Welcome to the 16th annual INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine TMC Labs Innovation Awards, where we honor innovative technologies. This year, we had some interesting winners in a few spaces, including cloud-managed Wi-Fi, HD videoconferencing, a ruggedized M2M/IoT solution, a Class 4 softswitch focusing on the wholesale VoIP space, a hosted contact center solution and an NFV-based solution showing the move from bespoke carrier hardware to software and off-the-shelf computing.
TMC Labs uses a rigorous application and selection process when choosing innovative products and services. This year, we proudly recognize the following companies with TMC Labs Innovation Awards.
ProCloud for switches
The BYOD trend – and mobility, in general – as well as the insatiable appetite for video, are putting a greater strain on business networks than ever before. To ensure success of their companies, IT departments are looking to reduce operational costs and maximize efficiency through cloud-based services. In March 2015, ADTRAN launched the expansion of its ProCloud managed services portfolio, with the addition of ProCloud for switches to its managed Wi-Fi service offering. By integrating a cloud-based management platform with best-in-class service, ADTRAN provides businesses with an innovative unified service for wired and wireless networks. Companies of all sizes can now offload network management burdens and maximize the benefits of their technology investments as business demands continue to escalate. The expanded ADTRAN ProCloud portfolio empowers businesses to make better informed decisions about network health. The platform provides a network-as-a-whole, vendor-agnostic visibility that delivers real-time and historical information across both wired and wireless infrastructure. ADTRAN ProCloud for switches also simplifies ongoing administration through customized reporting and tiered access while improving security through centralized configuration and firmware management.
One of our favorite features of this solution is it allows VARs to become MSPs by offering a cloud-based solution that is tightly coupled with hardware. Finally, the ability to scale quickly and remotely manage the solution from any device are two great plusses.
COR IBR1100 with Enterprise Cloud Manager
Ruggedized and compact, the cloud-managed Cradlepoint COR IBR1100 is a 3G/4G/LTE (News - Alert) networking solution designed for mission critical connectivity in the most challenging environments including transportation, EMS and first responders, oil and gas, utilities, and digital signage. Whether for a fleet of buses, heavy industrial equipment, or police patrol cars, the use of wireless is growing as digital video systems, GPS, Wi-Fi, credit card processing, and other cloud-based applications are relied upon to streamline operations and improve the customer experience. The Cradlepoint COR IBR1100 provides reliable and trusted wireless connectivity packaged to protect against extreme temperatures, high vibration, and wiring and electrical issues often found in vehicle deployments. Some of our favorite features include its real-time alerts to monitor uptime, secure guest Wi-Fi (Who doesn’t need Wi-Fi in the middle of a sandstorm?) and of course something even the IRS can get behind, VPN and stateful firewall to protect sensitive data.
Uboss is a cloud-based OSS/BSS web-based platform management system optimized for BroadSoft service providers to manage deployment of all BroadSoft services with integrated billing and device management. Moreover it allows integration with CRM or hosted Exchange via an API, allowing a single-interface view. All services can be packaged and tariffed to create bespoke go-to-market offerings. This capability also extends to any indirect private-label channels the service provider has, providing the reseller real market differentiation. In this manner, a reseller gets its own branding on customer invoices and its logo on desktop apps as well as the Uboss portal. In addition, there is support for service provisioning, automated contract rules with spend thresholds, rebates, commissions and more. There is also credit-locking, allowing SMS and email alerts to be triggered and ultimately the ability to halt outbound calls from specific accounts. There is also auto-configuration of devices from Cisco, Polycom, and Yealink. One of our favorite features is the virtually unlimited canned and custom reports, and dashboard widgets that breakdown costs, usage trends, and consumption of services from the service provider. In particular, the solution can be used to determine if a certain third-party service is being sold at low margin or below cost.
A cloud-based UC solution, Jive Voice is designed to deploy across existing customer network resources, and requires no specialized system equipment or software on the customer premises. Customers utilize IP phones from a variety of vendors including Cisco, Panasonic, Polycom, and Yealink to connect to Jive. Jive Cloud, the company’s service delivery platform, has points of presence at nine worldwide data centers. Some Jive early mover advantages include a Visual Dial Plan Editor with drag and drop, empowering customers to configure and manage complex dial plans customized specifically to their operational environment; Vertical Specialization, providing custom integrations and dedicated features for specific verticals such as overhead paging, bell schedulers, and emergency notification systems in K-12; and third-party integrations with business software including Micros, RedTail, Salesforce, Zendesk, and Zoho. Some features we like are recent additions such as new Jive mobile apps for iOS and Android that brings the functionality of the desktop handset to any user’s smartphone or tablet, as well as RedTail CRM integration and the offering of business SMS services.
