A Slice of TADSummit: Applications

In this weblog we review the presentations focused on applications at TADSummit Asia 2021. That is, using programmable communications to make money. In keeping with the TADSummit’s no BS policy, these are practice-focused, sharing insights gained from the field. The presentations include:

Airtel IQ: Transforming customer engagement by embedding real-time communications

I’m grateful Ankit and Ishan are able to share their experiences with Airtel IQ. It’s a great example of telcos being successful in taking control of their service and the successful use of open source. Check out the Slice of TADSummit: Open Source, for more open source focused presentations. And also provides insight into the unique value telcos can provide beyond wholesale services or reselling other service providers who also go direct to the enterprise.

The 3 core propositions of Airtel IQ are: Robust, Intuitive, and Secure.

Ishan goes into detail on how they achieve a robust service describing how its architected and the advantages of being built in the network. Next he described the intuitive aspects in providing APIs, self-service and service components. Making it easy for businesses to create workflows and services for their specific needs. And finally Ishan walks through the main components of the platform’s security.

Ishan then described how airtel was able to create Airtel IQ. He reviews the product principles and iterative customer-led approach. This is the hardest aspect, successfully innovating within a telco. It’s a great template for other telcos.

Evolution of Telecommunication Service Providers, from Legacy to Digital

As described in the keynote provided by Sammani Kusaladharma on “Accelerating Women Tech inclusion with effective usage of Telco API”, and the presentation by Sandarenu Madan Arachchige on “CPaaS Analytics – Insights into the Long Tail”, Axiata has made great strides in its evolution; creating country-wide innovation ecosystems.

Namal sets out the challenge facing telcos with customers wanting ‘more for less’ across their services because of global competition. And legacy suppliers equally challenged in the evolution of their business from the same competition.

Namal eloquently reviews the challenges telcos face, given a classic waterfall model for new product development, and a complex BSS ecosystem. Resulting in change requests and new systems for any new service or feature. This complexity means innovation often grinds to a halt compared to the competition.

While the competition are software, API, and micro-service-centric; with loose coupling enabling continuous integration / continuous development. We witness this all the time in using Google’s online services, new features appear, often with no heralding / marketing, you simply notice X is now possible. The old arguments on reliability and performance at scale generally no longer apply.

Namal shows how telcos can implement a 2 speed IT stack, to maintain their uniqueness, while copying what’s working in the competition. This is enabled through the Axiata Digital Labs Digital Telco Enabler (ADL-DTE).

But technology change alone does not solve the problem, people and processes must also change. Namal reviews the other steps required in a software-centric mindset, that is creating solutions not buying boxes, using agile process, focus on user experience. And leadership to protect and enable the new technologies, people and processes. Anthony Rodrigo‘s role as CIO in my opinion was critical to the success of Ideamart in keeping the ‘anti-bodies’ away from the new ways of working.

Intelligent Call Center Software to Empower Your Business

Arpit provides a good summary of the iCallify product, an intelligent call center software, built using the latest technologies and smart algorithms. iCallify can be deployed directly by a business (on-prem or in the cloud), or through a local system integrator / service provider (multi-tenant support) that can offer it as a service to their business customers.

I particularly like Arpit’s presentation as its a straightforward explanation of the businesses challenges across customer-facing operations (sales, marketing, and support) and how their intelligent call center helps address those challenges; with straightforward language like ‘algorithms’ rather than the passé marketing term AI.

Telstra’s Track and Monitor

For over 20 years I’ve been promoting the importance of APIs to telcos and it’s great to see TelstraDev making a difference in Australia with its APIs. Michelle highlights the importance of data insights from the network usage to help improve customers’ business operations. All easily accessible through both a portal (dashboard) and API.

Hearing from Lauren Demarchi, the product manager for Track and Monitor, provides great insight into how the service is being used in the field. And often it is a field ? A great insight that demonstrates the understanding of their customers is, ‘user testing showed the portal needs to readable in a warehouse by someone without their reading glasses on!’ It’s a small thing, but critical to the service’s success.

