Very soon a new service will be offered by Google to the public. It may happen today, they are being quite cagey about the details. For those of us who found the service a while ago–then called Grand Central–it’s been a novel experiment.
What is Google Voice? It’s a master, permanent, life-time phone number. You give out one phone number and then whenever you change phones, service providers, or jobs your number follows you. How do they do this?
While the technology behind it might be complicated, it’s easy for the users. You just tell Google Voice what phone numbers you want your master phone number to roll over to and it handles it. This is not so different than many people’s work environment where the PBX can forward one extension to another. But this is any number, anywhere.
This alone would be a nice service. I can think of our own students. It’s a time in your life where you are moving around. Your connectivity is in constant flux. You might have a brief internship or go overseas. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could contact you at any time without updating them on your new number?
But Grand Central turned Google Voice goes further. It takes advantage of this routing from one number to another to offer a set of innovative services.
- You can screen your calls. Not only can you get caller ID, but if you let the call go through to Voicemail you can listen while the caller leaves the message and break in, just like you can at home with your answering machine.
- You can select, based on caller ID to forward different calls to different phones. Since you probably have more than one physical phone in your life, you can have calls from business clients forwarded to your desk phone, calls from your mother go to your home phone and calls from your sweetheart to your cell phone.
You can even have all calls with NO ID or no ID in your contacts like go directly to voicemail! Never be bothered with unsolicited calls again!
- The voicemail feature supports speach to text. While such technologies are at times skittish, you can get the gist of a voicemail via email, the web interface or SMS. Again, this puts you back in charge of your interruptions.
- SMS is also supported for generall messaging and routing!
- Something sure to bother some folks and make others very happy? You can record phone calls with a touch of a button even in the middle of a call. No more need to take down someone’s phone number, just record for a few seconds while they say it.
- Switch phones in the middle of a call. Your cell phone running out of battery? Pick up your home phone and join the call. You can put someone on hold on your home phone and then pick it up once your on the road!
- Nobody ever knows any of your real phone numbers. Only your Google Voice number. The home phone never rings again, except for who you want and when you want. You can select hours of operation.
- I’ll wrap up with an additional fun feature. Since this is all online you can put a web-widget on your site to allow people to call you via their computer. Instant Skype, no software to install, no fees to pay. Receive calls for free.
I think that’s plenty of material for the hype-machine.