Stellar Startups: 1-800-Dial My Name

NTTM offers impossible-to-forget call names.

NTTM 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
NTTM 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Those convenient 1-800 business numbers that use a word instead of a series of digits – to make it easier for you to remember the name of the business – are frauds, says Assi Rotbart, one of the founders of Israeli start-up NTTM. “Those names are really just phone numbers in disguise, meaning that only a few companies will be able to afford and acquire one of those numbers.”
Not only that, he says, one of the biggest problems with the letter-to-number system is the conflict between two companies whose phone numbers have digits that use the same letters on the dial pad. Will the number 2 represent a company that uses the letter A, B, or C? You’d be surprised at how many fistfights break out over this at phone company conventions! A far better solution, says Rotbart, is the one his company came up with: a solution noteworthy enough for Morpho, one of the biggest makers of cellphone SIM cards, to adopt.
“Our system enables anyone to have a ‘name number,’ allowing others to dial them by choosing a letter, rather than a number, combination,” Rotbart says. “What’s more, the system is virtually unlimited, allowing anyone to adopt any user name they want, with spaces or symbols between the first and last name, for example.”
Even better, he says, users can have multiple names or terms ringing at the same number.
Businesses, for instance, can choose to advertise names such as “Rose Flowers,” “Handy Man,” or “Mortgage Direct” as an impossible-to-forget call name to be easily reached by their clients. Individuals can choose call names such as “Dave Anthony” or “Cool Dave” to identify and brand themselves.
And, it works on all phones, old and new. According to Rotbart, on many of the new smartphones, including some Blackberrys and the Nokia E71, you can’t dial letters for numbers at all using current technology available, but you can make such calls on those devices using NTTM technology.
The technology behind this miracle was developed by NTTM over three long, hard years, Rotbart says.
“There have been other attempts at enabling users to dial using words instead of numbers, but they not have succeeded because they took the wrong approach,” he says. “There are several methods of accomplishing this, but nearly all of them would require either phone manufacturers or service providers to adopt a new set of standards – something that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
All these methods worked in the lab, but in the field, it was a different story.”
Nearly all methods failed in practice, except for the one NTTM has adopted, which has proven to be a smashing success. Instead of attempting to install translation panels for letters to numbers on phones or at the switching office of service providers, NTTM places the technology for translation on the SIM card itself. Currently, the technology is available for GSM networks, and by the end of the year, Rotbart says, it will be available for CDMA networks as well.
This approach has several significant advantages, Rotbart says.
“Installing this technology on a flexible SIM card is much easier than setting it up on hardware, whether network or cellphone,” he says. “In addition, the number of SIM card manufacturers is much smaller than the number of service providers,” meaning it was easier to make arrangements with their limited numbers, as opposed to the plethora of phone companies.
And the SIM card makers are interested, so much so that NTTM has already signed its first deal with one of the biggest makers of SIM cards, Morpho (Safran group), which makes about a million of the things every day. As a result of its deal with NTTM, Morpho will be loading the SIM card up with a program that will enable the sophisticated translation that NTTM has developed to become available to hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Commenting on the deal, Rotbart says: “The adoption of our technology by SIM manufactures will make it a de facto industry standard. Mobile operators will benefit from a ‘plug and play’ solution requiring no investment in either network modification or mobile handset replacement. This will spearhead the global adoption of call names, and the business revenue that goes with it.”
The company has a major research center in Israel and has smaller facilities in Russia and the UK.
Until now, it has been funded by a series of private investors, but as a result of the Morpho deal (and possible other ones now in the pipeline), it’s likely that NTTM will actually make a profit by the end of the year.
That sounds good to Rotbart. “We’re proud to have developed an important product that no one else was able to do just right, despite their attempts,” he says. “Finally, anyone can ‘brand’ themselves any way they want, using names or terms that make it easy for others to recognize and remember just whom they are calling.”