Zang Goes Global With Support of International Numbers

I’m excited to announce the addition of 57 new countries where the Zang platform is now available. With this expansion, Zang is now available to millions of new organizations and billions of new users from around the world who can add voice and SMS capabilities to their business processes, mobile and web applications as well as their services.

Hundreds of Zang-developed applications are in use today with dozens developed since Zang’s official launch in March. And with 71% of enterprises creating their own mobile apps, many businesses—small and large—are finding the extreme ease of use and utility of Zang a “must have” part of their application development strategies.

Since our official launch this spring, we’ve seen very creative applications and services built using the Zang platform, and that number is just going to grow with global availability. Some of the latest Zang-developed apps available in the Apple App Store today include:

We are thrilled to extend the Zang platform globally and work with organizations that desire to build and deploy communications apps for an endless number of potential use cases. For more information about Zang, visit www.zang.io

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Five magical facts about the NORAD Tracks Santa Program

Illustrating the true magic of Christmas, this will be the 61st consecutive year that eager and anxious little boys and girls call the NORAD hotline (1- 877-HI-NORAD) to pepper operators with vital questions covering everything from Santa’s arrival time, to the speed of his sleigh, to the amount of cookie weight he gains throughout the night.  

Last year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Program received a record number of calls, more than 141,000 over a 23-hour period, and the 1,500+ volunteers who will be manning the phones this Christmas Eve are expecting even more this holiday season.

While most of us have heard of this whimsical program by now, we know very little else other than the fact it makes us smile ear to ear. Therefore, in celebration of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program, here are five little-known facts about the initiative that has become a big holiday tradition for parents and children around the world:

1. It all started by accident!

NORAD Tracks Santa began more than 60 years ago with a simple typo. A Sears department store ad promoting a December 24th Santa hotline mistakenly listed the number of a top-secret phone line inside Continental Air Defense Command, a department in Colorado in charge of tracking airborne objects worldwide. Colonel Harry Shoup was on duty that night. Instead of telling the kids that they dialed the wrong number Shoup had his team “check the radar,” find Santa’s location and share the information with every child who called. Since then, thousands of volunteers and corporate contributors have helped NORAD keep the magic alive – turning the program into an enduring and beloved annual tradition. 

2. Secret files on Santa?

Ever wonder how Santa can travel the world in 24 hours? What goes into his cutting-edge sleigh? How does he get down chimneys? Curious kids sure do, and lucky for them, all the answers are posted on NORADSanta.org. According to the website, while Santa’s flying over the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with the bearded big man and his famous reindeer. While Santa of course flies faster than any jet fighter, NORAD confirms he slows down and waves during the escort.

3. Military-grade technology supports the Santa tracking

As you may or may not know, NORAD stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command, a military operation run jointly by the United States and Canada that conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in defense of the continent. Yeah, so serious stuff! But here’s the real amazing part – volunteers use Avaya Customer Engagement technology to respond to the thousands of kids calling the hotline. That’s the same technology used to support the important mission of the NORAD Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., and other U.S. government agencies serving the American people. As a result, it has been extensively tested by the Department of Defense Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) and is certified to be Santa-ready.

4. Volunteers hardly have time to catch their breath!

Volunteers working 157 contact center seats handled nearly 141,000 calls from 234 countries worldwide in 2015—which works out to about 40 calls per person, per hour. Volunteers typically sign up for two-hour shifts, and in the past First Lady Michelle Obama actually volunteered to take calls on (877) HI-NORAD. The phone lines open at 6 a.m. Eastern on Dec. 24, and will run through the early morning hours of Dec. 25.

5. Set up a call from Santa Claus

If tracking his location isn’t enough for your little one/s, this year you can actually use our free Zang Forget Me Not- Santa Edition service to send your child a pre-recorded voice message from Santa. While it’s not a part of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program, parents (or grandparents!) can use the service to set-up a message in less than five minutes with only a browser and a phone. From www.zang.io/northpole simply enter your telephone phone number, enter the recipient’s telephone number and pick the time you would like the recording to be delivered. When your child answers the phone, the pre-recorded greeting from Santa will automatically play. And if your family is busy and you happen to miss the call, the greeting will be directed to voicemail to listen to at a later time.

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!

The Zang Forget Me Not Service Is Here for the Holidays

We are doing it again! We are bringing back the Zang Forget Me Not service for the holidays– this time for a message from the North Pole. It’s the Zang Forget Me Not, Santa Edition. Just like what we did for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day [see also] earlier this year, a voice message can be recorded and scheduled, except this time the message would come from Santa or one of his helpers (aka: you or Uncle George or Grandpa, etc.), and go to children who are anxiously awaiting Santa’s impending visit.

And who wouldn’t want a message from Santa? I know my kids would! They’ve had their wish list for Santa ready since Halloween. There is actually a program in my community that sets aside a day in December for Santa volunteers to call children. Interested parents need to fill out a form that asks a slew of questions like child’s name, age, what they want for Christmas, names of siblings, names of pets and best time to call. Once completed, the next step would be to drop the form at “Santa’s HQ” –the community center that’s 12 miles away. Then a volunteer would call at the designated date and time.

Personally, I prefer to do everything online, and I know most busy parents do, too. So for the more autonomous do-it-your-selfers (like myself), I’m excited Zang is offering the Forget Me Not, Santa Edition. This way, I can set up a message in less than five minutes using a browser and my phone. Of course I would need to channel my best Mrs. Claus impression, but Grandpa or any of the kids’ uncles could easily set up a message posing as Santa.

How it works – go to www.zang.io/northpole, then:

  1. Enter your telephone phone number
  2. Enter recipient’s telephone number
  3. Pick the date and time you would like the recording to be delivered
  4. Zang Forget Me Not service will then call your phone number for you to record, review and approve your message for delivery.

Tip: I recommend drafting a quick script before setting up the message, especially if Grandpa or someone else calls to leave the message. As an example, here’s a basic script example:

Hello, this message is for Jack and Jill. This is Mrs. Claus from the North Pole. Santa is napping right now but he wanted me to make some calls to some special boys and girls to tell them he has some wonderful surprises planned for your presents this year. He knows you’ve both been wanting a Bat Mobile and a sled. You both have had wonderful behavior with great reports from Miss Anita at school. And the way you’ve been helping out with your chores after dinner and taking great care of your bikes, Santa has definitely noticed. Keep up the good work. Santa looks forward to his cookies on Christmas Eve!

Give it a try; it’s free. And It’s just one of the seemingly infinite ways to utilize the Zang Cloud communications platform as a service.

Avaya Demos Wireless Location Based Services at Avaya ENGAGESM Dubai

Wireless Location Based Services (WLBS) are usually discussed in the areas of customer or guest engagement. However, there are also valuable use cases in the areas of employee engagement and facility safety. The WLBS demo at #AvayaENGAGE in Dubai highlights the employee engagement use case. Further, it demonstrates the power of the Avaya Breeze™ Platform and Unified Communications.

As a real world example … think about a public area, a store, a hotel, school, etc. A window is broken. A call reporting the incident comes to the control center. The controller needs to identify which resources are closest to the event. The closest member of the security team needs to respond to cordon off the area and determine if anyone was injured. A member of the janitorial team needs to be dispatched to clean up the glass and a member of the engineering team needs to respond to temporarily cover the opening and have the glass company implement a replacement.

The WLBS display shows the location of all devices probing the WLAN. The user interface allows the controller to sort displayed devices by role, for instance, eliminating all guest devices from the display or simply displaying the security team members. Further, the device indicators can be color coded based on the role to simplify identification. Once the correct person is identified, they can be selected on the screen, and either sent an SMS or called on their mobile device. This allows the controller to quickly identify the appropriate resource based on their location and contact them to respond to the situation.

For the #AvayaENGAGE Dubai demonstration, Avaya employees are being tracked in the common areas of the pavilion. Information about each employee has been captured in a database, including MAC address, device phone number, name and skill or role at the event. For instance, subject matter experts (SMEs) in Networking, Contact Center, and Unified Communications have been identified. If a guest has a question requiring an SME, the closest SME can be identified and contacted to see if they’re available to answer questions.

The following diagram shows all devices being tracked by the 23 WAPs participating in the WLBS demo. There were 352 guests at the time the screenshot was taken, so most of the circles are light blue. However, if you look closely, you can see a few other colors, such as the dark blue Executive and the tan Network SME. Solid dots indicate the devices are connected to the Avaya WLAN. Hollow dots indicated that the device is probing the network, but not connected to the WLAN.

Wireless Location Based Services1

As you can see, an unfiltered display, while providing crowd level information, isn’t very helpful in finding specific people or skills. The filter selections on the right of the screen provide filtering functions. Displayed devices can be limited to one or more skills or by name.

The next screenshot shows filtering enabled for executives. The dot for Jean Turgeon (JT) was selected. At this point, the operator could select to send an SMS message to JT or call his mobile device.

Wireless Location Based Services2

The WLBS solution consists of three Avaya components:

The WLAN at #AvayaENGAGE Dubai is implemented with Avaya 9144 WAPs. Each 802.1 wireless network client device probes the network every few seconds to determine which WAPs are available to provide service. Every WAP within the broadcast range of the network device will detect and respond to the probe message. The probe and response messages enable better network service, particularly when the device is moving and needs to change WAPs to get better service. The probe messages are done at the MAC level, therefore, each WAP in the broadcast area receives a message from every MAC address in range every few seconds.

When location services are enabled in the 9100 WAP (simple non-disruptive change via web interface or profile update in Avaya WLAN Orchestration System), each WAP sends the MAC address and distance information to a network address. In this demo, the information is sent to a Avaya Snap-in that collects the data from all of the WAPs, sorts the data based on MAC address and runs the data through a triangulation algorithm to calculate the location of the client device based on the known locations of the WAPs.

A second Avaya Snap-in manages device identity management. This Snap-in could work with something like Avaya Identity Engines to provide user information for the MAC addresses detected by the WAPs. Since the #AvayaENGAGE Dubai demo is a temporary environment, the Snap-in simply provides the ability to load a CSV (comma-separated value) file with the Avaya employee information. This provides the ability to map Avaya employee identities to the MAC addresses of their mobile devices.

The user interface Snap-in provides the display shown above. It takes the output from the triangulation Snap-in and displays it on a map in a Web browser window. It also uses information in the identity Snap-in to sort devices owned by Avaya employees vs. Engage guests, hotel employees and other hotel guests. The skill classification captured in the CSV file enables finer level filtering and skill based color indication on the screen.

When the icon for an employee on the map is selected, the pop-up frame shown above appears. Communication to the Avaya employees is performed via the Zang cloud-based communication platform. When the user selects the SMS button shown above, a screen appears to enter the message, which is sent to the Zang service which then sends to the employee’s device. If the Call button is selected, the Zang service initiates a phone call between the number shown in the Call-me-at field above and the Avaya employee’s phone number listed in the CSV import.

I’d like to say this is rocket science, but the Avaya infrastructure components and Avaya Breeze make it straight-forward architecture. Avaya believes a key to scalability is putting power in the edge devices to minimize back haul data, but also to simplify management. The intelligence of the AOS software running in the 9100s makes it simple to collect device location information. The Breeze Platform provides a full JAVA-based programing environment with object classes for Avaya communication product functionality. Finally, Zang was designed for business people to be able to programmatically integrate communication functionality into business processes without a major investment in infrastructure or expertise.

Keep watching this space. We’re already planning for the WLBS Demo at Avaya Engage 2017, in Las Vegas, February 12-15.