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January 2000
As We May Communicate


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Your Guide To The Communications Frontier: Communications Solutions™ EXPO

Acquainted with the visionaries of information technology? If so, you may notice that the title of this editorial resembles the title of a landmark article by Vannevar Bush. Back in 1945, Bush published "As We May Think," a forward-looking piece on how computers were likely to evolve. This piece, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, was extraordinarily prescient, predicting many features of the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Bush's work, prepared during his tenure as director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, came to mind while I attended Lucent's Global Media Day, an event showcasing Lucent's vision of the future of communications. Lucent's vision, it seemed to me, described how certain aspects of Bush's vision -- his as-yet-unrealized predictions-- were soon to become reality.

At this point, we would have to say Bush’s prediction of a memex — a kind of microlibrary on a desktop, filled with information ready for instant retrieval and display — has been realized. Even the more esoteric aspects of the memex, namely, the associative recall of relevant bits of information, has been achieved to some extent, if not by hypertext, then by such things as collaborative filtering, a technique for sifting through mountains of data to yield unexpected associations.

But what about the rest of Bush’s hypermedia, that is, Bush’s description of the interactions among modems, fax machines, personal computers, and various voice-activated appliances? How might we use these devices to avoid worsening the information glut, and instead facilitate the exchange of relevant information — not just by means of indexing, but by more personal, more particular, more associative techniques?

Well, it so happens that Lucent’s vision suggests ways in which technology may help us meet this challenge. Lucent foresees a mega-network of networks, a communications skin with ubiquitous connectivity and enormous bandwidth. And, just as real skin is sensitive, studded with nerve endings, the communications skin will include countless sensors and other devices, including all kinds of phones, PDAs, and voice-activated notebooks.

These devices will even talk to each other. In fact, there may be so many interconnected devices that the volume of infra-chatter (in Lucent’s terms) may surpass the volume of communications among humans. Since the interfaces for connecting all the sensors and other devices to the mega-network will become dirt-cheap, just about anything that can be connected to the network will be connected — including thermostats, pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, alarm systems, household appliances, and automobiles. (Perhaps my favorite result of this technology will be the day when I can turn on the heat in my house before I arrive.)

Other devices will gather useful information by monitoring cities, roadways, homes, offices, and the environment. They’ll also monitor people’s hearts and the calories they consume. If you want, they’ll keep track of your children, even your pets. And they’ll transmit all this data directly to the mega-network, just as our skin transmits a constant stream of sensory data to our brains.

One outcome is that we will no longer need to confine our wills to that which we can perceive at any moment. As more and more of life falls within the realm of real-time communications technology, we will find ever more opportunities for exerting our preferences, ordering matters exactly as we would have ordered them — had we but the time and attention.

Ultimately, individuals and businesses will have a vast variety of individualized, custom services — written by countless programmers on an open mega-network. This will be a dramatic departure from today, when new services come largely from service providers. In the future, a cottage industry of independent software vendors will spring up to create customized services. For example, you could have the network track and automatically report on your favorite ISV segment.

All the new services will transform the Internet as we know it. Today, the Internet may seem a vast morass of information and facts. Tomorrow — thanks to natural interfaces, interactive Web sites, and software agents — we will be able to extract relevant information via text, voice, images, and video. Finally, we’ll move beyond using technology to create heaps of information. Instead, we’ll finally use technology to expand human knowledge.

The rise of a mega-network has yet another outcome: the creation of self-renewing resources. Such resources have often been seen as a key benefit of information technology. For an example, we can return to Vannevar Bush, who followed up on his Atlantic Monthly piece with a report for President Harry Truman. In this report, Bush cited economic texts that pointed to the need for new frontiers and new resources to exploit. Without them, so the texts claimed, capitalism was bound to stagnate. (Recall that this was in 1945, when memories of the Depression were still fresh.)

The report, entitled “Science — The Endless Frontier,” suggested that capitalism’s need for an endless succession of new, undeveloped frontiers could be satisfied only if we turned to science and technology. Bush’s suggestion, I must say, is certainly borne out by what I saw at Lucent’s presentation. The growth projections for sheer capacity, bolstered by developments in optical networking, reveal new vistas encompassing enough unexplored tracts to satisfy even the most adventurous spirit.

Bell Labs, in their portion of the presentation, even put forward what they call Butters’ Law of Photonics, a formulation which deliberately parallels Moore’s Law. According to Butters’ Law, the cost of transmitting a bit over an optical network decreases by half every nine months. Further progress seems assured. In a recent experiment, Bell Labs crammed 1000 wavelengths or channels on one fiber. And they see no reason why they couldn’t go to 15,000 wavelengths per fiber. To put these figures in perspective, consider today’s systems, which carry about 100 wavelengths per fiber.

Information technology and communications technology are already demonstrating dramatic growth, even though we’re just embarking on quests such as those described by Lucent. I may be preaching to the choir on this point, but — just to be thorough — here is some confirmation in the form of growth rates (CAGR projections from 1999 to 2003) for a selection of communications sectors:

  • Carrier-class routers, 86 percent.
  • CRM, 46 percent.
  • Broadband including DSL, 35 percent.
  • DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing, a technology that allows multiple colors of light to be transmitted over the same optical fiber), 32 percent.
  • ATM switching, 26 percent.
  • Communications software, 23 percent.
  • Wireless networks, 22 percent.
  • Optoelectronics, 21 percent.
  • Messaging, 18 percent.

With growth rates like these, I am sure you will agree that the communications industry will continue to be one of the most dynamic markets into the next century. I could make this point even more powerfully were I to go into more detail about what I learned at the Lucent event, but I feel constrained by space limitations. (But there’s always next month!)

Of course, we don’t expect to simply trip over new frontiers. On the contrary, the new frontiers that are technologically based demand our imagination and effort. But where might we seek inspiration? Where might we find the tools to make our imaginings real?

One answer is to attend quality, educational events. And, if I may be so bold, I would suggest that such an event is Communications Solutions™ EXPO. I invite you, our valued readers, to scrutinize the brief editorial which follows. It describes the success we have enjoyed with CTI™ EXPO, the precursor to Communications Solutions™ EXPO. In addition, it outlines our plans for the future of our events.

Your Guide To The Communications Frontier: Communications Solutions™ EXPO

The last CTI™ EXPO, held this past December in Las Vegas, heralded the beginning of a new era in two senses. First, it ushered in the end of the millennium. Second, it was the last time our event was to carry the CTI™ EXPO banner. In the new millennium, our conference and exposition will be called Communications Solutions™ EXPO.

Aside from standing on the verge of a new era, I was overwhelmed to find that CTI™ EXPO’s conference attendance had doubled to well over 1,200 total attendees in just one year. Agog, I couldn’t help but survey the attendees. The attendees explained that they decided to participate in CTI™ EXPO because they perceived that TMC’s expositions are objective and in-depth, and dispense with the hype that is all too familiar at many other shows.

We attribute this perception to the fact that TMCTM conferences are designed by the editors of TMC publications (Communications Solutions™, Internet Telephony, and C@ll Center CRM Solutions™) as well as the engineers of TMC™ Labs. It is the industry knowledge of these editors coupled with their longevity in the industry — three members (including myself) go back over 18 years — that contributes to an unusually powerful conference program.

Since the designers of our conferences stay on top of the latest technology, our conference programs are always up to date. And, since our mandate has expanded as technology has evolved, we feel we should emphasize that our new name, Communications Solutions™ EXPO, describes more accurately the types of products and services on display in the exhibit hall floor. The response to our new name has been extraordinarily positive, and we look forward to staging our next event — and officially inaugurating Communications Solutions™ EXPO — in Washington, DC, on April 26–28. (If you register online today, at www.comsolexpo.com, you will save the $50 entry fee that will be charged at the door for exhibit hall admission.)

We realize that you are busy and that your time is precious, so we have dedicated ourselves to constructing a conference program so comprehensive that you will be guaranteed to learn more from Communications SolutionsTM EXPO than any other industry event. We believe in supplying you with the most rigorous, non-commercial conferences, so that we may impart the most relevant and readily assimilated information, making it easier for you to integrate the information into your own corporate strategies.

Given the gratifyingly high level of interest in our conference program, we will soon post the full conference program on our Web site. In the meantime, I will list a few conference topics, summarizing what I feel are among the most appealing sessions.


  • The Open Telephony Trend — And Its Limitless Possibilities. (Come learn about the next generation of communications servers with open interfaces that you will never outgrow.)
  • The PC-PBX — The Next Big Disruptive (And Empowering) Technology. (A less expensive PBX, a more open PBX, and a more programmable PBX. You can’t lose!)
  • All Eyes Are On Applications That Are All Ears — The Triumph Of Speech Recognition. (Computer recognition of human speech was once the stuff of science fiction, but soon talking to computers will be as familiar as the GUI-based desktop. With speech-enabled applications and business systems, you can gain an advantage over your competition. Sit in on this session to learn how to teach your application to listen to your customers.)
  • Getting the Response You Want: Creating Customer-Pleasing IVR Applications. (Did you install an IVR system to handle basic customer service, only to find that now you’re getting calls from people complaining about the IVR too? Likely the problem is not your IVR, but the scripting and menu options. A user-friendly IVR is a must today, and this session will help you decide what your customers are looking for when they call you in the first place.)
  • Is Your Voice Processing System Somewhat Spartan? Maybe It’s Time To Consider Something More Sumptuous. (With everything voice processing has to offer, there’s really no need to settle for something austere. But do you want upgrades or a new system? Attend this session, and explore your options.)
  • IP @ Work — Advances in Enterprise LAN-Based Telephony. (It is common knowledge that voice and data networks are merging. Come find out what you can do so as not to be left behind.)


  • Dot Com To Income: Turning A Profit In The Internet Channel. (Online, your competitors are just a click away. This session will cover what’s needed to compete and win in the e-marketplace.)
  • Foiling The Hack-ers: Implementing E-Commerce Security. (Studies show that the average e-commerce site is so non-secured the average teenage hacker can collect personal information in less time than it takes to make an online purchase. This session will discuss how you can safeguard both your company and your consumers.)
  • Helping Customers Help Themselves Through Better Web Site Design. (A well-designed Web site provides potential buyers with all the information they need, offering customer service and increasing sales at very little cost. Find out how the most successful e-commerce ventures help customers help themselves.)
  • Why You Need Chat And Instant Messaging On Your Company’s Web Site. (Properly implemented, chat and instant messaging capabilities can take the place of expensive toll-free telephone calls. Learn about the available products, and the features and functions served up by these essential e-service solutions.)
  • Listen To Your Customers: Using Feedback To Improve Sales. (Want to know why two-thirds of your e-shoppers never complete their transactions? By listening to your customers’ concerns, you can better understand how to implement changes to make them happy and see your sales rise. Gain valuable insight on how to design effective survey and polling campaigns to learn as much as possible from the best advisors and critics around — your customers.)


  • Using Knowledge Bases For Better CRM. (This session will examine the techniques and technologies for connecting your company’s touch points to your corporate knowledge bases, ensuring that everyone has access to the same information. Access to the right information doesn’t just mean more power — it means better customer service.)
  • Technologies And Techniques For Data Mining And Warehousing. (Where is that information you need to make the sale, or qualify a prospect, or resolve a customer problem? You know it’s there… somewhere. This session will focus on the database tools and resources available that allow access to information by the people who need it.)
  • The Nuts And Bolts Of CRM. (CRM is more than software: it’s a way of doing business. This session will discuss which departments are involved in CRM, how to change your business processes for successful CRM, and which technologies will help you implement an effective CRM solution.)
  • Using CRM To Target Your Best Prospects. (Feedback and statistics from phone calls, Web site surveys, and customer e-mail: attend this session to find out how to get the information from your customer contact points to your marketing department and learn how to develop one-to-one marketing campaigns that keep sales in the loop.)
  • How To Use Web Portals For Improved CRM. (The Internet is the perfect medium to provide personalized information not only to your customers, but also to your sales and support staff. Find out how Web portals can take advantage of existing systems and provide timely, targeted information for both customers and staff.)
  • How CRM Can Reduce Customer Churn. (It’s a simple truth: You need to understand what your customers want before you can give it to them. Here you’ll learn how to provide a consistent message and quality service across all customer interaction channels within your organization.)
  • Implementing CRM Systems: Turnkey Or ASP? (Endless upgrades, systems integration charges, IT staff nightmares — these are some of the problems when adapting piecemeal CRM components from various different vendors. Examine the pros and cons of using an all-in-one integrated system versus outsourcing to an application service provider.)


  • SuccessFactors For Virtual And Distributed Call Centers. (The benefits of virtual and distributed call centers are alluring, but achieving those benefits may be beyond your grasp if you don’t understand the particulars. This session will cover such challenges as managing your dispersed staff, establishing the appropriate network configuration, and more.)
  • Hello, It’s Me: Self-Service With Speech Recognition Technology. (If you were unimpressed with speech recognition in the past, it’s time to take a new look. This session will bring you up to date on recent advancements and provide new application ideas that can benefit your call center through customer self-service.)
  • Present and Future IVR: Taking Advantage Of The State of the Art. (With today’s technology, your customers don’t have to endure the trials and tribulations of a feature-poor IVR system. You owe it to yourself and the future of your company to attend this session to learn about the latest developments in IVR, including new and innovative Web-based features.)
  • Web-Enabling Your Call Center? Think Twice. (That is, think twice about how you’re going to do it. A shoddy setup is worse than no setup at all. While customers are demanding the latest venues of contact, they are also demanding complete professionalism, convenience, and ease of use. This session will provide a framework of the critical elements to consider before you begin.)
  • The Call Center: Gold Mine Or Money Pit? (Traditionally viewed as just “a cost of doing business,” enlightened companies are learning that their call centers are anything but cost centers. Attend this session and turn your existing call center into a profit center.)
  • CTI, The Call Center, And The New Millennium. (As time goes on, customers are becoming more demanding. Computer-telephony integration (CTI) in the call center is the answer. Come to this session to gain a comprehensive (and comprehensible) understanding of CTI and how it can help you maintain a strong and lasting relationship with your present and future customers.)
  • Your Place Or Mine? Call Center Outsourcing Options. (Call center bursting at the seams? Time to implement new avenues of customer contact, but lacking the expertise? Considering setting up a call center for the first time, but uncertain about the cost? These situations, and others, call for serious consideration of outsourcing. This session will provide you with a comprehensive formula for evaluating call center outsourcing providers, including the services you should expect and the financial commitments you should plan for.)

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