VOIP's second act
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Commerce Department officials realized the agency's emergency warning system didn't work. Largely dependent on an antiquated and unreliable public address system, agency officials couldn't reach their staff quickly enough to keep everyone safe.
"It was a bad situation [in] that we couldn't communicate with employees," said Karen Hogan, Commerce's deputy chief information officer.
During the past three years, Commerce officials have worked to solve the problem. If an emergency were to threaten people at headquarters today, staff members would hear special alerts delivered via their phones.
Thanks to a new software application that runs in conjunction with the agency's voice-over-IP (VOIP) network, IP speaker phones emit emergency broadcasts. Since the application's introduction two years ago, Commerce officials have not had to use it for an emergency. Nevertheless, it's paying off in peace of mind, Hogan said.
The application, from Berbee Information Networks Corp., is one of a number of new tools that are helping take VOIP to a new level. Federal, state and local agencies are routinely adopting the new technology, which merges voice and data through a single IP network.
VOIP followers are discovering a new world of second-generation applications that surpass anything POTS
Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.