[AI] Using Voice to Get Around Mobile Data Hurdles

Vikas Kapoor dl.vikas at gmail.com
Sun Aug 5 10:21:07 EDT 2007


Using Voice to Get Around Mobile Data Hurdles
Content providers complain about the difficulty of getting data products to mobile users; UnWired Nation uses voice instead.
Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service

d the challenges involved in offering a data service to mobile phone customers: use voice
instead. 

Content providers often complain about the complexity and hurdles to delivering data products to mobile users. They have to work with all the operators
if they want to offer it to any user, and they must tweak their service for each of the hundreds of models of phones on the market. 

Even then, the addressable customer base is small relative to the number of phone users. Telephia Inc., a mobile phone research company, estimates that
about 30 million phone users actively access the mobile Internet. There are about 200 million phone users in the U.S. 

"We decided, 'How about turn this a little bit on its head and use voice as the channel to connect to these mobile users?" said Indraj Grill, CEO of UnWired
Nation, formerly called UnWired Buyer Inc. "Not that we have anything against data, but wouldn't it be easier to connect to these people, but use voice
as a connection mechanism?" he said. 

UnWired Nation started out by letting eBay Inc. users sign up to get an automated phone call near the end of an auction. After their phone rings, they sign
in with a security number that they've previously chosen and can follow voice prompts to do anything they could do on eBay.com, such as find out the highest
bid, make a new bid and exit the auction. 

UnWired Nation has made more than 5 million calls to eBay customers in the past year, Grill said.

On Wednesday, UnWired Nation is opening up its service to other companies that may want to offer a capability similar to eBay's. It is also taking the wraps
off its advertising platform. 

For six months, UnWired Nation has been trialing the advertising component with a set of eBay customers. After customers receive the call and input their
security code, they hear an advertisement. They may have the option to choose to have a coupon sent to them via e-mail or SMS (Short Message Service).
Listeners may also have the option to be connected via a voice call directly with the advertiser. 

UnWired Nation has signed up a handful of new customers, including Pheedo Inc., an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) marketing company. It will use UnWired
Nation's technology to turn RSS feeds into audio content that users can sign up to receive on their phones. Users of such a service could hear a list of
headlines and use voice commands to navigate through the list. 

Grill envisions other future enhancements similar to Web 2.0 applications. For example, any media outlet could let users get audio versions of stories and
then allow them to record voice comments at the end of stories as well as listen to comments from others. Users could also be allowed to forward a story
with a comment to a friend. 

Verisign Inc. also plans to offer UnWired Nation's service to banking customers. A bank could allow customers to sign up online to get phone calls about
specific types of account activity, such as a balance dropping under a specified level or a credit card being used outside the country. 

Companies that use UnWired Nation to deliver services can share in advertising revenue. For mobile phone users, the calls are priced like any other voice
call. 

Grill thinks the idea can take off, in part because it doesn't require consumer education. "I can guarantee you everyone who has a cell phone has made a
voice call on it," he said. 

http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,135320/article.html

Vikas Kapoor,
MSN Id:dl_vikas at hotmail.com, Yahoo+Skype Id: dl_vikas,
Mobile: (+91) 9891098137.


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