Adamas Technikos Inc. is a generalist in the computer services industry, providing systems and integration since 1990. In that time they have relied on LAVA to supply them with reliable products, knowing that the cost in time and reputation of installing unreliable, so-called “cost-effective” components does not save money in the long run.
As a result, Adamas Technikos’ reputation for bulletproof computer solutions has meant that word of mouth is enough to fill their customer pipeline.
Current POS applications of LAVA cards by Adamas Technikos include the LAVA Parallel-PCI for dot matrix forms printers, and the LAVA SSerial-PCI for card swipes at a bank that prefers the security of serial over USB connectivity for payment processing. On the Dell and IBM motherboards that Adamas Technikos deploys, on-board serial and parallel ports are lacking.
Kevin Turner of Adamas Technikos emphasizes that getting it right the first time is key to their customers’ satisfaction, whether the industry is POS, healthcare, transportation, or manufacturing, all areas they serve.
Predictive dialers, at their most basic, are Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) hardware or software devices that dial a list of telephone numbers, and, when a call is answered, pass that call to a human calling agent, who initiates a conversation with the person answering the call. Beyond this basic function, predictive dialers also manage the distribution of calls to agents, manage unanswered calls by applying rescheduling algorithms, minimize agents’ wait times, and generally make the most effective use of telephony assets, including phone lines, agents, and calling time windows. They also ensure that calling complies with local regulations on frequency of calls, time delay after a call has been answered, and percentages of “abandoned” calls: those where the phone, once answered, has no agent available to handle the call. Predictive dialers will also store and play automated messages when appropriate, and integrate phone call information from calls or Private Branch Exchanges (PBXes) with databases for call analysis and record keeping.
Predictive dialers are a highly useful telemarketing tool, as they can greatly increase the amount of time that telemarketing agents spend on the phone in actual contact with those who have been called, improving the utilization of agents in actual calls from 40 minutes per hour to up to 57 minutes per hour. Agents do not lose time in dialing and redialing, managing phone lists, and waiting for someone to pick up a call.
At the telephony level, predictive dialers need at some point to connect to either a Voice over IP (VoIP), digital, or Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) telephony system. In the case of POTS dialers, a modem has typically been the dialer, and modem interfaces are RS-232 serial. In modem pools with numerous phone lines, banks of modems are integrated with computers using multi-port serial interfaces.
One of LAVA’s customers, MarkeTel Systems (http://www.marketelsystems.com) is a leader in CTI predictive dialers, and uses LAVA serial cards to complement their systems.
Numerous other predictive dialers also interface on RS-232:
http://www.way2call.com/scripts/openExtra.asp?extra=41: dialer with host interface RS-232
http://www.freedownloadscenter.com/Business/Misc__Phone_Tools/Phone_Dial_by_PC.html: software that uses serial RS-232 for modems
http://www.kolkersystems.com/: Gemini-2000 hardware predictive dialer
http://www.vikingelectronics.com/products/view_product.php?pid=193: PB-100 predictive dialer hardware and software
http://filedir.com/communications/telephony/phone-dial-by-pc-935381.html: Phone Dial by PC software
We’ve just put out our newest white paper, on the subject of Power over Ethernet (PoE), also known as IEEE 802.3at. This technology makes it possible to deliver power to networked devices simply and easily, using existing network cabling. Power can be added to a network using either PoE endpoint devices (these are, for example, PoE routers and switches), or through PoE midspan devices (devices that can inject power into an existing network segment). Power is delivered to PoE devices that are capable of asking for and then utilizing this power.
The PoE device receiving power does not in fact need to be an Ethernet device at all, making it possible to use PoE as a generalized, efficient, and managed low to medium power distribution system.
LAVA has introduced four PoE serial device servers as well, so now is a good time to become familiar with this powerful new technology.
It’s a common problem we see at LAVA — customers calling up with cabling issues. The most problematic are RJ-45 connectors providing RS-232 interfaces, since there is no solidly standardized pin-out. This issue of RJ-45 to RS-232 connection crops up frequently in POS (Point of Sale) systems, and shows up in other hardware as well.
A recent call to our support lines exemplifies the problem. A customer called up with a question: why would the LAVA Ether-Serial Link 4-232-RJ45 that he wanted to connect to a Valcom 2924 intercom system connect with a null modem cable, but not with a straight-through cable? On the face of it, the question seems nonsensical: evidently, if one cable works, then the other should not. Where was the problem? The LAVA Ether-Serial Link is configured as a Data Terminal Equipment (DTE) device, and since a null modem cable worked, the Valcom 2924 was also a DTE, so the connection was DTE-to-DTE. (If a straight-through cable had worked, then the intercom system would be a piece of Data Circuit-terminating Equipment (DCE), and the connection would be DTE-to-DCE).
Setting aside the fact that the term “null modem cable” can mean a number of things (see our blog post on null modem or crossover cables), you would think that ANY null modem cable, should it work, would not be replaceable with a straight-through cable. Common sense, right? The only problem was that the customer said the setup HAD worked with BOTH types of cables, when he was using a now-discontinued serial device server that was not a product of LAVA’s.
A bit of digging into this revealed that the intercom system in question had a DB-9 RS-232 printer port that could also be a source of Station Message Detail Recording (SMDR) information. Simple enough, but if the the intercom had a DB-9 serial port, why was the customer using a LAVA Ether-Serial Link with RJ-45 serial connectors? Why not just DB-9 to DB-9 and be done with it?
The answer lay with the discontinued serial device server the customer was wanting to replace — it was an Equinox ESP8. This serial device server has eight RS-232 interface ports, with RJ-45 connectors.
Now here is where it gets a bit funky. A look at the documentation for this device server revealed that Equinox was calling it a “Multi-Interface Serial Hub”, and available with it were a bunch of modular adapters and modular cables:
As you can see, the modular adapters make it possible to operate the ESP8 as either a DTE or DCE interface. There is a ten-wire “reversing cable” here — a serial cable to pair with the serial device server to be either a DCE or DTE device, as needed. This makes the device more versatile, in the sense that the cable is able to be either a straight-through or a null modem, WHEN USED WITH THIS DEVICE AND ITS ADAPTERS FROM EQUINOX. But it does nothing special for the LAVA Ether-Serial Link, which uses the tenth wire in an RS-232 RJ-45 connection for a totally different purpose: that is, as a way to supply power to serial peripherals over the serial connection.
See what I mean about the complications of RS-232 on an RJ-45 connector? And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at the multiplicity of arrangements of serial port lines on RJ-45 connectors documented on the following pages:
So the bottom line really is: when setting up serial interfaces with RJ-45 connections, make no assumptions about what wire is running where or what cable will work, because odds are you will be wrong! Fully documented pinouts are essential for quick, error-free setups.