Radish Blog

Going Backwards on Phone Service?

I’ve been wondering about the proliferation of VoIP phones and their lack of interoperability. It reminds me of phone service in the US in the early 1900s. At that time, if you wanted to call someone, that person needed to have the same kind of phone as yours. Oftentimes both of you needed to be using the same poles and wires.

These days, it’s really slick to use Skype, for example, to call someone. But if you do, one of two things will happen: (1) you’ll either reach a Skype endpoint in which case you can have an enhanced call, or (2) the call with drop down to PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) as a voice-only call. In most cases, you’ll be stuck with PSTN as the lowest common denominator.

Likewise, if you call a business or organization, one of two things will happen: (1) you’ll either reach an automated voice system such as an IVR or phonebot, or (2) you’ll reach a live person. Automated voice systems obviously can’t handle calls other than PSTN and a live person can’t either unless they’re equipped with a matching phone app. Then they’d need a special app for every type of call they’d receive. The result again is that you’re stuck with a voice-only PSTN call.

For all the hype, VoIP calls don’t really improve the types of calls we make every day. Think of the calls you make to businesses or organizations to get information or support, resolve a billing issue, ask a question, or get medical assistance.

Enter Radish Systems. At Radish, we take interoperability seriously. You should be able to make a phone call and connect with anyone in the world as a first step. Then engage in an enhanced transaction without using a special app. It’s a new mode of phone call that’s better than voice-only PSTN, without the interoperability limitations of a VoIP call. This approach is called ChoiceView®.

  • ChoiceView starts with the familiarity of a phone call. It is, in fact, a phone call, not a pre-arranged conference.
  • It doesn’t need a mobile app, so it works with first-time callers.
  • It works with smartphones as well as any phone and separate computer or tablet.
  • It preserves voice quality without needing a broadband connection.
  • It’s inherently compatible with phones, automated voice systems, contact center positions, and business phone systems.
  • It encourages businesses to go beyond voice-only calls with the confidence that their customers can engage without needing a special app.
  • It presents a significant opportunity for developers to build ChoiceView apps on all the voice-only platforms.

Checkout what we’re doing at Radish and see how ChoiceView is dramatically and easily enhancing customer engagement. “Now I see what you’re talking about!”™.

Why Is Videoconferencing So Difficult?

Lately I’ve observed the struggle and drama people face in joining a videoconference. I’m not talking about people who participate in the same videoconference every day with a regular group of participants. I’m talking about people — even tech-savy types — who go through agony in attempting to join a new videoconferencing platform for the first time.

Why should this be so? Well, there are many elements that need to come together on the fly in real time before anything can happen.

  • Do I have the appropriate mobile app, downloaded .exe file, or WebRTC browser?
  • Does my device or computer have a microphone/speaker/camera?
  • Is the correct microphone/speaker/camera selected, usable, and unblocked?
  • Do I have a good enough Internet connection?
  • Can I connect to the conferencing platform?
  • Can I see/be seen and hear/be heard?

I’ve seen telehealth visits that wasted so much time in starting up that it would have been better for the patient to drive to the doctor’s office. I’ve seen embarrassing situations where a participant can’t hear the others but everything they’re saying, unbeknownst to them as they struggle to get connected, is being heard by everyone else.

At Radish Systems we take a different approach. Of the billions and billions of calls made every day, many involve just two people. Think of the calls you make to businesses or organizations to get information or support, resolve a billing issue, ask a question, or get medical assistance.

You should be able to pickup the phone, dial a normal number, and reach the other party anywhere in the world. We can all do that. Then Radish joins a secure, temporary data session to the phone call to make it better than just a voice-only call — without going all the way to a video call. There are huge advantages in this approach, which we call ChoiceView®.

  • ChoiceView starts with the familiarity of a phone call. It is, in fact, a phone call, not a pre-arranged conference.
  • It doesn’t need a mobile app, so it works with first-time callers.
  • It works with smartphones as well as any phone and separate computer or tablet.
  • It preserves voice quality without needing a broadband connection.
  • It’s inherently compatible with phones and business phone systems.
  • It works with automated systems (COVID hotlines, bots, and Interactive Voice Response systems) as well as live agents, including doctors, help desk personnel, and contact centers.
  • Since a phone call is established before the data session is joined, it’s an inherently secure way to vet the caller.

Checkout what we’re doing at Radish and see how ChoiceView is dramatically and easily enhancing customer engagement. “Now I see what you’re talking about!”™.

ChoiceView Fills a Telehealth Gap

In the era of COVID-19, doctors and patients are increasingly using remote communications out of necessity. At the same time, changes have been made to accelerate use of telehealth, eliminate usage restrictions, and expand services eligible for reimbursement. The net effect is that telehealth is taking on greater importance in serving patients.

But what does telehealth mean in this context? The answer is somewhat surprising as shown in the following chart for medical visits (mountain/family) in Colorado1.

Plain old telephone calls are about 3 times more likely to be used for telehealth compared to video conferencing solutions. There are many reasons, including the ubiquity of phone service, the familiarity and comfort level of using a phone, and the ease of dialing a number to reach a person.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the next step up in telehealth is video conferencing, which requires an app, a broadband connection, a speaker, a microphone, and some computer skills. It can also be fatiguing2.

But there’s a new approach for telehealth that fills the gap between an ordinary phone call and a video teleconference. That approach is ChoiceView®.

ChoiceView adds a visual dimension to regular phone calls. It turns voice-only calls into multimedia sessions that include voice, visuals, and touch — all while maintaining compatibility with regular phone calls and business phone systems. It allows users to understand up to 6X better than voice only. ChoiceView has been called “a revolutionary technology that will have great impact on telehealth and other use cases!” See how it works. Learn more.

