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July 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 7
Publisher's Outlook

Hyperconnectivity, Live and in Person

You can’t escape the reality that interconnectivity between humans will increase at a more rapid pace as time goes on. The myriad ways in which we connect with one another, e-mail, social networks, blogging, IM, SMS, telephone, voicemail and others are mushrooming.

It seems obvious that today’s teens will demand social networking in the workplace meaning that IT departments will have to support these myriad communications mechanisms while dealing with the repercussions of compliance management. Not allowing social networks into your company may even be a deal-breaker when hiring the best talent in the market. We may see a time where publicly traded companies fearful of social networks will lose workers to smaller companies who are more social-network friendly.

Another challenge is web browsers on phones. If you provide a device with a web browser to your company’s employees and one of them discloses information on it to another person via a social network, will you be able to produce this as evidence in an investigation?

I got to discuss and learn more about these issues recently in Dallas at the INNUA/Global Connect (News - Alert) 2008 event. The organizations hosting the conference are a mix of independent Nortel user groups.

One of my first and more memorable conversations was with Phil Edholm (News - Alert) ( the company’s CTO. Our talk centered on how technology has the ability to truly change the way companies work. He explained how his company is building SOA objects which allow companies to be more efficient. He also beamed with enthusiasm as he explained how these software objects are reusable — meaning objects created for one application can quickly be repurposed for similar applications with little recoding.

This is not a trivial concept — object-oriented programming revolutionized the world of technology and if you can more easily embed communications into object-oriented buckets which can be more easily weaved into the corporate infrastructure, you improve productivity greatly.

The trend towards increased use of SOA is clear… Avaya (News - Alert) too ( has been espousing similar concepts and NEC’s purchase ( of Sphere was primarily to acquire the Chicago-based company’s SOA technology. A large focus of TMC (News - Alert)’s Communications Developer ( event this September will revolve around building SOA-based communications applications.

Edholm was especially proud to explain how Nortel (News - Alert) has automated hospital interactions, and more specifically the methods and systems by which patients are discharged. The average hospital bed costs one to two million dollars and this obviously means there is tremendous incentive to get the people out of these beds as soon as possible. (Once they are better, of course!) Healthy patients also want to get home as fast as they can.

Many times, 5 or 6 physicians must approve a patient’s discharge and the process of tracking down this many doctors can be time-consuming. Indeed, sometimes nurses decide not to discharge patients on their shift — instead leaving the work to nurses on the next one. Keep in mind that while the patient is still in the hospital, drugs, food and other preparations are being made for them and this additional expense is absolutely unnecessary.

One application I witnessed to facilitate patient discharge actually came from the Periphonics division of Nortel. The company was purchased by the Canadian telecom giant just under a decade ago and then went very silent. Now they are back in the spotlight and have produced a solution which is basically a group find-me, follow-me application that calls every doctor and once they are all contacted and have consented to the discharge, the proper nurse is alerted and the patient can leave.

At this point, various departments in the hospital can also be notified by phone or computer and even the family can be notified by a predictive dialer and IVR that they can come and pick up their loved one. Interesting that Avaya would call such an application CEBP and/or intelligent communications. I tend to prefer “just-in-time communications” (, a term I coined some years ago which has lately been eclipsed by the term “unified communications”.

At a Nortel dinner, IDC’s Nora Freedman (News - Alert) discussed a recent hyperconnectivity study her company had conducted. What’s so interesting about the study is that a higher percentage of Asians are “hyperconnected” than the U.S. (The definition of hyperconnectivity is roughly someone who uses multiple modes of communications such as social networks, etc., via multiple devices. I liken it to the level of withdrawal you feel if someone takes your devices and/or broadband connection away.)

Edholm says that one likely reason for this involves the U.S. having more information workers who are automated — such as bank tellers, etc. In Asia there are fewer of these automated information workers, which implies that a higher ratio of people using technology are hyperconnected.

Other interesting parts of the survey revealed that many people receive and send text messages in houses of worship as well as in bed. Oh, and one other difference between the Hyperconnected and the rest of the world — if their house catches fire and they can escape only with a single device, they take their laptops with them. Others just grab their cell phones.

In a keynote speech, Nortel’s CEO Mike Zafirovski discussed how as mobile broadband becomes better, we will all become even more hyperconnected. Other interesting parts of his talk revolved around how the enterprise and service provider markets are both important to Nortel.

A moment of surprise for me that revealed an opportunity for the industry occurred shortly after the keynote and during a panel of analysts and customers. During this session, a room full of hundreds of Nortel customers were asked if they believe unified communications will become pervasive. Most of the hands in the room went up. When asked who in the audience has a unified communications strategy, not a single hand went up. Truly shocking.

I learned a great deal at this conference and I’m glad I went. What I can’t stop thinking about is the work/life balance. This topic came up in a conversation with Phil Edholm. Both at this conference and in general I’m hearing from colleagues and coworkers how they wait until their spouse falls asleep and then they tiptoe to their computers and work. One wonders if humans will be forced to evolve into creatures that do not ever sleep. Or will Starbucks just open up a store in the bedrooms of those who pass over the theoretical Hyperconnected line? Or maybe we’ll all end up with prescriptions for the no-sleep drug Modafinil (Provigil). I could go on and on about this for hours but its time for me to brew another pot of coffee… IT

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