Twilio: A wow bunch of product announcements

Don’t know whether you all have seen all the new product announcements from Twilio in the last couple of days (at their developer and customer conference. Here’s my abbreviated summary. Take into account that I don’t understand the technology, but still, I know that they sure haven’t been standing still, and I don’t see how any competitor could really compete with them, much less beat them!!!

1. - Twilio Announces the general availability of Flex, fueling the next generation of the Contact Center

Thousands of contact center agents already live on Twilio Flex, including customer service teams at Lyft, U-Haul, and Shopify

Flex ushers in a new era of fully programmable applications, the next evolution of enterprise software, so enterprises can build the exact experience that supports their business needs.

Twilio Flex, the first fully programmable cloud contact center platform, is now generally available. Since its announcement in March, Flex has rolled out to thousands of contact center agents including support and sales teams at Lyft, Scorpion, Shopify and U-Haul. In addition, as Twilio continues to expand the Flex ecosystem, more than 145 consulting and technology partners - including Cognizant and Perficient - are supporting Flex. With today’s announcement, Twilio also revealed industry-first pricing options, allowing customers to choose between traditional per agent monthly pricing or a flexible per agent hour model.

It’s been amazing to see the excitement Flex has created in the contact center market since our announcement in March. Enterprises no longer have to make the choice of whether to build or buy because Flex deploys like a SaaS application, integrates like a premise-based solution and iterates at the pace of a web platform. As of today, we will be rolling out Twilio Flex to the thousands of companies who signed up during beta. We can’t wait to see what they create.

Introducing an entirely new approach to the industry, Twilio Flex delivers the first instantly deployable cloud-based platform that allows businesses to programmatically customize every element of their contact center experience – from the core infrastructure to the user interface.

Twilio recently introduced new capabilities for monitoring, reporting, and speech analytics based on its acquisition of Ytica, a workforce optimization provider.

With Twilio Flex, enterprises can:
Deploy instantly and integrate quickly: A simple onboarding experience allows businesses to get up and running within a few minutes. To customize, businesses can easily integrate Flex into Salesforce using pre-built connectors or add additional capabilities such as phrase detection, call scoring and intelligent redaction of recordings.
Deliver a true omnichannel experience: Siloed systems for customer communications creates a bad experience, complicates operations and increases support costs. With Twilio Flex, enterprises can deliver a true omnichannel experience with access to more than a dozen channels out of the box, including Voice, SMS, Video and WhatsApp.
Have complete visibility and control over interaction data: Flex gives supervisors and administrators the analytics and insights they need to manage performance, quality and customer experience.
Automate the known and escalate the unknown: Using Autopilot, Twilio’s conversational AI platform, businesses can rely on machine learning-powered bots that automate information gathering and respond to frequently asked questions and then transition the conversation to a human agent using Flex for more complex queries.
Enable agents to securely process payments: Powered by Twilio , Twilio’s new API for building payment experiences, contact center agents can now securely accept credit card payments from customers over the phone.
Run their entire contact center on Twilio’s cloud infrastructure: Unlike traditional cloud deployments, Twilio Flex’s new plugin framework allows developers to make changes and retain control of their contact center application, while still benefiting from continuous improvements made to the rest of the application by Twilio.

Since Twilio launched Flex to an oversubscribed preview program in March, thousands of businesses have requested access to Twilio Flex, across industries including financial services, retail, healthcare, travel, media and technology.

“The exciting thing about Flex is it allows us to build customer experiences the way we want, without having to change our business,” said Chris Wilson, at Shopify.

“When Twilio announced Flex in March 2018, it took the contact center market by storm,” said Sheila McGee-Smith, of McGee-Smith Analytics. “Why? Because over the past ten years, Twilio has built a community of 2 million+ happy developers and 50,000+ active customer accounts – ready to explore Twilio Flex as they search for the perfect cloud contact center solution to replace aging, inflexible premises-based systems.”

Twilio Flex works with an entire ecosystem of partners. Consulting partners, including Cognizant, Perficient, Presidio and Avtex, are building practices for Twilio Flex.

