202X Visionary Review

By Roger Northrop, Chief Technology Officer


In 1999, Mutare revolutionized enterprise voicemail, launching the first commercial application capable of delivering business system voicemail messages to employees through email. Companies around the world jumped at the opportunity to integrate this productivity-enhancing unified communications application into their communications networks, and soon millions of employees were ditching old-school dial-in voicemail for the ease and convenience of Mutare’s voicemail-to-email solution.

As new capabilities in digital technology have emerged, we at Mutare have continued to ride on top of the wave, transforming our early voicemail-to-email application into a full-featured call completion, message transcription and notification system that integrates effortlessly with the digital tools and channels favored by today’s mobile workforce. In 2019, we originated and introduced another voice technology innovation designed to protect enterprise voice networks from unwanted and malicious calls. 

And we are just warming up.

The amazing individuals at Mutare consider each of our break-through advances as a starting point – a step in a continuum of innovation.  All of us “Mutarians” are driven by an unseen force to use our intellect, ideas, empathy, experiences and technological prowess to improve how people communicate.

And it all begins with the power of voice.   

As Mutare moves forward, further into the digital era and beyond the societal upheaval of the Pandemic, we are organizationally aligned and focused to drive innovation and the power of voice.  Our Point of View (PoV) has four core elements:

  1. Voice is Incredibly Powerful
  2. Adaptability is Table Stakes
  3. Give Control to the User / Customer
  4. Data is About Sharing and Security

This Visionary Review is intended to provide insight and clarity for Mutare’s path forward for the next 12 – 24 months.  We are growing and evolving and feel that it is important to communicate our intention and vision to our partners, customers, prospects and market analysts.

Voice is Incredibly Powerful

No doubt advances in digital, text-based communications and mobility have been transformative for business over the past few decades. But there is simply no substitute for the power of voice. Voice is immediate. It is personal. It is highly effective when used for complicated issues resolution. It is the most convenient way for a customer to connect with a company, and for a company to build relationships with its customers. Mutare knows this. What’s more, Mutare knows that voice is a particularly fluid instrument of communication that demands specialized attention and development expertise if its power is to be fully realized in a multi-channel, unified messaging environment. At Mutare, we have made that our mission.  

Adaptability is Table Stakes

Even from the beginning, our company founders embraced the value of strength through agility. It is no wonder they chose the name “Mutare,” the Latin word for “change.” Adaptability is a company culture and a key component of our applications, both in features and implementation. It is reflected in the way we approach our partners, customers, and prospects, as well as in how we build our solutions. We take a core concept like voicemail to email, then add layers of new features, capabilities and enhancements as emerging scenarios take shape. We do not think of our applications as a “one size fits all,” but rather a core solution with a highly adaptable features set that can be scaled to fit any environment.

It also means having the experience and foresight to take advantage of how other emerging technologies can advance our innovation and development efforts. Let’s talk Cloud Computing. As a pioneering company in the world of internet telephony, we were well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented when cloud hosting emerged as a safe and flexible applications environment. Our secure, cloud-based solutions are not only liberating for the organization’s IT department, but also avoid the kind of coding “bloat” that renders other hardware-heavy, platform-specific product offerings unalterable and, eventually, obsolete. For organizations that prefer premise-based implementations, we also provide a voice platform-agnostic model, operating in concert with the organization’s current infrastructure so implementation and operation is achieved without disruption to normal processes. 

Let me emphasize the point above about being “platform agnostic”.  We have the fundamental conviction that software solutions should inherently and seamlessly work with other software solutions.  We build software that is built from the ground up to work nicely with others.  Yes, we work with the market leaders in unified communications, collaboration and telephony like Cisco, Avaya, Mitel, Nortel and Microsoft, but we also work with countless other technology manufacturers. Again, it’s about adaptability. An open ecosystem is essential for the future of evolved technology application.

Providing solutions that transform the way organizations communicate without the need to significantly alter current structures enables, empowers and emboldens us to move with the ever-changing telecom industry landscape and is a quality we will continue to embrace going forward.

Give Control to the User / Customer

IT infrastructures are complicated enough, which is why Mutare solutions are purpose-built to give our customers and their users clear control over application features implementation and operation. When software developers create solutions that require specialized expertise to install, manage, update, or customize, they are not making life easier for their customers. They are making it harder – and certainly more costly. When we design a solution, it is with the understanding that we are delivering a product that, first and foremost, solves a business problem for that organization so they can be more efficient, more effective, and more profitable. At the same time, we deliver the accompanying self-management tools that assure our solutions make life easier, not harder, for users, administrators, and IT support.

Among the hallmarks of a Mutare solution is its elegant, intelligent, and intuitive user interface. Our goal is to make our applications so easy to understand and navigate from any browser that they require little in terms of training or documentation. We provide a rich set of features that administrators can easily adapt to their specific organization’s needs with just a few clicks, achieving a “customized” fit without the need for professional services customization.

That doesn’t mean Mutare won’t make custom changes when warranted – after all, many Mutare applications began as a “custom” option that we saw had value for a wider market. What it does mean, though, is a speedy, trouble-free implementation of an application that not only includes the most wanted features but surprises its users with other capabilities that, once experienced, become indispensable.

Data is about Sharing and Security

Building on more than three decades as an innovative thought leader in enterprise voice communications, Mutare now finds itself in an exciting place with a vision for the future that expands beyond enterprise product development and into, among other areas, voice network integrity and data analysis.

It is a natural extension of our historic trajectory and knowledge of the technological and sociological influences that, depending on how they are addressed, can either enhance or inhibit the power of voice.

