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Unified Communications Magazine July 2007                                                                                                                Volume 1 / Number 1

 

 

Collaboration and UC

– Group Productivity Applications


By Richard “Zippy” Grigonis, Feature Articles

 

The well-known consulting and research company Frost & Sullivan tells us that only about 20% of today’s workers actually work at their desk anymore. Amusingly, half of the average worker’s cell phone bill is spent on intra-company calling, with a third of the bill accounting for calls made inside the worker’s business premises. This is why the desktopbased unified messaging paradigm has been infused with the mobility afforded by FMC (Fixed-Mobile Convergence) technologies to yield today’s highly flexible and mobile unified communications platforms.

There are various ways of imparting mobility to UC available to enterprises and carriers. One example is Siemens HiPath MobileConnect, offering an end-to-end enterprise FMC solution that delivers seamless roaming between Voice over Wireless LAN and cellular networks.

This paradigm can be subdivided into systems that rely on a dual or even triple-mode phone (if we include WiMAX or some other future wireless broadband technology), as opposed to a system that can be directed to forward calls to separate devices; e.g., IP or circuit-switched desktop phone to a WiFi phone or to a cellphone) as the user roams. Sophisticated real-time routing controls such as “find-me follow-me” can be found in the UC solution of Interactive Intelligence (www.inin.com) called Communité, an Interaction Mobile Office™ application, which runs on Exchange or Notes. Communité also offers personal interaction management software that runs on PDAs such as Palm OS devices, RIM BlackBerries, and those using the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system. Users can update their presence status over the phone, via the Internet using a web browser, or from a PDA such as a Palm Pilot.




Regardless of the technological framework, the general trend has been to extend corporate IP PBX features to remote and/or roaming users, and to go beyond them by providing speech recognition and text-tospeech functionality so that a person driving their car or otherwise occupied can engage in both “hands-free” and “eyes-free” perusal and response to any item on a unified messaging list. For example, users of Objectworld Communications’ (www.objectworld.com) UC Server platform can check their email on the road by simply phoning in and listening to it over the phone with speech-to-text. Also, Interactive Intelligence’s Communité has a speech-enabled auto-attendant and speech-enabled menu for message retrieval, status changes, and company directory access. Similarly, the Personal Communicator from Inter-Tel (www.inter-tel.com) can be accessed by voice using speechrecognition and/or any mobile device with the Inter-Tel Personal Communicator for Mobile Devices software.

Cisco has also tackled UC mobility with its Unified Mobile Communicator, an app that runs on mobile phones and smartphones, bringing with it enterprise communications capabilities and services. With it you can place and receive calls, access company directory contacts, check presence information (by looking at the phone display an employee can easily see who is available and who is busy), review voice mail messages, view a list of messages on the “visual voicemail” display and select one for playback, and conference and collaborate via the Unified Mobile Communicator’s integration with Cisco Unified MeetingPlace.

Microsoft’s big push into the UC market includes partnering with major telecomrelated companies (Nortel, Siemens, etc.) to integrate Microsoft software with these partners’ telecom technologies, giving Microsoft products greater mobility. Microsoft has addressed mobile messaging with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and the upcoming Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. Exchange ActiveSync runs on an increasing number of devices, including Microsoft Windows mobile-based phones and hardware and software from third-party providers, such as Nokia Siemens, Sony Ericsson, Dataviz, Palm, Motorola and Symbian. Thanks to this duo, HTML mail is now supported on mobile devices, and rich formatting can be viewed right on the device display. Instead of depending on a mobile device’s limited memory, Microsoft-inbued devices enable you to search through all of your inbox messages on the Exchange server, retrieving them at will.

 

Nortel’s Converged Office

Microsoft and Nortel have joined forces in their Innovative Communications Alliance, and one exciting result is the Nortel Converged Office solution, which integrates Nortel Communications Server 1000 with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server (soon Office Communications Server) and Microsoft Office Communicator. Users can initiate desktop calls from Office Communicator using the Nortel Converged Office Remote Call Control capabilities. More importantly, remote users have enhanced mobility capabilities with full access to the corporate network, dial plan and PSTN, as well as support for extended business-grade IP PBX features from within the client software. Incoming calls to deskphones can be automatically forwarded, based on the user’s location, ensuring that calls aren’t missed when out of the office. The system supports various system-level features of Nortel’s Communications Server 1000, such as Least Coast Routing and network class of service restrictions, and extends them to Office Communicator.

 

Which iPhone?

Amusingly, there are two mobile devices in the news these days called the iPhone. The one getting the most publicity is Apple’s, which relies on sophisticated “Multitouch” technology (i.e., your fingers and a touchscreen) instead of a keyboard or stylus. Amazingly, the iPhone runs Mac OS X, which means it supports multitasking, networking and desktop Mac applications. IPhone syncs up your personal data (media, through iTunes), contact information, email accounts, calendars, notes, photos and bookmarks. The Apple iPhone is only 11.6 millimeters thick, has a 2 megapixel digital camera and a 3.5-inch, 160 pixel-per-inch color screen. AT&T has exclusive rights to market iPhones for five years.

At the moment, the Apple iPhone looks interesting, but wait and see how well this device interoperates with existing and future UC systems.

Amusingly, soon after the Apple iPhone announcement, Cisco sued Apple for using the iPhone name, which Cisco owns. The companies settled amicably, resulting in a multi-iPhone world, since Cisco and its LinkSys subsidiary offer not one, but a family of seven of their own “iPhone” VoIP handsets. Given the experience of Cisco and Linksys in the UC area (think of the Linksys One platform that can serve businesses of up to 100 users with integrated data networking and VoIP), Apple has some catching-up to do in terms of UC, though Yours Truly hears that is already starting to happen.

 

The Service Provider Route

One way to deliver mobility to enterprise employees quickly is to rely mostly on a service provider instead of entirely on customer premise equipment.

Nuance Communications (www.nuance.com) provides a mobile search and messaging subscription-based service called Voice Control that complements devices such as the much-vaunted iPhone, obviating the need for a keyboard. Voice Control is ranked as the best-selling BlackBerry title based on units sold from all Handango storefronts for the first quarter of 2007. Users can direct Voice Control entirely by natural voice commands, instructing it to create calendar entries, dial a contact, play music, obtain directions, search for business listings, news, weather, stock quotes and sports scores. You can even dictate something and have it text-messaged.

 

Get Moving Today

Whoever said "the race is not to the swift" obviously never worked in a modern business environment. The mobility aspects of today's unified communications systems bestow a welcome competitive edge to any organization's efforts in the marketplace.







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