Category: Voice Over IP

Another attempt at the “smart cordless phone” for the regular telephone service

Article

DECT-Telefon mit Android: Archos 35 Smart Home Phone – COMPUTER BILD (Germany – German language)

My Comments

I have previously covered various attempts by landline-telephony carriers and electronics manufacturers to restore faith in the classic telephone service. This is more so as younger people are thinking more of the mobile phone as their main telephone device and ditching the classic landline telephone.

The two main examples of this was a DECT cordless telephone handset which worked on the Android operating system but looked like an early-generation car phone as well as the Telstra T-Hub with a separate screen which linked to the home Wi-Fi network.

Now Archos have taken this further with a DECT cordless telephone that is styled like the typical smartphone. As well, they have run this phone on the Android platform with the ability to download software to the phone through the Wi-Fi network. They even have run TuneIn Radio, which is an Internet-radio client, on this phone so it can offer the same Internet-radio experience as the T-Hub’s Internet-radio client.

Archos have emphasised the DECT cordless-phone setup because most of the Internet-gateway devices that are part of a fully-featured “triple-play” service in Europe, especially the Germanic countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), can work as VoIP base stations for these handsets. This allows for centralised management of the handsets and for the assured quality-of-service that DECT offers.

It will be interesting to know who else will try to run with a “smart household phone” system to keep the classic home-based voice telephone service alive and relevant in the mobile world.

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Facebook’s chat facility now approaching Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger but a long way to go

Articles

Facebook unveils video chatting, thanks to Skype | The Digital Home – CNET News

Facebook intros group chats, new chat tool design | The Digital Home – CNET News

Facebook Reveals Video Chat Powered By Skype | Mashable

My Comments

Facebook’s chat functionality has now become a mature adult now that it offers group chatting and is about to offer Skype-powered videocall functionality.

What I do like about this is that rather than reinventing the wheel as Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger did to develop their video-chat services, Facebook have taken a sensible path. Here they have implemented Skype technology to power their video chat functionality.

The main reason I see this is going on is because Google are encroaching on Facebook’s territory with their Google+ social network service and Facebook have to provide a reason to keep their userbase loyal to their social network. It may also affect Skype’s native userbase who may use Facebook as a static notification tool while using the Skype client for text, audio and video chatting.

Native support

It may require Facebook to provide native support for this new level of chat functionality in their client-side applications. This is especially important for people who have used desktop instant-messaging services like ICQ or Windows Live Messenger and like the ability of these programs to operate in the background while they undertake their main activities.

Similarly, it could support the mobile, VoIP and “big-screen” platforms and take advantage of what each of these platforms can offer, such as “big-screen” video conferencing on larger TV sets for example.

This goal can be achieved more easily through the use of Skype code with Facebook interlinking and could be implemented in devices and platforms that have either of these functions written in to their base, such as the “smart-TV” platforms.

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UPnP Telephony DCP–One step towards easy-to-implement IP telephony

Another step towards easily-configurable IP telephony systems has been taken with the UPnP Forum just releasing the UPnP Telephony Device Control Protocol this week. Here, this provides the management of telephone-related devices that are connected across a small network in a heterogenous manner. This involves the ability for the devices to make or take phone calls, be notified of incoming calls, send and receive text and multimedia messages as well as updating local user-presence status.

It is also intended to be service agnostic so as to cater for phone services based on IP-Telephony (VoIP), cellular wireless or classic landline (ISDN or Plain Old Telephony Service) technology; as well as being device form-factor agnostic.

As with the whole of the UPnP ecosystem, this DCP provides increased room for innovation due to a logical “building-block” approach in designing these systems.

Logical Devices

Telephony Client

A UPnP Telephony Client is a device that is used by the end-user to interact with the caller at the other end of the line. A multi-handset phone system would have these devices referred to as an “extension”. This could be a device like a VoIP handset, a “softphone” program run on a computer, a TV or set-top box with IP-based video speakerphone function or a “legacy-handset-bridge” like an analogue telephone adaptor or DECT base station.

The UPnP Telephony system allows different clients to be media-specific, thus allowing for situations like an electronic picture frame that has a Webcam to become a videophone adaptor with the voice part of a videocall placed using this device being hosted through a regular VoIP handset.

Telephony Server

A UPnP Telephony Server device represents anything that can provide a telephone service to the local IP-based network. This can be in the form of a 3G mobile phone connected to the home network via WiFi, a regular telephone that has integrated PSTN/ISDN – IP bridge functionality, but would typically be in the form of a device that works as an “IP-PBX” with VoIP lines and servicing VoIP handsets.

