Aug/Sept 2008 | Volume 3/Number 4
IMS Bridges the Gap, Part 3
By Marc Leclerc
Making services work across networks. Linking the telecom, Internet and media industries into a common value chain called networked multimedia will be difficult. But recently we’ve seen the arrival of IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) – a framework that if properly applied could provide the media, telecom, and Internet businesses with a bridge that unites them. IMS is used to build a converged user experience that leverages the best from the telecoms, media and Internet worlds.
In this text I will focus on the interfaces IMS provides for linking the three parties involved in networked multimedia. Specifically, I will mention the Communications Services (CoSe) defined in IMS in order to provide end-to-end interoperability of key IMS capabilities across networks. These are:
• Telephony: create, merge, split, and tear down voice and video sessions in real time.
• Messaging: create and transmit deferred messages (such as SMS and MMS).
• Push-to-talk: "floor control," in other words, push a message (text, voice, video) out to a group of receivers (as if they were walkie-talkies on the same frequency).
• Subscriber profile: user location, presence status, group management, identity handling, user profiles, etc.
None of these functions are unique to IMS, but IMS is the only standard that covers all these areas for mobile-, fixed-, and cable-based communications in the same framework. Because some confusion exists regarding IMS, it’s also perhaps worth mentioning what IMS is not:
• An all-encompassing grab for control of users by the telecom operators and vendors: the walled garden model is fast disappearing, and IMS vendors are providing tools that give network operators and developers more choice in business models (such as paid subscription, pay per use) than the predominantly advertising-based model of the internet.
• A panacea: IMS provides a specific set of technical capabilities. The parties involved still need to set up the business relationships that will create a true win-win scenario.
• Finished: IMS is still a new technology in deployment. There is a great opportunity for first movers to establish dominant positions in IMSenabled services.
Powerful new sales tools. IMS provides networked multimedia with a framework for a win-win-win scenario. IMS also provides the underlying architecture needed to provide a truly well-integrated and coherent consumer experience.
For instance, IMS helps advertisers and retailers work together by providing reliable profile information, for targeted advertising. IMS permits customers to opt out and control which information in their profiles they will allow external parties to see. The targeted advert can then be sent as a push-to-talk message, requiring little direct participation unless the customer is interested. The message could contain a premium offer or discount coupon, in which case the customer can respond via telephony or messaging services, using the network operator’s charging services to bill a user who wants to buy now.
In another scenario, a woman walks down the street and finds out, via location services, that several friends are in the area. She then uses an IMSenabled "active address book" to see who would be available for coffee, and sends out an invitation via instant messaging. With a restaurant location service she finds a nearby favorite coffee shop; and using the white-boarding facility of IMS, shows the group of friends where to meet. In the meantime, the coffee shop gets her "frequent patron" number from her profile and issues a special coupon. As each group member leaves, they receive a personalized message thanking them for their patronage, and offering each a different discount coupon based on age and previous buying history.
Another interesting usage of IMS capability is to use presence status to identify changes in someone’s activity that may present a commercial opportunity. For example, while commuting a man is watching a sports event broadcast in real time. He arrives at his destination before the program is finished, and is obliged to stop watching the program. IMS detects this change of status and initiates a service that sends him a text message with an offer to provide a short video when any significant action happens for the rest of the game. He accepts the service by sending a message in response, and receives the highlights of the remainder of the event as multimedia messages (for a fee of course!).
The road ahead. Telecoms, the media, and the Internet have much to gain by working together to create a unified market for networked multimedia, and IMS provides a way of reaching this destination. Of course, the ones who stand to gain the most in this convergence are the consumers – and
that is perhaps the best indication that we are on the right path.
Marc Leclerc (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been involved in the computing and communications industries since 1982, including positions in product design for software and hardware, product management and marketing. A member of the strategy and marketing group within Ericsson (News - Alert)’s Business Unit Multimedia, he is a frequent speaker at industry events. He is also manager of the Ericsson Mobility World Global IMS Expert Center at Ericsson Canada. Education: McGill University, Bachelor of Science in mathematics and computing; MBA 1998.