Radio Handi seems to just keeps getting more interesting by the day. Now in addition to the basic voice communites with multi-modal communications that Radio Handi allows, you can use it to instigate free ad hoc conference calls just by adding an address to the CC list of an email and to create group chats using SMS. I’m continually impressed with the good work that fellow ETel blogger and O’Reilly author Brian McConnell and his small Radio Handi team are producing.
The conference calling feature really strikes me as something that could shake up the voice conferencing industry. It’s surprising in its simplicity - to create a conference call using the new Radio Handi service all you need to do is add “email@example.com” to the CC list on an email message, and everyone on that message will get an automated email response from RadioHandi with dial-in instructions and a passcode for joining the free conference call. There isn’t even any need for the recipients to register with Radio Handi. Talk about creating a conference call on the fly, this has to be the best implementation of that idea I’ve seen yet.
You can call in to the conference via their local access numbers in over 30 countries, and worldwide via VoIP, using PhoneGnome, Gizmo Project, SIP Broker, or any SIP compatible program. To support the free service, callers hear a very short ad when they first dial in, which didn’t really feel any more bothersome to me than the typical “Welcome to XYZ conference calling system…” messaging that you’d hear in any conference call setting. I just did a quick test of the system, and it all worked very smoothly and had good audio quality. I know this is one feature I’m going to start using right away.
The Group SMS chat feature is also compelling and simple to use. You activate the service by sending an SMS to 866-687-2373 (short code coming soon) with one of the following commands:
.create groupname (to create a group chat)
.add groupname telephone# telephone# telephone# (to add people to the group chat)
.start groupname (to have the system invite others from the list to join)
.voice groupname (to switch to a voice chat)
The service is integrated with Radio Handi’s list and membership management system so it will remember the groups you have created.
Both services are being offered free of charge by Radio Handi (though of course your own carrier’s SMS charges will still apply when using the group SMS chat feature). Brian and the Radio Handi team seem to really have a keen eye for features and services that will actually be useful to people (or dare I say “handy”?), and for designing simple and accessible interfaces to these features. I expect them to go far.