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Glossary of IVR and Telephony Terms
3 way Calling
Three way calling enables a third person to be added into an existing phone call between two people, enabling a small conference to take place. It is possible for either of the other two people to each add another person, and so on, resulting in a 3-way-chain call similar to a conference call
Bluetooth is a low-power radio signal used to connect two devices so they can exchange information or sound over the air. An example of a bluetooth device is a bluetooth headset, which can be worn by a caller to make calls on a mobile phone or softphone without there being any physical connection between the headset and the phone. The lack of wires can be attractive especially in a car, where a traditional wired headset easily becomes entangled in the steering wheel and cause accidents.
Call waiting is a feature which enables you to be notified when you are already on the phone and a second caller is trying to reach you. The signal is usually in the form of a quiet beep in your earpiece every few seconds. You can usually access the second call with the flash feature of your phone, or through the phone menu on a mobile phone.
A conference call allows multiple people to all communicate from many different phone lines. Often achieved using a conference calling service which all callers call into. Sometimes conference call lines provide additional features such as noise cancellation, echo cancellation, and call recording.
Dual Tone Multi Frequency or 'DTMF' tones are the musical sounds you hear when dialing a phone number. Each row and each column on the keypad has its own note or "tone". When you press a number, the note for its row and column both sound - making the "dual tone" - which the phone exchange or an IVR system can decode to know which button you pressed.
DTMF tones exist for the numbers 0-9, star * , hash # (also known as 'pound' in the USA), and the letters A-D, although these are rarely seen on consumer telephones.
Many phone services and exchanges, especially on mobile phones now include "echo cancellation". This is a feature designed to prevent audio feedback when one or more of the callers is using a speakerphone. If a caller's voice comes out of the speaker of a speakerphone the other end, and is heard by the microphone of that speakerphone, it is echoed back down the line, so the person hears their own speech coming back to them, which can be disconcerting during speech.
Feedback can occur when both callers on a call are using speakerphones and there is no echo cancellation on the line. Speech enters one phone, comes out of the speaker the other end, is heard by the microphone and goes back down the line to the first phone. The first phone echoes the speech it just received back through its speaker, hears it with its microphone and sends it again. The echo builds and builds, eventually resulting in a high pitched squeal known as a 'feedback howl'. This is less common in modern phones and exchanges use echo cancellation techniques.
The "Flash" button found on many telephones cause the line to be hung up for a split second. This can be used to access special features on the phone exchange, usually accessing a second incoming call if the line is equipped with call waiting, or to access 3 way calling or other features.
Handsfree devices allow a phone to be used without the need to hold a handset to the caller's ear. This can take the form of a speakerphone, or a headset which is worn by the caller and attached to the phone with a cable or bluetooth connection. See also car handsfree.
IVR - Interactive Voice Response
A telephone system providing a series of menus or prompts. The caller can respond to the prompts by pressing number keys on their phone keypad, or by responding to voice prompts, eg "Press 1 or say 'Sales' for new products"... To set up your own IVR system, see the GlobeIVR Homepage
MultiTap - SMS Text Message Typing
Multitap is a method of obtaining letters on a standard numeric phone keypad by pressing the keys a number of times. This is used when typing an SMS Text Message. For example the "9" key on many phones is labelled "9 - WXYZ". To obtain a W, you would press once, X twice, Y three times, and Z four times. This can be slow, and thus led to the development of the faster T9 - Predcitive Text system.
Noise Cancellation systems are usually either built into phones or into the phone exchange itself, and are used to cut down on background noise on calls. These are common in car handsfree solutions where road noise can otherwise make speech hard for the other party to hear.
Calls that are routed directly between two people. This can be used to refer to calls made over "peer-to-peer" voice over IP networks, where the call is completely made between two people on the internet, and doesn't incur costs of being routed through normal phone exchanges.
A method of dialing which involves sending "pulses" down the phone line. Effectively the phone hangs up the line for around a tenth of a second. For example if you dial a three, the line will cut three times in quick succession. Gaps between digits are usually a longer period. For example dialling 123 would result in a series of pulses such as | || |||.
Some modern phones support both pulse and tone dialling; in this case pulse is usually available until you press the star key (*), which switches the remainder of the call to tone dialling. This can be used if your exchange only supports pulse dialling but you need to access an IVR system which requires DTMF tones.
A name sometimes used for a phone which dials using the Pulse Dialing method. Named after the way early phones generated the pulses using a rotary dial.
SIP - Session Initiation Protocol
SIP lines are a type of voice over IP phone line. A SIP phone (or softphone) needs to "register" itself with its SIP provider over the internet. This enables incoming calls to be routed to the phone wherever it is on the internet at the time.
SMS - Short Message Service
SMS Messages (also known as Text Messages) are a way to transmit a short message (usually up to 160 characters) between two mobile phones by entering messages on the phone's keypad using either multitap or T9 Predictive Text to obtain letters. Messages are received from the mobile phone by the SMSC (short message service centre), which is responsible for forwarding them on to the recipient handset, or passing to a different network's SMSC if necessary. Messages usually cause the phone to beep or vibrate on arrival.
A softphone is a phone completely implemented as a computer program, which has no physical hardware of its own. A softphone usually dials out over a voice over IP or SIP phone line, to make or receive calls over the internet. Usually the computer's microphone and speakers take the place of a standard phone headset, or it may be possible to plug in headphones and a microphone, or use a bluetooth headset depending on the computer and software used.
A speaker phone is a form of handsfree device which utilises a speaker and sensitive microphone to place a phone call instead of the traditional handset. This allows the caller to use both hands or to wander a short distance from the phone, or for more than one person in the room to take part in the conversation using the same phone.
Another name for the hook on which a phone is "hung up". When the receiver is hung on the switch hook, the line is cut off.
T9 - Predictive Text
T9 is a method of entering text on a standard numberic phone keypad, and is a faster alternative to Multitap. This involves typing words by pressing the key containing each letter of the word once. For example to type DOG you would press the keys [3DEF] [6MNO] [4GHI]. Using a dictionary of words, the phone is able to guess which word you were typing, providing a list to choose from where ambiguities occur.
Another name for DTMF Tones. IVR systems are sometimes known as "touchtone menus".
The name given to a phone which dials using DTMF tones. The alternative to this is a Pulse Dial telephone
VOIP - Voice over IP
Voice Over IP is a type of phone line where the calls are transmitted over the internet (IP = Internet Protocol) rather than over a traditional phone line. This allows for calls to be made more cheaply, especially in the case of Peer-to-peer calls - where both parties are using a VOIP phone, which are often free. Often Voice Over IP calls are made using softphones.