I’ve got a Google Voice number. It’s +1 415 937 1451.
Although that appears to be a San Francisco telephone number, what happens is that I am able to cause that number to redirect to whatever other numbers I want – which means that I am now longer wedded to a telephone number and I don’t have to constantly update people when I shift home or mobile phone suppliers or numbers.
The service is quite interesting although far from perfect. Someone calls it, it rings a few times and then asks them to leave their name to see if I’ll answer. It then rings me and I can decide whether to accept the call or not. What is quite good is that if a message is left, Google Voice automatically transcribes what is said and then emails and texts me the transcript (so far, I would give the transcript accuracy 7 out of 10).
I had already put in place a system for allowing people to keep in touch with me – kieren.tel. This is a web domain that using the Internet’s own naming system to provide up-to-date info on how to contact me (including phone numbers, emails, addresses, websites etc etc).
All of these new services are creating an interesting phenomenon – the locationless person. It’s an interesting reflection on the modern world where we are constantly moving – not only physically but also virtually. With a way to make sure that people only need one access point, it enables you to switch products and services as and when you want, which in itself adds a big element of competition because companies – and nearly always the worst and most monopolistic ones – have tended to rely on the fear and hassle of switching to retain customers.
No we have freer markets, hence more competition and so more innovation. And, of course, it makes everyone’s lives easier. Now all you have to do is decide which catch-all service you want to use – a dot-tel domain, Google Voice, and ENUM number, of whatever else crops up in the next few years.