Michelle Burbick
Michelle Burbick is the Associate Editor and a blogger for No Jitter, UBM Tech's online community for news and analysis...
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Michelle Burbick | October 24, 2016 |


Hacking Communications: Democratization of Telephony

Hacking Communications: Democratization of Telephony APIs and SDKs make it possible for anyone to come up with a DIY solution, communications-enabling applications to solve problems.

APIs and SDKs make it possible for anyone to come up with a DIY solution, communications-enabling applications to solve problems.

The Internet has democratized telecommunications, as TADHack's Alan Quayle will tell you and as we've been exploring here on No Jitter. In fact, a whole DIY movement has sprouted up around the ability to incorporate voice, messaging, and other telecom capabilities into business applications. "Telecom is now programmable, and it's really easy -- you don't need to be a programmer to create an app using telecom capabilities," he said.

The opportunity was made clear last week at TADHack Global, an international hackathon drawing more than 2,600 registrants at more than 30 locations and remote sites around the globe. The event led to more than 170 hacks, which were judged on local and global levels. The developers hacking away their weekends had APIs and other resources at their fingertips from sponsoring companies that included Canonical Ubuntu, Cisco (Spark and Tropo), hSenid Mobile Solutions, Matrix, Project reThink, Telestax, and VoxImpant.

Join us at a pre-Enterprise Connect 2017 mini hackathon, and try your hand at communications-enabling a business application!

One of the TADHack Global locations happened to be here in my hometown of Chicago, co-located with the Illinois Institute of Technology Real-Time Communications (IIT RTC) conference. While event organizer Quayle spent the weekend in Lisbon, Portugal, welcoming everyone to the hackathon via a telepresence keynote, he flew into Chicago on Tuesday to speak about the DIY trend, discuss the new opportunities opening up to businesses, and show off some of the cool hacks from Chicago participants.

For one of those hacks, the local winner, developers took advantage of anonymized data from last-minute sponsor Carrefour, a multinational retailer headquartered in France. If you're like me, you might initially wonder what business a retailer has doing sponsoring a telecom hackathon. But, as Quayle explained, Carrefour understands the power of communications-enabling apps for improved consumer experience -- which is, of course, is in its sweet spot at a retailer.

The four winning developers, business professionals who came together somewhat randomly, not actually knowing each other before the weekend -- used Carrefour's data sets and Telestax APIs to create an app they called "Grocery Go!" -- a more practical take on the popular augmented reality app, Pokemon Go!, one of the team members said. The team demoed the app at the IIT RTC conference, showing how it enables grocery shoppers to use their smartphone camera function to pair a product image with nutritional information delivered via an augmented reality display. In addition, the app supports text messaging so that shoppers could place deli orders for pick up rather than having to wait in line for counter service and prolong their shopping trips.

Another interesting Chicago hack came from IIT student Ermir Suldashi, who demoed his "Outsider" app for scalable voice broadcasting. Suldashi's hack relies on WebRTC to enable two-way communication, an improvement over the traditional one-way communication of broadcasting that we know today, he said. Integrating with payment systems would provide a way for people to support themselves with their own content, enabling fans and listeners to pay the broadcaster directly, he added.

If you're not yet familiar with TADHack, you'll have a front row seat to all the hacking action come March 2017 at Enterprise Connect (see "Enterprise Connect 2017: Get Ready for Fresh Faces, New Content, Hackathon!"). TADHack-mini Orlando will be taking place the weekend before Enterprise Connect, and the Monday morning conference will kick off with a session showcasing the top hacks, " Hackathon After-Action Report: Meet the Hackers, See the Hacks." In fact, come early and try your hand at working with communications APIs during this pre-Enterprise Connect hacking event!

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what hacks will be created that solve problems I never even knew existed!

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