Building your CTI System
Computer-telephony integration (CTI) continues to be a growing field as computers take over control of voice response and call direction tasks from dedicated PBXs. Most companies purchase off-the-shelf systems and have to make do with their features and liabilities. Some, though, want the ability to totally customize their CTI systems. It is for them that Dialogic has introduced CT-Connect 2.0, the latest version of Dialogic’s CTI API.
CT-Connect is a software-based toolkit for developing CTI applications. It provides a number of calls that allows a developer to write applications for monitoring and controlling incoming telephone calls, as well as storing and forwarding information about calls (such as Caller ID information) to the recipient. The CT-Connect API allows specific applications to inherit data from the incoming call, so, for example, an ordering system can detect the incoming caller’s phone number or name and display the caller’s information on a salesperson’s screen. This will save the salesperson a considerable amount of time, and provide better service to the customer. Even better, using CT-Connect a caller can query outstanding orders or account status information over the telephone, using the touch-tone pad, and not have to wait for a salesperson to retrieve that information. The applications for CT-Connect are almost endless, ranging from huge applications in call-center operations to small company account tracking and call control.
CT-Connect uses a client-server model. A developer CTI application is server based, queried by client applications on desktops. CT-Connect works with many platforms, including most Unix versions (SCO OpenServer and SCO UnixWare included), Windows NT, Windows 95, and OpenVMS. For CT-Connect applications to function properly, a standard switch must be used to route calls. We tested CT-Connect on a Nortel Meridian 1 switch, although switches from Ericcson, Alcatel, and Lucent are all compatible with the standards. CT-Connect works over a TCP/IP based network.
We installed CT-Connect on an ALR Revolution 2XL running SCO OpenServer 5. The software is supplied on CD-ROM and loads in about ten minutes. There is a fair bit of overhead involved in configuring and managing the CT-Connect server, but experienced system administrators will not find anything unusual required. The development interface is designed for C or C++, so we tried writing a few simple application hooks from a customer ordering application with CT-Connect. The coding takes a while to become familiar, as there is no overview of the process. However, after a couple of days or experimentation, we managed to properly design a feedback system for callers to query account status using the touch-tone pad, and direct calls to the proper sales agent.
For Windows clients, CT-Connect works with most of the relevant Microsoft APIs. CT-Connect provides a Service Provider Interface for Microsoft’s TAPI telephony APPI, as well as supporting Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE). For those with a Novell environment, Dialogic offers a Novell interface for TSAPI, as well.
Writing a CT-Connect interface into an application is not a trivial task, requiring a solid programming background and a reasonable amount of experimentation. Once you get familiar with the process, through, the application interface is well behaved and compiles cleanly. Despite the steep learning curve, CT-Connect is straightforward once mastered. You won’t be knocking off CTI applications in a coupe of hours, but you will find the ability to better integrate your existing or future applications with the telephone system a great advantage for both customers and workers.