May 9, 2003
BY HOWARD WOLINSKY
Four years ago, telecom experts were about ready to write off the
100-year-old wired phone system, known as POTS (Plain Old Telephone
Service), predicting it would be eclipsed by the Internet and
But the Illinois Institute of Technology and Lucent Technologies
have developed software to turn POTS into PANS (Pretty Amazing New
Stuff), moving phones into the Internet loop.
Over the last two years, Vijay Gurbani, a doctoral candidate at
IIT, and his colleagues have added Internet digital magic to analog
phones. The work, which has one patent so far, is expected to result
in Lucent commercializing the services for home and office phones.
"In the Internet era, wired phones were written off," Gurbani
said. "Cellular companies were spending billions on new
infrastructure to make 3G (third-generation) services available for
cell phones. I wanted to see if it was possible to make 3G-type
services for landlines."
It was possible. Researchers developed software that recycles
POTS to handle Buddy Lists and instant messaging, successful
services over the Internet, and also available over cell phones and
personal digital appliances.
"The phone network has been used for voice capabilities and the
Internet for its data capabilities. The two networks have virtually
never talked to each other--until now," said Xian-He Sun, IIT
computer science professor.
Researchers developed software to connect landlines to the
Internet. In a demonstration, a landline phone was lifted and
replaced on the cradle, sending a signal to let the network know the
user was home, popping up an icon on a computer Buddy List.
Sun said the wired phone network could send instant messages to
Internet users, notifying them of missed calls, a sort of mobile
caller-ID to check on traditional phones.
He said companies could use these Buddy Lists to set up
large-scale phone conferences. In addition, caller ID screens could
be used to receive text messages.
Gurbani said other services will be developed. For instance, he
said the framework could make possible "proximity notification," a
service triggering an e-mail from a friend's cell phone when the
friend is nearby. He said the technology could help law-enforcement
officials track suspects.