Love it or hate it, Caller ID is here to stay.
And now, the nation's phone companies have gone back to Bellcore, the original architect of the technology, to see what it can do for an encore.
According to Bellcore, you ain't seen nothing yet.
The company, the research arm of the seven regional telephone companies, is busy working on a slew of technological enhancements that would greatly extend the notion of Caller ID, which shows the originating number of incoming calls.
Elena Worrall, director of voice services for Bellcore, said researchers can tweak the original technology to come up with as many variations on the Caller ID theme as demand warrants.
"If people want it and are willing to pay for it, we can do it," she said.
Bell Atlantic Corp., the parent company of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., among other local Bell companies, is looking at a Bellcore-created technology that would pass along the numbers of second incoming calls to Caller ID customers who also have Call Waiting. Those numbers currently don't register on Caller ID devices.
Another variation passes along the name of a subscriber and the number of an incoming caller. The service, now available in Boise, Idaho, uses the phone company's data base to show the name associated with the incoming number.
Bellcore is also working on a form of Caller ID that can render the area codes and numbers of long-distance and in-state toll calls. Current Caller ID services track only local calls.
Then there is an audio version of Caller ID.
Caller ID customers are alerted to incoming calls by a special telephone ring. When a customer picks up the phone, an electronic voice relays the number of the incoming call. Customers then have the option of accepting or rejecting the call. Rejected callers are told by an electronic voice that their call has been declined.
The advent of Caller ID also has produced a curious second layer of products -- technological antidotes to Caller ID.
Social libertarians and others have deplored Caller ID as invasive. Public outcry over privacy concerns compelled the Bell companies in many cases to give people ways to circumvent Caller ID.
It was under those circumstances that "blocking" was born, giving callers the ability to prevent their numbers from being transmitted to Caller ID devices. Blocking was developed by the same unit of Bellcore that came up with the idea for Caller ID.
Blocking Caller ID then spawned ways to "block blocking."
The first of this breed is Anonymous Call Rejection, a new service that bounces blocked calls placed to Caller ID customers. Rejected callers are instructed to redial without blocking their number. C&P, which recently began offering the service in Northern Virginia, plans to offer it in Maryland this fall.
Might there now be a groundswell of demand for a service to foil Anonymous Call Rejection?
Bellcore's Ms. Worrall acknowledges that Bellcore could come up with an antidote for every Caller ID service that hits the market but that she does not think that will be necessary because Bellcore's clients -- the seven regional Bell companies -- won't want to be in the business of introducing services that can be foiled by other services.
Beyond Caller ID
Bellcore, the original architect of Caller ID technology, is working on a number of enhancements to Caller ID:
A MIX OF CALL WAITING AND CALLER ID
For those with Call Waiting, Caller ID would pass along the number of an incoming call even while the phone was busy.
Passes along the name of a subscriber as well as the number of an incoming caller. The service, now available in Boise, Idaho, uses the phone company's data base to show the name associated with the incoming number.
LONG-DISTANCE CALLS INCLUDED
A service that renders the area codes and numbers of long-distance and in-state toll calls. Current Caller ID services only track local calls.
AUDIO CALLER ID
An audio version of Caller ID that uses an electronic voice to relay the number of an incoming call. Customers then have the option of accepting or rejecting the call. The rejected caller is instructed to redial without blocking his or her number. An audio version of Caller ID is currently offered by BellSouth.
An antidote to Caller ID, blocking lets callers prevent their numbers from being transmitted to Caller ID devices. Blocking is offered on a free, per-call basis in a number of states, including Maryland.
Blocks blocked calls. Rejected callers are told by an electronic voice to redial without blocking their number. The service is sold by C & P in Northern Virginia under the name "Anonymous Call Rejection." C & P plans to offer the service in Maryland starting this fall.
Bellcore says it could, if requested, come up with ways to block anti-blocking services like Anonymous Call Rejection. Stay tuned.