If you pay attention to the communications and enterprise technology news, you’ll know that the world today is in flux. Up and coming technologies, rather than being used piecemeal, are starting to converge. Increasing use of mobile technologies, video, wearable technology, cloud services and new standards like WebRTC (Real-Time Communications) have us at a point that is starting to sound a bit like the movie “Minority Report.” (Throw in the recent revelations about NSA spying on Americans’ digital and mobile communications, and it’s a little too close for comfort.)
Where many people see a brave new world, others see an ominous new stage in humanity where individuals have no privacy, rely on technology to the extent where they are helpless without it, and see exhausted human beings unable to disconnect from their devices (in some cases, they may actually be wearing them).
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The optimistic among us see a world that is so interconnected that barriers between cultures, languages, social classes and geography fall away, leaving a “one world” scenario that allows different groups of people to teach each other their own best practices for living, allowing the not-so-good practices to shrivel to dust.
All of these newer technologies have the power to transform the way we do business as well, allowing workers and customers to be more interconnected, face-to-face and interpersonal. Customers will no longer be a customer number and a complaint or a demand to the companies with which they do business: they will be a real person with preferences, a history and a presence in the company that allows an organization to understand and better tailor its products and services to its customers. With enough lightning fast analysis and technology support, companies are at the point where they can begin to anticipate their customers’ needs, ensuring that the relationship is custom-tailored to that individual. (It also helps that this could boost sales.)
In the lead-up to ITEXPO, which will take place at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas from August 26 to 29, TMCnet has spoken with a number of industry experts about where all these new technologies will converge, and what the challenges will be for them. Doug Mohney, editor-in-chief of HD Voice News, told TMCnet that with many new technologies, we’re still watching to see how things will play out.
TMCnet: How will wearable technology develop in the business world? Will you buy an iWatch or other comparable device?
Mohney: I think we are still in early days with wearable tech. There are a number of vertical markets that scream for it. Google (News - Alert) Glass hardware might be expensive – we just don't know right now what the market price will be – but a savvy developer and/or VAR will be able to make a killing by putting together the right apps and being able to integrate those apps with existing databases. I have to think about a smartwatch. My decision will depend on the price and how well it does voice compared to a Bluetooth headset or standalone phone.
TMCnet: How will Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) change the service provider landscape?
Mohney: Wasn't this SDN last year? More seriously, we're back to the age-old divide between what data center and service providers want. It looks like service providers have become serious about software-based, cloud-based solutions. And I find it ironic that you can get IMS today in an open source package from MetaSwitch (News - Alert) through its Project Clearwater. When IMS first came out however many years ago, MetaSwitch was promoting its products as "IMS ready" if you needed it, and if you didn't, that was OK too.
TMCnet: How will the growing movement towards software impact traditional hardware vendors?
Mohney: What is a traditional hardware vendor these days? I think the lower you go in the stack, the less impact you get on the device level. ADTRAN is probably a perfect example of a "traditional" hardware vendor that has recognized the power of software to provide flexibility and revenue; ship one network box and add functions with a new software load. Move down to the physical layers of optical and copper and software doesn't make a direct impact. Move up to switches and routers – Bazinga! – software make a very big difference when you start throwing around SDN and NFV.
The bigger trend is everyone getting into services. GENBAND looks like Oracle, except GENBAND started in hardware, then moved into services and software. Oracle started in software, then moved into services and added some hardware along the way. You can get Asterisk (News - Alert) services from Digium now as a cloud service; Digium started in software and is getting deeper into hardware. What's up with that?
TMCnet: The emergence of WebRTC has generated a host of new communications vendors looking to change the communications world. How will these new providers impact the communications market?
Mohney: I think voice/video soft clients and the whole world of UC vendors need to be thinking how they need to retool or die. Why do you need Skype (News - Alert) if you've got video built into the browser? WebRTC is unified communications, one accessible by any Web designer via API.
TMCnet: How have you used video in your business communications? What is the potential for video as a mainstream business technology?
Mohney: People have been pushing video uphill for the past decade and it comes down to ease of use, interoperability, and human factors. I recently did a Google+ Hangout with VUC. Aside from a hiccup getting the latest version of Chrome running, it worked flawlessly. I was able to run video clients both on my Android phone and via desktop PC. Ease of use is there. Interoperability boils down to either over-the-top or federation. Both solutions fill in because service providers have failed to play well together for any number of reasons.
TMCnet: Should we be concerned that government entities, like the NSA, may be monitoring our communications? What impact will recent information surrounding the PRISM program have on technology vendors?
Mohney: Microsoft is eating its "Scroogled!" campaign right about now. Maybe it will roll out a new campaign to be "Nobody but the U.S. government can access your communications." More seriously, this is a layer 9 – politics – issue (layer 8 being money) and is likely to be contentious through the 2016 presidential elections. Expect a lot of layer 8 work to influence layer 9 by Fortune 500 technology vendors.
TMCnet: Is the mobile device market going to become a battle between Apple and Samsung (News - Alert), or can others find success as well?
Mohney: It depends on the segment of the market you are talking about. If it's consumer, it's Apple vs. Android, with Samsung leading the way. If it's the enterprise market and tablets, it's Android with Samsung leading the way vs. Microsoft. Apple isn't interested in working with businesses, so when it comes time to customize hardware and apps, you'll see Microsoft start to creep in. Windows on Phones – well, we'll see.
For more information about ITEXPO or to register, visit www.itexpo.com.
Edited by Alisen Downey