Posts categorized "Mashups" Lowers SMS Rate to 1 Cent Per Message - Now Super-Cheap To Build SMS Apps

Want to build text messaging (SMS) applications for a very cheap price? My colleagues over in Voxeo Labs recently reduced the price of sending or receiving SMS messages to only 1 cent per message. (As a bonus, they also came up with the cute graphic I'm using on the right.)

As Adam Kalsey writes in the Tropo blog post, "Announcing New lower SMS pricing" sending an SMS is a trivial matter in Tropo. His language of choice is PHP, so he shows:

call('+14155551212', array('network' => 'SMS'));
say('d00d, Penny SMS? ');

But you could obviously do something very similar in Python, Ruby, Groovy or JavaScript in Tropo Scripting... or with any language using the Tropo WebAPI.

Personally, I like seeing what I can do to merge SMS with Twitter... back in December I wrote about how to use Tropo to trigger alerts via SMS based on text in Twitter, which is a variation of an app I do actually use for Twitter monitoring. My colleague Justin Dupree also wrote a cool post about using Node.js to build a Twitter IM/SMS service.

Anyway... all of these SMS apps are now able to be deployed in production for only 1 cent per message to and from US numbers. Text messages to numbers outside the US are still the low 2 cents per message. If you'd like to try it out, Tropo is free for developers to build and try apps... you just have to sign up for an account.

P.S. In case it wasn't crystal clear, Tropo is a service of Voxeo, my employer. However, I wouldn't write about it here if I didn't think it was cool!

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Want to speak locally about voice/SMS/IM/Twitter mashups? Here's some free gear..

tropogear.jpgIf you have become a fan of for creating applications that use voice, SMS, IM and Twitter and want to speak about Tropo to a local user group, meetup, BarCamp, WordCamp or other event, the Voxeo Labs team has put together a pretty cool "meetup kit" that you can request (for free) for your next event. It's got some T-shirts, stickers and even some USB drives.

The Tropo blog post has info about how to request a kit.

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What if you could have a single application that communicated with your customers not just through voice but also through SMS, IM/chat and even Twitter?

tropologo2010.jpgThat's exactly what we announced at Voxeo today with our new release. Tropo is our "cloud communications platform" operated out of our Voxeo Labs team that is focused on reaching out to web developers using today's programming languages and APIs. We launched it back at eComm in March 2009 and have been steadily adding more capability to it over the last year. Today the "beta" label was officially peeled off of Tropo, new international phone numbers were added, international speech recognition (ASR) and text-to-speech (TTS) were added in 7 languages, and a host of other features were added, too.

Naturally, though, my interest was drawn to the fact that one of the channels you can now communicate to customers with is....


I demonstrated this in a post on the Tropo blog, "How to Add Twitter Support to a App - Step by Step", where I hooked up the Twitter account @danweathertest to an existing Tropo sample app I had that retrieved weather info from Yahoo!Weather when given a US ZIP code. I tweaked the app a bit and wrote about the tweaking in "An Example of How to Make a Tropo App Respond Differently to Different Channels (including Twitter)".

The cool part is that when it was all done, that single application is reachable via any of these communication channels:

+1 (407) 374-3994
Skype: +99000936 9991438833
SIP: sip:[email protected]
INum: +883510001814088
SMS: (407) 374-3994
Jabber IM: [email protected]
Twitter: danweathertest

You can try it out by calling any of those numbers or using SMS, IM or Twitter. To use Twitter, just send a @ message to the Twitter ID "danweathertest" like this:

@danweathertest 32801

In a few moments you'll get back a summary of current weather conditions in whatever ZIP code you send it. Now the app isn't perfect... it doesn't do much in the way of error-checking and as I mention in the second blog post, I need to work on it a bit more to get rid of the initial prompt if you send it a ZIP code. I don't honestly know what it will do if you send it a bogus ZIP code. It's just a simple demo app designed to get people thinking about what you can do with apps that plug in to Twitter.

Want to try out building some apps yourself? Just head over to and sign up for a free developer account. You can look at the many sample apps or, if you know python, you're welcome to play with the code to my sample weather app. (And if you don't know python you're of course welcome to play with the code, too... ) Have fun with it... I'm looking forward to seeing what people come up with. (And I'll be writing more about Twitter apps soon...)

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Tim Panton's VERY cool demo: Google Wave + Skype + Asterisk + Ibook

Over on Skype Journal, Phil Wolf posted about Tim Panton's VERY cool demo which he gave at Astricon and then apparently just yesterday at eComm Europe. Tim from mashes up Google Wave, Skype, Asterisk (with Skype for Asterisk) and Ibook to make Skype calls from within a Wave, complete with recordings of utterances and, naturally, the ability to have an annotated collaboration session in Wave:

Phil quotes Jason Goecke (a colleague of mine at Voxeo) describing how it works:

"it is a Google Wave Gadget with his IAX2 Java softphone as the client. Then, the IAX2 Java phone connects to Asterisk with Skype for Asterisk installed. Then, there is a server-side element, Ibook, that is breaking apart utterances into individual files. So that as each person speaks, it captures it into its own file. Then, as that happens, a text frame is sent from Asterisk to the softphone with the file details. The gadget then uses some Javascript to embed a link. IAX2 supports text frames."

Read Phil's full post for more info and for Phil's views on what this all means.

VERY cool demo!

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Out at VoiceCon next week in SF - Presence, Web 2.0, Voice Mashups

voiceconsf2009.jpgIf any of you will be out at VoiceCon or Enterprise 2.0 next week in San Francisco, I'll be out there speaking at both conferences. I have the full schedule in a post on the Voxeo Talks blog, but for VoiceCon it looks like:
Monday, Nov 2 3:15 – 4:15 pm – Presence – Current Progress and Future Trends Wednesday, Nov 4 3:15 – 4:15 pm – Developing Voice Apps Using Mashups and SOA Thursday, Nov 5 8:00 – 9:45 am – Web 2.0 and Enterprise Communications – Fad or the Future?

The full descriptions can be found on a page on our Voxeo Events page. I'm very much looking forward to all three sessions out there. The first is a "reactor panel" where we have a discussion around the issue of getting richer presence info between systems - and moderator Don Van Doren specifically asked me to be there to react to what the larger vendors will be saying. The second panel is just two of us (myself and a gent from IBM) talking about creating mashups and then the last is a "Deep Dive" that Irwin Lazar and I will be doing into what is the state of "Web 2.0 in Enterprise Communications".

Should all be fun.... if you are out there at either conference, let me know. See some of you out there...

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Has Asterisk NOT "crossed the chasm" for developers? (Key links to read for open source)

jayphillips.jpgJay Phillips is frustrated. He passionately wants to see open source telephony enjoy success all around the world. Yet right now, when people think "open source telephony", they almost always think of Asterisk... and Jay sees too many challenges for developers embracing Asterisk. Jay, the creator of the Adhearsion telephony framework for Ruby, has spoken about this at recent conferences and pulled together his thoughts in a lengthy post earlier this week entitled "What We're Not Admitting about Asterisk".

Jay argues that Asterisk has not crossed the proverbial chasm for developers and outlines some of the issues he sees.

What is perhaps most interesting about Jay's post is the equally lengthy response by Asterisk creator Mark Spencer. Mark responds to Jay's various points and in doing so provides some good insight into his views on Asterisk's connections to developers, APIs, etc., as well as the differences between the markets that Digium, the company, goes after versus the "market" of Asterisk, the raw telephony platform.

Both Jay's article and Mark's response are definitely worth reading. I'm friends now with both of them and they both bring immense passion and energy to the world of open source telephony. Ultimately they both make the point that we need better tools for developers to create voice applications. This kind of dialogue is great and will only result in better tools in the end. Please do check out the posts.

P.S. Thomas Howe has also weighed in with a post saying this is a clash in world views, which also makes for good reading. I agree with Thomas that we are in a transition into a world of "web-as-a-platform"... basically a transition "into the cloud"... and so we do need "web-centric" interfaces and APIs. But I disagree with Thomas that Asterisk is "tired". To me, Asterisk is just... well... "plumbing". Asterisk is a telephony platform, as is FreeSWITCH... as is Yate... as are all the commercial IP-PBXs. Asterisk is an open source component of the rewiring of our communication infrastructure that we have underway right now. I think anyone, including Mark, would agree that Asterisk has technical challenges it needs to overcome but I, for one, am not ready to write it off yet.

