Convergence Corner

ITEXPO Austin Highlights the Next Generation of Technology

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  October 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY

On any given day, as I look through my vendor news, my Google (News - Alert) Alerts, and the content on TMCnet, I’m amazed at the breadth of innovation our industry achieves on a daily basis, constantly bringing new products and services to market, or enhancing existing product offerings to enable customers to conduct business more efficiently and effectively.

Last month, at ITEXPO West in Austin, Texas, as I sat in on keynotes and conference sessions and spoke with vendors in the exhibit hall, I was equally amazed at the variety of products and solutions on display, taking advantage of the latest technologies available to enhance daily business operations.

Many of the most exciting products were highlighted by ITEXPO’s Best of Show program (http://tmcnet.com/59065.1), but in fact, they are only a microcosm of what attendees witnessed in Austin between ITEXPO, its 17 co-located events, and other happenings.

One of the highlights was Avaya’s Technology on Tap event, where Stuart Beame, assistant director, revenue cycle, education and customer service at Novant Health, discussed the history of the impact of generational differences in communications technology and usage. Specifically, he discussed the millennial generation and its desire for real-time communication: “Staying connected is essential; communications has become casual for them,” he noted, pinpointing to a large degree the growth of alternate forms of communication, including social media, SMS, and video. “They have never known life without a computer; it is an assumed part of life, and the Internet is a source or research, interactivity, socializing, and there is zero tolerance for delays.”

“All the growth today is in non-voice channels,” noted David Huber, consulting systems engineer,

Avaya Contact Center, “and social media is the medium of choice for millennials.”

And in fact, the social media related sessions were some of the best attended at ITEXPO.

But the idea of instant gratification through communication and collaboration was an abundant theme throughout the conference sessions and exhibit hall. The ideal of anytime, anywhere, any medium, any device communications brought into the spotlight by Microsoft’s OCS launch four years ago, is finally being realized.

Even StartupCamp keynoter, Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe, noted that video, mobile and embedded traffic will dominate the landscape. (Check out Paula Bernier’s recap of his speech at http://tmcnet.com/59066.1.)

Polycom’s Vice President of Product Marketing John Antanaitis (News - Alert) noted accurately during his keynote address that “collaboration has become mission-critical”. Polycom itself introduced its Polycom RealPresence Platform, a universal video collaboration platform – indeed a strategy – seeking to truly unify unified communications by building partner ecosystems to drive interoperability and break down traditional barriers resulting from incompatible products. (Read Peter Bernstein’s account at http://tmcnet.com/59067.1.)

The idea of real-time communication was furthered by Matt Groppe, director of global business development at DHL SAMEDAY, who discussed the importance of connecting with customers in real time. “It’s very easy to lose touch with them and become disconnected,” he noted during his keynote (Stefanie Mosca has more at http://tmcnet.com/59068.1.)

The value of instant, always-on communications truly was prevalent throughout the exhibit hall as well, where more than 200 exhibitors collectively represented the massive innovation that is driving this trend.

From 8x8’s Virtual Room solution for videoconferencing and the easy to use mobile capabilities of Digium’s Switchvox (News - Alert) solution, to the instant connectivity offered by Cradlepoint Technology and the zero-client VDI from Pano Logic, one of the overarching themes at ITEXPO was the infectious desire to connect and communicate in any environment. 

That’s not to say desktop communications are becoming extinct. But they are also often not the primary communications alternative any longer. IP networks have brought us far beyond what most baby boomers and gen Xers have considered the norm. As Beame noted, the tech-savvy millennial generation sees things outside the box, driving technology to new heights and away from traditional standards.

What does this all mean for traditional communications (i.e.,the PSTN)? That question is now starting to come into focus, with the FCC having finally opened the door to an all-IP future, suggesting 2018 as a potential target for the sunset of legacy phone networks. The Death of the PSTN panel (http://tmcnet.com/59069.1) started to address the question, with Marc Matthews (News - Alert), director of systems engineering at Metaswitch Networks, stating that it’s time to end legacy network investment and move on to application-based environments, with voice representing just one of many broadband applications.

Expect this conversation to continue in Miami, at ITEXPO East, Feb. 1-3, 2012. See you there!


Erik Linask is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow Erik on Twitter (News - Alert) @elinask.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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