Welcome to the 14th annual INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine TMC Labs Innovation Awards where we honor innovative technologies. This year we had some interesting applicants, including one that helps companies with antiquated CAT3 cabling deploy VoIP, another that brings Skype-like functionality to carriers networks, and yet another that bundles a phone system with specialized dentistry software with deep integration. TMC Labs has enjoyed discovering and testing innovative products and services within the VoIP industry for many years, and one of the things we enjoy most is awarding TMC Labs Innovation Awards to innovative VoIP products.
TMC Labs uses a rigorous application and selection process when choosing innovative products and services. This year, TMC Labs proudly bestows 11 companies with a TMC Labs Innovation Award.
NetVanta 1535P Gigabit Ethernet Switch with ActivReach
Enterprises and SMBs – including office buildings, schools, retail stores, hospitals, distribution facilities –are looking for maximum flexibility in designing next-generation networks for IP-based voice, hosted services, cloud-based UC while utilizing existing voice-grade wiring infrastructure, and transitioning to a gigabit future. Additionally, hosted voice/UC service providers can utilize this solution for their capabilities.
Many older buildings are wired with CAT3 or voice-grade cabling infrastructure for their legacy phone systems. These organizations that have looked into upgrading to VoIP PBXs are told they cannot take advantage of the latest IP voice, unified communications, and data network capabilities since CAT3 is not suited for Ethernet. Traditionally, businesses have been forced to run new, cost-prohibitive cable to enable VoIP and high-speed Ethernet.
ADTRAN’s ActivReach is an innovative technology that breaks down these barriers and enables the power of Ethernet even over CAT3 cabling. ActivReach, currently available on the NetVanta 1535P Gigabit Ethernet switch, extends the reach of Ethernet across a variety of cable-plant infrastructures (CAT5e, CAT3 or even voice-grade copper) and at longer distances. This allows businesses to deploy data networking speeds up to 100mbps at triple the reach of standard Ethernet (up to 365 meters/1200 feet). Furthermore, infrastructure upgrades can be performed incrementally, and the same switch port previously configured for ActivReach can be transitioned to gigabit networking speeds once new cabling is put in place, maximizing return on investment while transitioning toward gigabit.
In other words, since ActivReach can be enabled or disabled per port, it can deliver gigabit connectivity speeds to endpoints within 100 meters of the switch and enable ActivReach for the long-distance endpoints that also need network connectivity. This can come with an enormous cost savings over the purchase of multiple switches to provide connectivity to all endpoints and some type of networking infrastructure to connect them all together (usually expensive fiber).
With ActivReach, over certain distances, it is possible to split the individual pairs within a CAT3 or CAT5 cable to run PoE and data over each individual pair. Thus, a single 100mbps uplink with PoE can become four 100mbps uplinks with PoE. In this scenario, cost is minimized considerably since no new cabling has to be put in place. A very innovative solution indeed!
01 Communique Laboratory Inc.
I’m InTouch Meeting
I’m InTouch Meeting is one of the most innovative online meeting products you will find due to its ability to have both VoIP and PSTN phone bridge intermixed and support for up to 15 attendees. Many competitors provide only one-to-one meetings or don’t offer a VoIP option. Besides VoIP, a PSTN phone bridge is provided for real-time audio chatting with local access numbers provided for the U.S. and Canada. It also supports chat, file transfer, remote printing of documents from the moderator to the local printer of an attendee, as well as powerful central administration and real-time attendees access rights control. The company recently added speed improvements in the screen sharing session to the product, and the ability to re-assign the presentation role to any of the attendees, and improved the user interface. Unlike competing products, it features a shareable (concurrent) licensing model so that multiple users in an enterprise can share the same license, making it more cost-effective.
AudioCodes Mediant Software SBC
AudioCodes is well known in the VoIP industry for its family of enterprise VoIP products including VoIP gateways, SBCs, and even VoIP phones. The session border controller is a key component since it acts as the demarcation point between the business’s VoIP network and the service providers’ SIP-based services, providing a layer of security. Until now, enterprises buying a SBC had to purchase a proprietary hardware box with the SBC software loaded onto it, which is why they are often expensive. AudioCodes Mediant Software SBC turns this model on its head with a software-only version of AudioCodes’ E-SBC, enabling cloud-based and virtualized implementations for large enterprise and hosted service providers.
