex might be destined to share, indicating just how far the technology has to go before it becomes a viable communication alternative.
IP Centrex differs from its predecessor in one important manner: whereas Centrex employs the public switched telephone network to transport calls, IP Centrex uses data lines to connect correspondents. But the two technologies are similar in that service providers such as carriers handle the call routing from a central office, so companies like CompuBlox need not keep a telecom expert in house.
That's what Frederiksen liked about the technology. With IP Centrex, someone other than CompuBlox would handle telephone switching and integration with the company's current data network. That spells easy network management.
IP Centrex would give CompuBlox access to unified messaging and single-wire architecture, with one wire serving both the phone and the computer; no new wires to trip over.
As well, IP Centrex carries IP telephony, so employees could move their phones and maintain their extension numbers. They could work from home and, given an IP phone, also answer their corporate calls at the home office.
But analysts say IP Centrex cannot overcome the follies of Centrex. The high-tech siblings may differ in some respects, but their similarities brew trouble.