Santa Clara, Calif.-based Agito Networks is one of only a few companies devoted to bridging fixed-line enterprise communications applications to the mobile phone ecosystem.
What we started out calling fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC)—the ability to hand over calls between wired and wireless networks—has come to be referred to more recently as “mobile unified communications” by Agito and others, since the range of functions mobilized extends far beyond call switching to include presence and multiple forms of messaging.
Agito today announced version 3.0 of its Mobility Router, an application/appliance that resides within the enterprise network and doesn’t provide unified communications (UC) functionality, according to founder and chief marketing officer Pejman Roshan, but rather mobilizes it—links it to mobile phones.
“When we talk to enterprises that are deploying UC, which is a relatively recent development,” Roshan told Enterprise VoIPplanet.com, “they’re looking to mobilize it for two primary purposes: to find the right person to communicate with, and what’s the best way to communicate with them.”
The key to this challenge is the relatively recent innovation of broadcasting “presence” or availability information within the network. But disseminating presence to wireless mobile devices presents a special challenge of its own, according to Roshan.
“UC systems are very PC oriented,” he pointed out. “Whether it’s from Microsoft or Cisco or Lotus, they’ve really designed their clients to work on desktops or laptops, rather than mobile devices.” These clients aren’t designed to worry about power requirements or bandwidth availability. Moreover, “[mobile] phone interfaces are very, very small, and there’s a lot of data you have to squeeze onto this very small user interface,” Roshan said.
Agito has put a lot of thought into extending these functions out to mobile phones, and in fact has put some of its unique technological twists to work creating a solution that in some respects transcends the fixed-network counterparts.
The Agito system goes beyond simply indicating whether a contact is available, busy, or inactive; to show in what way that person is busy or otherwise occupied. “Instead of pushing a lot of text on the screen, we’ve used iconography,” Roshan told VoIPplanet.com.
Thus, while a red dot in the presence display indicates “busy,” the red dot can also convey that the contact is “in a meeting” (two heads in the red dot), “out of the office” (an arrow), “blocked” (a big X), or on a call (handset icon). The interface can even show whether a call is a cellular call or a fixed line call.
Agito’s presence interface even goes beyond this level of detail, supplementing it with a set of icons to convey location—information that powers the core of the company’s cellular/Wi-Fi handover technology. “In the office,” “at home,” and “on the road” are the three default locations, with other custom locations available.
All these presence states are set automatically by the Mobility Router, but users can add “rich presence” information by posting a short status notation, such as “Working on slides for customer presentation” to further guide colleagues as to the communications mode most appropriate to the moment.
In another area altogether, Agito has added technology to make voice over Wi-Fi—a well known power hog—perform “at an enterprise level,” according to Roshan. “We’ve gone in and modified the Wi-Fi stack and optimized the efficiency of Wi-Fi in these devices, and in most phones we’re able to get more Wi-Fi talk time than we are cellular talk time”—which is to say eight to nine hours in the best cases.
Agito also claims to have solved the “sticky client” issue, in which, with some chipsets, a roaming Wi-Fi device remains persistently connected with a particular access point (AP) long after a better, stronger connection becomes available, making for poor call quality. As with the talk time improvement, the sticky client solution is entirely a software fix that is “resolved on the phone,” Roshan said.
A least-cost routing feature was added to version 2.0 of Mobility Router. This automatically routes calls placed from company mobile phones to overseas destinations through the PBX and its landline connections, cutting the exorbitant cost of mobile phone termination in most countries outside of North America by a factor of 20 to 30.
In version 3.0, Agito has added several new moves to its cost-saving bag of tricks.
For users roaming abroad, “automatic reverse dial” counteracts the European practice wherein the calling party on a mobile-to-mobile call pays for the entire cost of the call—as opposed to splitting it. “With reverse dial, we’re able to move that call to the PBX, which calls as a fixed line, at a much cheaper rate,” Roshan explained.
Another, even cooler new cost-cutting feature is “automatic SIM swap,” which lets travelers enjoy the benefits of prepaid SIM cards—calls become local, rather than international roaming calls—while avoiding the normal pitfall associated with SIMs: People don’t know the temporary number associated with the SIM, so you miss incoming calls.
With automatic SIM swap, your new SIM is registered with the home PBX as soon as you pop it into the phone. The PBX then routes all your incoming calls to the new number and displays your normal caller ID. Only you will know there’s been a change.
Rounding out Agito’s cost-saving feature set is “secure mobile voice”—in which the mobile phone automatically creates a secure SSL “tunnel” for all calls dialed from a public Wi-Fi hotspot or other open WLAN, such as a hotel broadband network—letting travelers make virtually free calls from such facilities.
Finally, Mobility Router 3.0 continues to grow the Agito partner ecosystem, adding proven compatibility with two new PBXs—Alcatel-Lucent’s OmniPCX Enterprise and ShoreTel’s ShoreGear—to its existing list, which also includes Cisco, Nortel, Avaya, Microsoft, and Digium/Asterisk.
Also augmented is the list of compatible dual-mode phones, with 12 new models, including two CDMA phones, bringing the total to some 20 Nokia E and N series models and more than 20 Windows Mobile models. Agito claims that its roster of compatible phones is the longest in the business, and the only one that includes CDMA-capable handsets.