CT Everywhere!


The "C" in "CT" stands for "computer" in its broadest sense. Think of it as any device using "computer technology". While this set of devices certainly includes traditional mainframes and minicomputers, as well as your own personal computer, it also includes many others. For example, personal digital assistants (PDAs) are small, handheld devices that generally have much less power than traditional computers and a more limited set of uses. But as personalized information appliances, PDAs are very important when it comes to telephony integration. Similarly, a whole new generation of intelligent, programmable consumer electronics products will transform everyday devices such as VCRs, TVs, watches, games, etc., into what we consider to be "computers" for purposes of CT.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the diversity of computing devices continues to grow as computer technology become more pervasive and more specialized. Not so long ago it was thought that the world of personal computing revolved around one or two popular operating systems. The reality is that as innovative new devices are built for everything from automobile navigation to home entertainment, personalized computing devices become more and more diverse. Many don't even have operating systems in the traditional sense.


The telephone network is the largest and single most important network in the world. Virtually any human being on the planet is able to interact with any other through the telephone network and it acts as the interconnection between, most other networks in the world. In fact, there are very few people, fax machines, computers or data networks in the world that cannot be reached through the worldwide telephone network. Despite the high levels of acceptance for various other forms of information technology, including consumer electronics products and personal computers, the telephone (in all of its forms) remains the only communication device that can be considered ubiquitous.

Computer Telephony

CT provides an alternative means of accessing the power of telephony technology. Computers are empowering because they allow people to extend their reach, and they can take on time-consuming and non-creative tasks. Computer technology allows for tremendous customization and personalization. You can have a user interface and work environment that is optimized for your needs. CT gives you full access to the power of the telephony technology you need in the form that is best for you. A computer working on your behalf becomes your assistant. Using CT technology, your computer can screen calls, handle routine requests for information without your intervention, and interact with callers in your absence.

The following examples illustrate how computer technology amplifies the power of telephony and makes it more accessible.

  • At a pay phone:
    To place a call you simply point your PDA or laptop computer at the IR port on the pay phone and click on a person's name. Your computer takes care of finding the right phone number (home, office, car, etc.), requests your prefered long distance carrier, provides the correct credit card information, and dials the number. In fact, if you'll be there a while, you can have certain calls rerouted from your office number to the pay phone, which would in turn alert you with information about each incoming call.
  • In your living room:
    You're in the living room watching TV and you remember that you have to talk to a colleague (who is traveling on the other side of the world) before he leaves his hotel. You wait for the next commercial break and then, with your TV's remote control, you pop up your personal directory as a picture-in-picture on your TV set and select your colleague's name. The TV then displays a set of locations, including the hotel where he is staying. You select the hotel and indicate you want to dial the number. The appropriate number is dialed automatically (using the cheapest available carrier); your TV then acts as a speaker phone, allowing you to converse with your colleague without leaving your seat. When the call completes, you return to your TV program. Information about the call is logged to your home finance package as an expensible item.
  • While telecommuting:
    Your home personal computer has a remote connection to the local area network at your office, allowing you to monitor your telephone. If an important call comes through, your computer notifies you so you can decide whether you want it to go to voice mail or be redirected to your home telephone. Using Internet telephony, you can take the call even if your phone line is busy. In fact, the system works so well that even the call center agents in your company, who spend their whole day handling customer telephone calls, are able to work from home.
  • At the office:
    Your desktop personal computer has taken the place of your secretary. Using CT technology, it screens every call that comes in. If you're busy, you aren't disturbed. If the call is best handled by someone else, it is redirected without your intervention. When you need to get hold of someone, your personal computer will keep trying until the person is reached; only then does it connect you to the call, so you aren't tied up doing the redialing yourself.
  • In the school:
    The school has an Internet telephony gateway and each of the computers in the classrooms and the library are equipped with speaker phone applications. These allow groups of children to sit around computers and place telephone calls to resource people in the community, as well as children at other schools. The school doesn't need a high-speed connection to the Internet because most calls are placed using one of the phone lines the school already has. The school's electronic bulletin board on the Internet, which lists homework assignments and lunch menus, is available not only to parents who have computers at home, but also those who want to dial in from any touchtone telephone.
  • In a meeting:
    You are expecting an important call but you must attend an equally important meeting. You have no secretary and cannot forward all of your telephone calls to the meeting room because it would be too disruptive. With CT, your personal computer checks the origin of each call and identifies the important call when it arrives. Rather than simply taking voice mail, it tells your caller that it will try to track you down. It then sends a notification to the wireless PDA (personal digital assistant) you are carrying. This notification tells you who called and informs you that the caller is holding. You can respond by instructing your computer to take a message, hold the call while you return to your desk, or transfer the call to a nearby telephone. The others in the meeting are not even aware that you are having this wireless dialog with your desktop computer.

The Promise of CT Technology

The motivation behind CT is customization and control. The real significance of integrating computer technology with telephony is the opportunity to tie any form of intelligent appliance, whether it be a mainframe computer, personal computer, or other personal information appliance, into the telephone system in order to create a customized, and preferably personalized, communications environment.

The ultimate promise of information technology is that it empowers people to collaborate with one another more effectively and with greater ease. Since the invention of the telephone over a century ago (in 1876), telephony technology has evolved tremendously. Innovation was fast and furious in the earliest days after Alexander Graham Bell's invention; it took less than two years to commercialize the technology. To this day the pace has not slowed. While modern computer technology is a much more recent invention, its history has been just as fast-paced. The key is their ability to improve the ways people communicate and collaborate, because these activities are at the heart of all human endeavor.

© Copyright 1996-2004
For more information, contact
Michael Bayer at Computer Telephony Solutions