ChoiceView Advantages

  • ChoiceView starts with the familiarity of a phone call. It is, in fact, a phone call, not a pre-arranged conference.
  • It doesn’t need a mobile app, so it works with first-time callers.
  • It works with smartphones as well as any phone and separate computer or tablet.
  • It preserves voice quality without needing a broadband connection.
  • It’s inherently compatible with phones and business phone systems.
  • It works with automated systems (COVID hotlines, bots, and Interactive Voice Response systems) as well as live agents, including doctors, help desk personnel, and contact centers.

Check out the ChoiceView solution. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how simple it is to deploy and use. ChoiceView is dramatically and easily enhancing patient engagement. “Now I see what you’re talking about!”™

1. “Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Colorado Department of Health Care, Tracy Johnson, May 15, 2020.
2. “Why Zoom Is Terrible,” Kate Murphy, New York Times, April 19, 2020. Continue reading

How to Build a Talking Website

It’s easy to build a talking website with Amazon Connect. But why would you want to do that?

The answer is that voice is the new browser. It’s easier, faster, more efficient, and less threatening than the traditional way.

Many websites are so dense with information that it’s like asking a user to read and search an encyclopedia. Voice browsing can help, but it’s not just for navigation. The visual aspect combined with voice makes it much more effective than one-dimensional bots that can only interact by voice or chat.

How It Works

Users call up a website on their phone and navigate the site by voice. It’s a regular phone call with normal dialing. The phone call stays up while users speak to the website, listen to the website, and see web pages delivered in their browser. As part of the navigation, the voice call can be transferred to any other phone destination — including a live person — depending on the circumstances.

Putting the Pieces Together

All the building blocks are already available in Amazon Connect. Amazon Lex and Polly provide the speech processing. The ChoiceView Lambda function visually delivers the web pages. Amazon estimates that developers already familiar with Amazon Connect can get up and running with ChoiceView in 5 minutes. ChoiceView runs in the AWS cloud and is inherently compatible with phone calls, business phone systems, contact centers, and voice platforms like Amazon Connect.

User Interface Wish List

  • A regular phone call should be the basic access mechanism. A phone call is familiar to everyone and doesn’t require setup or training.
  • No mobile app should be required. There should be no barriers for calling a website.
  • Web pages should be displayed in a browser for backward compatibility with traditional websites.
  • Access should be available via a smartphone or via a computer with any phone.
  • Users should be able to start first with a phone call or start first at a website.

ChoiceView checks all the boxes.

Learn more about ChoiceView products and see how ChoiceView is dramatically and easily enhancing customer engagement. For a limited time, we’re providing free use of ChoiceView for Amazon Connect. “Now I see what you’re talking about!”™

Dr. Richard A. Davis, CTO

ChoiceView Hotlines Visually Interact!

In times of social isolation, it’s imperative that communications be clear and accurate. Personal assistance is more important than ever. Voice-only phone calls can be difficult to understand, confusing, and frustrating.

ChoiceView® is ideally suited for COVID-19 hotlines and other telehealth services where visual materials — including forms to fill out and buttons for approval — need to be shared with patients during a phone call. Hotlines come in two arrangements: answered by an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system or answered by a person. ChoiceView addresses both cases by delivering visual materials to callers as part of the regular phone call. The result is improved efficiency and information comprehension. ChoiceView allows users to understand up to 6X better than voice only. It’s been called “a revolutionary technology that will have great impact on telehealth and other use cases!”

A phone call is familiar to everyone and doesn’t require setup or training. Most COVID-19 hotlines, for example, are accessed by a regular phone call. ChoiceView starts with the familiarity of a phone call and adds a visual dimension. It fills the gap between a basic phone call and a video teleconference. It doesn’t need a mobile app, so it works with first-time callers. It preserves voice quality without needing a high-bandwidth connection. It’s inherently compatible with business phone systems and voice platforms such as Amazon Connect, Twilio, Bandwidth, and Avaya.

ChoiceView Agent is the app used by doctors, hotline staff, and help desk personnel. It’s a pure web app that runs in a browser. There’s nothing to install and no system integration required. The ChoiceView Agent dashboard is preloaded with a visual library for the designated use case — for example, COVID-19 instructions and charts. It allows virtually any visual information available on the sender’s screen to be shared with the caller by click, drag-and-drop, or copy-and-paste. The caller sees the results and can save them for later, all while talking on the same phone call without using a mobile app.

ChoiceView Visual IVRs solve the problem of trying to convey complex COVID-19 information to users by voice ony. With ChoiceView, a generic phone call to an IVR can now include visual menus and visual responses in addition to voice prompts. Radish provides such visual IVRs in its product line. Alternatively, companies themselves can build ChoiceView directly into their own IVRs using the ChoiceView REST API. In the case of Amazon Connect, the ChoiceView REST API is packaged as a ChoiceView Lambda function, allowing developers to easily add ChoiceView visual capabilities through Amazon’s contact flow editor. Amazon estimates that developers already familiar with Amazon Connect can get up and running with ChoiceView in 5 minutes.

See how it works. This example illustrates a ChoiceView Virtual Agent answering the call with subsequent transfer to a nurse. A patient can also reach a nurse directly.

Learn more about ChoiceView products for hotlines and see how ChoiceView is dramatically and easily enhancing customer engagement. “Now I see what you’re talking about!”™

Dr. Richard A. Davis, CTO