TalkPlus Voice 2.0 app launches

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TalkPlus Voice 2.0 app launches

TalkPlus, Inc. today is launching their unique mobile phone service that leverages VoIP, identity management, scheduling/contact rules, and other advanced business/personal processes that make your mobile experience more productive while enabling privacy controls. In fact, as I told Jeff Black, Founder and CEO of TalkPlus, Inc, that I consider TalkPlus the Voice 2.0 company within the mobile phone space. He wanted to quote me. So be it. You can quote this blog post. ;) I actually met with Jeff Black at Internet Telephony Conference & Expo (ITEXPO) a few weeks ago, and he shared TakPlus' vision to make the mobile phone the central device that manages personal, business, and dating lives for users. TalkPlus has been working on their technology since 2004 and will announce a beta of their service sometime in November (more on that later).

So what does TalkPlus do? Well, essentially TalkPlus gives cell phone users a 2nd virtual phone number with powerful accessibility and privacy rules while leveraging the cost savings of VoIP termination. Thus, you can for instance use your mobile phone to make low-cost international calling, (~$0.02/ minute) which is virtually unheard of within the wireless phone space. But much more than the inexpensive calls you can make from your wireless phone, TalkPlus enhances the calling features  - both inbound and outbound of your phone, making it a premiere example of a Voice 2.0 application. TalkPlus's patented technology is network agnostic, and supports standard cell phones that support the BREW and JAVA platforms. TalkPlus is also WAP compliant which virtually all mobile phones support.

TalkPlus Architecture

Here are some of its Voice 2.0 features. First, you have the ability to add additional domestic and international telephone numbers, which will all ring your one mobile phone, while simultaneously giving you local presence numbers throughout the world so it is a local call for callers trying to reach you. Even better, when you return the call, it will use the CallerID phone number of the number the person dialed. This is perfect for dating, since you can give out a secondary number and not your main cell phone number. TalkPlus told me they will support "throwaway numbers" so you can even ditch a number if need be. Doctors or lawyers that are calling patients/clients can use their personal mobile phone and yet have their office CallerID number appear to the client/patient instead of their personal mobile number. In essence, this is a form of "CallerID spoofing", often a popular tactic used by hackers utilizing the Asterisk platform.

In fact, Jeff mentioned that you can use your own landline number, Vonage number, etc. as part of the TalkPlus service and then initiate an outbound phone call using this number. Essentially, this is CallerID spoofing your landline number to the remote caller, however, Jeff assured me that the FCC approved their CallerID methods, which works with any phone number that you control. In fact, Jeff said they showed the FCC their authentication system and they said "They have never seen anyone build an authentication system to date when dealing with aliasing of phone numbers." and the FCC was pleased to see that TalkPlus had built one.

In addition, I asked about CALEA and E911 compliance, and he stated that unlike many other mobile solutions that leverage VoIP & virtual phone number identities, TalkPlus is fully CALEA and E911 compliant. He explained that both legs of the call touch the PSTN and therefore can be wiretapped if need be, unlike other solutions that are 100% native IP on at least one end, thereby making E911 address discovery more difficult.

A second Voice 2.0 feature is the full identity management to enable individuals to manage personal, business and dating life with just a single device - namely their cell phone. A third feature is Do-Not-Disturb/Priority Call Lists enable users to create incoming call lists that enable them to be reached how, when and by whom they want to be reached. Lists can be automatically or manually activated or deactivated by the time of day and/or the day of the week. For example, a user can block all incoming calls, yet allow designated contacts to ring through. This is similar to what Iotum does in managing high-priority contacts and schedules, however, this is just one small feature within TalkPlus. Blacklists and whitelists are also part of managing incoming calls. I should also point out that TalkPlus isn't compressing the voice, so there are no voice quality issues.

As part of your separate identities you also have individual voicemail boxes, so you can customize your outgoing messages. Thus, for instance, in your dating profile you may not want to mention your last name since someone could Google your name and find out where you live, where you work, etc. The Java app features powerful voicemail functionality for viewing and managing your voicemail.  You can view how many messages, which profile (personal, business, dating) the message is in, the length, who the voicemail is from, and you can sort you voicemails, You can also forward voicemail to email and you have full web-based access to your messages as well.

Another powerful feature is the ability to setup inexpensive group and conference calling. You simply define your groups and then when you wish to initiate the conference, the system will automatically dial all the participants and conference them.

One final interesting thing we talked about at ITEXPO is that TalkPlus has built their own Skype gateway. In fact, when pressed further, Jeff mentioned they actually reverse engineered Skype's protocol. Although the Skype gateway isn't part of TalkPlus's launch today, Jeff explained that they have tested it in their labs and it's working very well. He explained that from the TalkPlus Java application you will also be able to view the presence of your Skype buddies and initiate a Skype call or even receive a Skype call or even initiate a chat session. I believe he mentioned that they are also working on getting SkypeOut calls to ring to your cellphone as well. Thus, your mobile phone truly becomes your single communications device - able to handle multiple phone identities, and even your VoIP Skype identity. Similarly, they have a SIP gateway will be able to handle SIP calls - including direct SIP URI (email address) calling so you can simply dial "[email protected]". Other popular IM clients (AOL, GoogleTalk, Yahoo! Messenger) could be added as well.

TalkPlus mentioned they will have a free beta that will include a free DID number and free termination to try the service. Their pricing model is to be determined, however Jeff mentioned they are looking at a low-end product in about the $10/month range, which includes a virtual number, certain number of fixed minutes, and all the features turned on. They are also looking at a low-low end product that included a virtual number and then "pay as you go" minutes. Finally, Jeff mentioned they are strongly considering offering a high-end product that will feature unlimited minutes and which will truly give the broadband VoIP players, such as Vonage, a run for their money. Imagine, for say $50/month, for unlimited long-distance from your wireless phone. 18 million people in the U.S. have a mobile phone and no landline. Jeff mentioned these 18 million users and said, "What they run into is whenever they register for a product and put their number down, that number gets resold and is getting spammed (telemarketer calls) like crazy. So what they're realizing is there is a big market for 'give me a virtual home number'. This is what I use for registering products and other stuff and they'll never reach me direct on my mobile. That always goes to voicemail. I'll check that when I get a chance."

I was very impressed with the Voice 2.0 features of TalkPlus, which have real, practical uses for everyday users. Keep your eye on Talkplus.

And also check out what TalkPlus has in store for Winter 2006/2007:

TalkPlus has plans to release additional services, with more advanced features that will debut in the winter of 2006/2007. These will build upon the basic features of the single TalkPlus Number.

A sample of planned features include:

- Multiple TalkPlus numbers on a single phone. Subscribers will be able to add multiple TalkPlus numbers to their phone, so that they can have even greater control and flexibility in their mobile lives. For example, a lawyer could have dedicated numbers for major clients, as well as a separate personal phone number. A medium-sized business owner could have mobile numbers for business locations in each region.
- Dial-out numbers. Subscribers will be able to add additional numbers that they already own such as a wire line home or office number to their mobile phone. Since these numbers belong to other phone lines, the subscriber can only dial out from this number on their TalkPlus enabled phone.
This is particularly appropriate to physicians, who would like to have their office number appear on their patients' caller ID screen, even when they are calling from their mobile phone.
- International numbers and low-cost international calling. TalkPlus subscribers will be able to add an international number to their phone, so that they can both give the impression of international presence as well as have in-country callers contact them for very low cost.

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