"Twilio Flex is an entirely new approach to contact centers, providing us with a cloud platform we can use to drive innovation in customer service,” said the vice president at Perficient. “With Twilio Flex, we have the best of both worlds: it’s reliable and scalable, while also providing customization.
Technology partners including Google Cloud, IBM Watson and Voicebase are providing customers with one-click integrations for capabilities such as sentiment analysis, workforce optimization, workforce management, analytics, reporting, and storage.

Pricing - Twilio strives to reduce friction in the buying process, and Flex’s pricing model is yet another innovation in the contact center industry. Developers can get started for free with 5,000 active user hours, enabling them to get started easily, building out integrations and testing Flex’s capabilities before having to commit. Customers can then scale flexibly with two pricing options: $1 per active agent hour or $150 per user per month.

2. - Twilio announces Autopilot, enabling millions of developers to build omnichannel bot experiences that don’t suck

Designed to work alongside contact center agents, Autopilot takes care of initial information gathering and then passes context of that interaction to an agent when a human touch is required
With Autopilot, developers can write applications once and deploy to SMS, Chat, Alexa, Slack and Google Assistant without additional code

Twilio Autopilot, the first fully programmable, conversational AI platform for building custom bots and home assistant apps. Autopilot uses best-in-class conversational patterns to automate the initial, information-gathering conversation with customers. If a conversation with an agent is required, Autopilot can smoothly hand off the conversation to a contact center agent, sharing the context of that initial interaction so customers never have to repeat themselves.

Machine learning is the most transformative technology of our time. However, until now, the tools available for building machine learning-powered conversational experiences have been too complex and not optimized for developers, which has led to poor customer experiences. We built Autopilot to make companies successful in building bots that delight users, instead of frustrating them.

Bots and virtual assistants have the potential to be transformative for businesses. At its best, automation can help companies shorten response time, reach more customers and provide an “always on” resource for customer service inquiries. However, delivering a compelling self-service experience for customers has been challenging for businesses because the current technologies available are not designed with the user experience in mind. Twilio Autopilot solves this challenge for businesses by providing a platform that can be deployed across nearly any channel and is embedded with logic that helps ensure the most natural interaction from start to finish.

According to Gartner, “With only 4% of enterprises having deployed conversational interfaces but 38% planning to or actively experimenting, this market is set for growth.”

Autopilot enables businesses to:
Develop intelligent bots faster. Autopilot takes care of the Natural Language Understanding and Machine Learning which allows developers to focus on business logic and customer experience.
Personalize the tone and conversational style of the interaction. Style sheets allow developers to select the tone of voice, language and error and success messages of the bot, giving businesses complete control of the experience they deliver to customers.
Use their own data to train bots that get smarter over time. Developers can use their existing company data to train bots to trigger actions or replies based on actual conversations.
Smoothly handoff conversations to agents when necessary. Bots can automate information gathering and respond to frequently asked questions, and then transition the conversation to a human agent for more complicated queries. Autopilot passes along all the context of the automated interaction (name, account number, reason for calling, etc).
Build applications once and deploy across any channel. Autopilot’s responses are adapted to provide the best experience on nearly any channel including IVRs, SMS, Chat, Alexa, Slack and Google Assistant.

Availability - Twilio Autopilot is available for developers to begin using in public beta today via the Twilio Console. Additionally, Autopilot can be accessed via a widget in Twilio Studio and integrated into Twilio Flex.

3. - Twilio announces : empowering millions of developers to build secure payment experiences into communications channels

Twilio partners with Stripe to power secure, over-the-phone payments
Twilio Programmable Voice achieves PCI Certification, allowing for secure and intuitive over-the-phone payment workflows

, a new API that enables developers to easily process payments securely over the phone. With just one line of code companies can quickly and easily accept payment via automated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) interactions or in contact center environments.

Stripe, a technology and payments company, is Twilio’s initial launch partner. With Twilio, Stripe customers will be able to connect their account and begin accepting credit card payments in minutes.
Historically, taking payments over the phone has been either unsecure or painfully difficult and complex for businesses to support. With Twilio , there’s a better way. It gives developers the tools needed to build secure and intuitive payment experiences. Now developers will only need to add one line of code to begin processing payments over the phone.

