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The Spark and Tropo API Experience Down Under

Posted on January 11, 2017 by Phil Bellanti

Just recently, yours truly made a hop, skip, and two jumps from Orlando, Florida to Melbourne, Australia (a mere 23-hour jaunt) to deliver the Cisco Spark and Tropo API Experience workshop at the APJ Collaboration Specialist Training (CST) event. The event was held at the Cisco Melbourne office, located on eastern side of the famous Collins Street, starting on Monday, November 14th. Essentially, it’s a 4-day technical training for Cisco Collaboration Engineers, taking a deep dive into the Cisco Collaboration portfolio with a lot of hands on lab opportunity. The Spark and Tropo API Experience workshop is roadshow-style event for Cisco engineers, partners, and customers to learn all about Cisco’s Cloud Collaboration APIs. A perfect fit for this event!

The CST event officially kicked-off Tuesday with various workshops delivered by the Cisco team over the next few days. The sessions spanned across all sorts of Cisco Collaboration technology, such as migrating from Microsoft platforms and adding cloud business solutions inside organizations. One of our awesome Cisco Spark experts, Paul O’Dwyer, gave a great talk on Cisco cloud APIs, with a detailed description from a developer standpoint. The attendees were kept pretty busy with a nice mix of instructional content and labs. At the end of the day on Tuesday, the Cisco team had a nice dinner together at a restaurant that specialized in Texas-style BBQ, which is certainly the type of cuisine worth traveling almost 10,000 miles for.

As the CST event drew to a conclusion on Friday, I presented the Cisco Spark and Tropo Experience to a hearty group of partners and colleagues. There were plenty of eager folks ready to start using the APIs and this session was intended to get them jump started. The workshop started off with comprehensive review of both the technical and business sides of Spark and Tropo. This included some live demos, such as the ‘Email to Spark’ bot which automatically adds the people and context of an existing email thread to a new Spark room.

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Then it was time for the group to get some instructional hands-on work, starting with the Tropo.com Scripting API. Through this portion, they created and deployed Tropo voice scripts that utilized text to speech, played audio files and even asked questions to the caller. The locals in the group were pleased to be able assign a Melbourne telephone number to their application and they dialed it right from their mobile phones. For others in the group, it was easier to make test calls from a SIP client on a laptop. Tropo makes that very easy to do since all applications are automatically assigned a unique inbound SIP address.

From there, we moved over to the Spark API developer portal and used the interactive documentation to create a live webhook in Spark. We configured the webhook to use a requestb.in URL easily view the code that is returned from the API when an event is triggered. This is also a great way to quickly troubleshoot existing webhooks.

The workshop then moved on to the two Spark API labs. The first lab had the group initiate API requests to create new Spark rooms, add participants and postmessages. The complexity increased in the second lab that had the group deploy a Spark integration using an OAuth grant flow. Integrations are how you request permission to invoke Spark APIs on behalf of another user. While the labs can be challenging, everyone made it through them successfully, which should boost their confidence to utilize the Spark and Tropo platforms moving forward.

My visit to Melbourne was a really positive experience all the way around. It’s always enjoyable to educate others about Cisco’s easy to use APIs and to do it in an amazing city like this made it extra special. The entire team who put together the CST event for APJ really did a commendable job. The week did seem to go by way too fast. I barely had enough time to psyche myself up for the trip back home. The long…trip…home.

Alas, this show must go on! If you are interested in having a Cisco Spark and Tropo APIworkshop delivered at your next event, we’d love to hear from you – just follow the link here to request more details. The workshop can be tailored for a wide variety of skillsets – developers, power users, and IT professionals. Additionally, we will also be offering a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ program for Cisco engineers who want to re-deliver this workshop at their own event. If you are a Cisco employee and want more details on the ‘Train-the-Trainer’ program for the Spark and Tropo API Workshop, you can request more information here.

