INTERNET TELEPHONY, TMC (News - Alert), and TMC Labs are elated to present this year’s winners of the TMC Labs UC Innovation Awards. We have selected a diverse set of winners across the spectrum of technologies in the space. We think we have something for everyone here, and we are thrilled to have judged and selected this year’s winners.
The winners, and short descriptions of what they offer and why they were chosen, follow here. For complete descriptions of each solution, visit the online version of INTERNET TELPHONY’s September issue, which can be found at www.tmcnet.com/voip/.
OfficeSuite UC includes an IP-based phone system; unlimited nationwide calling; and an intuitive recently launched portal, MyOfficeSuite, which allows administrators and employees to seamlessly make quick and easy updates to their services and personal preferences. The system delivers a complete communications solution with state-of-the-art features and applications, including a next-generation desktop collaboration service called OfficeSuite HD Meeting, all without any capital investment, maintenance contracts, or additional IT resources.
One of our favorite features is Mobile Twinning, ensuring multiple phones ring at once so you miss fewer calls. Speaking of mobile, the dedicated mobile voicemail app is also a nice touch.
If you are looking for a hosted solution where security is greater than typical SIP providers, Broadview Networks is an excellent choice. That’s because the company uses a proprietary protocol called SilNet and if it traverses the public internet, will use secure RTP via 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard.
One of the key benefits of the solution will appeal to companies where workers frequently use different desks, as it allows users to change phones, including personal speed dials and originating phone number.
We like the solution for its ease of use; because it’s a proprietary cloud-based solution, which makes it less of a target for hacking; its 10-way calling without a conference bridge; and its customer portal, which from the minute an order is placed creates login credentials so information sharing between all parties can start through the convenient, centralized dashboard. That shows how many orders are open, were recently closed, and need immediate attention. The newly added Bluetooth module and headset is also a nice touch – allowing six headsets to a phone and, of course, the new Bluetooth handset.
BullsEye Unified Communications
We’ll get right to the point. We like BullsEye’s Unified Communications application for a number of reasons – including how it allows workers to have a single business identity regardless of device. In addition, we think the feature list is quite solid – this 17-year-old company should be proud.
Key features of BullsEye UC include the ability to:
- utilize Wi-Fi and cellular networks to place and receive calls on the go that were previously only accessible with your desk phone;
- collaborate with your contacts using the instant messaging option;
- broadcast and review the presence of contacts you choose to collaborate with, letting people know when you’re in a meeting, on a call, or away from your desk;
- have access to directories to place calls and collaborate;
- utilize click-to-dial features with your contacts;
- connect BullsEye UC to Outlook to integrate your contacts and calendar;
- gain desktop phone features such as hold, transfer, call park, and more while communicating away from your desktop phone;
- lead or participate in a conference call while mobile using the My Room feature;
- move calls between your desk phone and mobile devices easily; and
- do HD video calling.
A company can easily add BullsEye UC to an existing phone system, phone line, or a new BullsEye Hosted PBX solution. The app is available for download via Apple and Google Play Stores and through BullsEye’s MBA customer portal. Users licenses allow configuration of an unlimited amount of desktop, mobile and tablet devices based on a DID or phone number.
We like the solution because it has a well-rounded feature-list, includes HF-calling, the companies 17-year reputation, presence status and seamless handoff of calls from a desktop to a mobile.
SwitchConnex is CoreDial’s SaaS platform that enables channel partners, MSPs, VARs, and IT solution providers to sell, deliver, manage, and invoice for any recurring and non-recurring products and services in their portfolios, and under their own brands. The built-in product catalog allows partners to create their own customized service bundles and offer their customers feature-rich communications services ranging from a suite of UCaaS solutions to individual services like hosted PBX, VoIP, and SIP trunking. Features include instant messaging, chat, presence, audio conferencing, video, mobility, and a basic contact center. In addition, a real-time web communications (WebRTC) client for chat, presence, voice, and video enables users to access the platform’s capabilities from any WebRTC-enabled desktop browser.
With SwitchConnex, the service delivery process is fully automated and interactions are streamlined with end users, reducing costs and improving efficiencies. Partners become a one-stop shop for a broad range of cloud capabilities for their customers, allowing them to make profit margins much higher than the industry average.
As a white-label provider of the service, channel partners source customer premises equipment such as routers, switches, QoS devices, and SIP phones through distribution, and deploy the services at the customer premises. CoreDial has tested and compiled a list of recommended premises gateways and endpoints that are certified for optimal performance with the platform. They typically suggest an enterprise services gateway with CoreDial certified endpoints, but the ultimate decision rests on the partner.
CoreDial’s offering is rare not only in terms of the technological capability but also in terms of the business model and how the overall market is being served.
Typical resellers have become a commodity – everything they sell can in theory be sold by someone else just as easily. By adding custom branding and capability to the UC solution, providers can come up with unique solutions that allow them to rise above other providers competing on price alone.
