FTC crowdsourcing solution to automated telemarketing

The answer may not be as straightforward as it sounds

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put out the call for inventive minds to invent a system that can preemptively block machine-made telemarketing transmissions with the FTC Robocall Challenge.

Starting on October 25 and running through January 17, the event issues an open call "challenging innovators to create solutions that will block illegal robocalls." The prize is $50,000 and a trip to D.C to explain the idea.

Even greater than the winnings, however, is that contestants are allowed to keep intellectual property rights to their concept.

Since the great telemarketing purge in 2009 that banned automatic telemarketing for commercial purposes, the FTC has seen a slow resurgence of advanced robocall systems that get around their filters and cost individuals and businesses time and money.

The Robocall Challenge is the FTC's best foot forward in attempting to eradicate those robotic voices getting through to land lines and mobiles phones across the U.S.

Building a better robo-trap

The contest rules state that "entries can be proposed technical solutions or functional solutions and proofs of concept," leaving the door wide open for a myriad of inventive solutions.

The kicker is that there are a number of legal automated calls made each day, including reverse 911 calls, registered voter campaign ads, and medical appointment or prescription refill calls.

Any concept entered into the Robocall Challenge will need to not only allow for the legal transmissions and block the illegal ones, but it will also need to be implementable on a national scale. This could include mobile phone software or relay monitoring technologies.

Whatever the solution, it's a positive sign that the FTC is getting involved in keeping the airways clear and useful.

With the limited spectrum available to mobile service providers today, a reduction in unwanted calls should improve life for consumers and corporations alike.