With , businesses can securely accept payments via IVR prompts, enabling automated collection of credit card details. Built-in features help contact center agents connect with customers and assist in making phone payments without revealing sensitive credit card data to the agent, adding to the security of customer data in a contact center setting.

Many businesses want to allow their customers to place orders or pay bills over the phone. However, with the continued rise in identity theft, consumers are more cautious and protective when it comes to sharing their credit card information. In addition, for any company that transmits or stores credit card information, PCI DSS compliance is a must, as it ensures consumer credit card information is securely handled. Until now, businesses who wanted to accept credit card payments over the phone either had to face the operational complexity of becoming PCI DSS compliant themselves, which includes annual audits, or use a payment processing tool with limited customizability. Twilio solves this problem with the introduction of , a fully programmable payment solution designed natively for communications channels.

Twilio makes it easier for developers to build a secure and intuitive payment experience for customers. With it, developers are able to securely capture credit card information and pass on the information to a payment platform, such as Stripe. Twilio allows businesses to:

Add to contact centers: Easily add payment experiences to contact centers so agents can assist customers through the payment process. When it is time for a customer to share credit card information, the agent will never see or hear the numbers being entered.
Automate payment workflows: Businesses can enhance their existing IVRs by adding in for a customizable payment experience. allows you to control the language of prompts, customize voice user interface, and accepted credit card types.
Integrate with payment platforms: Through Twilio’s Connectors, developers will be able to connect with payment platforms, such as Stripe, with just a few clicks.
Support a card on file for faster future payments: Customers who make repeated purchases with a company can choose to have their credit card information saved on file for faster checkout later. Twilio does not store credit card data, but instead will use the payment provider you’ve selected to tokenize the information and pass it back to your app.
Drag and drop a payment option into their Twilio app with Studio: Developers will only need to add one line of code or use Twilio Studio Widget to begin accepting credit card payments with their Twilio Programmable Voice applications.
Ensure no sensitive information is recorded: If a company records customer phone interactions for orders, Twilio will automatically pause the recording when is activated and resume the recording once the payment information has been supplied, preventing the recording from capturing payment information.

With Stripe and future payment platforms, developers will be able to add these payment providers as a Connector through a simple interface within the Twilio Console.

PCI DSS Compliance is a standard that applies to any business that stores, processes or transmits cardholder data and/or sensitive authentication data. Twilio has made significant investments and undergone the rigorous certification process to ensure that its Programmable Voice platform complies with the PCI DSS Level 1 standard so that customers accepting payments through Twilio won’t have to go through that process themselves. This provides an easy way for businesses to handle payment information in voice applications, regardless of whether they are PCI-compliant or not.

Pricing and Availability - Twilio is currently in public beta. Twilio will be will be generally available in the first half of 2019 in the U.S. and select international markets supported by our payment partners and priced at 10 cents per successful transaction. Out-of-the-box, will be supported by Twilio Flex and Twilio Studio.

4. - Twilio and T-Mobile US partner to introduce Twilio Narrowband: the nation’s first developer platform for Narrowband IoT

Twilio Introduces the Narrowband Developer Platform for Innovators
T-Mobile’s first U.S. Narrowband IoT Network optimized for IoT devices sending small and infrequent packets of data

Twilio has created a new developer platform for the T-Mobile Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network today. Twilio Narrowband is the first developer platform for NB-IoT in the U.S., a cellular low-power wide-area network technology, which will substantially reduce prices and increase battery life for intermittent low-bandwidth connections. Twilio also announced the Twilio Breakout Software Development Kit (SDK) to help developers start taking advantage of NB-IoT networks.

NB-IoT was designed for the majority of IoT devices that don’t need a lot of bandwidth. With NB-IoT, devices can consume a fraction of the battery power they do with previous cellular M2M devices, enabling connectivity at a fraction of the cost. NB-IoT is built for smaller data packets, such as timestamps, GPS coordinates and status updates for a variety of industries, from smart metering to health device monitoring. With the power and cost efficiencies generated by NB-IoT, the market is ripe to open for new categories of lower cost, battery efficient internet-connected devices that don’t exist today. T-Mobile is the first to deploy a NB-IoT network in the U.S., which launched nationwide in July.

