CXTech Week 4 2021 News and Analysis

The purpose of this CXTech Week 4 2021 newsletter is to highlight, with commentary, some of the news stories in CXTech this week. What is CXTech?  The C stands for Connectivity, Communications, Collaboration, Conversation, Customer; X for Experience because that’s what matters; and Tech because the focus is enablers.

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Slack backed Yac Raised $7.5M

Yac, the Orlando, Florida-based startup that delivers voice messages for remote teams, has raised $7.5 million in a new round of funding. Simply, using voice to report your update to the team, without the hassle of organizing yet another meeting or lots of chat that scrolls off the screen.

The reaction from the press is, “but its voicemail.” As anyone who’s following Voxist knows, voicemail works!

EcoOnline Acquires Engage EHS

Congratulations to Sean O’Sullivan and the Effective Software team. Engage EHS provides a cloud-based platform to more than 150 companies focused on engaging everybody in improving health and safety at its customers’ workplaces. Sean was an early adopter of programmable communications and you may remember him from Dial2do and the Voice 2.0 manifesto!

EcoOnline has expanded from being a well-established name for chemical management software in the Nordic region to also delivering comprehensive EHS (Environmental Health & Safety) solutions to the European and the US markets. Today EcoOnline has a leading position in all the Nordic countries and the UK and Ireland, offering their industry-agnostic solutions to more than 6,500 customers, representing 86 industries.

Hopin buys Streamyard for $250M

Hopin, an online events platform, has acquired StreamYard, a live streaming studio from your browser to YouTube and Facebook, for $250M, paid in a mix of cash and stock.

Hopin raised a $40 million Series A in late June of 2020, and a $125 million Series B last November at a valuation of $2.125 billion.

I have my reservations about live online events, they do work for some people. For me, when I’m not physically at an event, I’m busy on other stuff, so end up watching the content after the event as its faster. If I do have questions the contact info for the speaker is often on the presentation.

Simwood wins license to operate as a carrier (CLEC) in California

Simwood Inc, the USA subsidiary of Simwood, has been awarded a license to operate as a carrier (CLEC) in California. This is a major achievement, it can take years to get this license, especially as a non-US owned business. This builds on the 20+ states they’ve already won licenses, Bandwidth is going to see some fierce competition soon 🙂

Google’s Loon Closes

When I worked at BT in the broadband access division during the mid ’90s, I did a board paper on this and a number of other alternatives including: LEO (Low Earth Orbit), MEO (Medium Earth Orbit), airplanes / drones, balloons / blimps, even lasers on satellites (military studied using blue/green lasers for submarine comms), as well as the baseline of FTTH/DSL.

Economics was always the issue with keeping stuff in the sky/space and meeting the massive capacity of aggregate home broadband needs. And this was before video stream on the internet was commonplace. Business broadband is a different problem with a better propensity to pay / capacity need for special cases. 

Experimentation is necessary as technology continually moves on, paper studies like the one I did in the ’90s can only go so far, and in the limit are based on other peoples’ older physical experiments. You have to do some stuff in the real world.

While I’m surprised it took 10 years to call it quits and the amount of money spent. Nothing replaces doing stuff in the real-world, hence why hackathons are so important and much more cost effective. The industry really should use them more.

Not closed internal hackathons, open ones where people from all walks of life come together to ‘have a go’ at the problem. I’m always impressed at what TADHack Global creates every year. We’re putting the 2021 site together at the moment. Below is a review of what the thousands of TADHackers we’ve achieved together since 2014.

Orange to sell 50% stake in French rural areas FTTH networks. Perhaps an option for US carriers?

I’m fortunate to have FTTH; the service is fast, reliable and works through the many power cuts we get in NJ, unlike cable broadband. However, Verizon has more or less halted further expansion here in the US, leaving many people I know frustrated with either DSL or Cable.

In France, Orange has agreed to sell a 50% stake in its rural fibre infrastructure arm, creating a new company, Orange Concessions, that will serve over 4.5 million homes.

This transaction, which is expected to close by the end of 2021, values Orange Concessions at €2.675 billion. Orange will hold a call option that will enable it to take control and consolidate Orange Concessions in the future.

The deal gives a visible valuation to an asset that is not fully valued in Orange’s share price and brings experience of funding and managing infrastructure projects as well as sharing the commercial and financing risks associated with these. Perhaps the US carriers should also look at such an approach. Regulator-led initiatives are either on / off again depending on the belief system of the party in power. Which is not good for long term infrastructure investments.

BICS and TeleSign get New Leaders

Matteo Gatta (Proximus) heads up BICS, and Joe Burton (Poly and Cisco) heads up TeleSign. Both report to the chairman Guillaume Boutin who will take on the function of Chairman of the Board of TeleSign and BICS.

For BICS this is more of the same wrt people, while for TeleSign it is now positioned as an equal to BICS and gets the shot in the arm to drive a more aggressive go to market for its identity business. Whether the focus also shifts to enterprise comms will be interesting to see given Joe’s background.

Signal versus WhatsApp versus Telegram versus….

There are many more messaging apps than these three. I’ve seen a significant uptick of people I know joining Telegram. I’m not on Signal, I use Matrix / Element in preference for my community-focused applications like TADHack.

