If you think about it, business technology since the late 19th century has mostly been all about making desk workers more efficient. The typewriter, first developed in the1860s, was used in business settings to more efficiently get words onto paper. And then, in 1979, a program called WordStar first introduced “word processing,” and was the precursor to ubiquitous PC based programs we still use today, such as Microsoft Word and Google docs. And when mobile phones appeared, texting arrived in the early 1990’s as the next generation of text-based communication.
But, hold on! What if your job isn’t at a desk? What if you can’t be looking at a mobile phone screen all the time?
Well, unfortunately, technology innovation for desk workers has lagged behind in a big way. In fact, it seems entirely natural to see people that run warehouses, conference centers, music festivals, and construction sites running around using walkie-talkie radios.
These devices were invented for initial use in World War II and haven’t changed all that much since then. The central benefit of walkie-talkies is what’s called “push-to-talk” (PTT) which means that whoever is talking blocks everyone else from speaking at that moment, so that communications can be clear, and people aren’t talking over each other, as they typically are on a phone call or Zoom meeting.
These radios work extremely well doing this one thing - but that’s all they do. And there are many limitations. One obvious problem is that listening in on a walkie-talkie channel is just like watching TV on an old television. If you have to step away, have no way of knowing what you missed. There’s no “replay” button.
So, with radios, this leads to other problems, such as people not knowing who is doing what; things falling through the cracks; and messages having to be repeated over and over. Broadly speaking, teams are simply much less efficient than they could be.
We looked at this situation and asked, what if you could combine the power of PTT with the benefits of text messaging? What if you could be working in the field with headsets or earpods in, and you could “hear” a text message without having to look at your phone? And what if you could push a button and speak back your response and your voice would be automatically transcribed in real-time on the screen?
At ALO.ai, we’ve essentially reinvented the walkie talkie as a mobile app - keeping all the benefits of the radio communications, combined with all the benefits of a mobile device.