Dialpad is an end-to-end cloud solution that spans voice, messaging, and video, while integrating seamlessly with Google Apps for Work, Microsoft Office 365, and social applications LinkedIn and Twitter – for context around every call and message. It’s integrated with work applications and social profiles for more productive conference calls. With Dialpad, a new office communications system can be completely up and running in a matter of minutes.
Dialpad built a system where the network elements handling calls, both the border controllers and the media gateways, have no knowledge of any other server in the system, or of the company’s business logic. Instead, when an event happens, the network elements connect up to its Google AppEngine app, which gives them instructions.
This has several important advantages. First, it allows Dialpad to rely on AppEngine, and all of Google's underlying infrastructure, to handle the complex problems of user data management and all the associated problems of scale. Second, it allows a separation of concern: the infrastructure can only worry about building basic primitives like playing audio or routing a call, allowing Dialpad to optimize and perfect that, without concern about the particulars of business logic. Third, it allows business feature development to operate at web speed: developing a new IVR flow happens in modern web languages, with the latest cloud-based tools and techniques, and is implemented by the same developer building the user-visible web interface.
AppEngine, web languages, and HTTP are really not designed for the real-time requirements of call handling. Building this architecture has required a lot of innovation to handle latency and failures, as well as close work with the company’s partners at Google, FreeSwitch, and other companies. Dialpad’s user-centric design strategy focuses on the real-world needs for the new generation of mobile-tech-savvy workers and what they want and need to be more productive.
Heads Up Display Web
Fonality embraced cloud before most anyone else with a hybrid-hosted model to store voicemail. A browser was used to retrieve and listen to recordings.
Fast forward to recent times and HUD Web is designed to benefit Fonality users but not just on the PC and mobile devices running apps. This web version lets you dial, answer a call, join a conference, transfer, place on hold, and send a voicemail with a simple mouse click – even on a Chromebook. That, by the way, is all the rage in many public schools these days.
HD video is a nice addition to many of the winners this year – including Fonality. Its integrated HD video collaboration and screen sharing allows teams to meet virtually. Users can host online meetings with up to 25 participants, allowing remote or traveling workers and customers to collaborate as if they are all in the same room. HUD video chat helps businesses reduce travel and connect remote workers or customers, allowing stronger professional relationships to form. Meetings can also be recorded to use later as a reference point.
Other great features are voicemail to text, presence, drag-and-drop calls, contact center features, and click to email. HUD Web 1.4 was rebuilt this past January and is powered by Nuance (News - Alert) speech technology. If you recall, Nuance is the company our past ITEXPO keynoter and cofounder of Apple Steve Wozniak accidentally said was to be acquired by Apple. Fonality also introduced new scheduling and management features for Fonality Video Collaboration, which is powered by Zoom, in January 2016. Additional integrations include SMS texting, collaborative workspaces, and the expansion of Fonality Click-to-Dial to Outlook.
Infinite Convergence Solutions
Enterprise Messaging Service
Infinite Convergence’s EMS allows enterprise businesses to communicate with customers, partners, and clients globally via text, picture, video and audio messages, push notification, and chat messages in a cost-effective manner. By exchanging information with customers via EMS, businesses develop customer loyalty and increase business revenue. In addition, the IP Delivery Plus provides enterprises the ability to prioritize message delivery via IP Push, which is lower in cost than SMS.
The EMS also supports a geofencing framework along with a custom client application on the device to provide enhanced service enabling enterprises to provide valuable services, timing, and relevant content, as well as outstanding experiences, to their customers.
Via the web-based EMS portal, a sales or marketing team can easily manage mobile messaging campaigns through a guided, step-by-step process and monitor valuable analytics to understand customer interests and develop targeted mobile-based customer engagement strategies.
With features such as global reach, delivery assurance and end-to-end secure delivery, as well as a user-friendly content management system, campaign manager, opt-in/opt-out capabilities and messaging analytics, Infinite Convergence’s EMS provides superior enterprise messaging capabilities that enable enterprises to establish close connections with their customers.
Recently Infinite Convergence launched four new features to EMS: Text-to-Speech, Two-Factor Authentication, One Time Passcode, and a new Content Management System. These new services further enable Infinite Convergence to meet the growing demand from enterprises for a reliable, secure, and interactive two-way global messaging solution to better engage with their customers and stakeholders.
Accession Meeting is a complete video and collaboration solution tightly integrated with the Accession UC client – enabling users to conduct videoconferences and collaborate on documents. With Accession Meeting, users are able to launch meetings for up to 200 participants. Meeting organizers and attendees can display video in gallery or active speaker mode, view conference participants, and share desktops or documents including video with sound. Other capabilities include desktop remote control, Outlook integration, and integrated call recording.