Lifesize Icon Flex
Ideally suited for the small meeting room, where the majority of meetings take place, Lifesize Icon Flex likes to tout its ease of set up and use. Users simply plug in their PCs or Macs via USB and the Lifesize Icon Flex takes over all video and audio capture and processing, instantly improving the quality of the meeting with business-class HD video and audio conferencing. Lifesize Icon Flex videoconference system comes equipped with a powerful PTZ camera, allowing users to comfortably see everyone in the room, and delivers high quality video output, ensuring that your meeting is broadcast in crystal clear HD. The solution works with a number of collaboration solutions, including Cisco Jabber, Google Hangouts, Lifesize Cloud, Microsoft Lync/ Skype for Business, and Skype. Features we like include the greater than 70-degree field of view, six-time zoom and of course the broad range of interoperability with various software and cloud-based conferencing systems.
Masergy Communications Inc.
Cloud Router is Masergy’s first true NFV offering to replace traditional premises-based equipment, and Masergy is the first managed network service provider to offer a cloud routing service offering a fully managed alternative to a premises-based router. Cloud Router reduces the hardware, software licenses, space and power requirements associated with on-premises equipment but also the personnel needed to manage it. As a cloud-based network function, Cloud Router comes in two service levels – standard and advanced. The standard service level supports bandwidths up to 100mbps and provides a basic layer-3 connectivity and routing for an MPLS site. The advanced service level includes everything in the standard service level in addition to business continuity support, additional routing protocols (including proprietary protocols, such as EIGRP), marking class of service values to support latency-sensitive applications, second device provisioning, and more. We especially liked the fact the router is fully managed without any on-premises hardware to configure or maintain, and the automatic updates for device operating systems and support for marking quality of service values for latency-sensitive applications. NFV is a very disruptive concept – allowing carriers to move from custom hardware to software running on off-the-shelf computers. We are impressed with Masergy’s move into the space and like the fact the company allows carriers to mix and match between cloud and premises solutions so they can jump into NFV corresponding to their particular comfort levels.
Panamax iMax is an integrated, unique platform for wholesale carriers. It is a unique platform offering real-time integration of Class 4 softswitch capabilities with call routing, network management, and prepaid and postpaid billing functionality. It was developed with a vision to incorporate all the carriers in the wholesale voice industry under a single trading platform and as such is capable of handling multilateral peering of thousands of calls among various tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3 carriers. iMax enables both large and small carriers on the Panamax system to easily buy and sell routes from each other. iMax reduces capex with optimized switching capacity, while also reducing opex with minimal operations and support costs. iMax modules consist of the Session Border Controller, the Call Session Controller, and the Admin Portal. The SBC has a built-in firewall to prevent DoS attacks and facilitates the management of calls per second and concurrent calls as well as authenticity of call traffic from carriers and products. The CSC (News - Alert) performs credit and rate authorization and has automatic call distribution routing functions as well. The Admin Portal, via its user-friendly dashboard, enables switch management, billing and reporting, alerts, notifications, and business process management. iMax also offers several add-on modules such as the Carrier Portal, which offers an easy-to-use home page and product offering portal as well as a customer signup flow. The Carrier Manager Portal provides profile management through its GUI interface and a theme management feature and multiple template configuration options. Finally, the Carrier Self-Care Portal provides account summary information as well as the ability to change settings and create payment profiles and makes rate and call detail data available. In particular we like the unlimited license supporting multivendor environments, and the wholesale prepaid option, which helps move the burden of rating from the business owner to the customer. We are also impressed with the self-care portal supporting a dashboard, online chat, widgets, account summary, settings, payment, rates and more. Finally we like the ability to run on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines.
LinkProof NG is a next-generation multi-homing and enterprise gateway solution that guarantees service level availability and continuous connectivity of enterprise and cloud-based applications. It is an application-aware multi-homing and link load balancing module that delivers 24/7 continuous connectivity and service level assurance for corporate and cloud-based applications. LinkProof NG scales from 100mbps up to 160gbps and can be deployed in entry-level to high-end data centers as well as enterprise branch offices. By simultaneously load balancing and optimizing both inbound and outbound traffic of multiple WAN links, LinkProof NG is an ideal solution for enterprises employing a single WAN link environment. Moreover, it fully ensures service levels of corporate applications over the WAN by combining link load balancing, web performance optimization, end-to-end real-user service level monitoring, security, and cost-effective scalability. Finally, it increases employee productivity and reduces branch office costs by supporting hybrid WAN architecture, aligning the allocated capacity of WAN links with application priority, and accelerating access to SaaS applications. Some of our favorite features include customizable WAN health checks, global load balancing, active-active link load balancing, and optimized performance under volumetric attacks via granular traffic diversion to the scrubbing center.