AudioCodes told TMC Labs, “We believe AudioCodes Mediant Software SBC is the first software-only SBC to be an extension of an already-proven hardware-based SBC portfolio, allowing designers to choose dedicated hardware or virtualization with the same software, configuration and management interfaces.” Deploying embedded SBC software features/functions to a commercial-off-the-shelf or virtualized server platform is quite innovative.
An important aspect of AudioCodes’ SBC strategy is making it easy for the systems integrator/reseller/network designer to get trained on one SBC platform, then allow them to use either hardware or software-based SBCs for any particular application without having to start from scratch. This significantly improves their success rate, reduces training effort/costs and makes VoIP implementations much more predictable.
Since the initial release, AudioCodes has improved the scalability of the software SBC from a maximum of 1,000 sessions to 10,000 sessions – utilizing multi-core features found in COTS servers and efficiencies in software architecture.
Most VoIP phone systems take a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. While that works in many cases, many business verticals require specific customization to make their phone systems work with their business processes. That can require hours of consulting time or the VoIP system just may not support the level of integration the business is looking for.
One common business is dentistry; just about every town, large or small, has at least one dentist. Partnering with Henry Schein Practice Solutions, Broadview has developed a desktop PC application that links its OfficeSuite cloud-based unified communications service with Dentrix G5, Henry Schein’s popular practice management system.
OfficeSuite Dental delivers a highly efficient office receptionist experience to the dental community. The OfficeSuite Dental client integrates Broadview’s feature-rich OfficeSuite service with Henry Schein’s Dentrix G5 database. It provides the dental receptionist with an instant and comprehensive view of the calling patient’s name, family members, account status, appointment schedule, missed appointments, treatment plan and access to display more information with a simple click of a button. Broadview Networks told TMC Labs, “The solution also helps dental practices reduce costs by providing all the advanced features and functionality of an enterprise-grade phone system for no upfront cost and low monthly payments. It gives practices a professional image, makes their staffs more productive and dramatically improves patient satisfaction.”
OSDC provides an instant pop-up display of key patient information extracted from the dental office’s Dentrix G5 database upon receipt of the first ring of the phone. The OSDC application runs on the receptionist’s PC and when a call comes in from a patient, the window opens, key patient data is extracted from Dentrix G5 based on the patient’s phone number, and the data is instantly displayed on the receptionist’s PC monitor screen.
When combined with OfficeSuite, Broadview’s easy-to-use, cloud-based phone solution with unlimited nationwide calling, dental offices have a very compelling solution worth checking out.
Calabrio ONE is a comprehensive suite of contact center software that’s easy to implement, use and maintain. Calabrio ONE includes call recording, quality assurance, workforce management, speech analytics and performance-based dashboards and reporting. Calabrio ONE is a flexible offering to which bundles and features can be added as needed.
Calabrio told TMC Labs, “Calabrio ONE is the first product of its kind on the market to utilize a dynamic, widget-based user interface that offers key personalization for its users. Agents and supervisors alike can have the data they need most front and center. The Calabrio ONE suite is seamless, offering truly integrated software that harnesses masses of data and creates actionable results, assisting the increase of efficiency and compliance in the contact center no matter its size.”
The company added, “Contact centers are sitting on endless amounts of useful data. However, many are not extracting the valuable insight this data can hold because the information is highly unstructured. Furthermore, traditional analytic technology has been very complex, which makes adoption difficult and unattractive. When left to traditional approaches to analyzing voice data – where contact centers are forced to manually listen to calls in order to pinpoint essential transactions, trends and take action – enormous business opportunities can be lost because users can’t literally listen to every call, so they don’t have a complete view of what customers and agents are saying. Calabrio ONE’s Speech Analytics component is more intuitive, making the process of turning unstructured phone transactions into big data that can be sorted, evaluated and acted upon more easily and cost effectively.”
A key advantage of Calabrio call recording has been the ability for customers to choose the capture method or mix of methods to best suit the customer’s business and technical requirements – whether it’s a single center, a multi-site center or home agents. One option, gateway recording, provides a reliable option for capturing every call in even the most complex multi-gateway environments across the enterprise. Calabrio ONE supports robust recording of the full customer experience on every call to the enterprise regardless of capture method, including the ability to associate contact-rich metadata with every call, record and associate multiple legs of a call, and the ability to associate IVR interactions with each call.
