Unified Communications Featured Article

A New Way to Communicate at Work with Biba

June 25, 2013

I am sure that most of us have experienced the frustration that sometimes with conference calls. They mostly work well if the intended group is all sitting in the same room with the same scenario transpiring on the other end of the call. But, what happens when the entire group is not assembled?

Another issue that has always been a problem is when multiple people speak at the same time. The other end of the conference call usually just sounds like noise and it is difficult to know who said what, so getting someone to repeat what they said is not always an option.

What would it be like if all the issues mentioned above where no longer issues? Wouldn’t it be a great idea if these conference calls were all coordinated? Would you like it if you could be part of the conference call no matter where you were at the time? Wouldn’t it be a great idea if the conference call itself contacted you and asked you to be a part of the group?

One company thought that the answer to all these questions and more, was a resounding “Yes.” The name of that company is Biba Systems, which was founded in 2012. Five friends were tired of the unreliable ways that enterprises had of communicating with each other. They decided to do something about it.

This group of individuals comes from an impressive background of working at companies such as Symantec, Brightmail and SuccessFactors. They all have a history of working in both the mobile and communications fields. These five individuals pooled their knowledge together to form Biba.

The software bares the same name as the company. Today, June 25, 2013 the product and company officially launch. Biba is a free, user-friendly and very flexible tool. It is designed to deliver conference calls and messaging across company boundaries and is able to do so on multiple devices.

Deliver is exactly what Biba does. Instead of the individual having to initiate the conference call and join others, the app contacts you and allows you to participate in the call.

I recently had a very informative discussion with Carlin Wiegner. He is the CEO and one of the co-founders of Biba Systems. In addition to previously working at Symantec, Carlin also started a venture backed Enterprise 2.0 startup called CubeTree, where he was the CEO. After being acquired by SuccessFactors, Carlin moved on to form Biba.

Currently the free app works with Android and iOS devices and is available for download on Google Play and iTunes. Unfortunately for this instance, I have a BlackBerry Z10 and there is no version for BlackBerry 10 yet. If I had one of the other platforms, by downloading the app, I would have received a phone call initiated by Biba asking me to join the conference.

One nice feature of this product is that when you are called you are given a few options. It is not just a call saying that you are now part of the conference. You can respond by saying “running late” in which case you are called back and again asked to join the conference.

I told Carlin that I remember when the first star shaped speaker designed for conference calls initially came out. The company that I was working for immediately bought one and I had to set it up. The fact that it was sitting in the middle of the conference table was supposed to make it convenient.

It was convenient in the sense that ten people did not have an open phone line in front of them, but Carlin aptly said that it was like sitting around a campfire. We all lean in and huddle around the speaker. It was very hard to hear anything that the other person was saying because of so much background noise. This was especially true if more than one person spoke at the same time.

Biba took that obstacle into consideration and gave everyone the option to mute a noisy person. As you can see from the image there is a speaker symbol next to each name on the list of people connected on the call. If any of these people have a lot of background noise, such as being at an airport, you can hit the mute button. You can see who is talking because the image of the speaker turns blue when that person is speaking. This way you know who is speaking and who to focus your attention on.

If you are on a mobile device, another very useful feature is if your call gets dropped because you are driving through an area with spotty service, Biba will reconnect that call automatically. The app will call you back until it re-establishes the connection.

Biba is not just for phone conference calls, you also have the ability to use messaging options. If you are sitting at your desk, you can use Instant Messaging (IM), or if you are on the move you can text your message. Either will be delivered to the individual or group. It doesn’t matter which service you are using, they are all treated the same.

By making a connection with the person’s calendar, you will immediately know if a person is free to be included or if you should reschedule the meeting. Of course, this is only as effective as the accuracy of the calendars.

You can also check to see whether your message was sent, delivered or read as well as chat with a group of people simultaneously using invite-only chat rooms. With the proliferation of BYOD, Biba keeps all devices equal. There is also no need to be concerned because Biba believes in privacy.

From my conversation with Carlin, I can tell that a lot of thought, effort and most important, follow through went into creating the Biba app. Carlin told me that Biba started from the place of “how do you want it to work?” not the ever popular “how does it work?” and went forward from there.

Biba developed something that was what the users want, not what the IT department wants to maintain. All of the call and messaging capabilities are free. It is a tool to assist you, not an app designed to keep you hostage to the software company.

The vision was to make a mobile app to help people communicate instantly. The vision also extended to making conferencing a better experience and something that would be worth using. This app was designed as a business app. It is not something that you would use to set up soccer practice on a Saturday.

Biba was designed to allow enterprise communication the way it should have always been, easy, flexible and effective. The various communication devices have all been taking into consideration Regardless of whether you are sitting at your desk or somewhere on the road, your connection will be established with almost no effort from your end at all. Of course, it is still up to you to click on or say join the conversation.

One other cool, totally unrated thing that I think is worth mentioning about Biba Systems is that Carlin told me that they use robots in-house!

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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