How many phone numbers do you memorize? You can definitely rattle off your own and maybe your parents’. Significant other? What about your best friend or co-worker? Boss? Doubt it. If you’re like me, you have them all stored in your cell phone, and consequently, possibly, backed up in the cloud (Google Contacts), or locally (Outlook, iTunes, etc.).
What happens if you are in a situation where you don’t have your phone and you need to call someone? This is presumably not just a case of I left my phone downstairs but something more serious like someone dropped you off at soccer practice and you left your phone and wallet in your gym bag in the back seat.
If you had internet access, you may be able to remote access your computer at home, if it’s on. Chances are your best option and only option is to borrow a phone from someone. But now you are stuck because you have no one to call. That’s where my idea comes in.
There should be a service that is basically a server hooked up to a toll-free number. Something really easy to remember. You call the number and there’s an IVR that prompts you to login. What’s your login? Your primary phone number of course. And for security, a PIN. Once you login, you either speak a name to the computer or you type in the first few letters of their first name. For example, Elizabeth would be 3-5-4-9 for ELIZ. Once the system confirms the name, it will spit out the person’s phone number and offer to connect you.
How will you get the numbers into the system? Well, I use Google pretty extensively so my contacts are already in the cloud. It’s sync’d with my Android phone and I can access my contacts in all Google apps including Gmail and Voice. It would be trivial to extend this to my help hotline.
What about security? Well there’s the pin. And even if someone were to steal your pin, how would they benefit? At best they might be able to find out the number of one or two of your friends. There are probably better, and easier, and less creepy ways for your buddy John to find out your hot friend Heather’s number. The system can also be programmed to limit the number of searches or force a wait time between each query. That way it could further undermine and malicious data mining attempts.
Who should make this? Definitely Google. They already have expertise with combining data and voice. See Google Voice or their recent Call Santa programs, for example. This would cost them practically nothing to run. They would just need to hook up the Google Address book with a phone number and an IVR.
It’s simple. Even if you used it once a year, you’d be glad it was there.
| Image courtesy of ashleeappendicitus on Flickr |