The 2.0 set of capabilities include low-cost small to large video room-based systems using standard video hardware or integration into current H.323/SIP videoconferencing platforms. The webinar capabilities include support for 100 to 10,000 view-only attendees with host controls such as mute/unmute panelists, recording, live Q&A, and registration/reporting.
What impressed us was Accession Meeting allows the service provider to enable the service for all subscribers within a feature package; however the service provider does not incur a license charge until the subscriber actually uses the service. This provides the service provider with a much more attractive business model. This gives incentive to the carrier to actually get the customer to try it, and Metaswitch doesn’t hold you financially liable if they aren’t using it.
Another area of differentiation is the sheer size of participants this solution can accommodate – 200 vs. dozens for some competitors.
The company’s focus on integration of web and videoconferencing capabilities within the UC client are a reason we chose this product as a winner this year. Users can schedule, invite, and launch Accession Meeting directly from the Accession UC client without opening a separate, dedicated application for this functionality.
QLIVE from Metropolis Technologies is designed to bring UC to the contact center – providing the reports and other information needed to keep everyone informed. The solution provides real-time wallboards and KPI alerts by monitoring the hunt pilot activity and native queuing capabilities of Cisco Call Manager.
QLIVE fills a notable gap in the market for Cisco users. Most wallboards and dashboard systems for call centers require UCCE/UCCX to provide the instant feedback on agent activity. By interpreting real-time events provided by the Cisco Call Manager (via TAPI) and interpreting these events, QLIVE provides users instant, live feedback on how many agents are available, which queues are backing up, which hunt groups are receiving the highest call volume, and enables users to trigger alerts around these notifications to pro-actively manage the call center before the service level is sacrificed.
The objective of QLIVE is to provide Cisco users a solution outside of UCCE/UCCX for live agent and queue monitoring. By interpreting these events and using formulas to bridge any gaps between metrics desired and data available, QLIVE is innovative and unique.
We chose QLIVE because call centers need to focus on UC productivity. Those features, cost savings, and the boost in monitoring capabilities make this solution worthy of distinction.
CustomInvite is a software plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that enables customers to personalize Skype for Business meeting invitations, adding simplification, branding capabilities, and increased utilization of Skype for Business platform both cloud and premises-based versions. CustomeInvite is designed to lower resistance to non-Skype for Business users by giving a seamless experience to participants inside and outside of a company – allowing for single-click meeting joins, combining join from multiple platforms into the Skype for Business meeting invite, creating a truly unified experience.
CustomInvite allows you to:
- present relevant information in a very intuitive and user-friendly manner;
- make key joining details more prominent;
- improve the joining experience for external parties and non-Skype for Business users by enabling single-click access and the inclusion of non-Skype for Business/Microsoft conferencing services;
- have single-click access for mobile users;
- have single-click access for third-party video services such as Polycom and PexIP;
- personalize for regional utilization through the use of different templates and language support; and
- add branding and corporate messaging.
One of the main benefits of UC is the ability to boost productivity and better integration of Skype for Business with other office tools. That makes CustomInvite a natural choice to receive this award.
Nextiva Office is a complete unified communications solution for businesses of all industries and sizes. In addition to providing companies with feature-rich cloud phone service, the company is helping business make better decisions through better use of call data analytics.
Some of the features we like include:
- Remote Office: which lets users take their offices on the road with them;
- Nextiva Anywhere: Nextiva’s unified communication solution;
- selective call forwarding: allows employees to decide who reaches them, at what number, and when they’re available;
- pre-integrated services: voice/video/vFAX, call centers, conferencing, and mobility;
- intuitive admin portal: manage everything for your Nextiva Office users, call features, and billing in one place;
- hosted VoIP, SIP trunking, conferencing, and messaging functionality;
- integration with IT applications like Outlook/OCS, IBM Sametime, and Google Apps;
- mobility, instant messaging, and presence features using the Nextiva App;
- built-in video telephony on any device, including your computer, between Nextiva users; and
- enterprise apps integrate with your CRM, ERP, and vertical apps using third-party tools.
We all know if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. But Nextiva Office takes the idea to the next level, allowing in-depth analysis of business transactions and further improves its usefulness with unique gamification features, which helped it secure a spot as a winner.
Sennheiser USA Contact Center & Office
PRESENCE Mobile Series headsets
Sennheiser’s PRESENCE Bluetooth headsets are a popular choice for mobile professionals seeking lightweight, slim headset solutions that deliver HD sound quality.
The headset has been improved to better handle noisy environments via three digital microphones, working together with a suite of advanced technologies.
Some of the advancements include:
- SpeakFocus, which detects the user’s voice and filters out background noise providing listeners with a crystal clear sound experience;
- WindSafe, which dynamically selects the best mix of the three microphones to optimize voice and reduce wind noise to ensure the clearest possible sound is sent to the listener; and
- ActiveGard, Sennheiser patented technology developed to safeguard users from acoustic shock and sudden sound bursts.
