Idaho 511

It looks like the State of Idaho is the latest state to implement a 511 traveler information service. Not a lot of information available on the technology used, but the system appears to accept both voice and DTMF input. It also appears that Idaho is partnering with other states in reserving phone lines for the system, to help spread the cost.

Idaho is the 24th state to implement a 511 system.

Click to Call

It appears that Google has begun testing a new click-to-call advertising service – check out the story at CNET News.com. The new service will allow web searchers to click an icon to initiate a phone call with an advertiser, presumably to ask more specific questions about their product or to order goods. It appears that some other tech heavyweights (i.e., Microsoft, IBM) are also pursuing click-to-call strategies.

It’s worth noting that…

[u]nlike voice over Internet Protocol, a technology that sends voice transmission over the Internet, this service appears to connect two parties over the regular phone lines. However, Google declined to provide more details, including the specifics of the technology employed.

A while back, I argued that the developing trend toward Voice over IM would have implications for governments. I think that as web surfers become more acclimated to using voice communications from their computer, and more specifically through an IM client, that they will desire to speak with public officials in this manner. It will be interesting to see if this trend plays out for click-to-call as well.

One can imagine elected officials allowing their constituents to click-to-call, or using it in conjunction with government agency websites that have detailed information about program eligibility. For example, click-to-call could be tied to government web sites explaining land use rules, eligibility for government programs, or tax questions. Citizens could get the information they need by reading the text on a web site, but if they had further questions, or needed more information they could click-to-call. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

By the way dear reader, if you haven’t noticed I now have my own click-to-call option enabled for this blog – I’m using the Skype plugin for WordPress developed by Anti Veeranna. Not a bad little plugin – don’t hesitate to give me a ring.

NYC 311 Getting Bigger

A while back, I posted some information on FCC-sanctioned abbreviated dialing designations (“N11″). One of the largest implementations of n11 – the City of New York’s 311 system – is about to get even bigger.

New York’s 311 system, which provides callers with government related information, will soon include information on social service programs administered by nonprofits. Read more in Government Technology Magazine.

What’s notable about this system, aside from the staggering number of calls it supports (an average of 43,000 calls per day), is that it reportedly uses no automation. All calls are fielded by human operators and translation services are provided in 170 different languages.

That’s not to say that 311 systems (like other n11 systems) don’t provide ample opportunity for automation and speech technologies. A number of governments use VoiceXML as the foundation for their n11 systems but what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.

Open standards like VoiceXML are a good fit in call centers of all types.