Since its launch about two years ago, I have blogged several times about iotum’s CalliFlower Conference Calling service. More significantly I have used it for several conference calls of up to 25 people, including a couple that ran for over two hours. While permitting up to several hundred participants into a conference call, Calliflower’s primary unique feature is the “portal” created for each call along with the long term archiving of a call and its associated “portal”. Other features include:
- access via the PSTN in over 100 cities in 30 countries (using phone numbers supplied by Voxbone)
- ability to display (and share) documents supporting the conference call’s agenda
- a common chat window, often used to share URL’s, provide information complementary to the primary discussion or even ensure all participants have correct spellings of key words used in the discussion
- a complete service that supports the entire conference call process from initial invitations to the final archiving of the call
- an iPhone client for setting up and accessing a CalliFlower session
- sessions can be either private requiring invitations or public; the archived content of public sessions is searchable
Today iotum has announced the addition of Skype as a way to access Calliflower conference calls; from the press release:
Previously, participants could only dial into Calliflower conferences through PSTN access numbers, potentially incurring local charges. In regions or countries where no such access numbers are available, customers would incur long-distance and even international charges, or use up Skype-out minutes calling access numbers overseas. Now callers can access Calliflower through a Skype ID – CalliflowerSkype – or via a web button in the Calliflower UI, overcoming this disadvantage.
“We’ve had many requests from potential Calliflower customers who had no local access numbers, especially from parts of Africa, India, China and the Middle East,” said Alec Saunders, iotum CEO. “Now, as long as they have Skype, that doesn’t matter anymore.”
In addition, users gain from the better audio quality they will enjoy through direct Skype access1, as well as from all the visual information, documents and presentations that are shared through Calliflower’s interactive dashboard. These tools go a long way toward improving understanding on international conference calls.
Available on PC, Mac and iPhone, Calliflower makes organizing and participating in multi-party calls simple and engaging. It allows participants to see the status of other callers and raise hands to request the floor, while also providing interactive chat, document sharing, intuitive conference controls, call recording, invitations and reminders, integration with calendars, and more.
On your initial access to a CalliFlower call you will need to add CalliFlowerSkype as a Skype Contact. But then recall that Skype allows you the option of using your Skype Online number or a designated mobile phone number as your caller ID for SkypeOut calls. When accessing a CalliFlower conference call on Skype, CalliFlower will look at your callerID in place of entering a PIN number to provide authentication for your access. iotum is looking at adding the ability to use your SkypeID as a participant identifier.
As with access in over 30 countries via the PSTN, Skype Access in CalliFlower is included in the monthly Premium service with a monthly charge of $50 for the first two moderators or organizers within a company and $25 per additional organizer.
Bottom line: Skype Access opens up lower cost access for participation in a CalliFlower conference call in every country where Skype is available. Incorporation of Skype access also fits into Skype’s “Skype Everywhere” goal. In this case calls can be accessed not only via Skype on a PC but also from any Skype offering on a mobile platform. This is enhanced for iPhone users where they will also find an iPhone client for setting up and managing a CalliFlower conference call.
1I asked iotum CEO Alec Saunders to clarify the statement re improved auido quality; his response:
- Better quality hardware. Skype users tend to be using better quality equipment than POTS callers. In particular most PC headsets have a better microphone than the cheap microphones in telephone handsets.
- 2. Fewer transcoding losses. Internally, Calliflower is VoIP. When a user calls Calliflower from the PSTN, those calls transit a media gateway where the media is transcoded and presented as G.711. Prior to the direct connection we’ve initiated, media coming from Skype would be transcoded at least twice – from Skype to the PSTN, and then PSTN to G.711. The result was a noticeable degradation in quality. Now Skype presents the media to us directly as G.711.
Check out Tom Keating’s post over at his VoIP and Gadgets blog on TMCNet where he interviews iotum CEO Alec Saunders about how CalliFlower implemented its Skype access via Skype for SIP, involving Skype for SIP’s addition of IP address authentication.
Full disclosure: the author has followed the evolution of CalliFlower over its three year development process, and was a frequent participant in iotum’s SquawkBox calls where not only did we discuss technology news of the day but also contributed ideas and suggestions for improvements and enhancements to the CalliFlower service. You can access the archive of the SquawkBox call discussing the FREETALK Everyman headset at the time of its launch here.
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