Opinions — 21 August 2014

One of the key changes taking place with mobile business communications, is that, in addition to facilitating all modes of person-to-person contacts, it is also enabling real-time “push” notifications from communication services and automated business process applications (CEBP). Such notifications can take a variety of forms, depending on how things are set up for the user’s mobile device. The problem, however, is that contact recipients are rapidly becoming overwhelmed by such notification messages, which can be both disruptive and consume too much of the recipient’s valuable time. A recent article on making smartphones “smarter” can be found at:


Legacy telephony gave control for contact initiation to the caller, with little information about the callee’s availability or preferred alternatives for contact. The call recipient played a passive role and was subjected to disruptive calls unless their connection was already “busy” with another call. For “busy/no answer” situations, the caller ended up in “voice mail jail.” Now that mobile smartphones can handle all forms of contact, anywhere, any time, both contact initiators and recipients have greater UC flexibility in how they want to communicate.

When it comes to interacting with automated online applications or “mobile apps”, the mobile end user has control over contact initiation. Smartphones and tablets have opened the door to proactive notifications from automated business processes and communication services. The problem is that mobile users ability to handle various forms of contact will vary depending on both their availability, as well as their environmental situation. (Can they talk, can they hear, can they look, can they touch?)  However, when a business process or a service is the initiator of a notification, the mobile recipient needs to be able to control the mode of interaction they can us, but also be protected from manually dealing with unimportant or unwanted notifications. Just as online users get tons of emails they are not interested in, so too, will the mobile user be deluged with notifications about such such unwanted contacts. The challenge, then, is how to easily and efficiently control and dynamically manage “notification” screening for mobile recipients.

“Contextual” Contact Screening

My email system screens out any email form senders that are not in my address book, but puts them in a “Suspicious” message list, unless they are known spam or malware. In addition to such basic messaging protection, the mobile recipient should be able to “screen” incoming notifications of any kind, based upon recognition of the source of the notification, coupled with the recipient’s priority assignment for that source.

Back in the day of telephone answering services, we had the concept of an “expected caller” to allow such callers to be handled with priority for getting connected, rather make them leave a voice message. More recently, AVST, a provider of enterprise call processing and messaging systems and services, allows users of their Atom  Total Office Manager solution to dynamically “screen” incoming calls to be handled on an individual basis, without necessarily connecting the caller to the callee. These options include:

  • Letting the callee listen to the voice message being left by the caller with the option to connect immediately to the caller
  • Let the caller acknowledge the caller with a personalized recorded message for the caller to hear immediately

While these options are very useful for legacy phone calls, they are not enough for today’s mobile users  with multimodal smartphones and tablets who communicate in a variety of ways. With visual notifications from a business process or service, the primary function is to make the recipient aware of a situation that may or may not be a real-time contact (e.g., an incoming contact (voice, video, IM), or a message (SMS, email, voice/video message, social message). The real problem is that, regardless of whether the mode of contact is “real-time” or not, the recipient may no wish to accept the contact immediately or or ever.  So, the old concept of using “caller ID” for call screening needs to be extended to include the subject of the contact and to be applied to all forms of contact, not just voice calls.

While we still want the contact initiator, whether it is a person or an automated process, to select the mode of contact they want, the mobile recipient must still have the option to screen the contact for acceptance, and, if appropriate, switch the mode of conversation or message retrieval and response to one that their mobile circumstances require. So, I expect to see such capabilities being handled in the future by automated “Personal Assistants” that will minimize the need for the human recipient to manage these dynamic chores manually.

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