For the individual with a LTE-equipped smartwatch, tablet and smartphone, perhaps a connected car and Chromebook too, when somebody calls his or her number, currently it is always the smartphone that rings. And whilst we have technologies that allow us to be communicated with, via an account (a good example might be Google Hangouts, which permits Google Voice integration plus voice calls over the Internet connection), these technologies do not integrate with legacy telephone systems. It seems that the telephone number is here to stay, so companies around the world have been working on a means of sharing a single telephone number between a number of devices. Today’s story is that North American cell phone carrier, AT&T, is preparing to launch a feature called NumberSync, which will allow a customer’s number to be shared across multiple devices. AT&T is positioning NumberSync for those customers with multiple devices connected over their network. The telecommunications operator believes the technology to be as important for customers as shared data plans were a few years ago.
NumberSync is based on a technology called Cascade and has been in testing since 2014 and possibly even earlier. NumberSync’s technology is network-based rather than device-based, so the primary smartphone does not need to be turned on and none of the devices need be close to one another. It has partially been developed at AT&T’s Foundry incubator office at Palo Alto, California and AT&T Mobility’s Chief Executive Officer said this on NumberSync: “This is really a first in the industry that we are giving customers the ability to do this.” AT&T is planning to launch NumberSync on one device in the coming months (“fairly soon” is the official line) and says that many existing smartphones will support NumberSync via a software upgrade. Ultimately, AT&T hope that device manufacturers will provide baked-in support for the technology going forward for multiple devices, such as smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and similar.
It is not yet clear how AT&T will charge for the service, but if their charging structure mirrors their shared data plans, there is an additional $5 to $10 charge per month for each device connected to the same data plan. This type of NumberSync technology is essential if wearable devices are to evolve to the next level, to be independent of a companion smartwatch. We have seen a small number of these smartwatch devices released with an onboard modem, but their utility is somewhat restricted. Ultimately, AT&T’s vision is for their NumberSync technology to include cars, wearables and office or landline telephones, so that we really can have a personal number rather than a cell phone number, an office number and a home number.