“Together with Twilio, the Un-carrier is unleashing developers and building an entirely new ecosystem for IoT solutions. I can’t wait to see what awesomeness they create!” said the CEO of T-Mobile. “Once again, T-Mobile is at the forefront of innovation, enabling a world where anything and everything can be connected. The possibilities are endless!”

Twilio Narrowband Developer Platform is comprised of three components:

Narrowband SIMs: Since the introduction of Twilio Programmable Wireless two years ago, Twilio has been focused on getting developers started quickly with cellular connectivity, instant self-service onboarding, no contracts required and two-day shipping in the U.S.
Twilio Narrowband IoT Developer Kit: A limited supply developer kit including an Arduino-based development board and Grove sensors specifically chosen for innovative low-powered wide-area solutions. It also features the u-blox LTE Cat NB1 SARA N410 hardware module, certified for the T-Mobile Narrowband network.
Twilio Breakout SDK: Twilio Breakout SDK reduces the complexity of hardware and heterogeneity of different networks, allowing developers to focus on creating their narrowband IoT device deployment. The Breakout SDK handles tasks such as network registration and intelligently optimizes communication between devices and cloud services based on the network capability requirements across IP, Non-IP and SMS.

“We see Twilio as part of a new wave of IoT connectivity providers that is disrupting the market by reducing the friction for developers. We think its offer is especially well suited to the Narrowband market, where operational costs need to be kept extremely low," said Tom Rebbeck, at Analysys Mason.
"The market for NB-IoT connectivity is potentially very large - possibly exceeding 3 billion connections by 2026 with potential applications in consumer electronics, utilities, agriculture, smart cities and other vertical markets. The new models that are built for scale, such as Twilio’s, are likely to become the standard for much of the market.”

The two companies first teamed up back in 2016 with the launch of developer tools for cellular IoT, opening up the opportunity for IoT solution developers to build in cellular connectivity for the first time.

Pricing and Availability
Twilio’s Narrowband Developer Platform will be available in the U.S.for beta access in early 2019 and will be offered in three pricing plans:
• Developer plan for $2 per month
• Production annual plan for $10/year or $5/year at scale
• Production five-year plan for $8/year or $4/year at scale

5. - Twilio introduces Global Super SIM for IoT Developers

Enables Developers to Use a Single API to Deploy IoT Devices Globally

Works with Singtel, Telefonica and Three Group

Twilio Super SIM tackles the complexity of network connectivity to lower the barriers of entry into the IoT market

Introduced the Twilio Super SIM, built on Twilio’s mobile core infrastructure, and an expanded set of tier-one carrier relationships with Singtel, Telefonica and Three Group, which power Twilio Programmable Wireless. With the Twilio Super SIM, developers can use a single API to deploy Internet of things (IoT) devices globally, with the confidence that Twilio can optimize network performance on tier-one carriers based on the location the device is deployed in.

The powerful combination of the Wireless Super Network, Twilio’s mobile core infrastructure, an Over-The-Air (OTA) platform, and SIM hardware with custom SIM software provides the stack for the Twilio Super SIM. This combination is novel in the wireless industry and is the foundation for Twilio’s vision of providing one SIM with one API with global reach. The Twilio Super SIM is the first major step in building for the new era of the IoT.

Twilio’s Mobile Core Infrastructure
Twilio’s mobile core infrastructure is a complete software implementation of a mobile core, 2G, 3G and LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC) in the cloud, which means it is inherently global. Twilio’s mobile core is the software layer that controls the wireless connectivity for the Twilio Wireless Super Network. It provides the features that developers have come to expect from cloud services: global scale, high availability and fast iteration cycles. As with other Twilio products, the Twilio’s mobile core will continually improve over time with hundreds of software updates per month. It intelligently routes traffic to provide network redundancy, flexible network steering, reduced latency and access to the best in-country networks.

