As we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award has a diverse set of winners, many of which are products that have been enhanced or improved work during these work-from-home/hybrid times. Theoretically, all these solutions are pandemic friendly – after all, communications over IP networks or the internet has been a global savior the last 18 months or so.
SkySwitch impressed us with its store, which allows collective buying power and autoconfiguration for the UCaaS MSPs. OneBill Software continues to improve its billing solution and make good on its grand ambitions to transform our consumption economy. Star2Star’s Cloud-native Communications & Collaboration platform now integrates with Microsoft teams, Citrix (News - Alert) and offers help for customers who need to provide curbside deliveries. Ooma continues to stay ahead of the pack – now with its Continuous Voice Service, which backs up traditional networks with a wireless 4G backup. What could be more important in an always-on world?
SCB Global’s OPTO does what its name implies – it “optimizes” voice communications in enterprises using Microsoft Teams. It offers a complete solution, allowing organizations to focus on their businesses, not mixing and matching software. AVer Information’s VB130 is a great videobar that fits on a 17-inch monitor and provides advanced features, which work even with a mask on! OrecX Oreka AC brings a cost-effective open source solution to the world of high-quality voice recording. Hughes Network Systems (News - Alert), LLC, HughesON Managed Network Services with self-healing AIOps brings the power-of self-healing networks to all its customers, allowing them to benefit from AI and the latest networking advancements.
In all, a diverse set of companies have won, and we congratulate them all for making our always-connected world more resilient and dependable!
The VB130 is an advanced, compact videobar designed for small to medium-siezed collaboration spaces, with advanced features such as audio fencing, voice tracking, and SmartFrame technology. The plug-n-play solution can be used with numerous conferencing solutions, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype (News - Alert). The product is being certified with Zoom and Microsoft.
The company’s PTZ App is compatible with VB130 to modify the features and functions of the device.
Its SmartFrame technology can frame images and detect people, even with their masks on. Aver also built intelligent fill-in lighting for virtual meetings. There are five levels of fill lighting combined with an automatic light sensor to provide the correct amount of light to illuminate your workspace.
AI is used to optimize collaboration, working with voice tracking, audio fencing, people counting, and SmartFrame technology. Once SmartFrame detects a face, it can help minimize ambient background noise via audio fencing. Specifically, audio fencing allows the user to silence any sound outside the viewing angle.
Another plus is the form factor. The videobar is small enough to be mounted on top of a 17-inch monitor, on a tripod, or upside down to fit a variety of meeting spaces. This is an upgrade to the VB342+, with better looks, smaller size, and more functionality. As an added bonus, Aver says it can have a replacement shipped within 72 hours and offers a three-Year warranty at no additional cost.
We chose the AVer Information VB130 to win the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award because it is a sophisticated piece of technology to enhance the quality of video meetings. Face detection with masks is another fantastic feature. We personally hope to never see a mask again, but realize that for many, wearing a mask while on calls is an ongoing reality.
HughesON Managed Network Services with self-healing AIOps
Hughes has been providing Hughes ON Managed Network Services for enterprise businesses for more than 30 years. Its self-healing AIOps innovation, added to its existing service offering in September 2020, improves network performance.
The big benefit of this new improved service is the AIOps technology automatically predicts and preempts – or “self-heals” – undesirable network behavior, preventing service-disrupting symptoms in 70% of cases. The AIOps innovation saved enterprises more than approximately 1,750 hours of network downtime in just the first seven months of deployment across 32,000 enterprise sites managed by Hughes. In the other 30% of cases, the system provided early diagnoses of potential hardware failure or chronic site issues, so Hughes and internal IT teams were able to address issues preemptively.
The HughesON Managed Network Services AIOps solution integration targets WAN edge systems – such as routers, SD-WAN devices and firewalls – using ML and AI to optimize data flow across the edge, predict network traffic patterns across the complete route, and identify possible single-point-of-failure edge devices. The AIOps solution then assesses the risk-reward of potential corrective actions, autonomously taking appropriate measures and tracking performance to ensure a return to steady-state parameters.
