Robocall Challenge Awards Announced
April 3, 2013

FTC Awards $50,000 In Contest To Thwart Robocalls

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Tuesday the winners of a national contest to develop new blocking technology for recorded ℠robocalls´.

Such calls are illegal even if a consumer is not on the commission´s ℠do-not-call´ list, and may only be placed to people who have given their consent.

The winners for the “Best Overall Solution” to block illegal robocalls were freelance software developer Aaron Foss of Long Island, N.Y., and computer engineer Serdar Danis, who declined to disclose his hometown. Each will be awarded a $25,000 prize.

Foss and Danis, who tied for first place, proposed software solutions that intercept and filter prerecorded calls to screen out those placed from a computer, or from someone identified as an unwanted caller. Both solutions filter out unapproved robocallers using a CAPTCHA-style test to prevent illegal calls from ringing through to a consumer.

Danis´s proposal, entitled “Robocall Filtering System and Device with Autonomous Blacklisting, Whitelisting, GrayListing and Caller ID Spoof Detection,” analyzes and blocks robocalls using software that could be implemented as a mobile app, an electronic device in a user´s home or a feature of a provider´s telephone service. Foss´s proposal, entitled “Nomorobo,” is a cloud-based solution that employs “simultaneous ringing” that allows incoming calls to be routed to a second telephone line, which would identify and hang up on illegal robocalls before they could ring through to the user.

The judges also selected two Google engineers, Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson from Google´s Pittsburgh office, as winners in a separate category for organizations that employ 10 or more people. That category did not include a monetary prize.

Klein and Jackson submitted a “Crowd-Sourced Call Identification and Suppressionproposal that would help identify caller-ID spoofing, in which the original calling number is masked so a person cannot call the robocaller back.

“The solutions that our winners came up with have the potential to turn the tide on illegal robocalls, and they show the wisdom of tapping into the genius and technical expertise of the public,” said Charles Harwood, Acting Director, FTC´s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“We´re hoping these winning proposals find their way to the marketplace soon, and will provide relief to millions of American consumers harassed by these calls.”

The FTC receives about 200,000 complaints each month from consumers annoyed with robocalls. Although the commission´s do-not-call list has reduced the number of these unwanted calls, plenty still make their way through to consumers.

Summaries of all the eligible contest entries can be viewed here.