“The paradigm of build once and deploy globally simply doesn’t exist today in the IoT industry,” said Chetan Chaudhary at Twilio. “Today, with Twilio Super SIM, developers can see network optimizations occur over the air without having to reconfigure their device. Developers expect this kind of experience when deploying software, and Twilio’s relationships with tier-one network operators enables it to offer developers the kind of development experience they deserve.”

Expansion of the Twilio Wireless Super Network
With Twilio’s mobile core, Twilio is able to add wireless connectivity through the expansion of the Twilio Wireless Super Network. By working with Singtel, Telefonica and Three Group, Twilio can provide access to wireless connectivity from multiple tier-one operators through a single global interface. This enables Twilio to leverage relationships with hundreds of networks around the world. As Twilio expands its Wireless Super Network to include additional wireless connectivity, customers will benefit with expanded choice, coverage and resiliency. Twilio’s multiple first-party relationships give developers confidence that they can trust connectivity from Twilio.

Twilio Super SIM
The Twilio Super SIM brings together Twilio’s mobile core and Wireless Super Network to provide one SIM with one API. By tackling the complexity of network connectivity and providing a single trusted relationship to manage wireless connectivity, the Twilio Super SIM lowers the barriers of entry to the IoT market - regardless of whether you’re a single developer or an established brand. Through the Twilio Console and APIs, Twilio offers developers the control to choose the right network at the right time or rely on Twilio’s smart defaults to intelligently choose networks. The Twilio Super SIM offers unparalleled debuggability and visibility into IoT deployments.

“IoT deployments have many layers of complexity, including the myriad networks devices use to connect to the Internet,” says Stacy Crook, research director, IoT at IDC. “Deployments that leverage cellular connectivity can be especially tricky, as developers often have to deal with multiple carrier contracts and APIs to connect and manage their device fleets globally. Offerings that help simplify global cellular connectivity management for developers will be a welcome addition in the market.”

Twilio Super SIM offers developers:
• Twilio’s mobile core with a software mindset: Cloud-based mobile core that continually improves. Deployed globally for low latency and high availability.
• Access to a global network of tier-one operators: Working in cooperation with Singtel, Telefonica and Three Group, Twilio provides developers access to multiple networks in every country, resulting in competitive rates with a single billing relationship.
• Connections to the best available network: Intelligently connects IoT devices to the right network wherever the Twilio Super SIM is deployed.
• A granular view of SIM network selection and usage: Provides flexibility and transparency by giving developers the control to review connections, choose networks and view usage all in a single interface.
• A “build once and deploy globally” approach: A globally deployed mobile core infrastructure and multiple operator profiles on a single SIM.

Pricing and Availability
Twilio Super SIM is currently in private preview. A public beta will be offered in spring 2019 with flexible pricing options.


This represents an incredible scope of functionality, even if I don’t understand it all when you get down in the weeds of communications, telephony and networks. In fact, even with my limited experience in this area (OK, virtually no experience) I can still grasp the scope of these offerings layered on top of Twilio’s already substantial platform.

One thing that gave me pause was the so-called flexible pricing for Flex:

Twilio strives to reduce friction in the buying process, and Flex’s pricing model is yet another innovation in the contact center industry. Developers can get started for free with 5,000 active user hours, enabling them to get started easily, building out integrations and testing Flex’s capabilities before having to commit. Customers can then scale flexibly with two pricing options: $1 per active agent hour or $150 per user per month.

I get the part about 5,000 free user hours, that’s like the bait on a hook. Once you’ve got 5,000 hours invested in this, you’re unlikely to walk away. That’s nearly 2.5 manyears of usage. Where I worked a manyear was 2088 hours, however when it came to resource estimates we used an 80% efficiency factor for routine tasks as nobody (except maybe Tinker) is on task every paid hour of every day. So a manyear of applied labor was calculated at 1,670 manhours making allowance for vacations, sick leave, bathroom breaks, water cooler gossip, group meetings, etc. So a manmonth at full burden (2088 manhours/yr) is 174 manhours/mo, while the applied rate is 139 manhours/mo. I guess it comes down to how exactly agent hours are measured and possibly who is doing the measuring. I assume (even though the language is inconsistent) that “agent” and “user” apply to the same type of person functioning in the same capacity.