UniVoIP OfficeConnect Enterprise
UniVoIP OC Enterprise is an extremely robust, cloud-based, highly flexible solution delivering more than 500 PBX, contact center and UC features via private, public, or hybrid networking options in a multi-instance infrastructure environment. Furthermore, it offers enterprises a simple predictive user-based monthly recurring charge pricing structure including minutes, DID, toll free, unlimited support, lifetime warranty and is supported by a service level agreement. OC Enterprise is a full cloud PBX based on Mitel MiCD allowing an in-office communications experience from anywhere consisting of a single identity, phone number, voice mailbox, and extension. OC Enterprise’s embedded mobility solutions, such as basic twinning, dynamic extension, hot desking, and integration with smartphone, tablet and laptops, deliver employees greater freedom to communicate from wherever their business takes them – without the burden of escalating mobility costs. We are impressed with the numerous call center features including feature-rich IVR capabilities, monitoring, reporting, forecasting, recording, and agent productivity tools for the most sophisticated center. In addition we like the support for virtual multimedia contact centers promoting collaboration and engagement with customers via phone, chat, email, SMS, and social media through a single interface with multiple locations and remote agents. Finally there is sophisticated queue reporting, enterprise-wide historical statistics that paint both the big picture and the call-by-call performance of each agent, silent monitoring, and much more.
VirtualPBX Softphone App
VirtualPBX has lead the way in the hosted voice space – having launched in the 1990s, 10 or more years before the competition. Now, the company’s VirtualPBX Softphone App, which works on iOS and Android, allows the same phone functionality to be brought to the world of smartphones, allowing office calls to come from an “office” phone number and transmitted via VoIP. What we really like is the ability to have the VoIP call placed on hold if a normal PSTN or VoLTE calls comes in, allowing the user to switch between the two calls as needed. We also like the solution’s ability to include the softphone as part of follow-me calling business phone cascades. They can include it in a TrueACD Queue or be tethered to the many VirtualPBX voicemail options. Another potential first: Many of the Softphone App’s core functions were implemented to create virtual call centers literally overnight for nationally distributed factions of the Democratic National Convention during the last two election years.
Vocalcom Cloud contact center
Vocalcom provides an AWS-based contact center solution, allowing customers to get up to speed in an hour. Since most everything is in the cloud, the company is able to in a single day deliver with provisioning and billing, a fully operational environment designed for 250, 500, and 1,000 concurrent users. These are the steps needed to make this happen:
- Time to create the complete multichannel environment: 1 hour
- SIP Trunking routing: 30 minutes, including DID provisioning
- Email account settings: 15 minutes
- Tests & Acceptance 2 hours
Some of our favorite features include the ability to provide WFM and speech analytics to even small call centers.
West has been in the hosted voice space with its Interactive division for decades – providing bulk calling services before the market for cloud-based telecom solutions became hot. VoiceMaxx CE is based off of Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution, designed for enterprises wanting the benefits of cloud-based, on-demand services. It includes full PBX functionality, advanced enterprise and personal call management tools, superior client support and services. VoiceMaxx CE gives companies’ users an end-to-end Cisco Unified Communications and collaboration experience. The product provides users with advanced feature packages designed to enhance accessibility, mobility, and productivity including integrated messaging (voicemail, email, and fax through a single interface), presence and instant messaging, mobility, WebEx, and video. VoiceMaxx CE incorporates Maxxis, the company’s managed MPLS network, flexible voice trunking options, expert engineering support and a state of the art 24/7/365 NOC and VOC. West IP was the first to deploy a solution based in part on Cisco’s HCS solution at any kind of significant scale. This was facilitated by its own proprietary MARCS platform, which provides both functional and provisioning support. As a result, customers have native access to an array of powerful features not normally found with an HCS license from Cisco. Things like call recording, dial tone and role-based configurations all allow companies to align the tool’s functionality with an individual user’s needs.
West has been in the telecom business since the 1980s, when we first started following the company. It has been a constant innovator and hasen’t been shy about acquiring companies in complimentary spaces. We are impressed with this offering as it provides the comfort of working with Cisco solutions in a hosted environment with the added benefit of InterCall interoperability.
Edited by Maurice Nagle