Hughes engineered the self-healing capability to be extensible and API-driven. Therefore, Hughes can rapidly add any new WAN edge devices on an enterprise’s network to its service, seamlessly monitoring all platforms for optimized data flow and potential failures without disruption.
Hughes provides solutions for distributed enterprise organizations, including businesses in the government, energy, retail, convenience store, restaurant, grocery and franchise industries. The AIOps service benefits all enterprise customers.
Though it delivers superior network performance and reliability, the AIOps capability is invisible to the customer. Rooted in ML and AI, the feature is designed to resolve network issues without any human intervention. The AI platform is internal to the Hughes core network and operates on performance data streaming off of the WAN edge devices under management. No additional hardware or software is required on the customer premises.
Hughes says the active application of AIOps often surprises customers, as it highlights the number of devices in their networks that required remediation and returned to normal operating conditions without them being aware until after the fact.
Recently, Hughes extended the AIOps capability across new platforms (new Fortinet and VMware devices and VSAT devices). Other improvements include additional metrics used for assessment of edge device behavior and new remediation steps based on platform-specific requirements. For instance, VSAT terminals operate differently than other devices; therefore, Hughes engineers calibrated the AIOps solution to measure new metrics and remediate using different techniques. Hughes anticipates these constant improvements will continue to enhance this particular tool’s results and ultimately improve overall customer network performance and reduce downtime across managed enterprise sites.
Hughes rolled out the AIOps solution to every Hughes managed services enterprise customer, at over 32,000 sites and for a retail petroleum customer, Hughes AIOps solution resolved over 522 remediation events across 460 unique sites – more than 11% of the operator’s 4,000 total sites needed at least one remediation.
We chose Hughes Network Systems, LLC, HughesON Managed Network Services with self-healing AIOps to win the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award because of its ability to use AI and the latest in networking technology to keep networks running more efficiently and effectively. As the world has come to depend on being always connected, such advances are needed to keep the global economy running. Now, if only we could apply HUGHES AIOps to the global supply chain.
OneBill Software has an all-encompassing mission statement: Transforming the Consumption Economy because the global economy is ALL consumption based – giving the company an amazingly large target audience to go after.
The company provides end-to-end consumption-based billing and revenue management software that powers customers’ entire lead-to-revenue generation experiences. OneBill also supports other billing models, such as one-time billing, subscription billing, recurring billing, hybrid billing, and dynamic billing.
The company’s Quote-to-Cash solution comprises five products: Configure Price Quote (CPQ), Billing and Revenue Management (BRM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Service Delivery Platform (SDP) and Multi-Level Channel Management (MLCM). OneBill offers the solution to 14 different industries.
Built on AWS, the solution is pre-integrated with other third-party components, such as payment gateway, taxation engines, e-signature platform, address validations, ERP systems etc., which significantly reduces the time to deploy the solution and helps keep implementation costs low.
Some of the items that can be billed include SIP trunks, UCaaS, conferencing, cloud fax, XaaS (everything delivered via the cloud) as well as devices, purchase/leasing, installation and managed services.
The solution is built on a multi-tenant architecture that supports even micro-tenants within a customer’s business. This allows support for multiple-levels of partners – distributors, resellers, affiliate partners, sales agents, dealers, vendors – to have their own branded environments. This robust multi-level micro tenancy allows businesses to support requirements like Bill-on-Behalf-Of, multi-level agent commissioning, multi-party settlement, and more.
The other area of innovation in the OneBill platform is the ability to create dynamic workflows, which allows service orders to be orchestrated across multiple vendors’ platforms. Using OneBill’s SDP (Service Delivery Platform), service providers can automate service order provisioning and activation through simple configurations that allow interactions with downstream systems using a wide variety of industry standard protocols.
Last, but not least, the OneBill platform supports features that allow businesses to come up with innovative ways of pricing their metered transactions. The support for daily grants is one such example, where a business can set daily quotas and track what end-users are allowed to consume and apply overage if they exceed their quotas.
We chose OneBill by OneBill Software to win the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award because of its ability to effectively solve a variety of today’s real-world billing challenges as well as its future goal of Transforming the Consumption Economy.
Ooma Continuous Voice Service
Ooma Continuous Voice Service provides automatic backup for voice over internet (VoIP) phone calls – a dramatic business continuity improvement that is affordable and easy for non-professionals to install. Continuous Voice is implemented through Ooma, a base station and antenna, which provides wireless internet backup through a nationwide advanced LTE network.
When VoIP endpoints are routed through the Ooma Connect base station and the Continuous Voice feature is enabled – which only requires flipping a virtual switch in the Ooma Connect mobile app for iOS or Android – all voice calls are simultaneously transmitted through two links, the customer’s primary broadband connection and the wireless network provided by Connect.
Ooma’s software as a service (SaaS (News - Alert)) cloud platform constantly monitors both data streams to deliver multipath quality of service (QoS). If digital voice data in one stream is disrupted by congestion, dropped packets or latency, Continuous Voice automatically takes voice data from the other stream to avoid degraded audio quality or dropped calls. If one stream goes offline, all calls in progress continue uninterrupted through the other stream. This failover is automatic and Continuous Voice automatically resumes monitoring both channels when full service is restored.
Continuous Voice was previously only available through select Ooma Connect service plans but, as of April 2021, it is being provided to all Ooma Connect customers at no additional charge. In addition, Ooma Connect provides backup for all internet traffic when configured to provide Continuous Voice. If the primary internet connection fails, Ooma Connect automatically switches to wireless internet data for all devices installed downstream of the Ooma Connect base station.
In the post-pandemic, work from home world, where connectivity has taken on extreme importance, we are thrilled with Ooma’s Ooma Continuous Voice Service and that is why it won the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award.
Oreka AC (Audio Capture)
OrekaAC (Audio Capture) is an open standards-based audio capture software platform that provides a simple and efficient method for contact centers, enterprises, service providers, and financial services organizations to leverage any third-party speech analytics solution for compliance, risk management, and customer experience requirements.
Specifically, the software captures voice audio from both customers and agents (on separate channels with dual/stereo audio) at upper-end audio sample rate formats, including G.711, OPUS, which the company believes is a key differentiator and provides much higher fidelity than standard call recording. These high-quality audio files are then shared with third-party speech analytics, voice biometrics and customer experience software solutions. The high-quality audio enables each of these destination solutions to provide better output/results.
The software records audio and then stores it in clients’ own cloud premises-based storage. The company does not host the audio itself.
The company’s REST API enables leveraging any third-party, AI-fueled speech analytics solution. While some solutions charge to gain access to recorded metadata to send it third-party apps, Oreka AC grants free, open, fine-grained privileged access to media and associated metadata with standards-based tools. This puts clients in full control of their own voice data.
Also, unlike proprietary solutions, Oreka AC is built on an open source core, enabling clients to easily and quickly modify the software to their unique requirements. Oreka AC can run alongside existing recording systems and act solely as the recording engine for speech analytics, voice biometrics, and other specific applications.
We chose OrecX Oreka AC to win the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award because it adds a flexible, lower cost, open-source solution to the world of quality voice recording.
SCB Global’s OPTO solution is built to supercharge Microsoft Teams in the enterprise with value-added services around the Microsoft stack, enabling workplace transformation for the dynamic workforce, to connect person-to-person and person-to-application. The solution consists of the following services:
- OPTO4Teams – Native cloud calling inside Microsoft Teams with advanced Microsoft Teams PBX features (e.g., SMS, e-Fax, advanced queuing, reporting & IVR).
- OPTO4Contact – Full omni-channel contact center for Microsoft Teams, including compliant call recording, social media integration, AI routing, chatbots, and more. OPTO4Contact leverages Microsoft Bot Framework, Microsoft Q&A Maker, Microsoft Luis, Power BI, Azure Cognitive Services, SharePoint Online & Azure SQL DB to support omni-channel CCaaS capabilities.
- OPTO4Edge – SD-WAN solution targeted to help those working remotely to increase security and resilience, with simple as-a-service pricing to optimize TCO. OPTO4Edge is an SD-WAN and SASE framework ready solution (Powered by Versa) built to optimize MS Teams user traffic to Azure, whilst offering a safe & secure way for business users to work from anywhere.
- OPTOShield – Advanced compliance & security solutions (e.g., DLP, Ethical Wall, eDiscovery & Channel Management for Microsoft Teams). OPTOShield delivers real-time cyber-security and regulatory control CASB for Microsoft Teams. It offers real-time DLP, Ethical Wall solution, eDiscovery & Channel Management. OPTOShield also has the ability to handle both messages and files as well as audio and video in real time, which minimizes data leaks and helps internal risk mitigation. OPTOShield also enhances Microsoft’s DLP Solution.
OPTO4Teams and OPTO4Contact are delivered through the company’s Azure-hosted Cloud SBC in a multi-tenanted global architecture to deliver voice & direct routing inside Microsoft Teams, providing a cloud native, elastic OPTO platform that is based on a decomposed “micro-services” architecture. It is designed for building horizontally scalable SBCs in virtualized cloud environments hosted in global Microsoft Azure environments, providing signaling and media redundancy for each call handled and carried by the SCB network.
Furthermore, SBC’s Cloud Edition (CE) comprises:
- Stack Manager – An API developed by AudioCodes used for managing the OPTO4Teams E components that are deployed into an Azure Point of Presence. It implements the complete lifestyle management of the CE components, including deployment, termination, scale in/scale out and stack configuration updates. The Stack Manager also handles the network stack for the CE components, facilitating features like mid call failover and maintenance of session state (HA) as well as communication with the Azure Virtualization API, which allows the Stack Manager to deploy additional Media and Signaling components or nodes.
- Signaling Component (SC) – Responsible for call setup, tear down and call control of calls traversing the SBC.
- Media Component (MC) – Provides media processing and media termination for calls traversing the SBC.
- Load Balancer – Communication across the active/standby signaling components is handled by the Azure Load balancer, facilitating failover to the standby SC in the event of an outage of the active SC.
The following diagram illustrates the architecture that powers OPTO4Teams service.
We chose SCB Global’s OPTO to win the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award because of its ability to offer the enterprise a complete voice solution to enhance Microsoft teams. From security to contact center and SD-WAN, there are a wealth of features and functions, allowing an organization to purchase a complete solution to greatly enhance its communications functions.
There are few declarative statements you can make these days that don’t have exceptions. Still, we would venture to say everyone reading this award description has downloaded apps from an app store – most likely on a phone.
SkySwitch is a fast-growing UCaaS provider serving over 650 Telecom Resellers, MSPs, agents, interconnects, ISPs, WISPs, and VARs. The good news is, these resellers now have their own UCaaS app store.
The SkySwitch Store lives within SkySwitch’s Resellers’ Dashmanager portal and offers resellers a convenient way to take advantage of the company’s collective buying power to purchase hardware and services from distributor partners at competitive prices. Ordering through the SkySwitch Store also allows for auto-provisioning of devices so that the recipient can simply plug and play, rather than spending time manually configuring and provisioning phones on location.
In case you are interested in SkySwitch’s inner workings, it utilizes Netsapiens Class 5 Switches in 5 data centers, which are set up in high-availability mode and are fully geo-redundant. SkySwitch hosts several applications built in-house or by a third-party to supplement the PBX. Most partners install phones and some kind of networking device at the customer premises. In most situations, the system works out of the box and doesn't require special networking equipment. Finally, the network router/firewall and switches allow the prioritization of voice traffic.