The Narrowband IOT product in partnership with T-Mobile is probably more important than most folks realize. For mobile applications, bandwidth is everything. The ability to cram more communication channels into the same bandwidth currently required for one channel is of enormous benefit to both the mobile provider and user. I’d wager that T-Mobile is just the first partner as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and other mobile providers worldwide will want to get in on this action. It’s an irresistible market.

I don’t fully understand what the Super Sim product. Is it a physical h/w sim card linked to a s/w solution with IP protection on both? Just a s/w product? It’s not entirely clear to me, but I assume it has a h/w component. That’s of some consequence as it most likely impacts device makers (unless it’s an 100% compatible direct replacement for existing sim cards - unlikely). If it’s in part h/w this may serve to slow its adoption despite how many networks support it. Nevertheless, Twilio seems very excited about it, so maybe it’s just my lack of clarity in understanding it that tempers my enthusiasm.

All in all, very encouraging report on Twillio’s ability to move from R&D to fielded, high demand products.


This represents an incredible scope of functionality, even if I don’t understand it all when you get down in the weeds of communications, telephony and networks. In fact, even with my limited experience in this area (OK, virtually no experience) I can still grasp the scope of these offerings layered on top of Twilio’s already substantial platform.

Hi brittlerock, what blew me away about the Flex announcement was when they said “we will be rolling out Twilio Flex to the thousands of companies who signed up during beta” (my bolding)! This is not “We have 30 more companies beyond the companies in the beta program signed up to join” or “50 more companies”, but “thousands” more companies signed up!

And another game changer will be , which allows people in call centers (or elsewhere) to take payments securely. What this actually means is that customers can give their credit card info securely because when they are giving it the agent taking the payment never sees or hears the credit card information. It’s ingenious, and will alleviate a lot of the anxiety about giving your credit card information.




Yes, Pay is a game changer. There’s one company I do business with occasionally via phone, when it comes to payment the agent routes my call to a different department in order to take the CC info. I guess the order taking agent and the payment taking agent have different security levels or something. But the ability to service the same caller in line with the phone transaction greatly simplifies this.

And yeah, in no way did I mean to critique Flex, I just don’t understand their fee structure. It didn’t make sense to me, but I’m not in the call center, customer service business so I guess that’s not surprising. Obviously, those thousands of customers who are in line to get the service understand what they will be paying for.

And like I said before, Narrow Band is a game changer, it might start off slowly, but it has a lot of promise.

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wow… just wow… Flex, Pay, NB IoT… and as Saul said, having thousands of customers ready to jump on Flex… seems very very promising.

Now, it would be even better if TWLO partners with SQ for … hopefully be soon!

I am curious on this payment food chain. So TWLO will enable to plug in Stripe (or SQ or someone similar) as part of its API… I get the “make it easy” part, but I wonder what part of that payment processing pot would TWLO get? (Remember Stripe or SQ also have may be three or four layers of companies they end up sharing with down the stream - e.g. card issuer bank, Visa etc.)
So in case of TWLO , is it something like Apple pay where they get really really tiny cut but look for huge scale?

BTW - I just took a quick look at Stripe website, this seems like a very strong company emerging… not sure if / when they go public but they have impressive set of customers and the fact that TWLO chose them as launch partner says something.

I wonder what part of that payment processing pot would TWLO get?

From the news release:
priced at 10 cents per successful transaction completed

To me, that sounds like a heck of a lot of money, if it’s 10 cents on billions of transactions.


Agree… 10 cents is A LOT… I am quite surprised… will try and dig into this more.


Well I’m in TWLO again.

My limit order hit at 67 Friday while I was flying across country. Just realized this morning that it hit as I had no idea of the late sell off Friday.

I love this market right now as it allows for some really good fishing at lower prices.

Time to bait a few more hooks this morning before I get back on a plane to head back home.