Tropo Connect Brings IoT, Cloud Apps to Live Phone Calls

Tropo today announced Tropo Connect, a way for developers to add cloud-based apps to phone calls and text conversations. By expanding its platform to all mobile calls, Tropo has given developers a significantly larger potential customer base.

Tropo, which has been around for about five years, already offers a handful of APIs that let developers take advantage of the data contained within phone calls. Tropo lets app writers tap into its audio stream engine to cull real-time emotion detection, voice analytics, semantic interpretation, and transcription — and turn those details into usable data. For example, a salesperson on the phone with a prospective client can mine the call for keywords, get engagement scores, and hashtag it all in their customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Until today, this required a Tropo-assigned phone number, which limited developers’ reach. Tropo Connect changes that. Moving forward, these same capabilities are available to a much broader set of numbers.

Using Tropo Connect, developers’ apps live in the cloud. They work equally well on the dumbest dumb phone and the smartest smartphone. Consumers don’t need to do anything to access or use them. According to Tropo chief technology officer Jose de Castro, developers can deploy their apps to Tropo Connect with a single line of code. Tropo handles all the back-end infrastructure, including billing.

In order to make this work, Tropo is releasing a new API that’s based entirely in JavaScript. (Tropo’s other APIs support five languages). It runs in Apcera’s cloud and supports inbound and outbound calls, as well as text messages.

What exactly can you do with Tropo Connect? De Castro imagines some neat, if simple, uses for consumers. As an exercise, Tropo got together with Spotify. “Imagine you’re running Spotify on your Roku TV or laptop and have the music blasting,” explained de Castro to ProgrammableWeb in a phone call. “It’s pretty easy to miss a call or a text message. Or, if you answer the phone, you’ll find yourself running to turn the music down. With the app we built, incoming calls will automatically lower the volume so you can hear the phone ringing and pause the music if you answer. The music will restart once you hang up.”

In another scenario, de Castro says Tropo Connect can be used with something like Philips’ Hue lightbulbs, which could be set to flash when specific people call. Further, parents could use it to mine their childrens’ phone calls and messages for keywords, record conversations, or provide transcripts of message threads. The possibilities are only limited by developers’ imaginations.

Don’t worry too much about security, says Tropo. When people request apps, they’ll have to confirm them via text message before they can be used. Handset owners can manage permissions, thanks to a web dashboard, and can revoke apps at any time. IBM’s SoftLayer is providing secure global infrastructure and IP connections.

As far as getting paid is concerned, Tropo takes care of it. It has agreements in place with network operators, such as AT&T and Telefonica, which automatically bill subscribers for the services. Tropo takes a small surcharge, but leaves the bulk of revenue to its developers. Tropo doesn’t charge developers who are still testing their apps. It won’t take a cut until the developer’s service goes live.

“Tropo Connect works with legacy networks, and is IMS-ready and certified for next-gen architectures,” said Castro. “Communications service providers can start adding value and differentiation to their portfolios today, no matter where they are in their network transformation process, and be ensured that the services are future-proofed going forward.”

 
Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.
 

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