An additional benefit is that resellers who already have business accounts with distributors can integrate their distributors’ portal login credentials so Store orders are linked directly to their business accounts. When Store orders are placed, they are passed through to the selected distributors via customized API integration. Once the distributors fulfill and scan out the orders for shipment, the MAC addresses of the devices are automatically imported into the resellers’ order histories and device lists. After the MAC addresses appear in their lists, they can simply select a MAC address and assign a domain/user.
We are all so used to getting rewards when we use our credit cards, so the wizards at SkySwitch figured, why not get the same sort of benefit when you buy something in your UCaaS app store? Its CloudCash reseller rewards program allows resellers to instantly receive discounts on their invoices and make more money. Earned CloudCash is applied as a credit to resellers’ accounts automatically during check-out on eligible products. Resellers are automatically enrolled in the CloudCash Points Program and there is no cost to enroll.
We chose the SkySwitch Store to win the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award because we believe it is a great way for MSPs and other resellers to benefit from collective buying power, while also boosting productivity via auto-configuration of devices. And of course, who doesn’t love free rewards?
Cloud-native Communications & Collaboration platform
Star2Star’s cloud-native communications and collaboration platform provides businesses with end-to-end solutions that deliver flexibility, scalability and productivity needed to optimize daily operations. It unifies voice, video, mobile, chat, fax, presence management, SMS/MMS, virtual desktops, and more into a single, easy-to-use system. Companies can select their preferred technology from a range of options, including pure to on-premises cloud, to reduce costs and enhance workflows. Star2Star’a solutions include advanced UC features, built-in business continuity, and SD-WAN for optimal call quality.
The target market for the service is companies looking to switch to UC from Hosted or PBX, companies with UC who need a better plan/bottom line, and companies of any size looking for holistic enterprise technologies. Star2Star’s sells through its resellers and agents.
Star2Star’s platform leverages a cloud architecture that combines aspects of on-premises and pure cloud solutions to get the best features of both without the limitations of either.
The on-premises deployment extensively utilizes the cloud, but also maintains some on-premises hardware and services, including the StarBox voice optimized SD-WAN and Star2Star’s private cloud-based network. The pure cloud version leverages the same feature set without any on-premises components.
For the on-premises platform, the StarBox voice optimized SD-WAN sits at customer location. Star2Star’s network and its suite of cloud-based services are hosted in its redundant data centers. The StarBox connects over IP infrastructure to Star2Star’s network backbone, which runs on a collection of call routing nodes and data centers distributed across the country. Star2Star manages and monitors the quality of customers’ phone systems continuously with built-in business continuity protection.
Star2Star believes it is the first and only provider of such a unique cloud architecture and cloud-native system of solutions. The combination of pure cloud and on-premises cloud communications solutions deliver the high quality of an on-premises system with the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of a pure-cloud solution.
Other features include SMS, video meetings, team collaboration, advanced contact center and service insight solutions, and packaged applications for CRM integration, mass notification, employee alerts, and urgent response capabilities.
In the last 6 months, Star2Star expanded its platform’s capabilities to include Star2Star Business Voice for Microsoft Teams integration, which allows Microsoft Teams users to leverage superior voice features within the MS Teams environment. Also new is its Citrix-ready Video Meetings solution – an expansion of its Citrix-friendly solution set. Start2Start also introduced a new connected worker application for Curbside Service, allowing Star2Star customers to take advantage of no-contact deliveries and interactions for a variety of use cases. Finally, new packaged bundles offer greater flexibility and options.
We chose the Star2Star Cloud-native Communications & Collaboration to win the 2021 TMC Labs INTERNET TELEPHONY Innovation Award because of its ability to provide the reliability of an on-premises system with the convenience of a pure cloud solution. Of course, we are impressed how the company has stayed on the leading-edge with integration to MS Teams, Citrix and of course, pandemic-tech friendly, curbside service solutions.
Edited by Erik Linask