Once in a while you come across a product or service that makes you stop in your tracks and think. This week we had such an experience in the VoIP space.
Existing VoIP solutions connect consumers to the Internet for VoIP calls via software downloads, IP Telephone Adapters or VoIP-designed wireless and land based telephones. The limitation of this approach is that you have to be physically present at the ‘solution’ point e.g. at your VoIP-enabled home office, to make a VoIP call. All that may change if a little-known start-up in Western Canada has its way.
The interestingly named Yap International Inc. of Vancouver B.C. has developed a whole new approach to VoIP with their announcement of VoIP ‘Personal Gateways’. Their product, the Nomad, has a VoIP telephone Adapter built into it, but that’s just part of the story.
The Nomad connects your telephone at the home or office to the Internet and provides you with a Personal I.D. Number in the form of a telephone number. VoIP calls from your home phone connect to the Internet through Nomad just like VoIP Adapters, but with Nomad you can also call your Personal Number from any push button phone in the world – cellular, PDA or PSTN, punch in your Pin, and get a VoIP Dial Tone that connects your call from there over the Internet as a VoIP call. For wireless applications you don’t even have to be near a Wi-Fi hotspot (unless you’re using a Wi-Fi service to make calls from your laptop), since you’re using the cellular network to connect.
The potential benefits of this are many. If you use a ‘packaged minute’ cellular plan as is common here in the United States then your call home is essentially free as part of your Calling Plan, but from there with Nomad you can connect free over VoIP to other Nomad users at international destinations around the world, i.e. toll free international calling from your cellular phone.
And you no longer need to pay your cellular phone company for a ‘web-enabled’ package (my Cellular Provider charges $14.95 a month for this as an add-on service) to send or receive email or to use a mini-browser to access online information services, because Nomad connects you to the web via your very own Personal Gateway.
Yap International told us that they’re completing market trials of the service in January 2005 and are in discussions with multiple distribution partners around the world to market the technology. A free Powerpoint describing the technology is available at their web site http://www.yapint.com/.
VoIP as an enabling technology promises to re-invent the way that we communicate once again, but one of the most interesting aspect of the Nomad technology (and something I have been craving for years) is one access number for all of my email, Instant Messenger, Voicemail and information services (they could all point to my Personal Gateway in this brave new VoIP world), and Nomad could possibly deliver that if they choose to.