AT&T And Twilio Join Forces
AT&T wants customer applications to quite literally talk to the world, and is willing to expose its network capabilities to do so. That's where Twilio comes in.
AT&T is launching a new program called Advanced Communication Suite (ACS) to provide its business customers tools and applications to enhance and automate communications. ACS is a collection of self-service, cloud-based voice and SMS APIs. The underlying technology will be provided by Twilio, which is including a library of applications that utilize the AT&T network.
Through ACS, AT&T customers will gain access to Twilio's API and resources that are already integrated to AT&T's network. This means AT&T customers won't have to leave the AT&T network to set up simple (or complex) applications that require network services. For example, a business that runs a web service may want to validate email addresses. With ACS, they could use a Second Factor Authentication application that enables them to send a code (phone, text, or email) and then submit it back on a second channel. Popular applications at Twilio include:
* Telephone surveys
* Call center automation
* Order status
* Package tracking
* Conferencing solutions
* Predictive dialers
* Voicemail services
* Unified messaging
* Bill collection
* Interactive Voice Response
* Call recording solutions
* Political polls
Some applications are free and ready for customization, others can be purchased. But they are optional head starts, as the APIs provided will enable savvy organizations to develop whatever they require. This also allows an organization to communications-enable internally developed applications as well as interface with other business applications that have APIs. For example, a warehouse management system could utilize ACS to send SMS alerts based on low-inventory thresholds.
This space is generally referred to as Communications as a Service (CaaS), and is growing rapidly. A limiting factor though has been vendor lock-in concerns. There's fear of developing custom solutions that only work with one carrier. Twilio partially assuages this concern by transparently working with multiple carriers around the globe. This will be the first time that Twilio is available directly from a major carrier. AT&T claims ACS will offer cross-carrier enablement, thus AT&T believes that the risk/benefit of interoperability will work in its favor.
AT&T also intends to expand the application library within ACS ("within a matter of weeks"), and hinted about applications for eCommerce and video. It is not clear how AT&T intends to differentiate ACS from its previously announced API platform created with Apigee.
APIs are rapidly becoming the chief means of cross platform integration. AT&T wants customer applications to quite literally talk to the world, and is willing to expose its network capabilities to do so. Historically, most carriers have kept network internals private. But as with computer applications, APIs are fueling a new generation of interoperability across platforms, devices, and networks.
It's a fairly big deal for Twilio, which just last May announced an agreement to offer the Twilio API in the Microsoft Azure platform. AT&T and Twilio report that their new partnership took about a year to complete. AT&T credits its internal Innovation Pipeline for identifying the opportunity from employee suggestions.
Availability, complexity, and cost, have been the chief barriers to communications enabling business processes (CEBP). Those barriers are rapidly dropping while the need and expectations for communications are increasing. Leveraging communications to enhance a business application's utility and experience is a given--the only questions are when and what type of tools to use. AT&T intends to introduce these tools to a slew of new SMB and enterprise companies.
Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and Independent Analyst at TalkingPointz.com.