Interact’s Brian Johnston Judges E-Week Competition

On March 13th Interact’s Senior Manager, Brian Johnston was asked to judge the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Engineering Senior Design Competition. Students dove right into their Senior Projects and developed various projects for companies showing their talent and skills. The 20 judges were assigned 4 projects each. Each judge rated their 4 projects on several categories, including public speaking, research, and technical work to the design path the team chose to take.  These students were asked to develop their project in an agile development manner. They would periodically meet with their sponsored company to go over their work and receive feedback. Brian said it was a great experience, and the engineering school process has changed tremendously since he was in school.

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What Is a Media Platform?

A media platform is used to handle media resources such as voice, dtmf, and video.  IP Media Platforms support Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) which enables Voice Over IP (VoIP), or put more simply, they allow you to talk to your VoIP service provider.  Most media platforms will support the ability to collect dtmf, play and record messages.  Some systems will allow for switching capabilities, and support advanced features such as voice recognition, and text-to-speech.  The more advanced systems will provide enhanced media handling for large conferencing, audio streaming, and most importantly provide a development environment that allows you to make changes quickly and reliably.

 Inbound Services

Media platforms are perfect for telco environments, automated customer service, and automated bill pay, and can be used to create services that have historically been closed systems, such as voice mail and auto attendant.  Lately they have grown in popularity by allowing customers, such as Mortech, to closely integrate their telco environments with their CRM systems.  This provides them end-to-end visibility and monitoring of their call center customers.  The SPOT Media Platform has enabled customers like Mortech to stream and record live calls at a touch of a button for the fraction of the cost of an embedded ACD.

 Outbound Services

Historically, most people think of media platforms and only see the traditional inbound press 1, press 2 IVR applications.  Outbound services are a proactive way to reach your customers.  Whether it’s for individual appointment notifications, town hall meetings, or school closings, a media platform should have multiple ways for you to manage and start your outbound campaigns.

 Extending Your Media Platform

A media platform should allow you to manage and develop applications easily.  Everyone has different definitions of easy.  For me, I enjoy working in SPOT’s service creation environment. I also have a high comfort level for the api’s available to me.  VXML and CCXML are the de facto standard and are popular because they allow for portability.


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Interact Celebrates 30 Year Anniversary

Song: “Happy Birthday — The Ting Tings”

For 30 years Interact has been working to solve the communication needs of our customers.  We have done this with a yes-we-can attitude and a smile on our face.  The work is enjoyable but we’ve made sure to stop and have some fun along the way.

In 1981  Interact’s founder, Greg Gissler, was 31.  Lynn McKee, Interact’s president was 32.  Here are some of the favorite movies and music from that year.

Top Movies of 1981 (Source

Rank Title Actors Gross
1 Raiders of the Lost Ark Harrison FordKaren AllenJohn Rhys-DaviesDenholm Elliott $384,562,121
2 On Golden Pond Katharine HepburnHenry FondaJane Fonda $119,285,432
3 Superman II Christopher ReeveMargot KidderTerence Stamp $108,185,706
4 Arthur Dudley MooreLiza MinnelliJohn Gielgud $95,461,682
5 Stripes Bill Murray and Harold Ramis $85,297,000
6 The Cannonball Run Burt ReynoldsRoger MooreFarrah Fawcett $72,179,579
7 Chariots of Fire Ben CrossIan CharlesonIan Holm $58,972,904
8 For Your Eyes Only Roger MooreCarole BouquetTopol $54,812,802
9 The Four Seasons Alan AldaCarol BurnettSandy Dennis $50,427,646
10 Time Bandits John CleeseMichael PalinSean Connery $42,365,581

Academy Awards:

Best PictureChariots of Fire - Enigma, The Ladd Company/Warner Bros.