Joyn by Jibe
Jibe delivers both an end-to-end joyn solution for carriers to launch their own joyn services and to fill the void in the market left by carriers that have not launched joyn. You can think of joyn as the carrier’s answer to Skype, but with tighter integration into carriers’ services like SMS/MMS. The joyn initiative represents the first time attempt from carriers to roll out a new, interoperable global service since the introduction of SMS. Jibe’s cloud is the secret sauce that allows any carrier in any market to launch new joyn services and provide a complete cross-carrier solution that works both in-network and across networks. joyn by Jibe provides in-network and cloud-based joyn capabilities to mobile users on any network, giving them the ability to easily share, voice and video call, group chat, group file share, and even initiate an “instant challenge” to play a head-to-head game. It also features in-call video sharing and the ability to request friends’ location and share their own location.
The video and audio quality has been improved over the last several months with the inclusion of dynamic bit-rate adaptation, voice activity detection, half duplex operation and automatic gain control. Supported video codecs include: H.264, VP8. Supported audio codecs include: AMR-WB, AMR-NB, OPUS, G.729, G.726, G.722, G.722.1, ILBC, G.711 (PCM a-Law/u-Law). Encryption supported: Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP/SRTCP).
Jibe has incorporated SMS/MMS as a mode of communication into the user experience, allowing SMS/MMS to be utilized as a fallback mode in case joyn capabilities are not available – so no friend is left behind. With this approach, users are able to upgrade their mobile experiences while remaining connected to all of the contacts in their address books.
Jibe explained to TMC Labs, “Until every carrier launches joyn, the service is unable to deliver upon its most fundamental promise: universal reach. In almost every market with a live joyn service, at least one carrier has yet to launch, meaning [anywhere] from 5 percent to 97 percent of mobile users in those markets cannot access joyn or be reached using joyn. Market leaders are therefore held back by market followers because it only takes one absent carrier to break the experience for customers of all the other carriers. Jibe is the only company that delivers an end-to-end joyn solution to interconnect users on different carriers without requiring each carrier to first implement joyn. Jibe’s cloud allows any carrier in any market to launch new joyn services and provide a complete cross-carrier solution that works both in-network and across networks.”
Oreka TR (Total Recording)
Oreka TR allows clients to search, find and categorize recordings based on time or date of call, incoming phone number, outgoing phone number or other customer requirements. The incredibly flexible, VoIP-ready Oreka TR is based on an open-source core, runs on all computer operating systems, and integrates with any phone system. Just a browser is needed for call playback. Powerful and flexible search criteria allow for quick retrieval.
Oreka TR records VoIP SIP sessions by passively listening to network packets. Both sides of a conversation are mixed together and each call is logged as a separate audio file. It can also record from a standard sound device (e.g. microphone or line input) and can record multiple channels at the same time. Features include voice activity detection, GSM6.10, A-Law and u-Law compression to save disk space, and recording metadata logged to file and/or any mainstream database system.
Oreka TR claims to be the very first call recording software to support SIPREC Recording, based on the Internet Engineering Task Force’s Internet draft of the standardized Session Recording Protocol. Oreka TR features an open API, meaning it can very easily and quickly integrate and interoperate with any PBX (News - Alert), CRM or legacy system. It’s a software-only product that can literally be downloaded and installed in just 30 minutes, while competing solutions can take days or weeks to deploy. Also, they claim it’s roughly half the cost of competing solutions.
TMC Labs has used many different testing tools over the years, so we were pleasantly surprised by the features sported by TestShell 4.8, an end-to-end enterprise software framework for lab management, device provisioning and test automation. The framework enables engineers in the networking environment to optimize lab performance, increase testing coverage, reduce set-up time and accelerate testing. TestShell 4.8 is used to manage large scale network and testing labs and offers an easy to use platform for driver and test workflow creation as well as comprehensive test automation capabilities including test creation, execution and management.
It features advanced test intelligence via online dashboards and flexible reporting mechanisms. The enhanced Interactive Topology Diagram shortens topology creation time, improves team collaboration, and offers disparate users the flexibility to continue working where another left off. Test designers drag required resources directly from search results into the topology screen. SNMP Manager Library expands SNMP network protocols usage with more reachable network-related information and automatic retries. Traffic libraries include out-of-the box support for IxLoad, IxNetwork, Test Composer, TestCenter and other traffic resources. TestShell offers secure device reservations to guarantee uninterrupted testing processes by blocking access to topology-reserved devices.
