Talk-Now: A Pragmatic Introduction to New Presence

In a previous post I presented an Interruptions 2.0 Manifesto, outlining issues that need to be considered in the course of real time communications activity in an AlwaysOn world which, in turn, exposes us as users to being Always Available. And it’s not simply a matter of exchanging bits and bytes to manage interruptions; higher level consideration needs to be given to incorporating workflow paradigms, social etiquette, and management policies in building a sustainable business model.

Specifically I wrote about the need for a protocol to make it possible to know when it is appropriate to make a (ad hoc) communications connection and how one can deliver intelligent availability in a real time context to facilitate more effective and more productive real time ad hoc interpersonal communications. iotum’s Alec Saunders calls this New Presence:

New Presence is a user-centric view of presence. Instead of merely reflecting the crude, device specific “availability awareness” of today, New Presence systems understand our context, relationships, wants and desires. The New Presence model reflects the integrated conversation web we live in today.

iotum’s Talk-Now application for the Blackberry is a technology preview platform which has provided an opportunity to work with the New Presence concept in practice. Talk-Now is built around iotum’s Relevance Engine technology which understands the user’s preferences and behavior to change the way people communicate. To give a practical example:

A recent study done at Cap Gemini points out that 82% of all phone calls end up in voice mail. Lots of wasted time leaving voice mail messages; lots of lost productivity as two parties attempt to make an initial voice contact. With Talk-Now I can simply look at my Talk-Now client and see who is currently available to take a Call; based on preview user feedback a future build will also allow me to set a flag to notify me when an currently unavailable contact becomes available. And I avoid making the average 3.15 calls prior to establishing real time voice communication with my contacts. Definitely a productivity enhancer.

Sounds simplistic but behind Talk-Now’s availability status lies iotum’s Relevance Engine that computes your availability based not on a single preset status but on your previously designated contact preferences (VIP, family, friend, customer, etc.), your previous communications with that party, your current Calendar activity and even your future calendared activity. In other words your New Presence is delivered in the context of what you have done (your history), your relationship with each individual contact, what you are currently doing and what you intend to do. Conversely your various contacts’ New Presence reflects their individual uniqueness when combining his/her history, relationship and current/future activity. The following logic diagram, provided at a recent briefing by iotum executives Alec Saunders and Howard Thaw, puts iotum’s implementation of New Presence in perspective:

Talk-Now’s real value is delivered through its ability to help me make contact in real time — without voice mail or any other “third party” proxy call redirector. Talk-Now provides insight into how we may go down the path of bringing back control of your real time communications in an AlwaysOn world.

Its value is enhanced through its email notification process that sends a Blackberry-originated email to a currently unavailable contact not only indicating that your desire to talk to the contact but also when you are available for a call. And this process works not only with your Talk-Now contacts but also with any of your Blackberry contacts. In a subtle way this feature drives Talk-Now adoption virally.

The challenge for Talk-Now (or any other service purporting to deliver New Presence) is to (i) to refine the service to reflect a readily acceptable etiquette and user-intuitive protocol for establishing a voice connection and (ii) to extend its capability beyond voice to include other forms of real time communication such as text chat, SMS messaging and, with the introduction of GPS on mobile platforms, location-based services. For instance, while I may want to follow several chat sessions concurrently on a mobile device, I may only want to be notified of activity for those sessions with designated “mission critical” contacts.

If you want to experience Talk-Now and provide your own feedback go to iotum’s sign-up site. It does require that you have a Blackberry Pearl, 870x or, as of today, 8800 or are running Blackberry OS 4.1 or later..Or, for a preview of the Talk-Now experience, watch Alec’s demonstration video.

In my upcoming post on experience with the Skype PC-Free phones I will mention why a variation on Talk Now but still using the iotum Relevance Engine is needed to manage the multiple accounts that will be needed to manage, say, the Skype account duality required to keep “home” Skype calls separated from “business” Skype calls. Just as in the legacy phone world, one Skype account will no longer suffice.

{Note for those wishing to produce their own demo videos: check out Alec’s experience producing and mounting this video here and here.)

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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