I drew an arbitrary line on client proliferation after regularly using email, SMS, Slack, Wire, Element, Telegram, Skype, WhatsApp, Linkedin, Twitter DM, Discord, Slatch (supporting Karel), Storylation (supporting Jean-Luc), and many other task centric messengers. It’s a capricious line given that list, I’ll likely add Signal if there’s a community of interest exclusive to that platform I want to join.

I struggle to see how any one platform can become the defacto like Amazon for ecommerce, or Google for search, browser, email, mobile OS, calendar, maps, photos, drive, video hosting, (hmmm.. that list is getting worryingly long).

A rather perverse approach to privacy management is diversity of platforms. Perverse because you’re giving your data to lots of organizations. However, as a result each platform only sees a small segment of my conversations, though each sees one of my contact lists, which Google has already. Hence the impact of any T&Cs change is small as I can easily cycle off one platform onto another. As of 2020, Signal ran entirely on donations, as a nonprofit. When people question who owns Signal, the answer is everyone. It’s a good choice if privacy is a top concern.

If Google gets messaging right would I move all my conversations onto them? Unlikely, I think diversity will reign in messaging as the difference in end user benefits of using #1 versus #2 platform will remain small. And the ‘cost’ of using multiple messaging platforms is small.

FOSDEM 2021, 6-7 February, online

Every year, thousands of developers of free and open source software from all over the world gather at the event in Brussels. In 2021, they will gather online. Even if you’re not a developer, it’s well worth your time, many of the sessions are generally accessible and most of all fun 🙂

Giving a shout out to some of the sessions I’ll be following:

Moving Beyond Customer Experience: Hyper-Personalization

I sneaked into the UCSummit through moderating this session with Adnan Saleem and Kumar Priyavrat of Radisys who were joined by special guest, Kartik Poddar of Haptik, to discuss the meanings behind hyper-personalization and its impact on the present and future for both end users and the technology.

What is WebAuthn?

This article is a nice review of WebAuthn, a browser-based API that allows for web applications to simplify and secure user authentication by using registered devices (phones, laptops, etc) as factors. It uses public key cryptography to protect users from advanced phishing attacks. Using identity verification can reduce the below steps to 1. As the server can use network intelligence to know this is alan accessing his bank, from his OnePlus phone, using his mobile phone account that he’s had for 21 years, in his home, at roughly the same time he does every month. Context is everything!

Step 1: User goes to browser to initiate login

Step 2: Web server creates a unique challenge that is sent to the authenticator

Step 3: Authenticator receives challenge with domain name of challenge

Step 4: Authenticator receives biometric consent from user

Step 5: Authenticator generates cryptographic signature which is sent back to the web server

Step 6: Web server verifies signature to unique challenge to login user

For more on the technical specs, check out WebAuthn from W3C.

IntelePeer Helps CA Governor Offices and Health Departments With COVID-19 Vaccination Scheduling

IntelePeer, a TADHack sponsor, has implemented an automated vaccine scheduling solution for one of the largest states in the US, enabling a bi-lingual self-service hotline that pre-screens callers and collects pre-registration information before passing them to a live person to schedule an appointment, while meeting the state’s requirement for zero busy signals.

The over-the-top Atmosphere® CPaaS solution provides quick access to current vaccine information and a reliable path to vaccine appointment scheduling, ensuring the best possible experience for citizens as vaccine distribution gets underway. This turnkey solution is now ready to be deployed for any other state, healthcare provider, or vaccine distributor.

TelcoSwitch acquires OneVoice

In CXTech Week 1 2020 we mentioned TelcoSwitch had raised 4M GBP, and they just announced the acquisition of OneVoice cloud-based hosted telephony platform from Qunifi. As part of the acquisition, OneVoice resellers will become TelcoSwitch channel partners.

The Qunifi OneVoice solution is an open-source cloud telephony platform with a particular focus around hospitality, and proprietary integration with Microsoft Teams.

People, Gossip, and Frivolous Stuff

Congratulations to Lily 2.0 (Madar) and regular TADHacker is now Tech Lead (Internal Products) at Financial Times.

Amit Daniel is now Chief Marketing Officer at Cognyte, formerly a Verint company focused on security analytics.

Jose Manuel Rodriguez Martinez is now Head Of Business Development – Key for Business at Amazon. I’ve known Jose Manuel since the start of TADHack in 2014 when he was based in Madrid. Key for business is their MDU (Multi Dwelling Unit) access, similar to the consumer Amazon Key that I use regularly.

Eero Tarjanne is now Head Of Business Development & Ecosystem at Ayoba. Fingers crossed Ayoba will be part of TADHack Global again in 2021.

Lee Suker is now Head of Authentication and Number Information at Sinch. I’ve know Lee for a couple of decades.

I received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last week. Through the Spring and into Summer we will see much lower infection rates, and vaccines are finally rolling out. Even though things look dark at the moment with the new variants of COVID-19 and initial slow vaccine roll-outs. Things will get back to normal over the summer, at least within some countries. I’m a little less certain on international travel by Q4 2021. However, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for corridors opening up between the US and Europe / UK, especially for those with vaccination certificates.

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