Developers used to struggle to build communications applications. Before the arrival of communications platforms-as-a-service (CPaaS) solutions, they not only had to enter code line-by-line, but also had to make individual arrangements to support telcos in each country where their apps were available. But now, CPaaS solutions backed by direct access to an outbound network of more than a thousand direct-to-carrier and tier-one connections enable developers to build disruptive technologies much more easily.
With prebuilt code and APIs that hook directly into the global telecom infrastructure, developers can focus much less on the minutiae of programming and are freer to dream of the next new thing to disrupt existing industries.
These innovative solutions have led to some of the most iconic brands—Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber, to name a few—that depend on their direct programmatic access to the global telecom infrastructure in order to provide the contextual customer experiences that have forever changed the way people around the world live their lives.
Enabling Developers to Build Secure, Private Communications
Now heading into its second full decade, the API economy has turned the communication industry on its head. CPaaS solutions and the associated API platforms have usurped the carrier’s place to terminate phone calls and SMS messages. On the other hand, communications apps have driven demand for data through the roof. In part, developers have been able to make this happen by building secure, private communications into their apps that can match the protection offered by legacy telephone networks.
For example, Airbnb has revolutionized the hospitality industry by allowing homeowners to list their available rooms on the app and get direct inquiries from potential renters without having to post their residential or mobile phone numbers. And the prospective renter doesn’t need to reveal their number to the owner, either.
Instead, developers used virtual phone numbers integrated with the Airbnb app to connect renters and owners. These virtual numbers act as substitutes for the real numbers, protecting the privacy of both the renter and the owner. Thus, the hospitality industry has seen significant disruption from Airbnb and its app, all thanks to the work of developers.
CPaaS Solutions Let Developers Create Ride-Hailing Apps
In locations around the world, developers have been able to leverage CPaaS to build ride-hailing applications very similar to Uber, the leading brand in the industry. In fact, by leveraging APIs for SMS, geocoding, natural language processing, and virtual numbers, they have been able to build conversational chatbot applications that can directly access the telecom infrastructure to process unstructured data such as a text-based ride request with a street location—for example, “Pick me up at the corner of Howard and 2nd”—and turn it into a book-a-ride command. This is done using the native texting application on the user’s phone and can then be relayed to an established ride-hailing service.
This type of demonstration has been field-tested in the United States, but it should work anywhere in the world, if the developer works with a CPaaS provider that has access to international numbers. And a development platform integrated with a nationwide carrier that has global connections can help developers build disruptive technologies faster and at less cost while also being more economical to operate.
For example, using messaging capabilities, an Uber driver can send a text message—costing only one or two cents—to the passenger, securing the ride for the driver. Uber has proven so disruptive to the taxi industry that during a recent three-year period, cab rides fell by nearly 30 percent in Los Angeles, with cab driver incomes falling as much as 50 percent in some cases, as reported by Fortune.
A Developer’s Personal Innovation Lifts Brand Value
No greater testament could be paid to the brand value of these web 2.0 technologies than that of a developer leveraging it for their personal use. Just such a situation occurred recently when a group of student developers were competing at a hackathon.
One of the primary members of the team was running late for the competition, so she decided to summon a Lyft ride. Unfortunately, she didn’t have enough network connectivity to make the data exchange with the app.
This inspired her and the team to develop a voice-based application that is accessed with a phone call to book a ride through the Lyft application. Calling a toll-free number, the rider simply states the street name and building number to a chatbot that parses the spoken information and communicates with the Lyft app to complete the transaction. And while this functioned well in a sandbox environment, the team hopes to soon operate the functionality with only the toll-free number and no Lyft app interaction.
CpaaS solutions are an area where developer ambition seemingly knows no limits, and there’s always a new project just begging for innovation.