We are thrilled to present the 2018 winners of the TMC Labs UC Innovation awards. What a diverse set of winners! Metaswitch has a great solution to allow carriers to compete with OTT apps. Yeastar’s virtualized phone system allows any reseller to dramatically increase margins by competing with cloud. Nectar Services has a unique take on improving communications quality. Atlantic.Net ups the standard for secure cloud storage. VTech is keeping handset evolution alive. Nextiva is building an integrated communications and CRM solution. OneBill is a crucial service for companies who need to bill for recurring services.
In all, we believe this is one of our best lists of winners yet and we hope you find these in-depth write-ups helpful.
Atlantic.Net - Secure Block Storage
- HIPAA compliance
- Huge investments in Technology and Performance
- Innovative company with a consistent R&D budget to stay ahead of the curve
- Long-term strategic partner with a roadmap to success
The company's cloud hosting solution includes a fully managed firewall appliance, security analysis, managed updates and patches, vulnerability scans, migration assistance and more. Atlantic acts an extension of IT departments with its full-stack managed services.
Its Secure Block Storage ties in with its Cloud Hosting Platform and is designed to provide better performance, cost and compliance. Cloud Hosting backed by world-class cloud hosting infrastructure gives companies the freedom to choose the plans that best fit their needs. Their cloud servers are designed to provide the best performance and maximum flexibility to businesses as well as developers.
Its unique cloud platform was built from the ground up to scale without adding the expensive licensing cost by leveraging KVM and Ubuntu. Atlantic.Net wrote the entire orchestration and, as a result, servers can be deployed in less than 30 seconds at any of its six international data center locations.
Combining the capacity of enterprise hard drives with NVMe SSD drives, SBS offers the ideal balance of capacity and performance for customer's storage needs. Users now have the complete control they have been asking for to build and scale their larger applications and storage needs, with automatic encryption and a simple pricing model. This HIPAA compliant cloud hosting has enabled fast deployments and innovative ideas to scale while keeping regulatory and compliance in place.
The cloud solution is available on an on-demand basis. At launch, it was available at a cost structure of per-second billing, which really attracted innovative Biotech type companies. It is ideal for research and larger deployments.
The solution has better performance, better cost structure and lower cost of operation and ownership than other solutions. The service is available in Windows, Linux and FreeBSD flavors. With compute, storage, one-click apps, DNS, private networking, backups, and much more, it offers a full-range of services businesses need to succeed. The service is backed by 24/7 expert support via phone, email, and chat with fully managed services available for your demanding B2B apps.
Customers can take advantage of six data center locations in the USA, Canada, and UK to provision additional resources wherever and whenever you require them. There is also a simple pricing model, easy to use control panel, and API. Other benefits include RAID 10 and fully redundant power and data center infrastructure as well as 24x7, 365-day support. The service is available at this time for 7.9 cents per gigabyte per month, encryption is included, and block storage volumes can expand to 16 terabytes.
We chose Atlantic.Net's Secure Block Storage to win this award due to the company's commitment to providing a secure cloud environment with HIPAA compliance and management built-in. There have been numerous reports of confidential data being uploaded to cloud servers in an unprotected fashion. The problem seems to stem from the incorrect assumption that all cloud has built-in security and encryption. It is for this reason we believe defaulting to managed cloud services often makes more sense for companies looking to keep their data secure.
Metaswitch Networks - MaX
Over 90% of global businesses employ fewer than 10 employees and an increasing number of small business are now mobile-native. These smaller businesses might have only one physical location, but often have workers who are mobile: connecting from home, "on the road" or at a client's office. This means it is a real struggle for these mobile workers to communicate effectively with colleagues and customers. The vast majority use a single device for both business and personal use, blurring the communication paths with customers, who end up with a variety of numbers and channels with which to contact the "company. " There is a large opportunity for mobile service providers to address this challenge.
Yet, these companies are in a fierce price war to acquire and retain high-value customers. They need to build loyalty and sustainable competitive advantage. They can do this by delivering a new breed of services targeted at the growing and underserved mass market segments.
A recent survey of more than 400 UK and US prosumers and small businesses (conducted by Research Fidelity on behalf of Metaswitch) confirmed that more than half of business users who use their mobiles as their primary devices are looking for solutions like MaX. Nearly two-thirds of these users would prefer to buy such a service from their mobile operators, and more than seven in ten of those indicated a willingness to buy such services over freemium, OTT offerings.
Until now, these users have been forced to rely on over-the-top applications, none of which provide the functionality that MaX offers and all of which bypass the mobile operator's core voice network. Mobile operators now can provide compelling new alternatives to OTT applications with a platform that serves ongoing innovation and revenue generation.
By exploiting their inherent infrastructure, brand and distribution advantages, mobile network operators can now create meaningful non-price differentiation and build greater loyalty in the high-value, high-growth prosumer, family and small business mass markets with the addition of a better experience for communications, collaboration and customer engagement.
MaX by Metaswitch is a revolutionary communications and collaboration product family that combines carrier-grade voice, network intelligence, smartphone native dialer capabilities and a "business feed" application to provide contextual communications services. MaX also enables mobile network operators (MNOs) to deliver revenue-generating multi-persona and group collaboration services to businesses and consumers.
It builds on carrier-grade network voice, reach and reliability to deliver an entirely new group communications and collaboration experience. MaX uniquely enables mobile network operators to blend the native dialer of the smartphone (Android and iOS) with network-based voice and messaging services, multiple personas, group communications and collaboration features, and simple options for users to manage and control the experience from their mobile devices. MaX is the only product on the market to use advanced network-based intelligence to handle the complexities of multi-persona routing and ID presentation from inside the network; dramatically simplifying and streamlining the user experience.
MaX can be deployed in three versions:
MaX Business allows micro and small businesses to take advantage of its shared voice and messaging capabilities to connect better with customers. This enables a group of employees with disparate mobile devices to interface with their customers through a common business number and to instantly collaborate internally via business information feeds and channels, maximizing business efficiency, customer satisfaction and lead conversion.
MaX Family allows mobile-equipped families to create a familiar fixed-line experience across any number of discrete mobile devices, complete with private message and collaboration feeds and the ability to create disposable numbers and temporary identities.
MaX Prosumer allows individuals currently juggling multiple phones or SIM cards to be better served by MNOs that can now deliver a sophisticated multi-persona solution across one or more personal devices.
MaX by Metaswitch builds on carrier-grade network voice, reach and reliability to deliver an entirely new group communications and collaboration experience. It uniquely enables mobile network operators to blend the native dialer of the smartphone with network-based voice and messaging services, multiple personas, group communications and collaboration features, and simple options for users to manage and control the experience from their mobile devices. MaX uses advanced network-based intelligence to handle the complexities of multi-persona routing and ID presentation from inside the network; dramatically simplifying and streamlining the user experience.
MaX delivers an entirely new solution that is offered by mobile operators, leveraging their network reliability, quality and reach, while providing an enterprise communications experience that fully integrates disparate devices, employees and phone numbers behind a single business pilot line/identity. With simple onboarding, enterprises can immediately integrate new team members. The intuitive "business feed" also allows employee to communicate on any customer projects directly from their device, and essentially "behind the scenes. "
MaX by Metaswitch was developed from the ground up for mobile network operators, recognizing the pain points of millions of users worldwide who are simply seeking a better mobile experience. It's an entirely new solution for group communications and collaboration, not an add to an existing UC offering. Mobile operators now can provide compelling new alternatives to OTT applications with a platform that serves ongoing innovation and revenue generation.
Distinctive features include:
- Network-based intelligence automates the handling of multiple identities
- Network voice support
- Incoming call management
- Call join / call transfer
- Shared business identity for all users in a team
- Group feed dashboard of team activities
- Group chat, presence, and location sharing
- Team call routing
- Team admin and policy controlled from the mobile device
- Rebrandable mobile app
- Cloud native VNFs
- Exposes group policy APIs for integration with third-party applications
- Compatible with VoLTE and 2G/3G networks
- Supports existing authentication, billing, interconnect, mobility, emergency and regulatory requirements
We chose MaX by Metaswitch as a winner because it brings the full-feature set of leading OTT solutions, but merges them with the operator network to increase the value of these features as part of a cohesive solution. In this way, they allow the carrier to differentiate themselves and to generate increased revenue from enhanced services.