Take, for example, the emergence of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP ) and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) technology. The digitalization and transference of voice data over the Internet combined with SIP connectivity has enabled high quality, low cost, global phone calling and seamless integration of voice into other unified messaging applications. It is a technology, already highly favored for business application, that has seen skyrocketing adoption with the sudden move to a remote workforce during to the COVID-19 crisis. It is what kept employees, regardless of location, connected and businesses operational. But for all its benefits, it is also a technology that has been exploited by robocallers, scammers and bad actors who are undermining the integrity of the voice traffic entering their network infrastructure and increasing the overall risk profile of just about every enterprise class organization.

It is a problem that Mutare, once again, has found itself uniquely positioned to address.

The key is data. Every internet-based communication generates data. Calls through business voice networks are no exception. We’re not talking about the actual content of the call but rather the identifying markers – call date and time, call source, call length and endpoint – individual pieces of information that, when examined as an aggregate, can provide deep insights into the operations and health of a company’s voice network.  Our applications already provide a data-rich audit trail of voice traffic for our customers who find it invaluable for reporting and compliance purposes.  But this was just a beginning. Mutare is focusing a great deal of development attention and resources on the power of data mining and analytics to reveal valuable business insights and intelligence, while supercharging overall data and communications security.  Today, with the growing threat of unwanted voice traffic (spoof calls, vishing, robocalls, voice spam) it is clear that the data is a powerful weapon of defense – one that we believe gains greater power when shared.

That is because we have entered a realm of mutually beneficial cooperation among and between public and private entities devoted to the same cause, data and communications security. These issues are too large and global to be addressed by a single entity or approach. But by working together, combining our strengths and sharing our data, we all benefit. For example, Congress recently passed the TRACED Act requiring carriers to adopt the STIR/SHAKEN spoof call identification protocol. As phone calls pass between carriers, they must now be assigned an attestation score verifying a level of confidence in the legitimacy of their source. Low scores would indicate that the call is potentially from a spoofed number (a number whose caller ID does not match the actual call source) and therefore suspicious. However, that is as far as the mandate goes. Those calls are not blocked; they simply are marked as suspect. But for Mutare, we see value in that additional attestation score data attached to those calls and can use it to affirm the accuracy of our own spam detection and filtering technology. In other words, our solution makes real the spirit behind STIR/SHAKEN.

Many organizations misunderstand STIR/SHAKEN, so I want to reiterate the point above…When a carrier implements or supports STIR/SHAKEN they are NOT stopping calls of identified bad actors!  They are simply “flagging” those calls so that each organization has new information about these calls AND can make the decision themselves about whether to pass those calls on, into their network, or whether to stop the call.  Each organization is still responsible. The carrier just provides the organization with information to make a decision.

Therefore, the organization, as opposed to the carrier, is in control over what happens to those flagged calls. We know that voice network administrators are increasingly burdened with the frustration of having to manually block reported spam calls and would welcome any technology that could provide relief. On the other hand, they still want to know if, how, and why an incoming call warrants blocking and, in most cases, would prefer having their own hands on those controls to assure only unwanted calls are affected. We give them the best of both worlds. By capturing and analyzing all available voice traffic data, we make sure that our application gives them the information and tools they need to easily evaluate, test, and set the thresholds for suspect calls (allow, block, route or send to a voice CAPTCHA) without risking inadvertent overreach. We call that our “do no harm” approach.

Additionally, through our deep experience with database technology integration, we have the capacity to merge any number of existing voice traffic databases, particularly those identifying known robocalls, into our solutions. We recognize that the greater our access to worldwide data and the intelligence it provides, the stronger our system becomes.

Similarly, we are reaching out to carrier and telecom solution developers around the world with the release of our API (Application Programming Interface), inviting them to actually become innovation partners with us. In this way, we see ourselves assuming a place at the center of a global community of voice solution experts, the beneficiary of that creative energy and, ultimately, proprietor over the vast amounts of collective data and intelligence that will be generated as a result.

This may sound like an overstatement, but in truth, our vision is to be the world leader and go-to source of information for data-based voice traffic analysis, voice network security and robocall mitigation. We have defined our roadmap and know our goals, laser-focused on the future but always from the perspective of where we have been. I look forward to making that vision a reality, and then, of course, seeing what comes next.

A last word

Often people ask me what drives innovation – Where do ideas come from?  I have to say, it circles back to the power of voice.

At Mutare, we are engaged in a continuous conversation. We keep ideas flowing –  operations people talking to other operations people, sales people talking to customers and prospects, customers reporting back to operations, all in a non-stop cycle. And out of that, ideas are born.

The fact is, on any given day at Mutare, hundreds of ideas are at play. Some find their way into our product offerings, some fade away.  Many ideas sound a bit whacky. But experience has taught me, what was nonsense six months ago may very well be the break-out solution of the future.

When it comes to the forces that drive us, favoring the whacky over the comfortable will win every time.

About Roger Northrop

Roger Northrop has a passion for emerging technology and developing new ways to help business communicate better. He infuses his role with the same kind creativity that fueled his “early days” work as a musician, actor, photographer, 3D animator and designer. That was before he met the president of Mutare, struck up a conversation that revealed his inner nerd, and was recruited to join the other brains on Mutare’s development team.

Roger examines how emerging technology affects today’s business world and how Mutare can best equip their enterprise customers with solutions that solve their most complex challenges. In his role as CTO, Roger is responsible for driving those innovation through R&D activities in Mutare Labs, monitoring industry trends and leveraging leading-edge and emerging technologies to bring the newest innovations to customers.

Aligning his entrepreneurial attitude with Mutare’s “start-up” culture, Roger assumes the role of Mutare’s technology ambassador and expert resource for customers and partners, but always with the goal of ensuring that the voice of the customer is incorporated into every stage of Mutare’s product development, continuous improvement and quality control processes.

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