The Ghost of Thomas Edison

The Township of Edison, New Jersey recently provided a poignant example in how not to practice voting by telephone.

It seems an Edison Township Council member was away at a boy scout camp when an ordinance authorizing the lease of almost 30 police cars came before the Council for a vote. The Council member in question attempted to participate in the vote via speaker phone. After other Council members expressed frustration over the poor sound quality (and also questioned the legality of participating in a vote of Council by remote means), the action was tabled for a future meeting.

There is some hidden irony in this incident — audio quality is just one of many factors that can negatively impact perceptions of voice applications, or phone-based services. Edison, New Jersey takes its name from the famous inventor Thomas Alva Edison, who resided in Menlo Park during the late 1800’s. During his time there, Edison invented the first device to record spoken audio — the phonograph. Edison was also instrumental in making critical improvements to the telephone to improve sound quality.

Seems Edison, New Jersey should aspire to be more like its famous namesake and focus on better sound quality. I’ll volunteer my services should they decide to ever deploy a VoiceXML application. 😉