We like the PRESENCE Mobile Series headsets because they offer flexibility, good quality – solid wireless range and state-of-the-art technology used to enhance conversations.
SC 70 USB MS
The SC 70 USB MS is a good choice for office workers on the phone a good deal of the day and who value comfort and call quality. The SC 70 USB MS adds a second speaker to provide immersive wideband voice quality.
- unique contemporary design – crafted with look and feel in mind;
- instant comfort – the flexible headband with leatherette padding adjusts for a perfect fit;
- 2-in-1 ear pad styles – choose between soft leatherette or light acoustic foam for maximum comfort;
- optimization for unified communications for compatibility with major UC and softphone brands; and
- a bendable boom arm that ensures optimal microphone position.
In addition, ActiveGard is a Sennheiser unique patented hearing protection technology that prevents users from potential acoustic bursts and sudden sound surges without losing audio content or clarity.
When you think of UC you may not think about worker safety being an issue, but obviously Sennheiser has. Its ActiveGard feature shows its customers that Sennheiser sweats the details and wants to keep them safe. That’s a solid reason, we think, to choose the SC 70 USB MS as the second winner from a single company.
Star2Star Communications LLC
StarSystem unifies voice, fax, chat, conferencing, presence management, reporting analytics, contact center, and more, all of which are accessible from a single, easy-to-use interface. The hybrid architecture allows for 99.999 percent reliability, and the company has experienced 100 percent voice uptime since 2011.
The reason the system is considered hybrid has to do with the StarBox Cloud Connection Manager, a device that stays in constant communication with the company’s Constellation Network. The StarBox CCM (News - Alert) coupled with Constellation combine to provide crystal clear calls without distortion, delay, or jitter, and industry-leading reliability.
As a result of the deep experience the company has in the space, it has developed a solution with superior reliability, cost savings, voice quality, ease of use, and features.
The Constellation Network is a nice differentiator in the space and helped the company win in 2016.
Upstream Works Software
Upstream Works for Finesse
Upstream Works for Finesse is a web-based, omnichannel contact center solution within Cisco Finesse that enables organizations to deliver a consistent, personalized customer experience across all channels. It provides user-friendly gadgets and a consistent, elegant smart agent desktop for all interactions, connecting all channels with full customer context, integrating any application with management simplicity.
UWF provides multi-party integration between UWF, CRMs, or other third-party applications including web-based or legacy applications. Its publish/subscribe mechanism allows multiple applications to exchange data. Capabilities include click-to-dial, populate or update to UWF Interaction History, and logging UWF interactions into third-party systems.
UWF also now provides Chat/SMS business hours, transcripts and attachments, and transfer improvements. The new Personal Agent Routing option allows businesses to provide a deeper and more personalized customer relationship while maintaining contact center efficiencies.
Next Contact Prediction provides agents notifications of the next most likely contact reason – enabling proactive resolution of issues and reduced customer effort. Coupled with Quick Survey links, UWF can now provide actionable information on first contact resolution, customer effort, satisfaction, and net promoter dcore from one application.
Omnichannel sales and support are crucial in a world dominated by companies like Amazon, and we chose Upstream Works for Finesse because UC can have tremendous productivity increases on sales and service levels when applied across all business channels in a cohesive fashion.
VirtualPBX is one of the original players in the cloud UC space, having evolved its solution over the years to meet the needs of customers. Its Dash Unlimited is the totally unrestricted, truly global, and intuitive telecommunications solution for the modern, high-volume business. Following suit with the already highly regarded Dash from VirtualPBX, Dash Unlimited is the next iteration of the industry’s newest and cleanest hosted telecommunications interface. Dash Unlimited offers an unlimited number of minutes on each plan.
The company launched the product based on customer feedback, which asked for an unlimited solution with an easy-to-use interface.
Features we like include:
- follow-me calling;
- call forwarding;
- auto-attendant ring groups; and
- nearly universal device compatibility.
The service is backed 365 days a year by the same great support that has made VirtualPBX a standout time and time again.
A long history in the market, continued innovation, and a solid commitment to support make the company a winner.
Votacall Hosted PBX
Votacall has distinguished itself in a crowded field by providing advanced features and solid support. The company’s tagline is you must innovate to communicate, and to that end it has designed a super-flexible solution, which runs on tablets, PCs, and smartphones – making use of a cloud-based backend.
In addition, the company has a redundant network based on Level 3’s backbone – a primary and redundant location as well as Acme Packet (now Oracle (News - Alert)) SBCs. Phones and other multimedia devices are from Polycom.
We are impressed with the company’s service as well as its commitment to innovation. While some may say there are too many features in today’s UC solutions, we believe that continuous innovation is the only way to keep your service ahead of the pack.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi