Radio Handi - Party Line for Planet Earth

by Bruce Stewart

RHlogo.gifI'm excited to be able to post about the impending launch of Radio Handi, a new and ambitious project founded by O'Reilly author and ETel contributor Brian McConnell. At its core, Radio Handi is an Asterisk-based conference bridge and group messaging service that enables the creation of diverse "voice communities."

This breakthrough service will enable people to create these voice communities about any subject, location or peer group, all for the cost of a local phone call. People can post messages and engage in live group conversations with people calling in from fixed, mobile and VoIP phones from all over the world. Billed as the "party line for Planet Earth," Radio Handi will be accessible via a local call in over 30 countries at launch, and worldwide via Gizmo and SIP. The service also enables groups to communicate asynchronously, via group voice mail (kind of like a voice wiki), and in a few weeks via broadcast email and SMS.

Radio Handi will also allow people to listen to public conversations via a live MP3 stream, like Skypecasts except that you can listen in by using your favorite streaming media player. The basic service will be free of charge, and subscription plans will be offered for extras like local or international dial-in numbers.

One way to think of the kind of voice communities that Radio Handi enables is sort of like Yahoo Groups but with a voice conference component. People can use the Radio Handi service to communicate asynchronously, imagine a group voice mail system that anyone can append messages to or a voice list-serve.

People will be able to use Radio Handi to broadcast messages and set up live calls with friends or extended family. Clubs and and all kinds of groups will be able to use it to organize events and meetings and host online conversations and telecasts. I could see it being used by educators to host call-in classes or group practice sessions. Or by gamers who want to get together with fellow players in a voice sort of way. I predict it will quickly start being used to telecast live events like lectures, public meetings, and sporting events, as the Radio Handi service makes this extremely simple and inexpensive (read free!) to accomplish.

If you attended our Emerging Telephony conference earlier this year, you may have had already heard Radio Handi in action, as Brian was demonstrating the service by streaming some of the live ETel conference sessions and making them available via Radio Handi's many local numbers. Radio Handi is currently still in private beta, but it will open up for a public beta any day now I'm told, and you can sign up to be included now on the Radio Handi site.

I've been playing around with the beta service and the interface is nice and clean and the features are impressive. Here's a screenshot of a user's page:

Radio Handi was built from the ground up around open standards telephony, VoIP, and instant messaging technology. Radio Handi's parent company, Open Communications Systems, is a self-funded startup that just closed an angel round of financing this week. It's pretty unusual for a new startup telecom service to be bootstrapped like this, and I know that Brian and the Radio Handi crew have been burning the midnight oil and working full-on to make this project a reality.

I've really enjoyed working with Brian over the years, and while he's one of the most knowledgeable telecom people I know he's also written for us on a variety of other interesting topics from hacking your way off the utility grid to using open source IT tools to help prepare for a pandemic. Whatever topic Brian tackles, his thoughts and opinions always seem insightful and enlightened and I expect that Radio Handi will be a big success.


Melissa Chan
2007-11-05 11:22:52
How big is the earth?