AIMe: Advanced Immediate Messaging
You want always-on Internet in your home, but broadband service doesn't exist yet? No problem.
”Information Appliances” were all the rage in the late 1990’s but were expensive. Always-on broadband Internet was far from widely available. MyPort Express was a startup whose vision was to deliver the future in the present with an advanced, Internet-enhanced Caller ID-like device and service. The concept married unified communications services with simple in-home information appliances named AIMe. Low-cost embedded dial-up modems, paging chipsets, powerline networking, voice compression, and simple displays presented personal, always-on information streams in the home. Unified communication services allowed access to email, voice messaging, and content (weather, news, etc.) via telephone, web, and the home devices.
The idea was to deliver as much high-value voice and text information with as little complexity and expense as possible — old-skool Caller ID meets new-skool twitter. I was present from the beginning of the venture through to the end and played a central role in evolving the concept.
I developed the entire demonstration system. I also developed the concept of connecting the home information appliances to the outside world via a unified communications platform.
The information appliance system consisted of a headless, master device that coordinated communication among the client devices on a home’s powerline network. The headless master acted as a networked answering machine, collected Caller ID information, and by way of a non-disruptive triggering system and dial-up modem mechanism synchronized voice and text with the unified communications server outside the home. The client device acted as a dumb terminal presenting the information available at the master device through a high visibility display and infrared remote control interface.
The Linux-based unified communications demonstration server acted as an email gateway; collected news, weather, etc.; and mirrored the voice communication collected in the home. It then made this information available to the home information appliances and made it available online via a web interface.
MyPort Express was successful in attracting angel investment. However, the Dotcom Bust of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and then the terrorist attacks of September 11th prevented the project from reaching a point where further investment could be secured and commercial viability could truly be tested.