A physical device can have multiple logical “Telephony Server” devices, with one for each “service” that calls come in on. It doesn’t matter whether the calls come in via VoIP or a classic telephony service like a 3G mobile service or the “Plain Old Telephone Service”.  This can cater for the VoIP-enabled router or “IP-PBX” that can handle a few VoIP services as well as a “Plain Old Telephone Service” line; or a mobile phone or “MiFi” router that "front-ends” its 3G/GSM telephony service to the network.

Telephony Control Point

This is effectively the “control surface” for a UPnP Telephony system and can be integrated with a Telephony Client or Telephony Server or be its own device. Typically this would be the buttons and display on a phone but could be a device with its own display or a “widget application” on a computer showing up the incoming call details or incoming text / multimedia messages.

Functionality provided

This device class manages the creation, management and conclusion of a voice or video call between UPnP-compliant telephony “hub” devices and endpoint devices.

The technology allows for a call to be set up using multiple devices on the local side. A good example of this would be to instigate a videocall with the video display appearing on a videophone-enabled TV with integrated Webcam and the conversation sound coming through the cordless handset. Of course, it will do the usual call-management features like call transfer are able to be performed across a UPnP Telephony-based phone setup.

As well, there is support for a common address book that is based on vCard standards as well as the management of answering-machine / voice-mail setups in these systems. Of course, a UPnP-based IP telephone system can support sending and receiving of text or multimedia messages. This would mean that, for example, incoming messages could appear on devices like networked TVs or a Wi-Fi-based cordless IP phone could send messages through VoIP SMS services or “landline-SMS” services provided on PSTN or ISDN services.

Issues that need to be looked at

Establishment of IP-telephony services

An issue that needs to be looked at is the setup and management of IP-based telephony services. Here, this may include the addition of a new service or the establishment and modification of outbound and inbound call-management profiles associated with multiple phone services.

This may involve the use of predefined call classes like “local” or “international” with the ability to determine which service is used for a particular class. Similarly, there could be the use of “default” outbound dialling plans such as “VoIP for all calls except emergency or service calls”. As far as the small-business owner is concerned, this issue may encompass the creation of IP-based “tie lines” between business locations or the creation of “virtual extensions” which are phone numbers dialled as if one is calling an extension within a business phone setup.

The solution that can be used to answer the problem regarding establishment of such services could be in the form of a standard “service manifest” file. This could be an XML file that is prepared by the ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) with all of the parameters associated with an IP telephony service including SIP parameters and default call-management plans for that service. The service’s customer would upload the file to their VoIP gateway through a client-side application or the gateway’s Web interface and simply enable the service.

Inter-extension calling

In the same case, another issue that may need to be looked at is the ability for a UPnP-based telephony system to support the placing of calls between Telephony Client devices, as required of a business phone setup.

This question could be answered through the use of a virtual Telephony Server in a gateway device that represents and handles the internal calls. This could have the internal phone book which is simply a user-friendly list of Telephony Client devices on the system as well as handling that traffic.

Conclusion

Now that the UPnP Telephony DCP has been determined as a standard, it now requires industry to set about the task of implementing it in as many IP-Telephony devices and software programs as possible.

This could be made feasible through this standard being part of one or more logo-compliance programs like how the UPnP AV DCPs have become mandatory for devices that are DLNA-compliant or the UPnP Internet Gateway Device standard has become mandatory for various standards encompassing Internet modems and routers.

It can also open up opportunities of innovation for any device that offers some sort of telephony function while facing a small IP network; or any computer program that works as a bridge to a telephony service like Skype or as a telephony endpoint like a “softphone”.

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A fully-fledged Skype client for the iOS at last

Articles

Skype adds video calls to iPhone app | The Register (UK)

Skype offers iPhone video calls over 3G | The Register (UK)

Skype: Update bietet Videotelefonie via iPhone und iPod touch | Computer Bild (Germany – German language)

My comments

There have been previous versions of Skype released for the iPhone but these have been limited in functionality compared to the desktop Skype clients. In some situations, you couldn’t use Skype with the 3G wireless-broadband connection and you didn’t have video calling.

Now Skype have delivered Skype 3.0 for Apple iOS which yields a client that does what is expected of the service. Unlike Apple’s FaceTime videophone client which only works with Apple’s platforms, this client can communicate with an established universe of Skype desktop, mobile and dedicated communications clients as well as make and take calls to and from regular telephone services using the paid SkypeOut and SkypeIn services. The software also allows the iOS user to join in or create a video-conference between multiple participants.

You can use this client in a Wi-Fi network or with 3G but you will need either an “all-you-can-eat” data plan or a data plan with a generous data allowance to gain best value when using 3G.