Another excellent insight in knowing where to stop, leaving room for partners to add value. Resellers are an important component of Lauren’s business. Telstra can not be expert across all IoT applications, nor installation and deployment of all IoT use cases. The API and portal enable a healthy ecosystem to exist around Track and Monitor.

42% of Track and Monitor customers are using the API, with their top customer using both the portal and the API. And the next 2 largest customers (both resellers) using the API. That percentage of API use will only increase.

Delivering the Future of Networking with Hyper-scalable Connectivity

Epsilon is a NaaS (Network as a Service) provider, an API for your networking needs. They make it simple for you to interconnect yourself or your customers globally with an on-demand network orchestration capability.

Liang reviews the importance of NaaS in Asia, as businesses use regional cloud services, rather than those in North America for lower latency and costs. In Asia this trend is accelerating, though the diversity of local regulations and service maturity mean Epsilon plays a crucial role in helping businesses successfully network across Asia.

I really like the review Liang provides of the long history of APIs in telecoms across standards and implementations in voice, messaging and networking. Including ForCES (FORwarding & Control Element Separation from the IETF) and OpenFlow. I feel a little guilty I’ve not created a slide like he shows at 4 minute mark in the video.

The Communication API landscape is also great in mapping the standards bodies’ API recommendations, independent telco API (e.g. Epsilon), vendor APIs, Internet exchange APIs (e.g. PIX-IE: A Programmable Internet eXchange In Edo), PaaS/SaaS APIs (e.g. Twilio), IaaS APIs, and community APIs. I’ll be reusing that slide as well ?

CPaaS Analytics – Insights into the Long Tail

The Ideamart CPaaS is 10 years old. It’s mature, and entering a product extension phase. Most CPaaS are not as mature, so the insights Sandarenu provides are important across the programmable communications industry. For background information, here’s a presentation from Shafraz (then Ideamart, now Google) on Ideamart from 2016.

Sandarenu explains how analytics have become central to the value of the platform through:

  • Pattern identification;
  • Fraud detection;
  • Customer experience; and
  • Developer experience.

Patterns include subscription and unsubscription patterns. When the platform launched chat and joke apps were popular. Today that is clearly not the case, but they can see where apps or app categories are trending. Patterns across location, demographics, subscription channel (SMS, USSD, Web, Android App) help in quantifying marketing campaign performance, and where the trendy offline to online marketing is working and where not.

On content governance, they’re able to identify content duplication, something Reddit could do with ? And filter content to meet each country’s sometimes quite strict content restrictions.

For developers they have subscriber insights, can quantify the effectiveness of content and campaigns. And critically the historical data to know what’s typical for particular app categories, or demographics, or regions. With analytics the CPaaS becomes a business partner; helping developers spot new trends, and identify weaknesses in their platform or go-to-market.

Next gen tech for business and telecom service providers

 CloudConnect is a great example of home grown innovation focused on the Indian market. Built on open source, I’ve met Raman at several open source events over the years. CloudConnect really is a great example of how a small team can quickly build an impressive array of communication solutions thanks to open source. Packaged and delivered for Indian enterprises (large and small) and service provider channel partners.

The communication services from the Bay Area providers are often too expensive, too complex, misses specific local market needs and support. Hence why CloudConnect exists, and will likely be bought in the future, especially when large service providers understand markets like India better with, using Raman’s words, ‘sensible’ offers.

I remember being in a meeting where UC was being pitch to the CIO of a chinese multinational. After the pitch the CIO explained how his existing mobile service has most of the features described, without the additional $10 per month per employee. Markets around the world are different, localization is critical.

CloudConnect offers IP telephony, virtual offices, mobile first communications, collaboration with customer and their partners, DID numbers, video conferencing (which I’ve used), and UCaaS solutions with an API stack (CPaaS).