Growth in international telephony services is generally a good thing, and we enjoy ever-falling costs and ever increasing competition for these services. However, a downside is the increased flow of unwelcome sales calls and the diminishing trust in (or even usefulness of) Caller-ID.
Falling costs have made it attractive for companies to increase cold-calling and to reach out internationally for more prospects. Some have made the choice to hide their numbers (or present a wrong one). This might be to avoid pre-screening, so that you answer the phone to them, or to avoid you returning their call and making a complaint. Anyway, services exist for them to block or dissemble numbers.
At the extreme of this phenomenon is the genuinely crooked and unethical company who would spoof Caller-ID in order to break the chain of evidence; to avoid meaningful reporting to law enforcement and to assume another company’s identity, or misrepresent their country of origin.
VoIP has been unfairly blamed as being the engine for hiding or changing numbers, but actually if you look hard enough for loopholes, these can be found in legacy telecom systems too. In fact it’s hard to draw a clear line now between VoIP and legacy telco, because even “traditional” carriers use the infrastructure of wholesale VoIP companies: part competitor; part co-operator based on maximizing margin by using the lowest-cost links.
Ironically, telcos themselves know what the callers’ numbers are; the backbone SS7 interconnects need to know, as of course it is the basis of billing as well as international call routing. However, supplemental services allow callers to suppress their numbers, and telcos feel duty bound to obey the suppression requests, even where this does not serve the interests of the majority. In theory, telcos have the ability to block malicious callers, and mechanisms exist for reporting bad guys, but on the whole these seem to be hard for users to access, and pretty ineffective.
There certainly is room here for improved services to customers. A constant stream of unwelcome cold calls from wide and abroad is now only punctuated by the occasional call from self-styled “Windows Technical Support” who would encourage you disable your home computer with a Trojan of their own design as part of an extortion scheme.
The dam is broken with ever-falling call costs, and these types of calls now will never diminish with the cheerful help of those responsible for the deluge.
We feel that a wider variety of blocking services (available to telcos and individuals) is warranted and are actively working on several projects to deliver this. We’re particularly excited about a unique process we have, that will become a new feature on our Matrix platform, on which we’re also filing patent and is designed to deliver trust back into the network.
Beyond caller-id, we see a requirement for a better means to negotiate a call based on time of day, context, how busy I am etc. There are now many factors that determine my “interuptability” and we don’t seem to have evolved very far.
There has been a natural evolution to caller-id that is the preceding Instant Message or SMS that says “Have you got a moment?” (with the caller-id in the MetaData/From header). There’s a lot of richness that we’ve discovered can be added around these types of interactions that precede a call.
In you’re interested in these elements of User-Experience around communications – get in touch and pop in and see some of the things we’re working on.