Best DirectorWarren Beatty - Reds

Best ActorHenry Fonda - On Golden Pond

Best ActressKatharine Hepburn - On Golden Pond

Best Supporting ActorJohn Gielgud - Arthur

Best Supporting ActressMaureen Stapleton - Reds

Best Foreign Language FilmMephisto, directed by Istvan Szabo, Hungary

Number 1 Singles in Music (Source

(Just Like) Starting Over” – John Lennon (4 weeks)
The Tide Is High” – Blondie (1)
Celebration” – Kool & the Gang (2)
9 to 5” – Dolly Parton (2)
I Love a Rainy Night” – Eddie Rabbitt (2)
Keep on Loving You” - REO Speedwagon (1)
Rapture” – Blondie (2)
Kiss On My List” – Daryl Hall & John Oates (3)
Morning Train (9 to 5)” – Sheena Easton (2)
Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes (9)
Stars on 45 Medley” – Stars On 45 (1)
The One That You Love” – Air Supply (1)
Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield (2)
Endless Love” – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (9)
Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” – Christopher Cross (3)
Private Eyes” – Daryl Hall & John Oates (2)
Physical” – Olivia Newton-John (6)

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Interact’s Media Platform: A Truly Intelligent Peripheral

Most IPs on the market today are simply resource receptacles that static call flows can refer to when needing to provide specific call functionality to an end user.  That is, they are traditionally components devoid of any ability to provide advanced telephony applications within an operator’s environment.

Interact’s Intelligent Peripheral is unique however, in that it is able to utilize Interact’s outstanding IVR functionality while simultaneously maintaining a fully operable IP presence.  Our Intelligent Peripheral (or Specialized Resource Function, SRF), along with our Media Resource Function (MRF) and IP Media Server, are all located within the same environment that is geared toward elasticity and that encourages operator independence.

For service providers, our Media Platform includes Specialized Resource Function (SRF), and Media Resource Function (MRF) together within the same environment.  Available in a software only model, or a traditional SS7 model, our software only solution can scale based on an operator’s usage, so you pay for only what you use.  Interact understand that the needs of an Intelligent Peripheral can vary greatly based on marketing promotions, and changes to user experience, therefore we have designed a licensing package that allows you to add and remove lines on demand.

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IVR in 2011 and Cloud in 2012

What were some of Interact’s biggest advancements this past year?

Interact was able the leverage the knowledge of virtualization it gained in 2011 and move head first into cloud communications.  With successful deployments into Amazon, Softlayer, and Rackspace we are well positioned to help our customers move into true cloud enabled environment.

What are your plans for 2012?

We are focused on our customer base now more than ever.  Our new Service Creation Tool will allow customers to greatly improve their time to market.  Improved web hooks, tighter ASR and TTS integration, with the addition of AMD(Answering Machine Detection) will make hosting applications even easier.  Not moving too far away from our core our SPOT Media Platform will still support VXML and CCXML standards.

Knowing the importance of our customers desire for reduced start-up costs, coupled with the requirement for capital preservation we are striving to address our customers at whatever stage they may be in.  Providing our customers a path from our cloud to their cloud is one way we are addressing this.

Can you elaborate on some of challenges you forsee for you and your clients in 2012?

Our clients will need to be able to react even quicker to the the ever changing market demands.  They will need applications that can be quickly prototyped, and easily be brought to market.  This in addition to their ability to scale quickly will be driving factors in their ability for them to succeed in the the market.

What are your predictions for 2012 for the IVR system market?

IVR’s in the cloud will become the norm and not the exception.

Were there any specific advancement technologically that you were really able to capitalize on in 2011?

We were able to leverage our knowledge of communications and virtualization to move into the cloud communications arena.  This along with greater proliferation of quality VoIP providers has set the stage for expanded growth in the cloud communications space.

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Elastic Pricing

Interact has released elastic pricing specifically designed for cloud based service providers.

Over the past year we have seen a cosmic shift in the way our customers are growing and managing their businesses.  With the advent of cloud platforms such as Amazon, Softlayer, and Rackspace our customers are able to host their communications applications and scale to 1,000′s of ports in minutes.

Our SPOT SIP engine inherently allows providers to download and run their CCXML and VXML on cloud instances.  Now we have released new licensing that allows for customers to grow dynamically and pay for only what they use.

Per minute pricing as low as .01 / minute

- OR -

Per port pricing as low as $5 / port / month

To learn more, and to see if elastic pricing is a fit contact sales at

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Annoyed by Multiple Bills for all your Data-Using Devices?

Like more and more people today, I have a smart phone, tablet, and USB mobile broadband device, all through the same mobile operator. Annoyingly, I still receive a separate bill for mobile broadband for each of these devices from my mobile operator. As mobile broadband consumers continue to utilize multiple devices for mobile broadband, it’s surprising more operators aren’t implementing a more robust billing and rating engine that is capable of combining multiple devices on a single bill. Research firm In-Stat recently announced their predictions that by 2015, 65% of the U.S. population will own either a smartphone, tablet, or both, and also predicted there will be nearly two smartphone and/or tablet owners per household. For households with multiple smartphone and/or multiple broadband consuming devices, shouldn’t there be a way for mobile operators to provide one single bill for all of these things per household?

Interact Inc. certainly thinks so, that’s why we’ve developed “Joined Account” rating for our Invigorate Real-Time Billing and Rating platform. With Interact’s “Joined Account” rating, mobile operators can rate multiple family accounts, business accounts, and data sharing devices so they’re all under one “master account” and the consumer receives one bill at the end of the month. As a consumer this takes the “chore” out of bill paying, and as a mobile operator, helps create a better subscriber-operator bond.

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Mobile Bill Shock: How can Mobile Operators Embrace Proposed FCC Regulations to Create a Better Subscriber Experience?

A recent article by the New York Times discussed “Mobile Bill Shock” experienced by individuals incurring unexpected roaming charges when traveling abroad, and how one Verizon customer “received an $11,000 phone bill after spending 4 days in Jamaica.” Scenarios like this are nothing new, in fact, a recent survey by the FCC found that approximately 30 million Americans have experienced Bill Shock on their monthly bill. Among those who experience Bill Shock, 88% reported that their mobile operator did not contact them after their bill suddenly increased, and 84% reported that their mobile operator did not contact them when they were about to exceed their monthly allowed usage.

Following a string of high profile Bill Shock cases, regulatory agencies such as the FCC have now pushed for regulations in an effort to control Bill Shock. Modeled from the current European Union regulations regarding Bill Shock, the FCC is looking towards regulations that could require operators to send subscribers alerts or notifications when subscribers have expended their plan allowance and are accruing overage fees, as well as the ability for operators to place a cap on data and roaming overages for subscribers. While the proposed regulations are aimed at keeping the consumer informed of their mobile usage in an effort to reduce the number of consumer Bill Shock instances, mobile operators can leverage possible Bill shock regulations to enhance the subscriber experience and create stronger subscriber loyalty.

Bill Shock can be prevented by addressing two main issues, the lack of real-time insight of mobile usage by the consumer, and inability of the mobile user to easily update, change, or add funds to their account to thwart overage fees. Luckily, real-time billing and rating platforms and online charging tools, such as Interact’s Invigorate, are available and can be deployed on an operator’s network to resolve these issues. Interact’s Invigorate Real-Time Billing and Rating platform for the prevention of Bill Shock enables subscribers to confidently utilize the services provided by their mobile operator, without the threat of Bill Shock, by providing greater knowledge to their account information and usage and enabling greater flexibility for subscriber’s when the need to add funds or change their current plan arises.

The sooner that operators embrace the powerful strategy of combined policy and charging, the sooner they will be able to cultivate a richer experience for, and a stronger relationship with, individual subscribers.

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ITEXPO West Recap

The Interact team was in attendance once again in Austin at ITEXPO West 2011 last week.  Aside from exhibiting on the show floor, Interact also sponsored the opening night reception as well as a party on 6th street in downtown Austin.  Since the show was held in Austin, Texas this year, where Interact also houses a Research and Development office, we were able to send a larger group than usual to participate in the great variety of ITEXPO West events.

While at ITEXPO, I was able to discuss the IVR functionality Interact integrates with enterprise solutions to create better customer experiences when dealing with auto attendants and IVRs.  You can watch the full video here.

Other interesting trends discussed at ITEXPO included how Social Media is used in a call center environment where calls are not coming in via traditional hard phone lines, but rather cell and soft phone based and web initiated.   This is one of the many areas in which Interact can help organizations upgrade their old IVR infrastructure to keep pace with current market trends.

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