Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is VoIP communication being Abused?

We have heard a lot of stories about how VoIP communication medium has been used by terrorist and criminals for illegal activities. The recent Mumbai attack on Indian soil makes it more compelling for VoIP to support Lawful intercept requirements. So what makes this kind of communication more attractive to illegal activities. Hard to wiretap the conversation. The regular PSTN and wireless communication standards have very good wiretapping capabilities and most of the vendors support Lawful Intercept features, using which, voice or text conversation can be wiretapped by Law enforcement agencies. Though the FCC has been pushing for Lawful Intercept requirement for broadband and VoIP, very few vendors are really compliant with the requirement

Using proprietary protocols and encryption makes it harder for the Law enforcement agencies to wiretap the conversation. Skype is a classic example of a VoIP client that uses proprietary protocol and encryption. In addition, the whole architecture of skype makes it harder for law enforcement agency to wiretap the conversation. ( More on the architecture and issues with skype to support Lawful Intercept ) . With more than 350 million users, and no initiative to support lawful intercept has law enforcement agencies on their toes.

Apparently, European authorities are tightening screw to fix the loophole in the current lawful intercept laws, and start listening to VoIP calls. A group made up of 27 national representatives called Eurojust has plans in the coming weeks to get together to discuss the issue and come up with a solution to this big security problem. The issue was raised earlier by Italian authorities who discovered that most of the criminals were using both VoIP and skype to frustrate investigators, and skype not cooperating with them. Police officers in Milan say organized crime, arms and drugs traffickers, and prostitution rings are turning to Skype and other systems of VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) telephony in order to frustrate investigators. Without skype cooperating with the law enforcement agents, wiretapping skype calls would be next to impossible.

Is skype listening?

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

iSkoot moves beyond skype client

It’s good to see startups move beyond supporting skype interface. iSkoot, one of the early bird with respect to supporting mobile skype clients announced their Kalaida platform , which allows users to access their social networks,RSS feeds and emails from their basic cell phones. I guess this new direction makes sense with the acquisition of They recently launched the notifier application on ATT media mall . The notifier applications allows users to check facebook, email,IM and news- all in one place, right on the your phone. Notifier shows Facebook updates, emails & IMs as they come in, so you're always in the know and can easily update your status and read & respond in real time. Notifier supports Facebook, Gmail, Google Talk, AOL Mail, AIM & more.

I guess kalaida platform is a notifier application, but renamed and available to different carriers with additional features. Iam not sure what are those additional features. So iskoot must be the new entrant to the already crowded arena. There are quite a few startups like mig33,fring,nimbuzz,truphone etc that have been supporting these features for quite sometime. Well, with $19 million dollars of recent funding. Iskoot is positioned to play a long innings. Iam impressed with their diversification and congratulate them. Hope to see more innovation from iSkoot.

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Android G2, HTC magic looks awesome

Blame it on iPhone, we are all spoiled. We don’t accept crap anymore, and the vendors have realized that. HTC magic looks awesome and slick. Maybe we have a competitor for iPhone. (Wish I had a chance to play around with it :-) ). Today Vodafone unveiled Android-Powered HTC magic . For more info check out gizmodo

Quick highlight of the spec:
Qualcomm® MSM7201a™, 528 MHz
Operating System:
Memory ROM:
512 MB
192 MB
GPS Internal GPS antenna
Connectivity Bluetooth® 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate
Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g
3.2 megapixel color camera with auto focus
Audio supported formats:
Video supported formats:
MP4, 3GP
Talk time:
Up to 400 minutes for WCDMA
Up to 450 minutes for GSM

Check out these pics and video (courtesy youtube, gizmodo and engadget )

Android G2: HTC Magic Hands ON from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

OpenSky, Skype interface gateway, Who needs it?

Gizmo5 the popular VoIP client has launched a new skype interface gateway called OpenSky that would allow any VoIP users to call skype. The whole concept of calling skype users from any VoIP client sound interesting. Iam still not convinced in the business opportunity. There are so many clients out there in the market that support calling skype users from mobile and other desktop clients. In addition. Skype has its own skypelite and SkypeToGo. With digium announcing partnership with skype, we would be seeing lot more gateway offerings in future,which will be similar to OpenSky.

Calling or texting skype users from different clients other than skype’s own client has been there for many years now. Off course, the model is little different from what OpenSky has to offer. Startups like fring, iSkoot, mig33, mibivox, nimbuzz, truphone and others have clients that can actually support calling and texting skype users. In fact they do more than that, contact management, presense etc are some of other features supported by these clients.

Here is what Michael Robertson, CEO of gizmo5, has to say about the business opportunity:
• There are tens of millions of users of Cisco Call Manager, Avaya and other high end VOIP systems which cannot call Skype users and now they can.
• There are tens of millions of seats using low cost Asterisk, Yate, FreeSwitch, Trixbox PBX solutions which cannot call Skype users and now they can.
• There are more than 10 million Nokia Wifi phones which cannot call Skype users and now they can.
• There are millions of SIP ATA devices and wifi phones which cannot call Skype users and now they can.
• 90% of mobile phones don't have data plans so they cannot call Skype users and now they can.
Another issue with this approach is the calling line identity. Like for e.g., when I tried calling myself from the web browser, the calling user name was open_sky_16Since i initiated the call, I was aware of the username, If not, don’t think I would have answered the call. Most of the Folks don’t accept calls from unknown users. Period! Iam sure the same applies with the mobile clients. Unless gizmo5 solves the calling identifier, this solution is not gone fly. Stuart henshell And Om have some excellent points to share about the launch

On a positive note, this has proved some kind of interoperability between the SIP world and the closed proprietary skype world. I think too many startups are focusing more on interconnecting to skype than focusing on real innovation. I understand the lure of millions of skype users, but, this is definitely not a path to innovation. I would rather focus on building more Voice 2.0 type applications. Maybe its time to rethink Voice 2.0. Isn’t it?

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Follow your buddies with Google latitude

Isn’t it cool to know where your friends are hanging out or where your daughter/wife is without calling or sms them? Don’t worry, Google heard your wishes, they launched a new feature for google maps called latitude . Once the user opts in to latitude, he can see the approximate location of his friends and loved ones. Off course, this is possible only if the other party decides to share the location. I guess this features shall come handy in lot of different scenarios. I think its one of the cool features on Google maps.

The things you could do with latitude is more than just location. In fact you can also be in touch directly via SMS, Google Talk, Gmail, or by updating your status message; you can even upload a new profile photo on the fly. It's a fun way to feel close to the people you care about. You can share your location only to those contacts that u trust. In addition, you can also change the location that u want to share with others. This is fun. For e.g. If iam hanging out in Hooters or Twin Peaks, I can set my location to some nearby temple. ( I'm just kidding, never been to such places :-) )

The biggest issue I could think of was privacy intrusion and google has given serious consideration for the same. The feature has built fine-grained privacy controls right into the application. Check out the video below to know more about privacy features

According to google mobile blog , There are two primary ways to use Latitude right now-

1. On your mobile phone: visit from your phone's mobile browser to download Google Maps for mobile with Latitude. We currently support most of the popular smartphone platforms: Android, Blackberry, Symbian S60, and Windows Mobile, and we are hoping to see Latitude on the iPhone soon. It will be available through Google Mobile App, and you'll just need to download or update the app from the App store to find Latitude in the Apps tab.
2. On your computer: go to Latitude from your browser and add the Latitude gadget to your iGoogle homepage. What's neat is that if you've installed Google Gears or if you're using Google Chrome, you can choose to automatically share your location from your laptop or desktop computer -- no smartphone required!

So folks go ahead and download this cool feature.

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