ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells

Industry Insight
January 2001

Jim Machi

Wireless Data And Unified Messaging Converge


It's always interesting when two technologies or products converge. If it's done right -- like the clock radio or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups -- the results are excellent, but I bet you can also think of a few examples of converged products that haven't bowled over the marketplace. I know I can. And while I do actually have a few AT&T videophones in my house (well, actually now in my basement), I doubt that many of you do. Does anyone actually buy all-in-one jars of peanut butter and jelly?

When we talk about the convergence of today's two hottest telecom technologies -- wireless data (WD) and unified messaging (UM) -- I want to make sure it's in the spirit of successful convergence. I won't discuss the ever-plodding debate over which wireless protocols (CDMA, Mobitex, ReFlex), environments (Java, Palm, WAP), and operating systems (Palm, Windows, RIM) provide the greatest value. I choose to be merely an observer, transcriber, and advocate of UM and WD convergence.

Since this "convergence" is rather gray in terms of its definition and where it fits on the marketing map, let's define the term and try to get some perspective on where UM and WD are positioned today.

First let's define convergence. With respect to information technology, convergence means combining various components and technologies in a way that's accessible to everyone. Convergence is not simply an issue of technology; it's also an issue of culture and lifestyle. Now let's define wireless data (WD) as a gathered body of facts over a wireless transmission path. Finally, we can define unified messaging (UM) as an application that provides easy access to voice, fax, and "X" messages from a single mailbox or product.

Now that we've defined all the parts of the whole, we can define the convergence of WD and UM this way: A technology that routes voice, fax, and messages over a wireless medium to a single source or product.

By now you may be asking yourself how this article fits in the context of INTERNET TELEPHONY� magazine. The answer is that VoIP is a major contributor to the trend toward converging technologies.

Since the convergence of WD and UM is such a growing technology, I will only address some of its aspects at this time, with some additional reports to come during the coming year. I believe this convergence is in its infancy and needs to be defined in stages.

Stage 1 is the current stage. Today many new wireless products let you send and receive data. However, they don't let you easily manage all the types of messages or services defined in UM. I am most familiar with the RIM 950 Wireless Handheld and the services it supports (for example, BellSouth MyBiz Interactive and BlackBerry wireless e-mail solution from Research in Motion Limited). I consider this product, and the services it currently supports, to be the first stage in the convergence of UM and WD. Depending on your subscription type and service provider, you can send a text message from a wireless device to a fax machine, telephone, or alphanumeric pager. You can also originate a peer-to-peer message (the original IM: Instant Message) from the device to another like device, or originate a message from the Web or to an e-mail address. Plus, you can receive messages on your device from an operator service, interactive voice response system (IVR), a peer-to-peer message, the Web, or via e-mail.

According to our definition of UM, "easy" is key. The above products and services let you manage your personal information (PIM) and create text messages from a single product. With an icon confirming delivery, you also have the highest confidence that your message was successfully sent. From a marketing perspective, these services address both the enterprise market segment (BlackBerry) and the service or public market segment (BellSouth).

These Stage 1 products successfully converge UM services. As wireless link speeds increase over time, and as we see more user-friendly and robust applications like real-time Web browsing and mobile e-commerce applications, this UM�WD convergence will be driven to the next stage.

Allow me to explain where telephony sits in this convergence. With VoIP driving the market in supporting the transmission of voice over the Internet and the progression of protocols and standards like VPIM (voice profile for internet messaging), the process to send and receive voice calls, display fax documents, and conference using your PC is becoming real. With telephony, unified messaging, and wireless data, you have the building blocks for Stage 2 UM and wireless products.

It's all happening step by step. So remember, convergence can be fun -- when taken in moderation. 

Jim Machi is director, product management, CT Server and IPT Products, for Dialogic Corporation (an Intel company). Dialogic is a leading manufacturer of high-performance, standards-based computer telephony components. Dialogic products are used in fax, data, voice recognition, speech synthesis, and call center management CT applications. 

[ Return To The January 2001 Table Of Contents ]

Today @ TMC
Upcoming Events
ITEXPO West 2012
October 2- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
The World's Premier Managed Services and Cloud Computing Event
Click for Dates and Locations
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
Cloud Communications Summit
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas