Telecom 2.0 - Where We’re Headed

January 26th, 2009

Last Wednesday at PTC ‘09 in sunny Honolulu, Hawaii, our CEO and President, Pete Pattullo, participated in a Telecom 2.0 panel moderated by Gary Kim of IP Business magazine. Joining Pete on the panel were IntelePeer CEO Frank Fawzi and Jeff Lattomus, Area VP of MetaSwitch.

Pete shared with Gary and the audience that NetworkIP formed in 1997 as a Telecom 2.0 company; we built our platform from a “clean sheet of paper” and pioneered a revolutionary business model (at the time) of providing hosted voice applications for customers. Back then, the Telecom 2.0 label didn’t exist, and analysts often categorized us as a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier).

Now, 10 years later, our core voice and transaction services platform is highly evolved. Our patented software has matured through 8 iterations. Our hosted services model makes it easy for customers to run and manage all varieties and complexities of business applications. And while we process over 25 million API transactions a month, we realize that those APIs are only the table stakes of Telecom 2.0.

For we are all about enabling frictionless transactions and solutions for the enterprise that enable customers to easily and cost-effectively solve complex business problems and drive efficiency, especially in this challenging economic climate.

Pete further elaborated that In 2009, our subsidiary, Jaduka, will be working closely with partners like IBM and initiating new relationships to meet the growing demands of Fortune 2000 companies. We’ll also integrate our real-time transaction processing engine, our billing solution, and provisioning capabilities in ways that save our customers money and enhance their business processes.

Telecom 2.0: that’s where we’re headed.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

New Year, New Business Processes

January 2nd, 2009

I just received a recorded message from the local Toyota dealership in Austin. The message indicated that my vehicle is due for service and then provided me with the dealership phone number so I could call and schedule an appointment.

The approach Toyota is taking in proactively reaching out to their customer is good, but it’s not good enough and, in this instance, it wasn’t frictionless enough to get me to stop what I was doing and make a service appointment.

What might Toyota have done better?

1. Indicate which car required service. I own two Toyota vehicles so how about listing the year, make, and model of the vehicle that requires service.
2. Provide more specific information. Indicate type of service that is due and the cost.
3. Provide a more convenient call to action. Give me the option to connect to a customer service person by pressing a button, or to schedule the appointment via an IVR while I am still on the line.

Telling me which car required service and giving me the specific service information is good. Better is connecting me directly to a customer service agent (press 1 to connect schedule an appointment now) or allowing me to schedule an appointment via an IVR; either of those two options would have likely sealed the deal.

A call to action needs to be seamlessly integrated with convenience and one-click actions to enable the feeling of convenience. In lieu of that, if a customer doesn’t capture the number that is quickly rattled off, it’s less likely the customer will call the dealer. In my case I won’t make the call to the dealer until I have a problem with one of my cars or I remember that it’s time to change the oil.

In 2009 you will see more companies – from major enterprises to suppliers and distributors to brick and mortar establishments – deploying communications enabled business processes (CEBP) in ways that improve customer experience and drive sales. The NetworkIP Jaduka Intelligent Platform and our APIs enable businesses to deploy low-cost, efficient CEBP solutions and accrue benefits from day one. With CEBP, every sale has a far greater chance of being completed, and the customer experience will be both richer and frictionless.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

SaaS & Mobile Productivity: Bright Spots for 2009

December 23rd, 2008

While most companies are reporting lower than expected earnings in 2008, there are some bright spots. NetworkIP has had our best year ever, reflecting a growing adoption of the NetworkIP Jaduka “Intelligent” Platform for telephony, voice/data applications, and feature development.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while software purchases are expected to decline, three pockets of technology will grow: Software as a Service (SaaS), Mobile Productivity Applications, and Security solutions.

We agree. We’re seeing a large increase in the numbers and types of telephony and commerce applications running on the NetworkIP Jaduka “Intelligent” Platform.  Adoption of our SaaS solutions and voice API is growing by about a million API calls a month. Our voice API opens call control and transaction processing to businesses, enabling them to more efficiently manage products and accounts in the cloud.  In 2009 we expect to see substantial gains as our platform is adopted by thousands of businesses developing applications on popular SaaS ecosystems like Serena.

In 2009 we will be releasing the first of several Mobile Productivity applications, including an iPhone Conferencing application based on Jaduka’s Conferencing API.  Just like our Web-based Conferencing solution, the new iPhone Conferencing application will allow users to start and manage conference calls from the palm of your hand.  Whether you need to connect to 3 people or 50 people at once, this application will make it easy.

It’s frictionless solutions like those offered by NetworkIP and Jaduka that are connecting people, improving business, increasing efficiency, and delivering significant value and costs savings to businesses. We look forward to 2009 with enthusiasm and vigor.
 
Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Tough Economies Can Drive Innovation

November 19th, 2008

Whether we are currently in a recession is debatable, but whether or not we are dealing with tough economic times right now is not. It was just two months ago that the federal government took over Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae, then came the $700 billion bailout for financial institutions that included Freddie & Fannie, the Dow Jones Industrial average has dropped 4,961 points or 38.29% since this time last year (November 20, 2007), & now the big 3 car manufacturers are requesting a $25 billion dollar bailout. During all of this, the IT & telecom sectors have begun to feel the pinch too. This is evident from layoffs reported by Sun Microsystems, job cuts by Cisco right here in Texas, 10,000 job cuts announced by BT, 3,000 cuts by Motorola, & unfortunately the list goes on & on.

In response to these tough economic times companies need to look to new & innovative solutions that can save them money, time, & ultimately help them succeed in growing their business. We are always looking for ways to grow our business by investing in solutions that save us time & money. Just recently we were featured in an article about how we have used virtualization in order to streamline our systems administration processes all while saving money too.

Many of our products & services result in costs & time savings for businesses & I wanted to share a few in hopes that they may help your business.

Web & Audio Conferencing
Provides businesses with affordable, on-demand conferencing that can be used anytime by simply picking up the phone & dialing a personal code. The service includes a convenient Online dashboard for account management, monitoring live conference calls, & reporting.

Transaction Processing Services
We manage 860 million end-user accounts & we process well over 19 million transactions per day. Our transaction processing capacity is capable of handling over 40 billion transactions per year - more than enough for practically anything that a business could dream up.

Least Cost Routing & iQT
By combining our Least Cost Routing (LCR) engine with our patented iQT technology we can monitor & analyze ever call in real-time & automatically remove carrier routes that do not meet strict quality standards. The result is the best possible ratio of quality & pricing for terminating your calls.

By using these & many other products & services you can save your business money & precious time that can be better spent focusing on your core competencies & your customers.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Mobile Money Transfer From Around the World

November 13th, 2008

The last day of MMT08 was focused on the true landscape of the mobile money transfer market & offered insight on how to succeed in this emerging market. As conference delegates, we had an opportunity to directly interface with the CEOs of many of the companies who have already deployed MTT solutions. The list of CEOs & their companies included Michael Joseph of Safaricom, Karim Khoja of Roshan, Brian Richardson of Wizzit, & Carol Realini of Obopay who have all had their own unique experiences developing & deploying MMT solutions.

Of the four CEOs that offered their insights, Carol Realini of Obopay is the only one whose company is experienced with deploying a MMT solution in the States. I understood Realini’s description of the MMT market in the U.S. very well which today is primarily made up of unbanked & underbanked immigrant workers & teenagers. For those teenagers that are adopting Obopay’s MMT solution it is more about convenience than anything else & since teenagers trust almost any application available on their phone it’s no wonder that this market is one of the first to adopt Obopay’s solution. In the States the MMT market is also being utilized by working immigrants because MMT offers them both a convenient & more importantly a cost saving option compared to traditional means of transferring money such as Western Union & MoneyGram.

Banks, Point of Sale (POS), eCommerce solutions, etc. are readily available in the States. In other countries, these solutions are practically nonexistent. What is readily available in these other countries with undeveloped baking & payment solutions are cell phones & because of this reason MMT is taking off!

Brian Richardson, CEO of Wizzit, did a beautiful job of describing the undeveloped market his company is working hard to serve in Africa where less than 4% of the population is banked. Richardson gave an uplifting & passionate presentation about the opportunity that exists in Africa & why his company is taking an innovative approach of bringing the banks to the unbanked; not the other way around. Richardson asked the audience of the conference to consider giving up all bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, Internet banking, etc. The question was followed by an uncomfortable silence while we all pondered the difficulties that this would present in our lives & what the unbanked population deals with on a daily basis.

The current situation in Africa does not nurture a system for banking. Banking fees are high, the banks are open for short periods of time (9am - 3:30pm), banking services are poor, & the banks are an average of 30 kilometers (18 miles) from where most Africans live. Cash is an expensive, dangerous, & an inconvenient option, but despite the inconvenience & danger cash presents it is still a better option than banking at a conventional bank in Africa.

It was evident from beginning to end that Richardson possess real passion & excitement for this industry & to succeed in any business passion & excitement are key. Just as we at NetworkIP through our own passion & excitement have brought affordable & quality telecommunication services to the unbanked & underbanked here in the States, I hope that Wizzit will succeed in empowering those in Africa with a banking solution using MMT.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Mobile Money Transfer Regulatory Hurdles

November 10th, 2008

First to present this morning at the Mobile Money Transfer Conference (MMT08) here in Dubai was Ryan Gilbert of 1688 Inc. Gilbert excited the crowd when he described the size & potential of the Mobile Money Transfer (MMT) market. The money transfer market is currently estimated to be a $700 billion annual industry, of which $350 billion is reported through traditional means of money transfer through services such as Western Union & MoneyGram. The other $350 billion goes unreported because of non-traditional money transfers such as sending cash via snail mail & cash delivered during travel. The mobile phone, a now ubiquitous device across the globe, is the key to capturing a piece of the existing reported $350 billion market, & more importantly capturing an even larger percentage of the $350 billion which is currently untapped.

The mobile phone offers not only a more convenient way of transferring money, but is also a less expensive method for the consumer. Sending money via Western Union for example is quickly becoming a dated solution & as consumers realize the simplicity & the many advantages of money transfer via mobile the likes of Western Union will need to adapt their services to the  mobile phone or their business will suffer significantly.

Like all great opportunities there tend to be hurdles that we must work together to overcome. In a post 9-11 environment we a forced to deal with many new strict laws & regulations that will unintentionally impede the growth of the mobile money transfer market. The larger regulatory hurdles which are causing the most concern include the global patchwork of laws, the fact that current legal frameworks do not fully cover cross-border remittances, compliance is expensive, & most importantly the pace of regulation has not kept up with pace of technology innovation.

Within the United States, we are burden with even more regulations. U.S. regulations include property law, consumer protection law, AML/CFT/KYC/OFAC (also known as the alphabet soup of regulation), privacy law, telecommunications law, the Federal Money Service Business registration, & lastly the State Money Transmitter License all plaguing the industry.

Since inaction is not a viable option, the following actions for moving forward with MMT were recommended by Gilbert: 1) we must close the gap between that exists between innovations of the mobile network operator (MNO) & the regulatory goals, 2) we need inclusive planning processes, 3) we need to address consumer demand, & 4) we need to balance regulations with service-based trust & safety.

If we work together inside this mobile payment ecosystem these hurdles in comparison to the opportunity that exists are insignificant. The goal is to move quickly in order to meet consumer demand while keeping true to the regulatory compliances before us.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Mobile Money Transfer

November 9th, 2008

Earlier this week I departed from Austin & boarded one of three flights that would eventually land me in Dubai, which is serving as this year’s host city for the Mobile Money Transfer (MMT) conference that I will participate in. As noted by the conference organizers, there are significant profits to be made out of MMT. Only a finite group of market leaders such as Safaricom who developed M-PESA & Globe’s G-Cash have proven it, & now mobile network operators, banks, micro-finance institutions, money transfer networks & technology providers (like NetworkIP & Jaduka), are mobilizing in an attempt to grab a share of the market.

According to a study by Juniper Research, mobile remittances & contactless Near Field Communications (NFC) will account for 50% of the overall mobile payment market globally by 2013. The mobile payments market, currently dominated by purchases of digital goods such as ringtones, music & games, is expected to be led by mobile money transfers & NFC for purchases in the future. This will boost the overall m-payments market by a factor of ten until 2013.

At NetworkIP & Jaduka we are constantly looking at new services & products that can easily be powered on our ever growing network & platform. For the next four days at MMT08 I will meet with many of the thought leaders in the mobile payment industry & will participate in a variety of conference sessions in an effort to build NetworkIP’s knowledge of this evolving space as we continue to seek new ways to leverage the power of our platform to bring success to our customers & partners.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Text Messaging Opens New Doors

November 4th, 2008

According to a recent survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. (ORC), a text message is far more likely to elicit a quick response than leaving a voice mail. To add, those under the age of 30 are four times more likely to respond within minutes of receiving a text message compared to a voice mail, & 91% respond to a text message within one hour. Adults 30 & older are also quick to text & are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text message as compared to a voice message.

I’ve been testing the results of this study both at work with colleagues & after hours with friends & my results coincide with those published by ORC. Text messages are not only easier for people to access, they are also less evasive, & more importantly in my opinion text messages force both the sender & the receiver to get straight to the point - 160 characters doesn’t allow for much “small talk.” To my delight I met with a client today who described a previous job where he worked directly with his CEO for 3 years & within those three years they never left more than 3 or 4 voice mails for each other because outside of face-to-face meetings all communication was done through text messaging because text messaging proved to be so effective.

If text messaging can speed up communication between two people, what else could text messaging make more efficient for us?

As I began to consider all the things we could do as part of our daily activities through text messaging I was reminded of some examples that Jyri Engeström, co-founder of Jaiku, a microblogging service acquired by Google in 2007, discussed at the Mobilize 08 conference that I attended earlier this year. Jyri discussed how he uses text messaging back home in Finland on a daily basis. He described a scenario at an airport where you, the consumer, are alerted of flight delays via text messaging, you pay for your airport parking with text messaging, you check-in for your flight via text messaging, & you use a previous text message you received from your airline as your boarding pass to board the plane.

This evening I did a quick bit of research on Finland & their use of text messaging & I found a couple of interesting articles that I thought I’d share. The first article describes how the Finnish Road Administration is using text messaging as a way to curb vandalism in public restrooms. Their solution requires restroom visitors to text “Open” (in Finnish, of course) to a local SMS number that will then unlock the door to the restroom. The idea of course is that people will be less likely to graffiti up the place knowing that their mobile number is on file as a result of opening the restroom door via a text message. This second article I found doesn’t point to a specific texting service or solution, but it does demonstrate the popularity of text messaging in Finland given that even the Ilkka Kanerva, Finland’s Foreign Minister, uses text messaging. Unfortunately for Kanerva he used text messaging in a way that resulted in him being ousted from his seat in April of this year. Lastly, I think it’s worth noting that the “Father of Text Messaging”, Matti Makkonen, is from Finland & according to this article Makkonen didn’t make a single dime off his invention which started as an idea while at pizzeria in Copenhagen.

Just as I begin to believe that we in the U.S. have figured this “mobile thing” out I’m reminded of how far behind we really are. The good news is that the mobile market is still open for us & others to shape here in the States. We have an opportunity to learn from what others have done well, what they haven’t done so well, & then to use that knowledge to build our mobile services even better. Opportunity is knocking in the mobile market; can you hear it? If you still can’t hear it, maybe I’ll send you a text message.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Why All The Hype With Cloud Computing?

October 29th, 2008

Believe it or not, I like Wiki’s definition of Cloud Computing the best. Wiki defines Cloud Computing as a general concept that incorporates Software as a Service (SaaS), Data as a Service (DaaS), Web 2.0 & other recent, well-known technology trends, in which the common theme is reliance on the Internet for satisfying the computing needs of the users.

The best example of Cloud Computing that comes to mind & the ones I use most often are Google’s Mail, Talk, & Doc Applications. Why do I use these applications instead of similar applications already installed on my PC? The answer is simple, these Cloud Computing tools allow me to access my e-mail, message with colleagues, & edit documents, spreadsheets, & presentations regardless of the PC I’m using & the city/state/country I am in. Simple said, they offer me a convenient solution to communicate & work that doesn’t involve me taking my PC everywhere that I go.

When Amazon officially released their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) earlier this year many companies (especially start-up companies that had yet to invest millions of dollars into their IT infrastructure) jumped on board. EC2 offered far more than a hosting solution. EC2 gave companies & software developers access to all the computing power they needed to run their applications at a cost far below what it would cost to procure & maintain the computing power on premise. To note, EC2 is just another piece of Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) offering.

Even with Google & Amazon’s play in the cloud, few were treating Cloud Computing as a mainstream approach to IT. Following Microsoft’s announcement of Azure, its long-anticipated Cloud Computing strategy, earlier this week at their Professional Development Conference I believe that Cloud Computing will become more mainstream. While many reports from Microsoft’s conference suggested that the news largely unfazed show attendees; I think this news will rattle the cages of Google, Amazon, & will awake the “regular” PC users who will think that it is cool that they can now work on their Word documents for work at home without having to take their work PC home.

Microsoft’s dominance in productivity software — Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, & Excel — remains strong, with market share based on revenue of at least 95%, according to data released in late 2007 by research firm International Data Corporation. Google Docs & Spreadsheets & even OpenOffice, which is an open source suite of tools that users can download for free, will continue to chip away at Microsoft’s market share, but the reality is that they still have a very long way to go before Microsoft will become scared. With Microsoft now making their Office suite more accessible, they are positioning themselves to maintain control of their existing user base that may otherwise eventually migrate to online tools because of their convenience factor.

Along with the online convenience factor I think this move to Cloud Computing also shows Microsoft’s realization that more users are beginning to user their mobile phone to write & edit documents, spreadsheets, & presentations. When doing such work from a mobile phone it makes more since for a user to manage their files in the cloud & use software that is also accessible to them in the cloud. Just this Monday, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article about how the mobile phone looks to be replacing the laptop. There is so much truth to this article & Cloud Computing is going to make this shift to mobile even easier for the consumer.

The hype about Cloud Computing is this. Businesses will turn to the Cloud mostly because the costs & resources to manage a large IT infrastructure far exceed the costs to make use of the Cloud. Software developers will turn to the Cloud because they can quickly obtain the environment needed to develop & deliver their applications. The “regular” PC users will turn to the Cloud for applications because of convenience & because the Cloud supports their applications for use on their mobile phone.

At NetworkIP & Jaduka we will continue to support the advancement of Cloud Computing by making both our telephony infrastructure & transaction processing engine available to the masses.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka

Mobile Contactless Payments Gain Momentum

October 28th, 2008

Next week the 2008 CARTES & IDentification conference kicks off in Paris, France. CARTES is the world leading show for banking technologies & eTransactions & this year they are giving special attention to mobile & contactless payment solutions. This year’s event should be quite exciting for all involved given the high number of mobile & contactless payment solutions that have deployed in many countries & that went into prototype here in the United States.

We’ve been following the contactless payment industry for almost two years now & we continue to see an abundance of new contactless solutions develop. Combine contactless solutions to what has emerged in the mobile space these past 18-months with the introduction of smart phones such as Apple’s iPhone & I can assure you that contactless mobile solutions are closer in sight than many predicted.

Just last month, Juniper Research published a study titled, “Mobile Payment Markets: Contactless NFC 2008-2013”. Key points from this report include:

- By 2013, the global mobile subscribers with NFC phones will reach 700 million
- FeliCa-enabled phones riding on Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, & SoftBank’s network dominate this market. Juniper estimates that roughly 50 million FeliCa NFC enabled phones have shipped to date.
- Juniper predicts that North America, Western Europe, & the Far East & China will be the dominate regions by 2013.

This Juniper study also reiterated some of my own concerns about the roadblocks that currently exist in this Near Field Communications (NFC) mobile market. The first & most obvious concern stated by Juniper was the lack of NFC phones on the market. The report also pointed to the lack of NFC readers installed at merchant locations as the second roadblock. An additional concern that I have is that consumers & merchants have yet to be properly educated on how NFC works. I dialogue with a number of smart & tech savvy people each day & I’ve realized that NFC is still an unknown technology. To my surprise, some of the people I dialogue with aren’t even familiar with the term NFC.

Hence the reason I am so delighted when I read reports that indicate that NFC trials here in the U.S. continue to show progress. One of the best examples & one that got a lot of attention was the NFC trial conducted with riders of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) in San Francisco. For four months (January 28 – May 30, 2008), BART riders were provided NFC equipped phones to pay for their transportation costs. These same NFC enabled phones allowed participants taking part in the trial to make payments at participating Jack in the Box restaurants & to download directions from NFC enabled posters inside BART terminals. Full results from the NFC trial with BART can be viewed in this Yahoo Finance article.

As more NFC trials are conducted here in the U.S., NFC will gain adoption by consumers. Retailers are already beginning to acknowledge the benefits associated with NFC payments & are favoring them over traditional Point of Sale (POS) swipe solutions.

I suspect as next week’s CARTES & IDentification show gets underway, we will see a growing number of devices & articles pointing to the market that exists for contactless mobile payment solutions.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka