An emergency response centre in South Africa has implemented an open source VoIP telephony system to cut the cost of handling calls.
Asterisk, an open-source application that provides all the functionality of a standard private branch exchange (PBX) system, has been installed at the Provincial Emergency Management Centre, in Cape Town, South Africa.
The installation was conducted by Connection Telecom and completed at the end of January. The system will be used for the first time in March during one of the country's biggest sporting events, the Argus Cycle Tour.
Steve Davies, the co-founder and director of Connection Telecom, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that Asterisk is being used to connect the response team and key decision makers, and will cover around 70 workstations.
The local government decided to go for Asterisk for cost reasons, and also because of the rich features offered by the open source product, according to Davies.
"The Asterisk phone software can do a lot of things that traditional systems need expensive external hardware for, such as call conferencing and call recording — they need to keep a record of what goes on in the response centre," he said.
As well as major events, the Asterisk-based telephony system is likely to be used during natural disasters such as bush fires and flooding, which are relatively common in the Cape area. A separate public call centre has also been set up at the Emergency Management Centre, but this is based on a traditional PBX exchange, rather than open source.
In the future, Asterisk will also be used at smaller emergency management centres that will be set up across the Western Cape Province and linked together, although this project is only in the early stages, according to Davies. He said this mission-critical installation is likely to help the adoption of Asterisk, which he believes will be in widespread use by 2016.
"This project is important for open source in general, and for open source telephony," he said. "I think Asterisk is going to be the way it's done in ten years' time."