Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Thursday, June 30, 2005

There's a frog on the line...idea #68/100...

In the emerging all-IP world of converged wireless networks, courtesy of IMS, it's a cinch to add new services to the mix.

IMS allows services to be plugged in to the call pathway. In legacy networks that are circuit-switched, any processing of the audio pathway is usually a function of the switch, or some adjunct to it. This is switch-centric or switch-bound processing. For various reasons, it is not easy to add a new service to a switch. One reason might be that only the switch supplier can do it. This vendor lock-in means it will be expensive and slow to realise new services that are switch-centric. Consequently, telecoms operators are not abound with services.

IMS uses a method of call processing called SIP. It doesn't matter if you don't know what SIP is. What matters is that it is an open standard and it is easy to implement a piece of software that can "talk" SIP. With SIP-centric networks, there is no vendor lock-in. Potentially, anyone in a garage can develop a SIP-based service. Whether operators will allow this or not is another matter.

You can think of IMS as a router (as well as other things). If a user tries to make a call, their phone starts sending SIP signals through the IMS network. What the network can do is to say "Ah, this call is from Bob and as Bob is a subscriber to the 'insane toad' service, so I should route his call via the 'insane toad' server in case it wants to do something 'insane' for Bob".

Now that you understand the essence of IMS, I can introduce the "insane toad" idea. It is relatively simple with SIP to introduce audio into the call. This is needed in any case for things like announcements, such as "please wait while we divert your call..." etc.

Think of being able to introduce our own announcements. A SIP server can be hosted on the Web and have a web (or WAP) interface. We could upload our own announcements. However, "insane toad" goes a step further...

When the IMS network detects a call is being made by an "insane toad" service subscriber (all subscription information like this is stored in a big database called an HSS), the "insane toad" server can cause a screen to pop-up on the user's terminal.

What this screen does in this idea is to allow the user to select audio clips that they want to play during the call. If, for some unfathomable reason, they might like to hear a bizarre animated creature croaking or laughing, they could hit the "toad laugh" button and insert such a sound into the call.

Think of it as an audio version of smilie icons used in IM. In fact, this is how the service might work. The caller would select the icon for the sound and the callee would hear it and also receive the icon on the phone at the same time.

Using a Web-based front-end, users could upload their own clips, although I suspect that the operators would want control over the clips. I can't think why!

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