Get ready for a big explosion in communications-enabled Web portals.
Thanks to IntelePeer, a company that’s just emerging into public view, Web developers will soon be able to deploy a host of communications applications in their social networks and other communities without having to learn the nitty-gritty of telecom interfaces—or hiring the expertise to do it.
According to Charles Studt, IntelePeer’s vice president of product management and marketing, the company’s mission “is to deliver the infrastructure that drives the next generation of communications applications—communications that are embedded in websites, Internet communities, portals, entertainment, e-commerce, and other Web 2.0-type features.”
The tool: AppworX, a technology platform for opening carrier-grade communications infrastructure to Web and enterprise software applications. The goal: removing the complexity from telecom. “We’re trying to really open that up and make it accessible to any developer,” Studt told VoIPplanet.com.
The foundation for AppworX is a worldwide carrier-grade IP network that’s been four years in the making. “We’re connected with VoIP carriers, as well as traditional phone companies,” Studt said. “We’re able to reach any phone in the world over this network, over IP.”
Indeed, IntelePeer’s network has been carrying billions of phone call a year for some time now, transporting traffic for global carriers. “We can then terminate calls onto their networks or pick up calls coming from their networks,” Studt explained.
But the network is just the highway AppworX rides on. “We’ve taken a standard carrier infrastructure, and we’ve put on top of it a software layer that exposes those functions and then opens them up to Web developers,” Studt explained. “The real advantage of what we bring to the table, for a Web developer, is making all this infrastructure accessible.”
Take MIO.TV, a fledgling social network aimed at American Latinos and architected with a heavy emphasis on video, voice, and other multimedia-based communications functionality.
“Our goal was to mash up a lot of social media experiences online and offline—all in one browser, with no download,” explained Matt Johnston, MIO’s chief operating officer.
From the beginning, MIO’s plan included providing Skype-like functionality in a browser, and, again, a key requirement was no software download. “We looked at a number of providers—including Skype—to provide a variety of things—click-to-call, softphone, conferencing, and the like,” Johnston said.
“We chose IntelePeer for several reasons: First, because it lets us to integrate call functionality at the API level, instead of requiring an ActiveX download or download of anything else to the browser.
“The second reason we chose them,” Johnston continued, “was because of the economics of delivering calls, especially from PCs to mobile phones,” which is the primary use case MIO.TV addresses. “Because of IntelePeer’s economics, we’re able deliver different models to users to enable them to make calls for free, or very inexpensively.”
And then there was a kind of spiritual kinship between the two organizations. “The final reason we chose IntelePeer is because of the working relationship that we developed and the philosophy we share. As a company, we are very agile—and so is IntelePeer.
“As we helped them understand our business, it became clear that there were some features emerging that would be desirable for us. They were able to open up—to expose—new APIs for us to accomplish that in less than two weeks. That’s unusual, even for a company IntelePeer’s size.”
IntelePeer’s unique ability to do media ‘blasts’—broadcast enormous numbers (think tens, hundreds of thousands) of text messages, sound clips, video, and the like—is the foundation for one of MIO.TV’s most interesting innovations: sponsored celebrity conference calls.
“We can send out a text message to our members saying something along the lines of ‘Would you like to be on a conference call with [Hispanic comic]; George Lopez?’ The first 100 people to respond ‘Yes’ will get an opportunity to ask him a question or have him customize a joke for them or do something that’s special,” Johnston explained.
“The result is, the first 100 people get a live conference call with a celebrity; then, a few seconds later IntelePeer lets us broadcast the call—as a new call—to hundreds of thousands of users. So, for the first group it is a standard conference call; for all the rest it is a media blast.” And with that media blast MIO can bundle offers for ticket discounts, music downloads, or other relevant products.
As to how it’s working, Johnston reports “We’ve literally had zero failures since we began using the platform. It’s been so easy, we really haven’t paid much attention to it in our beta rollout. We’ve simply had no problems, no connection issues, no call quality issues that aren’t bandwidth related.”
Commenting on the MIO.TV deployment, Charles Studt told VoIPplanet, “It was just a matter of Web-service interface a few API calls to set up this whole environment.
“What we find when we work with customers, is that within a matter of hours, they can be making phone calls and sending SMSs and doing all sorts of cool communications things very quickly. AppworX has really reduced the threshold of the knowledge level you have to have to work with this environment.”
“The deployment model also makes it easy,” Studt continued. “You’re not going out and buying a bunch of infrastructure—expensive boxes. Everything we do we serve like software as a service (SaaS): hosted in the cloud and available over IP,” Studt said. “We manage the infrastructure, provide it on demand, and scale it up. Really, all you need to do is send a request to this Web services interface and suddenly it’s all working.”
Given the economic edge and the ease of deployment AppworX brings—in combination with the extensiveness and robustness of IntelePeer’s network—and it’s easy to imagine this kind of functionality popping up all over the Worldwide Web.
Oh, and by the way, although he touched on it only briefly in our conversation, Studt did point out the AppworX platform is equally at home with enterprise applications. “We can work with an enterprise app like CRM, for example, and embed communications there,” he said. The possibilities are intriguing, to say the least.