Tropo and HopeOneSource Partner to End Homelessness in Washington, DC Area

Posted on December 15, 2016 by Alice Cho

People who are at-risk of or experiencing homelessness in Washington, DC have a new tool for accessing career and social services. HopeOneSource, a web-based application that uses geolocated text messages, helps people access services including:

  • employment opportunities
  • career training
  • free meals
  • health screenings
  • permanent housing
  • emergency shelter during extreme weather

HopeOneSource launched in late 2015 in cooperation with local government and social service providers. As of December 1, 2016, around 5% of DC residents experiencing homelessness had registered on the platform. Over half of those registered are youth aged 14-24.

Tropo, a Cisco company, has partnered with HopeOneSource to take steps toward preventing and ending homelessness in Washington D.C. and beyond.

The project first came to the attention of the Tropo team when HopeOneSource won a Tropo Hackathon at a Drupal conference. Since then, Tropo has provided substantial financial, technical, and outreach support to help HopeOneSource provide more residents with information and access to essential services.

Earlier this year, White House staff, DC government officials, and local business leaders recognized Cisco representatives for working to prevent and end youth homelessness.

The Tropo service allows integration of SMS, VoIP, and other telephony services called from a simple-to-use API. HopeOneSource’s collaborative messaging tool works like this:

  • Provider organizations register to post messages about their services through the HopeOneSource web portal.
  • Providers can target messages to specific a geolocation and predefined demographic categories such as youth, veteran, LGBTQ, families, and senior care.
  • Residents at-risk or experiencing homelessness sign up to receive text messages via their phones. During a short online registration, they select their general location and the services they need.
  • HopeOneSource sends SMS messages to participants based on the area in which they registered.

To receive messages, users simply need access to a mobile phone with text-message capabilities. Potential users without a phone can access one through the federal Lifeline program.

While currently focused on Washington, DC, HopeOneSource plans to expand its service to other cities.

Tropo’s new Text To Speech Engine

Posted on December 14, 2016 by Ralf Schiffert

I happen to contact call centers occasionally. For example, when I get a new internet connection at home, need an RMA or for a dozen other reasons. On many occasions, I really appreciate how hard agents try and I’m grateful for the help they provide. What stops me in my tracks though, is if they start reading a script in their most monotonous voice, which typically sets me up to just hang up and redial. The best experiences are typically when I hear empathy, confidence and curiosity in someone’s voice, indicating their willingness to work with me.

That brings me to today’s topic. Text To Speech engines, those magical pieces of software that make a computer utter words like a human would and ostensibly will make us fall in love with them, have improved dramatically over the years.  We have partnered with one of the biggest providers in the area of Human Machine Interfaces, and they work tirelessly to not only improve intelligibility, but also to introduce enhancements to intonation, an almost mellifluous quality, and dare I say it, empathy into their computer voice. We are ready to extend this offer to our US English voices.

This change is free of charge to you.

For many languages we already offer this new TTS engine.  In the coming weeks we will be updating the mapping between the current US English and Spanish (Mexico) voice names (they typically start with a V) to the new voices listed in the table below.

If you use one of the V-voices today we recommend that you try the new voices.   If you don’t like our default mapping you may set the voice in your app to your preferred alternative.  Our documentation describes how to do this for both the WebAPI  and the scripting API.

You can take advantage of most of the new voices today, with the addition of Zoe and Evelyn by mid January 2017. Come March 1st, 2017, we will remap the V-voices to the new voices as per tables below.

We hope you enjoy this enhancement as much as we do.

 

New voices being introduced mid January, 2017.

US English (female) Evelyn, Zoe

 

 

Unchanged voices: If you already configured any of the going-forward voices below you will experience no change in your service.

US English (female) Allison, Ava, Susan, Samantha
US English (male) Tom
Spanish MX (female) Paulina, Angelica
Spanish MX (male) Juan

 

 

If you use any of the voices in the left column of this table, they will be remapped to the voice in the right column. Only if you do not like our own mapping will you have to select one of the voice names in the above table

If you are using this voice today It will sound like this voice if you don’t make any change
Not specified/default AVA
Vanessa (us-us) AVA
Veronica (us-us) Zoe
Victor (us-us) Tom
Violeta  (sp-mx) Paulina