There are some other caveats that can affect user experience. If you run this program on an iPad or older iPod Touch devices, you will be able to see your correspondent’s video but they won’t be able to see you. This is because these devices don’t have an integrated camera. As well, if you use the ubiquitous iPhone 3GS, the experience won’t be as good because of its slow processor and the absence of a front-facing camera.

As well, I would recommend using the phone on “speaker phone” or using a wired or Bluetooth headset when engaging in a videocall so you can see the other party on the display.

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The Android-driven Wi-Fi cordless phone that thinks it’s a smartphone

News and Blog articles

DSP Group’s Android DECT / Wi-Fi Home Phone Reference Design Has Me Drooling | eHomeUpgrade

DSP Multimedia Handset – Android Based Home Phone | Android Community

From the horse’s mouth

DSP Group’s “video brochure” available on YouTube

DSP Group’s Web page on this phone

My comments on this phone

Most of the news concerning Android is focused on smartphones that are pitched as cellular mobile phones. But this phone is an intent to take Android to a new territory – the home cordless phone which is used as a household’s “common phone”.

Here, it uses VoIP technology through a Wi-Fi network (which nearly all home networks are based around) but can work as a DECT-based cordless phone. But it can work with a home network by providing DLNA functionality, access to home automation, consumer-electronics control; as well as being a hand-held Internet terminal. Telephony service providers like Telstra can customise the phone to suit their needs such as providing a branded customer experience like they do with mobile phones. This can also extend to hosted-PBX providers providing this phone as part of an IP-based business phone system for a small business.

This has been achieved through the use of Google Android as the phone’s operating environment and the phone being able to gain access to applications provided for the Google Android MarketPlace. This can open up this home phone for all sorts of innovative applications. I would also extend this to business-related applications including order-entry for restaurants or tourist information for the hospitality industry.

This phone has become the first reference design for an in-home / in-premises cordless phone to have an interface and level of functionality that puts it on a par with today’s smartphones. It will also definitely appeal to the competitive “triple-play” marketplace that is being built out in different countries around the world and could herald the beginning of a new age of “in-premises” telephony.

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Making VoIP easier for the home, SOHO and small-business user

A new networking trend that is approaching the small network user is VoIP (Voice Ovr IP). It will typically include IP-based videoconferencing and offer such benefits as free or very low-cost calls, “local number anywhere” and wideband (FM-grade) telephony. Businesses of all scales are moving away from the classic PABX or key system which has its own wiring infrastructure and moving towards an IP-based business telephony system which uses existing local-area-network infrastructure. For them it also reduces the need to rent extra telephone lines for such requirements as inter-location “tie lines”.

The main problem with current VoIP setups is that they are hard to configure. Typically, you have to determine the network configuration for your VoIP service provider and work out particular “dialling plans” such as whether to use VoIP or standard telephone to make a particular call. The other factor you have to work out is which number your VoIP handset rings to. Most of these setups involve awkward interfaces and terms, including remembering certain parameters to be set across multiple devices. In some situations, this kind of work still needs one who has technical knowledge of all things to do with business telephony.

A lot of VoIP service providers have responded to this issue by selling pre-configured VoIP hardware that is locked down to their services. This situation ends up with the hardware being useless if you decide to move to a better deal offered by a competing service provider or decide to expand and evolve the system.

One way of improving the setup is to provide service-plan data packages that can be uploaded to VoIP hardware. This can be useful when it comes to signing up to a new service provider or upscaling the existing VoIP service. Another improvement that can exist could be preset outbound dial plans such as “VoIP for calls other than local & emergency / service”, “VoIP for calls other than emergency / service” or pre-defined “VoIP tie-lines”. These can be selected through a wizard-style interface.

The inbound call plan would be set up through a service-extension map for “direct inward dial” or simple “one-click” options for basic “all-call” setups.

As far as the provisioning of new VoIP telephone extensions goes, VoIP systems should consider use of UPnP and similar IP-based technologies for this purpose. The other issue that also needs to be considered is a standard data package for supplying the extensions (VoIP handsets or analogue telephone adaptors) with the necessary data. This avoids the requiement to have a system that can only work with telephones from a few vendors and can allow innovation in this field. It is more of concern as far as WiFi-based VoIP handsets, including “fixed-mobile convergent” mobile phones, are concerned.

The data packages would be an XML-based configuration file that contains information about SIP / STUN provider details, handset identity details and outbound / inbound dial plans.

Once measures are taken to make VoIP telephony easier to deploy, this can lead to system owners being able to have home and business telephony their way.

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