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Commentary & Analysis

Get thee to an E-NUMMERY

By:

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: June 30, 2003

By: Frank Romano June 30, 2003 -- Think how people find or reach you. You have a mailing address-one that is personal, one that is business. You have a phone number-one that is personal, one that is business. In fact, you may have a few of each. You also have a fax number and a cell phone number. You may have a pager. You have an e-mail address-perhaps one that is personal and one that is business, or one that is private and one that is not. We are the most connected people in history. Almost all of us are instantly available to everyone else, at virtually any time, and via multiple media. But the inter-connectedness comes at a price. Our business cards runneth over with all these numbers and addresses. The answer: a single point of contact for telephone and Internet communications. The Department of Commerce will support an electronic-numbering system, known as ENUM, which would allow consumers to specify a single identifier for their telephone numbers, e-mail and Instant messaging addresses, fax numbers, and mobile phone numbers. ENUM has already won support from 13 other countries, and an international telecommunications body has been working to set standards on a global basis. The specific ENUM standard, known as E.164.arpa, translates telephone numbers into Internet addresses and vice versa. For example, the telephone number 1-212-555-1234 would be expressed as an Internet address as 1.2.1.2.5.5.5.1.2.3.4.e164.arpa. Users would be spared typing all this out as Web browsers or advanced phones would automate the process. Proponents say ENUM will simplify communications as one point of contact could be routed to a telephone, an e-mail inbox, or a fax machine, depending on the application. The standard would also allow users to access Internet services through a telephone keypad. The standard will play a key role as more telephone traffic travels over Internet networks. Many large companies already use Internet-based telephony to save on long-distance calls between distant offices, and ENUM could help the new technology overcome many hurdles. The browser or phone would interpret the incoming message and determine whether it is text or voice and then present it accordingly. You could have a choice of text messages converted to voice or voice messages converted to text. But the system does not support your mailing address. Print can be mailed to an audience defined by geography and demographics. E-mailing is like marketing in the dark. Someday, your e-mail address could be published along with your physical address. The Postal Service wanted to assign everyone their own e-mail address based on their mailing address. For instance, President John Q. Sample (1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20500-0003) would get the e-mail address: cc20500000300usps.com. That is too limiting as well. The system needs to support multiple media-the phone, e-mail, and physical location/connection. It seems farfetched now, but it will happen. This also means that junk mail, SPAM, and telemarketing calls will also be merged.

 

 

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