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FYI - I'll be out at OSCON next week in Portland talking about voice mashups...

OSCON 2008 If any of you reading this will be out at O'Reilly's OSCON Open Source Convention next week (July 21-25) in Portland, Oregon, I (Dan York) will be there giving a talk on Wednesday on "Mashing Up Voice and the Web Through Open Source and XML". Here's the abstract:
With over 4.5 billion mobile and fixed phones out there as of November 2007, the phone represents the most ubiquitous user interface out there. As “mashups” on the Web let us quickly and easily access information from multiple data sources, how do we extend those mashups to the world of the phone? How do we bring the old world of voice and telephony into the new world of the Web, social networks, and social media? And how do we do that using open source tools and open standards? In this session, Dan York will introduce participants to the world of “voice mashups” and how applications can be quickly built on top of open source and open standards. Topics covered will include:
  • The technology and architecture behind voice mashups
  • The open standards in voice of VoiceXML, Call Control XML (CCXML), the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and new standards emerging from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
  • Open source tools related to voice including Asterisk and
  • How to quickly build voice applications that interact with web sites, databases, and even new services like Twitter.
During the session, York will demonstrate multiple applications and provide participants with sample code, tips, and pointers so they can return home and get started building voice applications with open source and open standards.

If any of you will be attending, please do drop me a note as I always enjoy meeting up with people who read this blog. If you are not attending but are interested, it's not too late... you can still register at the OSCON site. Should be a great convention for those interested in open source development. The schedule is pretty amazing as it truly has a collection of some of the best folks out there in the open source world. (The convention starts on Wednesday with Monday and Tuesday being for tutorials.) I'm definitely looking forward to the event!

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Join us tomorrow (2/15) morning for a discussion of eComm 2008 on the Squawk Box conf call / podcast

42F19C6B-67C5-433E-91B4-641B9323CD48.jpgWhat are you doing at 10am Eastern time tomorrow morning? (Friday, February 15th) How about joining us for a "Squawk Box" conference call to discuss the upcoming eComm 2008 conference?

The call will take place using Iotums Facebook app called "FREE Conference Calls". You can just visit the show web page and RSVP (and add the Facebook app if you need to). I'll be hosting the show tomorrow while Alec Saunders is flying back from Barcelona and Thomas Howe and I will be interviewing Lee Dryburgh about the upcoming eComm 2008 conference... what it is, who is speaking and why people should attend. It should be a lively conversation with a great group of folks.

Bring your questions and join us!

P.S. The show will be posted later in Alec's blog and I'll provide a link here.

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The EComm 2008 Interview with Skype's Jonathan Christensen should be required reading...

42F19C6B-67C5-433E-91B4-641B9323CD48.jpgAs we enter into the final month before eComm 2008, I would suggest that the interview with Jonathan Christensen, Skype's general manager of audio and video, should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in this space. Why? Well, in part because Jonathan Christensen does provide some good information about what Skype has done and is doing but also because it provides some good insight into what one of the people driving Skype's agenda is thinking about this space. Take one of the final paragraphs where he answered Lee Dryburgh's question about what he saw as the the future of communications (bold emphasis added by me):
Well, a big question I guess and, having worked on the space for quite a while, I think that it's only going to get more interesting over the coming years since, well, like this open spectrum for example. You know, I just have to reiterate, I think that anybody who has not figured out that the Internet is the platform and that there isn't any such thing as walled gardens that will survive, or sub-networks [such as AOL tried] that are going to survive, those people are doomed. The intersection of these worlds is going to be chaotic. It's going to be violent. It's going to be messy for a while but it is going to happen, and the Internet will survive as the one open platform. You are going to see a trend towards extreme innovation at the edges - on the devices, in the PC platform, in software, all around the edge of the Internet.

I think that you are only going to see further disruption of the telecom industry and the emergence of totally new businesses that we can't imagine today. I think that [the] net result, that drives me every day, is that we're going to have this very rich, open, cheap and accessible communications. This is going to be not just a game changer for the telecom industry, but will be a change agent for all of humanity. So, a platform that allows us all to see each other and hear each other more clearly maybe makes us a little bit less crazy, less polarized and more open as a world society.

Good stuff... and the whole interview is worth a read. Given my recent criticism of Skype, I'm particularly pleased to read the comments I emphasized in bold. Jonathan Christensen will be giving one of the keynotes at eComm 2008, March 12-14 in Silicon Valley and if you haven't considered going, I would encourage you to do so. It should be a great event!

P.S. I also wrote about this interview in relation to SIP over on Voxeo's "Speaking of Standards" blog.

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Voice mashups - Notes on Alec's conference call today

UPDATE, Jan 11: The recording of this conference call is now available.

As I mentioned in an earlier post today, Alec Saunders convened a 30-minute conference call today on voice mashups. The call was recorded and will be available as a podcast from his site. (I'll add the link here once I'm online.)

I was traveling down through the state of Vermont today and so while I had no Internet access I did call in and joined the call from my Blackberry. (My wife was driving the car at the time.) I wrote down the following notes on my laptop during the call.

Alec introduced the call, mentioned that it would be recorded and distributed as a podcast. He then muted all the callers except for himself, Thomas Howe, Jim Courtney and Andy Abramson. For callers with Facebook open, they could press a button to "raise their hand" at which point Alec could unmute them. I was calling in on my cell phone while traveling with no Internet access, so for me it was to press "*2" to raise my hand.

Alec tossed out the first question which was "what is a voice mashup?" Thomas laid out one definition which Andy then amplified. Alec then asked if a mashup could involve something like Skype to which Jim described the results of the Skype Mashup contest and the winning PamFax app. Alec asked for examples and Thomas gave several. Alec asked how this looked like to the end-user. Thomas mentioned that it could be a web interface, but it might also simply be a telephone interface. The user would just call a number and do some kind of service. (Thanks for the mention of Voxeo, Thomas!)

Alec asked next "why do people build these?" Thomas... they are lightweight, easy to put together, easy to build for small interest groups (and therefore easy to put together a business case). Most ubiquitous interface is the phone. Business case can be small, but because of the architecture the application can actually scale massively if necessary. Jim... talked about ROI of PamFax... ability to take business documents from one location to another. Andy... mashup apps need to serve a purpose. Small, focused apps will be the general rule. However, that can be repurposed. You can globally deliver an app to small pockets of people who need that application. Andy recommends you look at's app exchange. Mentions Mashery and the work they are doing looking into how you manage the rights around the use of mashup apps.

Alec - "So how do you monetize mashups?" Thomas... at least 3 hooks for monetization: 1) make businesses run faster, eliminate delays; 2) customer satisfaction - giving users a view into your system without; 3) make businesses more efficient. Question from (Dean - someone on wall) - who is making the money? Thomas - most of the work is in professional services. Focus is on developing apps, not necessarily in sale of apps.

(At this point I pressed *2 to raise my hand to ask a question related to monetization. A few minutes later I pressed *2 again.)

Tony from Voxalot talked about his voice mashup for an Australian dating site that allows users to be anonymous callers. Jim Courtney mentioned that PamFax is getting revenue on every transaction. Tony, I believe, also mentioned that Alec is getting revenue based on the usage of his conference call app.

Thomas... mashup architectures allow you to not have to pay upfront capital costs. You don't have to pay for a phone number and manage it, for instance. You can just temporarily use a phone number. Mashup architectures lower the barriers to entry.

As it was now 10:00am, Alec suggested that we should wrap up the call and throw it out to the assembled crowd for questions. It sounded from the tone of his voice that he wasn't seeing anyone raising their hand (and I was wondering what happened to my *2!). Thomas started answering...

... and then I entered one of those glorious pockets of Vermont where Verizon has no cell phone coverage - and so I was dropped off the call. Since it sounded like it was going to be wrapping up, I didn't bother calling back in a few minutes later when I was back in a coverage area.

All in all it was an interesting discussion. It undoubtedly could have gone on much longer. As I've been wanting to write more about this whole topic of voice mashups, I'll probably have some further posts on this soon.

It was also an interesting usage of Alec's Facebook "Free Conference Calling" application. The Iotum gang has certainly developed that app further and I'll definitely be looking at it again and toying with some ideas about how to use it. The recording feature is certainly an interesting one for someone who likes producing podcasts... :-) (Although it does not seem to be wideband so you are still limited to lousy PSTN audio.)

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