Ameche Offers AECP

by Dave Michels

Ameche is a new service from Voxeo Labs. It’s the first service that doesn’t end in an O (Rayo, Tropo, and Phono are all missing Marx brothers). The name is actually a tribute to the famous film star Don Ameche. My first assumption was the service is closely associated with one of these classic Ameche films: 

  • Dante’s Inferno (1935)
  • You Can’t Have Everything (1937)
  • The Magnificent Dope (1942)
  • Wing and a Prayer (1944)

But it’s none of those. The name relates to the ‘83 blockbuster Trading Places (Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd) where Don Ameche plays Mortimer Duke, the chairman of a major carrier that bets a dollar he can make a rich man poor by overcharging him SMS fees.  Nah, I’m just kidding – Mortimer Duke was actually a Wall Street partner that bet a dollar he could turn a trader into a thief (yeah right).

For reals, the new Voxeo Labs service was named Ameche as a tribute to Don’s famous portrayal of Alex, in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939). I haven’t seen it, but I heard from Elisha Gray that it’s about a man who took credit for someone else’s invention.

Enough about names, let me explain what Amecho does.

It’s extremely obvious really, so darn obvious that it had to be explained to me numerous times. The problem is prior solutions keep missing the mark, so I wasn’t thinking about an obvious direct solution to an age-old problem. Ameche brings applications to calls. My reaction was we already have that – but we don’t.

In Enterprise UC conversations we talk about CEBP,  or communications enabled business processes. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Let’s take a simple business process like appointments at a medical office – and automate/improve them with communications. The result is automated outbound reminder calls. The ROI of CEBP is typically very strong because calls are cheap and other resource aren’t. There’s been lots of great examples of how CEBP dramatically improves efficiencies, satisfaction, and profits. Various business processes found in business software (CRM, ERP, MRP, WMS, PMS, PM, etc.) are begging for some communications love.

To do CEBP we start with an extensible business process and add some communications technology with APIs and SDKs. You can obtain this from 1) a UC vendor, 2) a service such as Tropo or Twilio, or 3) possibly use capabilities within the carrier. Each of these approaches have their pros and cons. Overall, a huge benefit of the communications APIs is they make the proprietary complex world of telephony accessible to ordinary web developers.

Rather than communications enabling business processes (CEBP), Ameche is more about applications enabling communications processes (AECP – I am sure I’m the first to coin this term). With Ameche, you start with the phone call (instead of the process), and then apply applications. Voxeo believes that an Appstore framework will be possible – allowing developers to directly court both customers and carriers with applications ready to go on a carrier’s network.

The example Voxeo Labs is already using internally is to log calls to Ameche does a lookup to determine if the callerID is in, and then it logs call details – which could even include a recording or transcript. That’s a fairly passive application, but they don’t have to be. Perhaps while driving and chatting, Ameche could be activated (tone, keyword) to take “notes” (again a recording or transcript). Ameche can interact with other applications and even social networks.

The interesting part of the equation is Ameche is being positioned as a carrier service. Go back to my three options above: 1) a UC vendor keeps and uses intelligence outside of the carrier network. 2) Twilio and Tropo are competitors to carriers, and 3) Carrier APIs can be viewed by the customer as a foolish form of lock-in. If carriers (plural) adopt Ameche, then the carriers add value without lock-in. The customer gets in-call APIs and rich capabilities without vendor equipment or third parties.

Ameche is only powerful if 1) carriers adopt it and 2) if it has a powerful SDK – neither of which has been announced yet. Coming soon we are told (I don’t doubt this). The key to Ameche isn’t what it actually does new for a user, but more what it presents to the carriers. As users, we “can” do anything today – it’s just clunky. Google Voice, for example, provides me several innovative features, but I have to use a separate number/service. Ameche promises rich interfaces and applications natively built-into dial-tone.

The carriers, with their sophisticated real time IMS-based networks that track everything from usage to location, are largely being cut out of the innovative future of networking. The carriers are stuck between exposing their internals (not gonna happen) or being relegated to fat dumb pipes (likely) unless an innovative alternative that makes sense comes along.

That innovation is more likely to come from Mortimer Duke than the carriers themselves. Voxeo Labs has a bold vision for Ameche – and it just might work too.