Why did Diabetes Singapore deploy an open-source powered Crux LX to tackle their telephony challenge? What can you learn from their experience?
Diabetes Singapore (DS) is a Singapore-based non-profit organisation. Its mission is to raise awareness and to provide education, counseling and support to people with diabetes, their families and the community in order to empower them to lead a healthy and productive life. It’s headed by Mr. Venkatesh Narasiah, Executive Director, whose vision is to run this organization on commercial principles while keeping the non-profit motto alive.
Like most health organisations their telephony setup consisted of a mix of PSTN lines (eight phone numbers) and one mobile number across three branches and one mobile van. As a result, individually numbered phone lines were difficult to advertise and remember as well. Managing this telephony infrastructure was surely a challenge at times, and it was further compounded by customers getting confused between multiple lines and locations. Also, for Internet Venky’s team was using isolated digital public internet lines which were further distributed by a router to their different devices in their branch offices. Also, no voicemail or auto attendant/IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system was there for support. Calls between branches required external calls and within branches was non-existent.
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) phone lines were an option DS was looking into, it would be needed to unify the telephony across locations (single call-in number, internal dial-in across branches and DID (Direct Inward Dialing) for key external facing staff members).
They looked at the large SIP line providers but none of them were willing to take up an end-to-end solution based approach. They were willing to only supply the SIP and the rest of the implementation be done a vendor of DS choice. The implementation providers were also not too many and the cost implications were also very high. Also, they were not willing to provide a one-stop solution but wanted to implement in phases for headquarter in round one and on an exploratory basis see how branches could be linked to the headquarter telephony.
Then, Venky happened to meet Rohit Gupta of Crux Labs. Rohit was seeking customers who would try out his innovation– Crux LX, a less-than-3-inch device powered by Raspberry Pi! Rohit’s pitch to Venky was—that his solution (CruxLX) would cost less than half of what other vendors had quoted, and more importantly, he would ensure end-to-end integrated solution with minimal disturbance to working of Venky’s team. Plus, Rohit offered that in case the setup does not deliver, CruxLX would be decommissioned and taken back and the telephony instruments would be redeployed.
To seal the deal, Rohit shared a chart (refer: table 1) comparing his solution with others in the market.
For voice communication, Crux LX acts like a SIP server. To connect with this server and start using voice, you could download any SIP client application or softphone application that allows you to input three key data points–extension numbers, passwords and IP address of Crux LX. DS users preferred to use desk phones in centers, hence, installed additional switches to connect wired IP phones.
These three credentials allow a SIP client to register with Crux LX and you are ready to call one another. Crux LX uses open source software and hardware components for IT products development.
It is capable of forming a closed loop communication amongst a group of trusted devices over the internet. DS used this to connect its centres in different locations of Singapore–Boon Keng, Jurong and Bedok. Multi-location interconnect involving a large number of users at each location is done via Inter-Asterisk Exchange setup that is supported by this system. When deployed in this configuration, your New York office can call London office as though making a call within office though it will be routed over the internet. This can be made secure by use of VPN software. DS users can also connect to the Crux LX device in their office, even when not in the office but connected to the internet. In such a scenario, the user can make and receive calls even from outside, as though they were still present in the office. Now, at DS, staff can enter three-digit numbers to call colleagues across locations and mobile vans without incurring call costs.
The deployment at Diabetes Singapore was the first end-to-end implementation by Crux Labs in Singapore. Some specific issues were on the network setup being new as a result of the first Crux implementation in Singapore with the chosen SIP provider. All of these were debugged and the setup was complete in two days and went live across all locations. New installations with the chosen SIP provider now takes just 15 mins!
New challenges emerged when the setup went Live. Their internet subscription didn’t provide them with static IP address, hence, whenever the router got restarted, the IP address would change—and require reconfiguration of the setup. Venky is now getting a static IP address to eliminate this issue. Plus, whenever the Internet bandwidth at the branches fluctuates, it causes a temporary dip in the quality of the calls.
Hale & Hearty
Currently, Venky’s team is processing about 400 to 500 calls a week and nuances like calls having to be routed through an operator are all gone. Venky expects the investment in CruxLX to payback anywhere between 12 to 18 months, depending on their usage!