Reading about the launch of Tello, a software application aimed at the idea of “presence” — in other words, helping people figure out where you are and then helping them reach you with the appropriate phone or other device — reminded me that I wanted to blog about a chat I recently had with one of the co-founders of another “presence” company, Ottawa-based Iotum. I’m planning to write more about the company for globeandmail.com, but here’s a taste.
Howard Thaw, a serial entrepeneur who started the company with former Microsoftie Alec Saunders (one of a small group of CEOs who blog), told me a bit about the company and its solution, which Iotum calls a “relevance engine.” Essentially, it is a kind of personal assistant that learns through heuristics, which Howard knows well from a previous venture, Thunderbyte anti-virus software. In effect, it is designed to learn what phone calls or voice messages or IM pings or VOIP calls to put through to where, based on your past behaviour and a set of rules it develops.
Iotum has just recently come out of “stealth” mode, and has been selected to present at the DEMO conference in February, a fairly exclusive conference run by Chris Shipley and aimed primarily at startups and early-stage venture capital. As Howard described it, the API for the Iotum engine will be open for developers to add functionality, and so that other companies and applications can “plug in” to the software and add features — something Alec says would apply to a product such as Tello. Coincidentally enough (or not), VOIP pioneer Jeff Pulver, who is one of the founders of Tello along with John Sculley of IBM and Apple fame, is on the Iotum board of advisors.
Will such “presence”-oriented apps catch on with a time-pressed and increasingly fragmented consumer? Mike at TechDirt remains skeptical, as do VOIP blogger Tom Keating, Oliver over at MobileCrunch and Stowe Boyd, but Iotum and Tello — and some high-profile finance types, in the latter case — are banking on it.
Andy Abramson has a nice overview post in which he discuss Tello and Iotum (whom he works for as a communications consultant).