It’s kind of strange. You can Google your inbox. You can Google your content repository if you’re using the Google Search Appliance. You can even Google your Google Voice, if you’ve got that set up on your cell phone. But you really can’t Google your voicemail, or your entire phone system. But there’s a ton of data locked up in there.

Imagine that you run the phone system for a large company – 2000 employees. If they each receive three voice messages per day (1MB of vm), your company is amassing 480GB of voicemail every year. This is a lot of unsearchable data. Google enabled voicemail transcription around 2009, when they re-launched Grand Central (who didn’t invent voicemail transcription. The patents were filed about five years ago, and Google does currently own a number of them).

As an IT professional, you’re probably thinking, “Wait – Google’s partnered with Level 3 Communications. They have 11,000 employees. Surely there’s someone in the R&D team who’s working on this.”

Well, maybe there is, but everyone’s been mum about details. So here’s why it’s not really possible to Google your own voicemail.

The key obstacles

  1. Google has to upgrade their Google Voice support from “best effort” level. That’s tech industry slang for “we’ll do whatever the heck we want.” In a best effort delivery, the vendor doesn’t provide any guarantees that data is delivered or that a user is given a guaranteed quality of service. Enterprise class, it ain’t.
  2. Google has to set up 2-way accessibility for Google Voice and PBX phone systems. Currently there’s no way to connect a soft PBX like, say, RingCentral or Grasshopper (what my firm uses) to Google Voice. The current integration is messy and ineffective.
  3. Google Voice needs to support non-US SMS. Currently, you can’t even text Toronto (reliably) or Mexico City from your NY-based Google Voice.
  4. Google needs better integration with one or more soft PBX vendors. Without integration with two or three of the major soft PBX vendors, or perhaps even with one of the open-source PBX vendors like Asterisk, it’s going to be difficult for Google to make inroads into the voicemail search space.
  5. Google needs a major commitment from Level 3 and Global Crossing. Google has two big partners in this venture (as well as a host of small ones). If they don’t step up to the plate, in terms of business development in the telecom space (never Google’s strong suit), then I don’t see voicemail search becoming a reality.

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