Leveraging a simple and intuitive building block-centric development methodology, engineers can create automated scenarios and can contribute to the automation efforts directly without writing code or depending on R&D/outsourced programmers. The TestShell 4.8 is innovative in that it is vendor-agnostic, meaning it can easily integrate with all equipment in the lab, regardless of brand and type. In the last six months the company has improved the product so that the number of available API calls has doubled, making it easier for users to automatically access the new capabilities related to administration, topology control operations, management, and reporting.
RingCentral Office is a cloud business phone solution designed with a mobile workforce in mind. It helps companies optimize communications for voice, fax and text by keeping employees connected to customers and colleagues wherever they are working, on whatever device they are using – including smartphones, tablets, desk phones and computers. RingCentral is riding the wave of BYOD in the enterprise and leveraging the mobile devices employees bring to work. So not only does RingCentral eliminate the cost for a customer premises PBX, but also the cost of desktop phones for employees. Any new hire is as simple as adding the mobile device into RingCentral’s webportal, no waiting to order a desktop phone and for it to arrive. In addition to working with mobile devices, RingCentral supports SIP, so you can deploy SIP desktop phones or SIP softphones. There is also a RingCentral app on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
RingCentral told TMC Labs, “RingCentral Office makes consumerization of IT a reality for a phone system. It’s easy to set up, manage and access from the RingCentral web portal or mobile app without requiring an IT background. Along with offering core phone system functionality such as auto-receptionist, departments and dial-by-name directory, RingCentral Office offers industry-first capabilities for mobile devices including the first business SMS and the ability to install and manage a phone system via a smartphone or tablet.”
RingCentral Office’s Cloud Touch offers the first fully touch-powered platform that enables administrators and employees to install, manage and access the phone system via mobile devices such as iPads. You can quickly update a company’s phone system by adding employees, activating new phone numbers and setting call handling rules using mobile devices from any location. Recently company added conference calling and faxing even on mobile devices, as well as Salesforce.com integration. It also recently added auto call record, presence, call parking and intercom.
Sangoma NetBorder Lync Express V2.0
TMC Labs is a huge fan of Sangoma hardware when used for Asterisk-based IP PBXs, so we were pleasantly surprised to see the company offer a new product that is an all-in-one Microsoft (News - Alert) Lync server appliance. The company claims to offer the only appliance with both a built-in VoIP gateway and a built-in SBC (added in v2.0), which simplifies deployment and management.
Lync Express integrates Microsoft Windows Server with Hyper-V virtualization, Microsoft Lync Server and Mediation server combined with Active Directory and Edge server roles together with Sangoma’s Session Border Controller and Sangoma’s VoIP gateway. In the last six months the company has increased the capacity of the appliance from 240 users to 1,000 users and V2.0 supports Lync 2013.
Sangoma told TMC Labs, “Lync Express eliminates the need to size, source and install all the correct software for a successful Lync deployment. The combination of these functions in a single appliance means Sangoma has created a one-of-a-kind solution that makes Lync Express unique in a category of its own in the Lync market.”
Yealink Network Technology Co. Ltd.
Yealink Ultra-elegant Gigabit IP Phone SIP-T46G
The SIP-T46G is Yealink’s latest IP phone, designed for discerning executives who want high-end color IP phones with the latest features. The SIP-T46 does not disappoint, featuring a high-resolution 4.3-inch 480 x 272 TFT color display, HD voice, dual port gigabit Ethernet with PoE, full duplex speakerphone, support for up to six SIP accounts, as well as EHS headset and USB. It also supports Bluetooth headsets through the use of a USB dongle. Enhanced sound quality is delivered by the Optima HD Voice system, which meets ITA 920 certification standards
The SIP-T46G finally rids the use of paper labels for programmed buttons. Its easy-to-read screen can be customized with functions that the user requires. It has 41 hard keys and 10 multifunctional DSS keys. It also features a 1000-entry phonebook, 100-entry call logs, and a five-way local conferencing feature. Lastly, its stand has two adjustable angles and the phone is wall mountable. TMC Labs was one of the first to recognize Yealink as an innovative VoIP solutions provider with feature-rich products that are often much more affordable than competitors, so we admire and commend the company’s continued innovation in providing superb products at an attractive price.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi