I’m still paying for a POTS telephone (land) line. Whether it’s just basic paranoia or a product of growing up in the 70s, I just can’t bring myself to get rid of my land line. For some reason, this cold war era technology gives me a certain degree of comfort. Not that it’s entirely without merit; during the last appreciable crisis in the pacific northwest (the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, a magnitude 6.8 roller), cell phones were virtually useless; all circuits were busy.
One of my (admittedly numerous) goals in developing my own HA solution is to track all inbound and outbound calls on my land line. This would allow me to actually measure usage to see if I’m actually getting my money’s worth, and opens the door to lots of potential features – automatically hanging up on known pesky callers, flashing caller ID on computers in the house, call frequency analysis, etc. I’ve worked my way through several different CID modem-based solutions looking for something reliable. Two devices seem reasonably popular with the HA crowd – an inexpensive model from Rosewill, and the venerable [amazon_link id=”B0013FDLM0″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]US Robotics USR5637 USB Modem[/amazon_link]. I found the Rosewill modem to be a non-starter; worked great with Linux as a basic modem, but the caller ID features just didn’t work. The US Robotics modem worked sporadically – it would reliably report caller ID information for a couple of days, then would mysteriously stop reporting.
A few years ago there were several devices available on the market that fit this need nicely; googling for serial caller ID devices turns up lots of references to items that are no longer commercially available. I imagine this is due to lack of consumer demand, as more and more people drop their POTS service for cell phone, cable solutions, and various VOIP solutions.
Do-it-yourself solutions for caller ID are technically possible, but are in fact a violation of federal law – it is illegal to attach a non-certified device to your POTS line (another vestigial remnant of the cold war), and online details for DIY solutions are sketchy at best.
In searching for a better solution, I kept coming across devices from CallerID.com; the rather silly-named “Whozz Calling” devices seem to be prevalent. After spending a ridiculous amount of time a couple of weeks ago trying to resolve the issues with my US Robotics modem I decided to take a closer look.
The device is actually quite nice; the two-line unit does everything I need. Serial connection – check. Well-documented API – check. Tracks inbound AND outbound calls – check. As an added bonus, the device also stores details of the last 248 calls in non-volatile memory. The company sells two versions of the two-line model: The base “POS” model provides simple inbound-only caller id functionality, and the more capable “Whozz Calling 2” model for both inbound and outbound calls. On inbound calls, it captures all Caller ID information, call duration, distinctive ring, and number of rings before answer. It tracks outbound calls sending time and date, digits dialed, and call duration. Detailed information such as Ring, On-hook, Off-hook, and Flash-hook is provided.
Retail pricing is rather steep for the device; the basic 2-line “Whozz Calling 2” devices $249 MSRP reflects the company’s target market (businesses, telemarketers, etc.) . However, the company does offer the device for $125 to qualified developers, a category which most Home Automation enthusiasts probably fit quite handily. I picked up a new unit on Ebay for $140 before discovering the developer link on the CallerID.com website.
My unit has connected and running for two weeks and I am extremely happy with the results. It is a rather simple device, doing one thing but doing it quite well. Chalk me up as a happy customer…