Nectar Services Corp. - UCD for Ear-to-Ear Diagnostics
This is the industry's first ear-to-ear (e2e) diagnostics solution. While other vendors provide network monitoring or headset data, no other vendor has combined such a complete set of data sources to enable the correlation of network events, user sessions and Bluetooth headset signal health into single, powerful troubleshooting tool. The data may be available from many different sources, but the time required to check all of those sources is costly to the enterprise and that fragmented approach does not facilitate obvious correlation assumptions, which leads to additional time required for research.
Nectar's approach to integrating the Plantronics data was specifically architected to meet the needs of enterprise customers that need complete call data within seconds of the call ending. Both Nectar's UCD product and Plantronics Manager Pro product have existed independently, but this solution is the first establish a persistent API connection from a public cloud service, such as Plantronics' Manager Pro and a private on-premises deployment of Nectar UCD.
This unique correlation capability is the primary technology accomplishment in this solution. The challenge of correlating data from multiple vendors was presented to the engineering team and addressed with Nectar's proprietary correlation algorithms. These powerful and intelligent algorithms enable the platform to associate completely disparate session records from Skype for Business, Plantronics, SBCs and analyzers that are all using individually distinct schemas and dissimilar session identification methods.
There are a number of vendors that claim to provide diagnostics data for UC sessions across the network, they all rely on data sources that do not have independent visibility into the RTP traffic on the network. Nectar's UCD product is the only tool of its kind that measures session health with actual packet capture technology by placing analyzers within the enterprise network. Other vendors rely on methods such as traceroute, synthetic traffic and UC vendor call data to provide data on session quality. Nectar also uses those data sources but, importantly, enables third-party validation and segmented visibility into key metrics.
While the technology, business case and enterprise value proposition all are unique, it's also worth pointing out the uniqueness of the business relationship between Nectar and Plantronics to bring this solution to market. The engineering of this solution was enabled by close cooperation between the two companies, which were both motivated by the ability to deliver something greater than the sum of the two parts. To that end, the technology solution is accompanied by a joint go-to-market model that enables partners to provide this integrated solution to the customers with confidence and coordinated support.
We chose Nectar UCD for Ear-to-Ear Diagnostics as a winner because of its unique ability to assess call quality where it matters most... at the point where it reaches the ear of the listener. It is a great solution to an important problem.
Nextiva - Service CRM
Cases are the foundation of Service CRM. They are records of communication about a particular issue or question that are automatically created when a customer contacts a company. In a case, users can see all of a customer's account information, history, and analytics within the left sidebar, reducing the number of tabs and windows an agent needs open.
One of the biggest benefits of Nextiva Service CRM is the high-level overview it provides of how customers are really feeling. Customer experience and sentiment scores are visible indicators of overall customer health, and feature the ability to also zoom in on an individual level. This is determined through a combination of natural language processing and Nextiva's patented SmartTopics. Determined individually with a back-end algorithm, SmartTopic technology allows agents to categorize case subjects and automatically update the impact to the account experience score with one click. With the color-coded and customizable scores visible from virtually any page within the Service CRM, agents are always up-to-date on their accounts' health.
Nextiva Service CRM is completely customizable, beginning with configuration. NextDB is the database builder where users can set up and configure the database according to the specific needs of their organizations by adding tables, relationships, and database constraints. This includes a grid builder and form builder, where customers can add relationships and displays, so they can always view the most relevant data.
Service CRM is a powerful tool that mechanizes manual processes, enabling companies to automate a majority of their tasks. Macros allow users to set and save pre-defined values for form fields as well as text fields. This enables easy retrieval of saved settings to automate responses to common issues. The rules engine allows users to initiate processes when triggered by an event change or time-based change. For example, an email can be automated to send as soon as a case is marked complete, or every Friday at a certain time.
