Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Exercising my Bragging Rights

I wanted to thank all my friends and the people I have never met for voting my invention/idea about a simple way of "Increasing Effective Capacity of Highways" to the the first place and helping me win.

I am now officially the #1 winner of the popular vote at the “Create the Future design contest for 2010” that was conducted by “Tech Briefs Media Group”.

I even received a symbolic prize, which is a 3D Mouse.

You can see the top 10 winners list here:

Tech Briefs Media Group is the home of few respectable industry magazines such as:


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My latest ISSUED Patent – Conferencing Bridge on steroids

By: Alon Cohen

I was just informed (by a marketing company none-the-less selling plucks) that my US Patent 7742587 filed (November 25 2002) was issued (June 22, 2010), i.e. accepted as an official patent by the US Patent office (USPTO) it only took 8!!! years - wow.

In spite the fact that I have no idea who this patent is assigned to those days, as it was sold repeatedly between different companies, I still keep to myself the bragging rights for the idea.

The concept is about providing a more sophisticated set of capabilities to a conferencing bridge. What we all know is a bridge is a place where all participants hear each other unless the moderator decides to mute everyone.

In my invention every participants has full control over what he/she can hear and control over about who might hear each participant. Sounds a bit hard to manage? True! It is even harder to grasp when implementing. However, this is just the underlying technology at the base of it. Where in fact it enables nifty features, that when combined with a nice user interface (even on a mobile device) become very powerful.

Here are some examples:

Imagine you are a sales person about to call a prospect to close a big deal, you know you have good potential to sell but this customer is highly technical. You do not want to have an engineer talk to your prospect, as you master the art of selling in ways your engineer will never understand. So what do you do? How do you make that work?

You call your bridge and have the bridge call your prospect (yes you can do that), then you call the in the engineer in the group and enter team consultation mode. The Eng. can hear the prospect you hear both and the prospect only hears you the closing master. When the prospect comes up with a hard technical question about “MPLS convergence time”, your engineer gives you the answer and you look like the best sales person in the world. If you need a finance person to back you up on discount you can add that he/she to your group of consultants in the same way, where the group can talk among them without the prospect hearing a thing besides you. Deal closed you nailed another prospect.

Or say when you are in a board meeting conference call and you need your lawyer as personal consultant, so that the lawyer hears everyone but when he talks it is only to you. (Would you rather pay that lawyer to come sit with you or would you rather call him when you need him?)

Now imagine that any of the participants can invoke all those different modes any time, all at the same time, all using any phone or cell phone. The complexities of the technology dealing with managing privacy, managing echoes, suppressing DTMF tones, all implemented in software only, is just few steps above what is implemented today in the most complex bridges out there.

One of the uses I had envisioned at the time was an always-on scenario. A distributed team that collaborates on a time-critical project has the phone open day on and while they can still use the phone to receive and make new calls. The bridge keeps the private calls in private and can keep the conference at low volume in the back so that participants can jump in to the session when needed ask a quick question and progress fast in what they need to do to finish the task.

It is like bringing all the people into a war-room but enabling them to consult with one another on the side. Enabling participants to bring in new people to consult with. Get status calls from the field and decide if to share the callers with the team or not, step out and call home and perform any audio related communication task you can think of that they could have done had they been at the same room while in this case, they are in fact, located far from one another.

Think of it as windows operation system for audio. You can have windows at the back at low volume and main conversation at the front. The technology extends further to situations where the participants are using different audio Codecs, and still each enjoy the best quality and not the lowest common denominator due to the fact that each has in a sense its own mixing element in the bridge controlled by the participant to mix what that specific participant wants (even set individual volumes).

At the same time, each participant can control where his own audio will feed into, to enable privacy. All that controlled by high level features that manage and hide the complexity with a small set of commands delivered via DTMF, a web interface or even a mobile device.

Moreover, it can also do a normal conference call, and you will not know the difference.

It is tough concept to sell, but much fun to use. What made it all possible was a group of dedicated engineers product managers and other team players that actually made it work. What killed it were mostly the economy downturn of the first internet bubble and a one short sighted VC, who did not think a proposal from Nortel to include the technology in every office PBX, was worth the time to write a non-binding letter affirming their intentions to back the company up going on. In addition, the deal did not fit the VC hidden agenda to control bigger portions of the company (how can you take bigger portions if the company can hold its own?). Oh well. The nice thing is that the technology survived, moving on from one company to another, merged into the video conferencing space, and moved on with one dedicated very talented programmer Mr. Igor who was hired along with the patent and IP to make it work in new environments.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

SMS on Steroids

By: Alon Cohen

I am sure any one of us at some point or another tried coordinating a dinner or movie with few friends. Using e-mail it is relatively simple, you send a note to a group of people and hope that everyone will use “reply –all” and that the meeting time and place will converge.

However, in this day and age, kids want to do the same using SMS. Normally you can send messages to few people at once but the concept of “reply-all” has not made it yet to SMS specifically since SMS has a “from” field of only one caller ID.

The team at decided that there is a way around it and concocted this unpublished unnamed tool that does just that and still is in alpha.

The tool enables you to create an SMS Conference (few to few) with a group where each participant can choose to see accept messages from all the others and can respond to all. The nice thing is that you do not need a special smart phone, it is wad made so cleverly that any SMS device will work. In addition, it is free.

Here is how to use it at your own risk:

To initiate a bridge you need to text to 1-973-577-6378 a list of numbers and corresponding names:

Number 1 Name1 Number2 Name2 …..(and so on)

Use this EXACT format for the phone numbers: 1xxxyyyzzzz

Use one name for each person (with no spaces in the name)

The bridge will respond on with different caller ID that will be your bridge number that you can name and keep in your address book.

Participants will have to accept a request to join before receiving any messages from the bridge.

Once on the bridge you can send “help”, to find out about few more options like how to add or remove people, how to mute people and some other fun features.

Please try it but know this: it is addictive, specifically for family members with teenagers, for students on vacation that want to keep contact and arrange parties or a movie time.

It is not that easy to start, and I know may fix it if people will ask.

It is not twitter, as the messages are not public, it is more like a mobile chat room but different in the sense that any phone can use that without any application download.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our economy needs your help – here is how!

By: Alon Cohen
Whenever someone has an idea, of any sort, which is any good, the most important thing is to socialize that idea with people that can help make that happen – well unless you can do it yourself. Some ideas obviously require capital, and the more socialized they are, the higher the chance that they will be funded and see the light of day. Sometimes and more often than we want, they will just see the light.
One way to socialize ideas is to enter them into an invention contest and even better win. I usually make a point to submit a provisional patent just in case someone wants this really bad, and in case nothing happens, at least I know I created some prior art so everybody will be able to use the idea for the good of others without paying anyone else royalties.
This time I am looking at an idea that I came up with many years ago, to reduce traffic jams. The US and world economy is, as we all know, impeded by the slowness of traffic during rush hours. Reducing the traffic jams problem, on existing roads, without building major new roads can have a dramatic improvement on many aspects of our lives. It can give us the time the economy needs to recuperate.
You can read all about that simple $10 per car concept, here on the competition page of the Tech Briefs site, and see other interesting ideas as well.
The idea is to try and convert regular highly "elastic" and slow line of traffic to a more rigid almost train like line of train cars without giving up control of the car (which is expensive) and by using only our basic normal driving psychology and this low cost idea of a device.
If you want to help me win, and I ask that you do, please register to the site and vote. Every vote counts.
See this video to get more understanding of what this concept is trying to solve, and understand that by dissolving the Phantom Jams as this video names them we can make a difference.


Thursday, June 10, 2010, two new products that I like

Dear friends, listens to customers and constantly improve the user experience by adding new convenient services. It is the truth regardless of the fact that I work there.

Today introduce two new Mobile Phone Apps: - Mobile Office (fo Android) and - Mobile VoIP (for iPhone) Mobile Office is my favorite, it is available for all Android phone users. It can be downloaded free of charge directly from the
Android Market. Calls can then be placed from your cell phone but using your phone number.

You do not need to dial differently or do anything different with the phone i.e. seamless integration.

It is easy to miss how important and how powerful that feature is for your personal productivity and lifestyle. You no longer have to tell people your cell phone number. This is huge, not because you keep your privacy and really keep the cell phone number for emergencies, but because you now get back control over your life. You can block unwanted calls forever, this is by itself something I learned to appreciate just lately as I have started blocking calls on my Home Phone which is also part of the same Virtual Office system.

Another feature which I like in the - Mobile Office, is that you can do the same trick spoken above with SMS. Yes, you can send SMS from your phone without showing your cell phone caller ID. And surprise surprise, you can even be text back on the same number which is again your office number.

Among all that Mobile Office also gives easy access to your transcribed voicemail messages, Faxes and SMS messages with the click of a button.

And your own conference bridge accessible with one click.

I am now completely torn. I do not like Apple that much (too arrogant of a company for me, reminding me of Microsoft when they were on the top), but, I have to admit I like the iPhone so far (almost perfect UI even compared to the new Android phones). On the other hand I like the Android approach and the openness. After all, making the same level of application as the - Mobile office on the iPhone with seamless integration to all the phone operations (as in the android) is just impossible on the iPhone.

One thing to note is that the Mobile Office app is not a VoIP application it uses your mobile minutes as if you made a regular call but it can sure save you on international dialing. It does enjoy all the new power of VoIP back-end.

The app supports all services, Virtual Office, Virtual Number and even your Home Phone Plus service.

The second Mobile app that came out today is for iPhone it is called - Mobile VoIP - Mobile VoIP allows you to place calls from the iPhone using your phone number as your caller ID. Now available at no cost from the iPhone app store
the Mobile VoIP app is available to any Virtual Office customer. Simply add an iPhone Extension within your account, and bypass the use of your mobile minutes (data minutes will apply when using a 3G connection).

This is good when you travel, imagine making international calls from your Wifi connection in your hotel in Panama. I have done it and I can not tell you how much I saved. How about 4Cent a minute for a call from Panama to the US instead of $1.5 per minute. Simply unimaginable savings.
The nice thing is that it also work in 3G so you can mask your cell caller ID wherever you are.
Since it is an extension of your Virtual Office you can use your number to make calls where you want to hide your Cell phone number. You can even receive calls to your number even if the app is not running since you can make the Virtual Office call your cell as well as your iPhone extension. So all in all a different but also a very powerful tool by itself and it even works on the iPad.
However the app can not stay running in the background even with the new iPhone OS since apple is still not a real multitasking OS. The future will show if - Mobile VoIP applications and other like it will be able to have Apple change, but I doubt it will be the case.
Ohh, the app is free to download but will cost you a whooping one time fee of $3.88 :), for the creation of the iPhone extension on your virtual office account. True value in my book.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Inside the Studio with TMC

Alon Cohen, EVP and CTO of speaks with Rich Tehrani, CEO of TMC