Innovation That Matters

A life hack for everyone: online service cuts through phone menus

Work & Lifestyle

Anyone who has ever tried to call a large company has learned to dread the labyrinthine touch-tone menu systems most employ. Fortunately, help is now on the way from a Canadian startup with a “Deep Dialing” service that lets users avoid those phone menus altogether. Toronto-based Fonolo works by using transcriptions of the phone menus of large companies so that users can navigate them visually. Users simply pick the company they need to call, scan through the company’s phone menu visually, then click the spot they need. Fonolo will automatically dial, navigate the menu and then dial the user’s phone. When the user answers, they will be connected to the right spot in the menu–hence the name, Deep Dialing. Users can bookmark any point in a phone menu that they call regularly and access it as a simple URL through their browser or smart phone. Fonolo can also build and maintain an “intelligent call history” for the user to keep track of calls and conversations during a bill dispute, for example, including storing text notes and saving recordings of each call; transcriptions are coming soon, the company says. Fonolo uses patented technology that “spiders” the phone system much the way a web search engine like Google spiders the web. The system regularly dials companies, navigates their menus and uses a combination of speech recognition, signal processing and human editing to maintain an updated map of “phone space.” Fonolo also just opened up its system to developers, introducing an API that lets developers build applications that interact with the Deep Dialing service. More at For users, the system is free and can be used on any phone, with no software to install. Fonolo will reportedly be ad-supported once it launches officially. It’s currently still in private beta, but is accepting email addresses for invitation to the public beta, which is coming soon. No word yet on its geographical reach, but it certainly won’t be long before the telcos sit up and take notice. One to get in on early! Spotted by: Ozgur Alaz



Download PDF