Crick Waters is an easy man to get ahold of. Vice president of strategy and business development for Mountain View, CA, startup company Ribbit, Waters can make all his phones ring at once, be they landline, Internet based, or cellular. Answering one phone will make the others calm, as Ribbit’s SmartSwitch technology notifies each device that the call has been picked up. Waters plans to release Ribbit to the general public early this year, offering consumers flexible phone numbers that will work smoothly with multiple devices, and allowing developers to build features that work with all three types of phone.
“There’s nothing more powerful than actually seeing a telephone call come in that you can answer on Google Talk, you can answer on Skype, you can answer on an iPhone, or in a Web page,” he says.
CEO Ted Griggs says that Ribbit will make it easier to stay in touch: a user can specify how she wants to be contacted through Ribbit, and she can choose to have calls routed to all of her devices so that she never misses a call. (A Ribbit user can place a call to any type of telephony device, whether or not the recipient uses Ribbit, so long as she has contact info.) Ribbit also makes it easier for a user to take advantage of stand-alone phone features, such as a service that allows him to check voice mail through a Web page, by providing developers with a means for building new features that work with other popular offerings, and with various devices.
The software behind Ribbit is modeled after the design of carrier-grade switches that currently handle “the last mile” of phone service, explains Griggs. Rather than routing calls between networks, phone companies use these types of switches to deliver calls to residential and business phones and turn on features for them. Ribbit’s software was built to communicate with traditional phones, mobile phones, and a variety of voice over Internet protocols (VoIPs). Like the switches after which it is modeled, Ribbit’s software, says Griggs, has capability for 911 calls, is robust enough to survive damage to some individual elements, and can be enabled with common features such as call forwarding and call waiting.
In addition, Griggs says, the company added integration with Adobe Flash, meaning that Ribbit makes it possible for phones to run inside browsers like other Flash media, such as video games and movies. “We’re not the first ones to put telephony on the computer,” Waters says, “but every time it’s been done, you always have to download and install an application … We wanted to set up our service so it would work with every computer with no download, no install, through firewalls. The one audio service in the world that already does that is Flash.”