phone Archives - HighTechDad


Post image for Ooma VoIP Adds Innovative Feature to Assist in 911 Notifications

Today, I learned that Ooma, a VoIP company who I recently reviewed, has added a pretty interesting feature to their telephony service. In the past, there has always been a bit of a question around the reliability of 911 calls using a phone service that uses an Internet connection for it “digital dialtone”. Advances have been made and now most VoIP services include Enhanced 911 service; the “Enhanced” part means not only is the caller ID sent to emergency services, but also the full address associated with the caller’s phone number, and the call is routed to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point.


But Ooma’s announcement today is not around Enhanced 911, a service that they have long had, but around adding more value to their customers that do need to call 911. Starting today, you can now add up to 3 email addresses or text numbers to the “My Ooma” online control panel within the 911 section. These addresses or numbers are used to notify key people should 9-1-1 be dialed on the subscriber’s Ooma phone. The configured text numbers or email addresses will be notified automatically when 9-1-1 is called. This is in addition to the call made to emergency responders.


This service does require you to be on the Ooma Premier plan, something that I definitely recommended in my review. The plan costs $9.99/month and you can pre-pay for a year for an additional discount. Ooma does also offer a “free” service where the only cost that you pay is the tax on the line.

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I have been going to the MacWorld Expo for many years now and I’m really sad to see it losing much of its excitement. When Apple was there, showcasing new products and innovations, there was a vibrancy and energy. Ever since Apple pulled out of the Expo, I feel that it has been going downhill. Apple provided the weight to drive the show, and there were many large vendors who helped as well. With Apple nowhere to be seen, having moved most of their large announcements to their Developer Conference and press events, MacWorld 2011 to me seemed to be just another tradeshow.


But don’t get me wrong, there were a few diamonds in the rough that I saw at the show that peaked my interest and deserve a bit of mention. I only spent about 2 hours at the show and had to rush through many of the booths. There were plenty of interesting Mac-related or compatible products to be seen and here are a few that I felt should be mentioned.

Nuance (Dragon Dictation)

I spent a little bit of time with some of the folks from Nuance, a voice to text company (dramatically over simplified definition). Their technology is powering many software and even hardware devices that we have. If you are familiar with Siri (purchased by Apple), or Dragon Search or Dragon Dictation or even the Amazon voice-enable product search, you are using Nuance’s voice recognition technology. It’s very impressive. Nuance also has desktop software for Mac and PC that allows you to fully control your computer as well as dictate to transcription. I hope to take a closer look at Dragon Dictate in the future.

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There is a niche out there between the techno-savvy and technophobes. It’s a market where the members see the value in technology and gadgets but might not adopt it quickly or readily. They may have a computer or laptop but only use it periodically to pay bills, check news or weather or do email. If they have kids, their kids are probably much more into tech than they are.

So how do you sell technology to this niche? Not very easily. The problem is, they would probably like to spend their money and time elsewhere than with a gadget. The reason I bring this subject up is because I think AT&T’s HomeManager might be a product that falls into this Bermuda Triangle of technology positioning.

Don’t get me wrong though, the concept behind the HomeManager is really great (and the $99 special price point – originally it cost $299.99 – isn’t bad either – note there are some qualifications you must meet in order to get that price).  The HomeManager is essentially a wireless touch screen tablet that has core “family useful” functionality but is basically limited to a pre-defined set of functionality. In my opinion, AT&T has a bit of a slippery slope to climb in order to make the product truly attractive to a wider audience than simply the niche described above. My family, obviously bolstered by an incredible amount of tech, easily integrated it into our gadget mix. Even my 10 year old daughter uses the HomeManager to quickly check weather forecasts so that she knows what to wear that day. I use it for weather, sports and quickly scanning the visual voicemail. I’m trying to train my wife on using it to check local movie theater playtimes. The problem is, much of this information is already available to us on a variety of other devices (e.g., laptops and cell phones or on TV).

But what about those families who don’t have as many connected devices as we do? Well, the HomeManager might play well there as well as, potentially with “seasoned” citizen households (assuming a tech-savvy family member or friend can help them set it up). Target market aside, let’s dive into what the HomeManager is and does.

About the HomeManager

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I must say, I had been waiting for the iPhone to support A2DP for a while. When it finally rolled out, I was excited but I didn’t have a set of headphones with which to test it. I just hadn’t made the plunge to buy a set. The promise of having stereo audio from my iPhone, all via a Bluetooth connection was stupendous. I was simply tired of untangling my traditional headphones each and every time I took them out of my pocket. And, the ability to just have no cords whatsoever, was great.

The folks at Altec Lansing‘s PR firm really came to my rescue by sending me a pair of BackBeat 903s which, via Bluetooth, handle both my iPhone’s music playback but also phone calls as well, all packaged in a ruggedly designed headset. Below is a quick video review of the BackBeats after which you can see the rest of my review:

If you are looking for a Bluetooth headset and you have ensured that your phone handles A2DP (which stands for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) and AVRCP (to control the playback with your headphones – Audio/Video Remote Control Profile), then you probably should put the BackBeats on the list of headsets to test out. They are relatively light weight, very functional, produce good balanced sound and are reasonably priced.


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