Computer Telephone Integration

Computer Telephone Integration

(CTI or "- Telephony -") Enabling computers to know about and control telephony functions such as making and receiving voice, fax, and data calls, telephone directory services, and caller identification. The integration of telephone and computer systems and is a major development in the evolution of the automated office.

CTI is not a new concept - such links have been used in the past in large telephone networks - but only dedicated call centres could justify the costs of the required equipment installation. Primary telephone service providers are now beginning to offer information services such as Automatic Number Identification and Dialled Number Identification Service on a scale wide enough for its implementation to bring real value to business or residential telephone usage. A new generation of applications (middleware) is being developed as a result of standardisation and availability of low cost computer-telephony links. This can link personal computers with telephones and/or a local area server with a PBX. Leading telephony and software vendors such as AT&T, British Telecom, IBM, Novell, Microsoft and Intel are developing better telephony services and capabilities which should eventually enable low cost CTI.

The main CTI functions are integrating messaging with databases, word processors etc.; controlling voice, fax, and e-mail messaging systems from a single application program; graphical call control - using a graphical user interface to perform functions such as making and receiving calls, forwarding and conferencing; call and data association - provision of information about the caller from databases or other applications automatically before the call is answered or transferred; speech synthesis and speech recognition; automatic logging of call related information for invoicing purposes or callback.

Typical productivity benefits are improved customer service; increased productivity; reduced costs; enhanced workflow automation; protected investment in computers and telephony; computerised telephony intelligence.

IBM were one of the first with workable CTI, now sold as "CallPath". Callware's Phonetastic is typical of the new breed of middleware.

CTI came out of the 1980s call centre boom, where it linked central servers and IVRs with PBXes to provide call transfer and screen popping. In the 1990s, efforts were made by several vendors, such as IBM, Novell TSAPI and Microsoft TAPI, to provide a version for desktop computers that would allow control of a desktop telephone and assist in hot desking.

Desktop CTI was made obsolete by the mobile phone revolution, e-mail and, above all, VoIP, and CTI has never advanced outside the call centre.

See also Telephony Application Programming Interface.
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