In addition to improving customer communication, Nextiva Service CRM boosts the efficiency of internal communication. Internal chat is an included feature that enables colleagues to communicate from the same screen they are working in for their customers, and without the formality of a phone call or email. One-on-one chats, group chats, and broadcast chats provide options for delivering messages (with emojis!). The calendar feature also allows users to schedule internal and customer appointments in one place.
Users only need a browser. The Nextiva core platform, NextOS, resides in data centers across North America with the highest security protocols and are connected with dual OC48 (2.5 Gbps) rings to create a redundant call network path. They have multi-factor authentication for entry, biometric security scanners, bullet resistant glass, 24x7x365 security as well as video surveillance. They also deploy best-of-breed equipment that protects the network from security breaches. The data centers are SSAE 16 certified, SOC II audited, and offer PCI (News - Alert)-DSS certification. Each data center has a dedicated power grid with sophisticated energy consumption to guarantee 99.999% up-time.
We chose this solution to win because, traditionally a VoIP company, Nextiva took a big step toward its vision of becoming a full business communications partner with SaaS releases. The new products launched earlier in 2018 are Nextiva Service CRM, Nextiva Chat, and Nextiva Surveys. This is unprecedented in the VoIP industry.
OneBill Software, Inc - OneBill
OneBill is a cloud-based, full-featured platform that delivers Order-to-Activate-to-Cash functionality. To get the complete Order-to-Activate-to-Cash functionality, the alternative for service providers is to procure multiple silos and put all of them together through complex integration, which becomes cost-prohibitive for many providers.
- Quoting is done through tools like Quosal (ConnectWise (News - Alert) Sell),
- Customer Management is done through platforms like Salesforce/Microsoft Dynamics,
- Professional Service Automation is done through ConnectWise/Autotask/TigerPaw,
- Billing and Invoicing is done through Rev.io/BluLogix / Zuora (News - Alert), and
- Simple recurring is handled using payment gateways like STRIPE. But dynamic charge computations and rule-based pricing cannot be easily handled.
The OneBill platform delivers the above functionalities in a single cloud platform that obviates the need to buy multiple siloed systems, simplifying complex recurring/usage-based billing and subscription models of emerging services such as UCaaS, Telecom, Cloud Services, and IoT.
It's an enterprise-class scalable, flexible and configurable platform that fully automates the end-to-end concept-to-order-activate-cash process. Several service/solution providers and their resellers successfully use the OneBill platform to manage their business and operational (BSS/OSS) needs. The platform enables solution/service providers to bundle products and services from any carrier, any device vendor/distributor, allowing them to create "ONE BILL" to maximize their market and margin opportunities.
OneBill is hosted in the public cloud infrastructure (AWS). Customers need only a browser to access the platform. OneBill's highly scalable, high-availability multi-tenant architecture allows all customers' tenants to be hosted in a single application service, which can scale both vertically as well as horizontally. Each customer can customize their tenants for their own branding, including the URL to access the platform. Branding is extended not only to the service providers, but also to all the resellers, which gives them the ability to offer branded bill-on-behalf-of capability, something that is unique to the OneBill platform.
Other key features include:
- Advanced ProActive: Provisioning and Activation platform that's seamlessly integrated to billing for connecting the target services to service turn ON/OFF, pause/resume, cancel/renew, the services automatically using UX and API.
- Taxation: OneBill has built-in an advanced taxation platform to handle complex communications taxes using a UI-based tax configuration setup. OneBill also supports taxation integration to third-party providers, like Avalara and Suretax, for tax computation and configuration.
- N-tier channel management capability: The service provider can bring in wide variety of partners, such as Agents, Resellers, Vendors, Distributors etc.
- Multi-party settlement: The platform handles multi-party settlement on how the revenue should be distributed across these channel partners.
- Self-Care Portal: Branded self-care portal for offering best customer experience for managing purchases, orders, shopping carts, payments, subscription management actions like upgrade/downgrade, pause/resume, cancel/renew, all by the customers themselves.
- Service Activation and Provisioning framework: State-of-the-art configuration-driven activation and provisioning platform that caters variety of verticals (Unified communications, Cable, IaaS, SaaS, IoT services) through seamless integration between the source systems and offers real-time provisioning and activation experience.
- Rules engine framework: OneBill has customized and innovated on top of Drools (used for rules engine) to deliver complex pricing/business/settlement rules. Customers can create complicated price offerings and product inclusivity/exclusivity business rules using this framework. The same framework is applied to derive sophisticated N-tier settlement capability to apportion the revenue across different parties in the channel ecosystem.
OneBill's mission is to automate the entire Order-to-Activate-to-Cash process with its state-of-the-art workflow engine, ProActive, which decomposes the order and orchestrates it across different carriers' provisioning/activation platforms.
For example, a typical UCaaS order might consists of 1) DID ordering 2) Configuring hosted PBX (News - Alert) platform and 3) Shipping a phone device to the customer's premises. In this order, three different carriers are involved: A SIP trunk provider (e.g., Bandwidth), a softswitch provider (e.g., Broadsoft) and a device distributor (e.g., NetXUSA/888Voip). OneBill's ProActive module automatically decomposes the order, orchestrates the decomposed order elements across all the three carriers' platforms for provisioning and activation of the UCaaS service (see image).
Billing and Revenue Management of cloud services is never easy. Many cloud service providers are painfully dealing with one or more challenges, including:
- Complex product catalog with bundling,
- Disconnected Sales Process (e.g.: Quoting) from Order Management,
- Order Orchestration, Provisioning and Activation of services across multiple carriers' platforms,
- Tax Compliance, Reporting and Remittance,
- CDR Processing for Toll-free/International usage,
- Self-Care portal integration, and
- Accounting platform integrations.
This means either swivel-chair operations or multiple siloed legacy systems that don't talk to each other are needed to handle this list, which leads to slower time-to-market, revenue leakage and productivity loss. OneBill seeks to eliminate these challenges with a single platform.
We chose this solution to win this award because the OneBill platform allows customers to take care of these complexities and manage the entire order-to-activate-to-cash process more efficiently and seamlessly, maximizing market and margin opportunities.
VTech - ErisTerminal VDP650 Cordless 4-Line Series
The company was among the first to include programmable backlit line keys on a SIP DECT cordless handset (VDP651) in conjunction with shared-line capability within the system without having the need to be supported by the server (i.e., Broadsoft's share call appearance.) The system can also be connected to a simple SIP trunk, a bare bones telephony service with the share line capability supplied by the VDP650 base station.
�Key system� is an old way that analog small business phones had been done in the past. SIP phones have been able to emulate these functions on full size desk phones depending on the SIP programming on the phone. However, with the VDP650 series VTech simplified the programming by handling it themselves via the main VDP650 base. It can be done using private SIP accounts instead of a shared SIP account programmed on multiple desksets, which increases the cost of service for the end user/business. Also, by using DECT on not only the cordless handsets, but cordless desksets as well, deployment becomes far easier both for the service provider and for the end business customer. There is only a single device to configure with SIP credentials (VDP650). After that, you simply register any combination of up to 10 cordless handsets or cordless phones that only require power, no additional phone lines or Ethernet cables.
In addition, the solution allows service providers and installers the ability to offer customers a shared-line type solution that may not be natively supported by the PBX/softswitch.
The phone has backlit LED line keys directly on the cordless handsets. Because of these programmable line keys and key system emulation, users can easily see incoming, active and held calls without having to dig into menus. Other options require end-users to access menus and scroll through lists to decipher the state of the line via icons and status messages. The VDP658 cordless deskset also runs on battery, offering a truly wireless operation and convenience.
The company leverages the customization of SIP features to allow multiple types of account setup. The VDP650 can be setup with a single private SIP account that allows four or more concurrent calls that all 10 cordless phones can see. Or, you could use four different SIP accounts, one for each line represented on the cordless phones. In addition to sharing the lines across all the phones, you can freely program the line keys for other functions like directory, call history, messages or even dedicate a line on a specific phone for a different SIP account. For instance, the manager could have a separate private line that no one else would have access to.
We chose the VTech ErisTerminal VDP650 Cordless 4-Line Series to win this award because of its flexibility and advanced feature-set.
Yeastar Information Technology Co., Ltd. - Cloud PBX
YMP is a robust centralized platform on which telcos and service providers can create PBX instances for their customers in minutes and resize system capacity, including the number of extensions and concurrent calls, with a few clicks. YMP supports a maximum of 100 PBX instances, 2000 users and 500 concurrent calls, helping customers craft differentiated solutions for every type of opportunity.
Yeastar Cloud PBX instance inherits the essence of the company's proven premises-based IP-PBX and evolves it into a reliable, flexible and fully-fledged cloud-based communications system. An easy to use web GUI, all-inclusive PBX features, free Linkus mobile and desktop client all make it a perfect fit for businesses of any size to make a painless transition to cloud communications.
At the customer premises, end-users only need a desk phone or softphone plus a browser to get started, while the hosted side consists of 2 Linux servers, one running NGIX for YMP and the other for the SBC.
The solutions utilize Docker container technology in order to craft a practical solution to the scale problem. The multi-instance infrastructure of Yeastar Cloud PBX makes sure that each PBX instance is entirely separate from one another and enjoys all-inclusive features, offering better security and reliability. Telcos and MSPs now have a platform to roll out and scale back deployment centrally and flexibly and, thus, craft a true pay-as-you-grow pricing model. How to allocate the number of extensions and concurrent calls is completely up to them and they can then win a significant competitive edge by offering highly customized solutions and being responsive to fluctuating business needs.
- Multi-instance architecture: Yeastar Cloud PBX boasts the multi-instance infrastructure that ensures separation of different customers' data, reduces possibilities for a large number of customers to be affected by a system outage and allows for greater flexibility and control of configuration, customization and upgrades. Multi-tenancy, which many others use, is potentially a less secure environment and requires more development resources.
- Centralized platform: Telcos and service providers can create PBX instances through YMP with just a few clicks, which greatly reduces their workload. In the meantime, they can also monitor the real-time performance, including active calls, data transfer speed, network speed, CPU usage, memory usage, and local disk usage. Yeastar says competitors may not be able to provide such easy deployment and comprehensive overviews.
- Security mechanism: The solution includes Yeastar SBC, an exclusive security component, to realize topology hiding, Dynamic Defense as well as malformed packets detecting and blocking.
- On-demand scalability: System capacity can be allocated to cost-effectively satisfy a broad range of customer needs.
- All-inclusive features without license fee: There are no extra charges for IVR, conference, queue or any other features. Telcos are free to offer a simple (per seat, per month) pricing model to their customers.
- Linkus: Linkus Mobile Client is fully supported by Yeastar Cloud PBX to make the Android or iOS mobile phone an office extension and helps on-the-go workers stay connected with their colleagues and customers anywhere, anytime. With Linkus, users can make and receive calls through corporate phone networks to slash call costs and enhance efficiency with consistent in-office experience. The Linkus Desktop Client takes the user experience to the next level.
- Remote Management: Yeastar Remote Management is a centralized management platform that allows easy management and configuration of PBX remotely. All customer-premises PBXs can be securely monitored and managed from one single platform. Users can receive alarms of any unusual events and take actions accordingly.
- Auto Provisioning: Auto Provisioning is used to provision IP phones in bulk, including all user information, local phone book, firmware, and so on. Currently, Yeastar Cloud PBX supports auto-provisioning on Yealink IP Phones, and more Vtech and Snom IP Phones will be added soon.
- API Integration: Third-party applications can be integrated with the Cloud PBX via APIs, greatly extending the functionality of Cloud PBX. Service providers can then develop their customized solutions to adapt to needs from different industries.
We chose Yeastar Cloud PBX as a winner because we are blown away by the company's ability to allow resellers to instantly become cloud communications providers at a low cost with the ability to scale rapidly. This dramatically increases margins and makes the reseller less likely to be displaced.
Edited by Erik Linask