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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Apple Will Make Smartphones Even Smarter

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.
December 31, 2011

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

For my last post of the year, I want to highlight something else that Apple is bringing to the Mobile UC table. They have been notably successful in innovating the design of mobile devices (iPhone, iPad) and it looks like they are converging the user interface modalities even further with their latest patent announcement of the “Smart Bezel” and its Multi-Modal Human Interface (MMHI) Engine.

As long as I have been writing about the multi-modal benefits of UC for mobile end users, I have been suggesting that contact initiators should be able to dynamically choose their modality of communication independently of what their recipients may want. That will be particularly valuable for all forms of messaging, where both message input and output (retrieval) could be voice or visual. It will also be very useful for “mobile apps” where input commands can exploit the convenience of voice, while output responses (menu choices, information, graphics, etc.) can exploit the screen. Such flexibility is what UC is all about from the practical end user perspective because it makes the mobile user not only more accessible but also more efficient/productive in using their time.

What is particularly interesting about the Apple approach is that it will simplify and dynamically automate any changes in user interface options based upon the individual end user’s environmental situation. This would be particularly important for dark vs. bright lighting conditions as they impact the use of the screen and its battery needs, as opposed to using speech or haptic input/output as much as possible.

We have always suggested that a person driving a car will require “hands-free” input and “eyes-free” output to insure safe driving. (We can always debate the issue of distractions of any kind for safe driving!) Apple’s Multi-Modal Human Interface Engine would be able to detect the fact that the movement of the mobile device indicates it is in a moving vehicle and could automatically invoke limited interface modality choices. Although there will always be an issue of whether the user is actually driving or is a passenger on a car, train, plane or bus, this kind of sensor detection can still initiate some simple form of “confirmation,” whether from the user or from the vehicle itself.

While automated media conversion has long been available after the fact through “visual voicemail” and improved speech recognition technology that converts voice messages to text, Apple’s Smart Bezel may dynamically control all forms of input and output modalities at the endpoint device level where the user interface action is at. So, while we have always looked at UC’s ability to enable end users to utilize any form of communication exchange between people or between mobile business applications, we still require those end users to make most of those choices manually. Now, maybe it can be done more intelligently and automatically by those multi-modal smartphones that are not just “phones” for conversation anymore.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Mobile Apps" Depend on UC

Copyright © 2011 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

December 27, 2011

2012: Will “Mobile Apps” Drive The “UC Contact Center?”

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

As the year 2011 ends and mission-critical business communications technology increasingly shift to personalized, multi-modal, and mobile communications, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with all the technology announcements and blogs that cover various components of “unified communications” (UC). My perspective of UC was never limited to just “person-to-person” collaborative contacts, but included the greater potential of automated, pro-active “notifications” that efficiently tie mission-critical interactive business processes directly to specific individual end users.

Such time-sensitive business processes can be found in many vertical markets, including health care, financial services, field services, education, and even retail sales. Because multi-modal smartphones and tablets enable greater accessibility and interface flexibility to individual end users, proactive outbound contacts can now be more effectively used than traditional telephony-based call center technologies that generated interruptive voice calls and heavy use of live agents to handle calls.

Flexible UC interoperability and end user choice of interfaces for contact initiation and contact reception/response will be the hallmark of mobile applications that business organizations will increasingly exploit. While “person-to-person” business contacts will still be important and necessary to support real-time “collaboration” activities, interactions with automated business process applications will now extend to all end users who carry smartphones for their personal communications.

First Things First – UC For Individual End Users Will Pay Off For Business Process Performance

When people communicate more efficiently within the context of a business process, they also make those business processes more efficient, not just as individual productivity, but as part of the process or the group of individuals involved with the process. In effect, UC benefits for business (UC-B) expand on the communication efficiencies of UC benefits for individual end users (UC-U).

Because UC encompasses the integration and interoperability of a variety of both person-to-person contacts and business process-to-person applications (CEBP), implementation planning is both complex and difficult. With the rapid consumer adoption of multi-modal smartphones and BYOD by business users, the pressure is now on organizations to implement and support UC for all types of end users both inside and outside of the organization. My colleagues at UC have long been discussing the new complexities and challenges of cost-efficiently migrating organizations from legacy endpoint devices (desktop telephones and PCs) to a virtual, mobile UC environment.

Now that Web portals and mobile devices (handheld smartphones and tablets) are making access to information and people more dynamic and location- independent, UC is becoming both more important and more doable. Before we move old infrastructure technologies to UC-based environments, we better come up with a label for the target result that everyone, including end-users and management (not just IT) can recognize and understand. “UC” alone doesn’t do it!

A recent article on mobility for banking and “context-aware computing” quoted technology provider Openstream on its mobility offerings for the banking industry that enables important notifications to mobile end users/customers to dynamically switch from text to voice messages “based on context, location, orientation, motion and the environment. ….Openstream’s software connects with the technology embedded in new mobile phones, tablets, PCs and laptops to sense the devices location and circumstances. That software then serves as a layer between the computing device and the bank.

While not mentioning “UC” in their product description, Openstream is obviously exploiting the UC concept of “transmodal” communications for outbound notifications. With the mushrooming growth of “mobile apps,” however, we should start to see more use of UC software infrastructure in various types of business process applications. Time-sensitive information delivery and “notifications” to mobile devices will increase business process performance because of increased accessibility to key people in a process, anywhere
, anytime.

Step 2: Let’s Call a Spade a Spade – The “UC Contact Center” Is For ALL Business Contacts

With the consolidation of all forms of contact, the UC Contact Center will subsume traditional telephony real-time incoming call-handling functions, whether direct connections (e.g., mobile extensions, DID) or via live assistance. When a synchronous live connection with a particular person or persons cannot be realized, availability information (presence) and messaging alternatives for the caller can be offered to the caller.

When the traditional call center,” based on real-time telephony interactions between an organization and its customers (consumers) shifted to the “contact center,” to try to include email, FAX, and online applications, nothing significant really changed call handling operationally. This was simply because consumers were still stuck with the physical separation of endpoint devices (namely telephones and personal computers), network connectivity (wired, wireless, internal, public), and the lack of consistent, self-service application user interfaces across all of the above.

With the advent of IP connectivity, those physical barriers are disappearing and, in addition to traditional person-to-person contacts, will particularly affect self-service applications that legacy call centers supported through IVR technologies. The limitations of IVR are primarily the need to use voice for both input and output to legacy telephones. While voice input is very convenient and efficient for the end user, speech output for automated self-services is inefficient and therefore limited to short amounts of simple information.

The output problem can be easily resolved with the selective use of screen outputs to a multimedia smartphone. In addition, mobile users will also need the flexibility to use screen/keyboard inputs when in a public or noisy environment or in a meeting environment where speaking would be disruptive. With speech recognition technology that is now much more efficient and accurate, mobile self-service online applications are now becoming more practical and multimodal, witness Apple’s latest iPhone 4S with its Siri “Personal Assistant.” Self-service applications will be able to flexibly use handheld smartphones for input and output as their circumstances demand. However, it will now be necessary for self-service applications to support different user interfaces for the same application functions.

Note that mobile self-service applications include all applications that end users will need, whether they are internal (staff) or external (partner, customer/consumer) users. As long as they are carrying multi-modal mobile devices, they must now all be supported with “mobile apps” that exploit multi-modal interfaces. In addition, it goes without saying, self-service applications will require UC’s ability to change contact modalities, i.e., “click-to-contact” live assistance.

Bottom Line For UC Planning

Even though there has been greater emphasis placed upon person-to-person business contacts under the label of “collaboration,” self-service applications offer the greatest opportunity for cost-efficient business process improvements. The technology benefits of the “contact center” concept can now be extended to all types of end users, both inside and outside of an organization, as well as to all forms of communication contact.

The “UC Contact Center” provides a practical starting point for UC implementation planning, and by focusing on mobile users with multi-modal smartphones, can provide the path to improved business processes and CEBP through self-service applications and “mobile apps.” This will not only help reduce operational business costs but also increase user satisfaction and productivity in very direct and manageable ways.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Doctors Can't Text?

UC and CEBP Can Provide Fast, Secure Communications For Mobile Service Providers and Consumers

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Health care activities have long been recognized as a big target for UC flexibility, particularly for mobile end users and for personalized automated notifications. However, a recent announcement by the health care industry’s Joint Commission showed the potential for another way UC-enabled applications can play a key role for convenient and efficient contacts.

The Joint Commission stated that texting medical orders directly is not acceptable because of authentication and record keeping requirements. Needless to say, the convenience of using mobile smartphones and tablets would be limited. However, while person-to-person texting is prohibited, person-to-process-to-person should be acceptable, and that’s where Mobile UC flexibility and CEBP come into play.

The doctor who wishes to initiate a medical order can simply do so through a mobile app that first requires secure access and authentication, including a written signature or voice ID if necessary. The order can be input as speech or typed, and then becomes a text message that is then deliverable to authorized recipients, which can include hospitals, pharmacies, and the specific patient. The voice recording of an order is also useful for validating a record of the medical order.

The patient involved can be immediately notified and have access to a copy of an order to be aware of what will be done and to quickly follow up with timely usage of any medications involved.

Doesn’t that look like a multi-modal UC application to you?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

UC Interoperability For End Users

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.
November 20, 2011

UC Interoperability - Separation of Church, State, And Also End Users

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Unified Communications (UC)-enabled applications must be supported in various ways and “interoperability,” a loose label being used to describe a major challenge (See No Jitter post) in supporting UC’s operational growth. For many providers of UC applications and services, interoperability simply means getting old and new communications applications to work together at various levels, including network access, application user interfaces, and endpoint device form factors and operating systems. However, we also have to consider interoperability as a means of gracefully transitioning from the past to the future. This will not only be a challenge in transitioning technologies, but also challenge to the role of an organization in controlling access to both its information resources and its communications between people (internal staff, customers, and business partners).

When it comes to UC applications, we have to consider is who is providing and supporting those applications as well who is controlling their use at the endpoints. That is why we need to look at business communications from the organizations perspective ("church"), the service provider perspective ("state"), and lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the individual end user perspective.

Business communications (particularly voice telephony) are transitioning away from hardware-based, location-based technologies to "open" software and "virtual" applications that can more easily interoperate with each other. They are also shifting to application-driven real-time notifications and multimedia self-services rather than requiring person-to-person phone calls for real-time information access and delivery. Bottom line is that traditional requirements for enterprise communication control is expanding away from just the wired premise desktop to multi-modal, mobile BYOD devices that will be primarily controlled by the individual end users through UC and shared for the many different contacts with other organizations that the individual end user has “business” relations with.

These technology shifts would suggest that much of yesterday's real-time, voice-only desktop telephony requirements will be significantly reduced in favor of multimedia user interfaces, asynchronous forms of personalized contact, and real-time mobile notifications, with the option of "click-to-call/talk/video" connectivity based on accessibility and availability (presence). End users will be initiating voice conversations differently and managing responses to such contacts differently than traditional call management.

So, the basic question really is how will that transition take place from the perspective of enterprise technology? Will it shift (slowly or quickly) completely or partially (hybrid) to virtual cloud based IP network services that can satisfy application customization, management, and security needs? That's where standards and interoperability become key and both the industry (technology providers, service providers) and the markets still have "one foot on land and one foot in the canoe!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

The "UC Contact Center" For All Business Communications

Copyright © 2011 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

November 13, 2011

Welcome To The New “UC Contact Center”

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

It is getting very apparent that the current shifting of communications technology to software and mobile, multimodal devices (smartphones, tablets) is also driving business communications towards greater flexibility in initiating and responding to business contacts between people and with automated business process “apps.” Most importantly, with a flexible UC framework, business communications can now selectively accommodate all contact and informational access needs for end users both inside and outside an organization. Such flexibility will have a significant impact on the traditional, telephone-oriented “call center,” enabling its transition to a true, two-way “contact center” between people and business process applications.

Unified communications (UC) has been defined by the experts at UC Strategies as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” That definition seems to have held up well to cover both “communications” and “business processes,” but it leaves open the question of how and when UC can best be implemented.

Because voice telephony is moving to more flexible, efficient, and less expensive IP networking, it is now being viewed as part of general UC capabilities. As such, all business telephony technologies have to be rethought in terms of UC flexibility, and one of the most important areas is the good old “call center.” While leading providers of contact center technology are revising their product offerings under various product names, they really are all expanding telephony call center functionality with multimodal UC capabilities.

The Evolution of the “UC Contact Center”

It all started with the telephone and business callers having to leave messages when they couldn’t speak to a person that could deal with their needs. Before answering machines came into play, “message desks” in large organizations wrote out simple pink message slips identifying the caller, while commercial “answering services” collected transcribed messages for subscriber retrieval when they did not answer their phones (busy, ring no answer). Later, Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) technology queued incoming calls for assignment to the next available “agent.”

Such communication services were not restricted to handling incoming calls, but also included outbound dialing to notify the call recipient of an urgent call and, if appropriate, cross-connected the caller to the recipient. In other cases, the answering service included a “dispatch function” to alert a field service person via their wireless pager to call in and retrieve message information from the operator who took the call.

In an attempt to minimize the use of live agents to give callers basic information and handle simple transactions, the call centers started using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technologies to handle incoming calls. However, because of the limitations of the telephone device, caller input was done via the Telephone User Interface (TUI), where all input was made through the Touch-Tone keypad, and all output was done through pre-recorded speech. Needless to say, IVR was useful for only simple applications, and anything complex required the call to be transferred to a queue for a live call center agent.

The “call center” name transitioned to “contact center” many years ago with the growth of the Web and consumer email usage, but one of the real benefits of UC and multimodal smartphones that can now be offered to consumers/customers is to increase easy-to-use self-service applications for information access and transactions. Not only do self-services, if done right, increase user satisfaction with on-demand access and responsiveness, but they also reduce the amount of labor costs to service such customers.

Outbound vs. Inbound Calls

“Call centers” were primarily designed to handle incoming calls from customers who didn’t want to speak to a specific person, just someone who could answer their questions and perform transactions, like make an appointment, change their service information, etc. However, outbound calls were also distributed to call center agents to deliver notifications, reminders, solicit new business, etc. The problem with outbound calls is that there is no guarantee of the accessibility of the person being contacted, so automated outdialing technology was introduced to detect ring/no answer, busy lines, answering machines, etc, before assigning the live call to an agent. If the phone was answered by an answering machine, voice mail, or someone other than the specific person (callee) desired, the calling agent could only leave a message.

With the increasing use of mobile smartphones, not only can a specific person be contacted for a phone connection more easily, but also personalized messages and notifications can be delivered quickly and easily in text or speech to their personal devices. This will be particularly important for time-sensitive notifications such as health care, financial services, and emergency situations.

To add further business benefits from mobile, multimodal smartphones, automated business process applications can initiate such outbound contacts, along with immediate access to self-service functions, without requiring a live agent. With UC capabilities, however, “click-to-contact” options will still allow the customer to access live assistance and expertise contextually from within the notification or self-service application. That minimizes labor costs while still enabling easy and selective access to live assistance for a better customer experience.

The “UC Contact Center” For Internal Users and “Job Contacts”

When you mention the term “contact center,” the old image of dedicated agents handling calls to and from customers is triggered. However, as business users increasingly use mobile smartphones and can benefit from “dual persona” separation of “job contacts” from personal contacts, they too can benefit from timely notifications and on-demand access to live assistance within the organization.

Job contacts can include both traditional “person-to-person” contacts for collaborative activities, as well as contacts through Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP). Again, both person-to-person contacts and timely automated notifications can be efficiently utilized when the recipients are using multimodal smartphones. So, there will be many business process “use cases” that can benefit from the combination of UC and the centralized, multimodal “UC Contact Center.”

Bottom Line For UC Planning

For these reasons, all legacy call centers have to be on the top of the list for UC migration planning. There will be implications for how dedicated contact center “agents” are trained, monitored, evaluated, etc. for maximum job performance in a multimodal, telecommuting environment. Customer interactions will likewise be affected by CRM issues that will change because of dynamic mobile contacts, both inbound and outbound.

Now is also the time to trial self-service applications for both customers and for internal users to insure that the user experience will be most effective when deployed for general use. Such trials can be done more quickly and less expensively by exploiting CaaS (Communications as a Service) offerings, before finalizing procurement and implementation decisions.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

IBM Sets BYOD Example

Copyright © 2011 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

November 1, 2011

IBM ‘s BYOD Approach Shows The Way To Enterprise Mobile UC

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

I have long suggested that business UC implementation planning include mobility use cases for several practical reasons.

  • Mobile users have greater need for UC flexibility
  • Mobile business users will also be mobile consumers
  • Business applications that deal with time-sensitive notifications can benefit from end user Mobile UC
  • Mobile accessibility will require federated presence information that UC can support
  • Messaging with “click-to-call/chat” is becoming more practical with mobile smartphones
  • Mobile access to web portals make multi-modal devices more effective for application interactions

The big news in business communications is that IBM is supporting employee use of their own mobile devices (smartphones, tablets), while focusing on secure access to internal information. By the end of the this year, 100,000 IBM employees will be able to securely access IBM internal networks with their own devices and network services that will also be used for personal applications and entertainment (dual persona). In 2012, another 100,000 employees will also be BYOD enabled.

Employees will be paying for their own devices and will require loading IBM management software for security purposes. In addition, IBM will require passwords and use VPNs for access to information applications. Initially, IBM will provide contact and calendar access through its Lotus Traveler.

In addition to allowing employees to use public mobile apps, IBM will also provide approved third-party and internal apps from its Whirlwind app store, launched in late 2010.

IBM’s move to BYOD will expand the role of UC for its mobile users, enabling both person-to-person contact flexibility and CEBP notifications from time-sensitive applications. IBM’s BYOD policy is setting an example for large organizations to migrate their legacy telephony business communications to a more cost efficient and productive virtual and mobile UC environment.

See article at:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back-to-the-Future - Real-time Collaborative Communications

Copyright © 2011 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

October 26, 2011

Back-to-the Future 2 – Collaborative Communications in Time-Sharing Systems

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Being a “pioneer” isn’t always fun, especially if you have to wait forty years for the world to catch up with you.

In my last blog, I described how “time-sharing” was the start of online applications before the Internet and the Web made them a lot easier and cheaper. I helped speed up the commercialization of time-sharing systems by getting Scientific Data Systems (SDS) to adopt the Berkeley time-sharing system as an early product offering. However, before moving to SDS, I also was able to help bring real-time “collaboration” and, what today would be called text “chat,” into time-shared applications.

The SDC Time-sharing System

System Development Corporation, a spin-off the Rand Corporation, was tasked to develop one of the first “time-sharing” systems for ARPA. As described in my previous article, the objective was for remote end users to independently access various “interactive “ applications in real-time, dialing in on telephone lines from Teletype terminals. However, there was no person-to-person connectivity function involved.

In 1964, SDC was going to give a paper on the time-sharing system at a big computer conference in Washington, DC and I had the responsibility for demonstrating it at a small booth in the exhibit area.

I saw the value of having an interactive application simultaneously accommodate more one person at a time, so I talked to the programmer who was developing the communication front-end computer interface for connecting remote end users over the telephone network. I suggested that, instead of a single field associated with remote user connections, that two fields be provided. That would allow the two users to simultaneously interact with the same application, both seeing all inputs and outputs concurrently. However, the programmer wasn’t sure that the effort was really important or that it could be done in time for the conference.

The LINK Command

A week before the conference, the programmer called me to tell me he had done what I had asked, by adding an online command to the time-sharing system user interface. In addition to “linking” two remote terminals together with a time-shared application, the ‘linked” users could type in text messages for both to see. That was our version of today’s text “chat” function.

I immediately notified the various researchers, who were developing a variety of interactive applications on our time-sharing system, to plan on being on the system during the times that I planned to demonstrate the SDC time-sharing system at the computer show in Washington. I was then able to “visit” with each of the researchers to see and try the different interactive applications they had developed.


Needless to say, computer show attendees who were used to batch-processing, premise-based main frames, could not believe what they saw from the Model 33 ASR terminals connected to standard phone lines that I was using. The computer system itself was three thousand miles away and they could interact in real-time with different applications and concurrently exchange text messages with the people who were also three thousand miles away.

Although this demonstration was very simple and primitive compared to what the Internet and text messaging technologies do today, e.g., email, chat, file sharing, etc., it did help shift the original vision of time-sharing from simply remote access to interactive computing applications to the potential of direct communications between users on the network and to “collaborative” online interactions with shared applications. The SDC system was not a commercial product and the “LINK” concept did not go anywhere. The world had to wait for the Internet and email to provide universal access to online text communications.

Today, with UC and multi-modal, mobile devices, we are seeing that early vision being expanded from person-to-person communications to process-to-person contacts and interactions (CEBP).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Back-To-The-Future of "Cloud" Services

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved

October 23, 2011

Back To The Future – Before The Web And The “Cloud,” There Was Interactive “Time-sharing”

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

As we watch “cloud-based” applications, Mobile UC, and IP networking take over communications between people and business process applications, I find it interesting to go back to the early days of business computers that were limited to premise-based mainframes and “batch processing” with punched cards. That’s when I got involved with enabling computers to support remote end users with keyboard terminals to access “interactive” applications.

Although most of the heavy technology lifting was done by clever engineers and software developers, I was fortunate in being able to contribute to the initial implementation of interactive (online) computing before personal computers, and now the Internet and World Wide Web, started taking over business and social communications.

Because mainframe computers were big, slow, expensive, and with limited processing power, it was not practical for individual end users to use computers the way they can now. Sponsored by ARPA’s J.C.R. Licklider, some bright people at MIT, Stanford University, etc., developed the concept of letting a number of users share a computer interactively, independently, and concurrently by time-slicing the CPU and swapping active user programs dynamically between secondary storage and main memory.

Time-sharing also introduced the beginning of what we refer today as the “user experience” that has become the focus of good business communications. Slow input and output taking place concurrently via keyboards and printers or display terminals, allowed each user to feel that they were directly in control of their own computer application and could interact accordingly. As it still is today for online and “mobile” apps, fast response to typical user input commands, i.e., under five seconds, was a target requirement for interactive applications.

If you mention the term “time-sharing” today to most people, they will say it is “vacation ownership!” At an early 1960’s meeting of the country’s technology leaders supported by ARPA (now DARPA), I suggested that they come up with a better, more descriptive name than “time-sharing,” but the wrangling that followed didn’t accomplish anything.

Making Time-sharing Commercially Viable

Because mainframe computers were still very expensive to be converted into time-sharing systems, some research organizations started looking for more commercially viable platforms to move forward with. UC Berkeley’s Project Genie was one such effort that I had a hand in helping it be successful.

Berkeley’s Project Genie chose to modify an existing, relatively inexpensive scientific computer, the SDS 930, from Scientific Data Systems (SDS) to support a time-sharing environment. However, as described by the Project Genie people, “When the system was working, Max Palevsky, founder of Scientific Data Systems, was at first not interested in selling it as a product. He thought time-sharing had no commercial demand.”

At that time, I had just joined SDS because they were starting to see the potential of developing a time-sharing product and I had been active at System Development Corp. (SDC) in the development of one of the first time-sharing systems sponsored by ARPA. I was interviewed personally by Max Palevsky and had argued with him as to the potential commercial benefits of time-sharing for business applications. He was planning to develop a next-generation business computer (Sigma) that would include online time-sharing in addition to traditional batch processing.

My ARPA connections contacted me about the Berkeley system and recommended that I look at it personally. After visiting with the Project Genie personnel and trialing its very well designed user interface and application software, I could see that it was indeed ready for the market. When I reported my suggestions to the SDC marketing management, they were not interested because of their own Sigma plans.

However, there was an upcoming computer show in Las Vegas where SDS was going to be exhibiting at, so I asked the marketing manager what he was planning to highlight at the exhibit booth. He responded that he wasn’t sure yet, and did I have any ideas?

I then told him that UC Berkeley, an SDS customer, was giving a paper on their time-sharing system at this conference and it would be helpful to them if we let them demonstrate their system at the SDS exhibit. All that was needed was a phone line and an inexpensive Teletype machine. He thought that was a good idea and a week later reported back to me that everything was arranged.

That is when I let him know that SDS now had a problem; visitors to the exhibit will see a demo of an SDS-based computer system and will ask how much it will cost to buy one. What would be the answer?

The next day, Max Palevsky called a meeting of his management staff and decided that if anyone was interested in buying the Berkeley version of the SDS 930 computer system, the initial total cost of documenting and testing the modifications that Berkeley had made, i.e., approximately $100,000, would be added to the SDS 930 purchase price. On that basis, the answer to a buyer’s question would be “yes,” but there would be no prior public announcement.

Since I knew that all the players in the ARPA community were looking to acquire a commercially available time-sharing system, I immediately notified them all of the Berkeley system availability as an SDS product. That triggered an avalanche of orders that year and became “the most successful computer in SDS history, earning $40 million in sales and a devoted following among scientists and researchers worldwide. It ushered in the new business of commercial timesharing and was the initial hardware base for two major timesharing service companies,” (particularly Tymshare).

Whenever I saw Bob Taylor, (Director of ARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office and founder and later manager of Xerox PARC's Computer Science Laboratory), he would always ask me, ”Art, did Max say thank you yet?”

Lessons Learned

Time-sharing technology opened the doors to real-time interactions between end users and computer applications, the hallmark of today’s online Internet and World Wide Web. It also broke down the barriers to remote access by initially using the existing wired telephone networks to provide online service access directly to end-users, eventually moving to data networks like Tymshare’s Tymnet. The bottom line for time-sharing service success was the individual end-user experience and demand for interactive applications. SDS’s success with the Berkeley system confirmed that time-to-market was a critical factor in product planning. After Xerox acquired SDS, it unsuccessfully tried to enter the time-sharing services business, but, by then, the PC had started to take over business applications.

Today, Mobile UC is expanding upon the Internet and World Wide Web in providing flexible, multimodal, person-to-person and process-to-person communications services across personalized handheld and portable endpoint devices (smartphones, tablets). UC provides an integration framework that enables end users to use their mobile multimodal devices selectively and dynamically for both personal and business needs (dual persona). With virtual and cloud-based business applications becoming more accessible to end users, there is no question that consumers and business users will all be heavily using device-independent UC in a two-way, multimodal service network environment, expanding upon the original concepts of interactive computer time-sharing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

After Eleven Years - The Mobile Customer Is Here and Needs UC

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

I think below is the first article that I (and my partner, Dave Zimmer) seriously discussed customer contacts based upon the potential of coming "smartphone" developments for exploiting unified communications (UC) for business. I didn't consider the future development of portable tablets, which could be used standing up or sitting down. However, I did focus on customers/consumers as the future targets for mobile (wireless) notifications and interactions, because that's where business benefits will come from (revenues, profits, etc.). Thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple, the smartphone and mobile tablets are household names for consumers.

Now (after eleven years), that smartphones have become a reality in both the business and consumer worlds, the role of unified communications (UC) for exploiting multimodal flexibility has to be taken seriously by business and government organizations, large and small, in planning to replace the shortcomings of traditional telephone systems. To further complicate matters, such a displacement can now be accommodated by hosted, cloud-based software services, rather than premise-based hardware systems. So, change is definitely coming but the migration strategies have to be selectively defined for specific business process applications (CEBP), as well as for all specific end user types involved in such business processes.

Obviously, this old editorial post needs to be updated to reflect what is now really available..

Editorial from 06-19-2000

Are They Standing Up

or Sitting Down?

Wireless (Mobile) Communications With Enterprise Customers

The convergence of universal wireless voice and two-way messaging communications will open up new avenues for electronic commerce interactions between an enterprise and its customers. With browser-enabled wireless smartphones or palmtops, users will have increased access to on-line information and transactions. This will include simple information retrieval ("pull") in text or voice, as well as timely information notification and delivery ("push").

As has been hyped so much in the press lately, the promise of wireless multimedia smartphones or palm devices will make Web-based information and transactions more simple and convenient for anytime, anywhere access. So users don’t have to be necessarily sitting down in front of a desktop/laptop PC; they can be standing up and even be moving around (carefully).

With more efficiently packaged bite-sized Web information designed for ubiquitous and convenient communications devices, the user audience for such information will expand significantly. Smartphones also allow for cross-media information access, so that, for example, really mobile users driving a car or moving about can have hands-free, eyes-free control of information and messages through speech input and output rather than using the screen and keypad.

Although there is still great speculation within the unified communications services industry about the limitations of both the small displays associated with wireless smartphones and the cross-media use of voice input/output, there is no question that the proliferation of these multimedia devices for personal communications will have an impact on how enterprise contact centers will have to support their customers for wireless (mobile) Customer Relationship Management (“mCRM?”).

Application Messaging and Transaction Services

Going beyond simple information retrieval to push information delivery, service providers can provide delivery of personalized information (text or voice) on a scheduled or immediate, event-driven basis to subscriber mailboxes and/or to wireless smartphones. Thus, for example, when important financial news is delivered by a message from an application process, it can be immediately followed up with an appropriate interactive transaction. Major online stock brokerages are already offering such capabilities today (e.g., Charles Schwab & Co. Inc.).

Like all forms of messaging, the key to application messaging is notification, which is a means of gaining the attention of the recipient for permission to enable real-time messaging access. (See last Monday's column on the role of Message Notification.) This process can be made more intelligent through personalized filtering and screening rules that prioritize such immediate access to the subscriber. If the subscriber is unavailable at the moment, a response or callback message can be left for later activation to confirm or complete the transaction.

Live Assistance

As has been well-established by experience to date with all forms of customer self-service applications, including traditional telephone-based Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology and the more recent PC-based multimedia transactions on the World Wide Web, the availability of live customer assistance, either via immediate conversational connections (text chat, voice) or through timely messaging response, is a prerequisite for successful tele-commerce. It is here, at the customer touchpoints, that exploding wireless usage will have a ripple effect on how the enterprise must conduct its e-business.

Traditional customer-enterprise interactions, telephone or Web-based, will be affected in several functional enterprise support areas by customers using wireless multimedia communications devices, including:

1. Self-service information retrieval ("pull")

2. Application messaging -- Automated real-time notifications, confirmations, information delivery ("push")

3. Consultative online customer assistance

4. Customer two-way messaging and callbacks

5. Outbound telemarketing

Space considerations preclude a detailed discussion of each of the above topics, but suffice it to say, that pocket wireless multimedia smartphones will have limitations for customers because of screen size and, to some extent, a lack of a full keyboard, but they will have important advantages because of immediate wireless accessibility and cross-media options. The latter will include functional service features such as plain text Short Message Service (SMS), Instant Messaging (text, voice), and "always on" accessibility.

With Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) service implementations, short message responses can include links to appropriate Web-based information or transactions. (Although there are shortcomings to the current WAP capabilities, concurrent voice connections and Web information access is an expected future for wireless usage.)

Personal Presence Management, Customer Contact, and Privacy

The SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) chip currently used in all GSM wireless phones is the smart card that identifies the user and enables personalization of wireless services. Such identification also plays into locating the subscriber’s device and determining its availability for contact. Thus, unlike traditional wired telephones, where there is no guarantee if it will be answered or who will be answering the phone, the customer with a personalized wireless smartphone can be pre-determined to be available for contact.

For example, the criteria for immediate message notification or call connection may be determined by where the subscriber happens to be. If the subscriber is not sitting at a desktop PC, delivering a document attachment is useless; however, notification that it is available is appropriate, and being aware of wireless accessibility is key. This kind of presence information will enable the enterprise to more quickly respond to a customer inquiry or request, in the appropriate format or mode (immediate live assistance callback/connection, informational message response, document transmission, etc.).

On the other hand, traditional outbound telemarketing may exploit such capabilities to intrude upon the user at any time to deliver a sales pitch. No longer will it be just the dinnertime sales phone call that will be a privacy invasion. It may be the delivery of a sales message alert or even a live pitch just because you happen to be walking by a store that has a sale on something that a marketing campaign has identified you as a prospect.

To add insult to injury, because of the current approach taken by wireless telephone services in this country, the subscriber receiving the telemarketing call usually gets to pay for the privilege rather than the originator of the call.

Free or not, it is clear that effective personal call/message management has to be the hallmark for universal communications accessibility, and wireless unified communications services will have to support convenient call/message screening to protect its subscribers.


Rosenberg and Zimmer

The Unified View

Sunday, October 09, 2011

UC Analytics Needed to Manage Multi-modal Contact Center Evolution

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
Unified communications (UC) are slowly replacing voice only telephony in business communications, particularly for personalized end user mobility. That involves more than the business processes themselves through traditional telephony-based “call centers”, but also the performance of live customer assistance through customer-facing staff (agents, subject matter experts, field support, sales contacts, etc.). More importantly, with the rapid consumer adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets, there is also an increasing use of automated multi-modal self-service applications, supported by UC “click-to-call” options. Under the label of “analytics,” all aspects of customer interaction activities are being captured and analyzed to improve customer satisfaction, efficiency, and productivity.
While there is no question about the importance of understanding how customers and support staff are performing in various business processes, most of the contact center technology announcements coming from traditional telephony-oriented providers still focus heavily on the voice conversations between people and call center staff and using “speech analytics” as a key objective for customer service analysis.
On the other hand, there is also increasing use of analytics to monitor and track all kinds of automated business process applications in order to improve the efficiency and ease of use of such activities. Information Week recently surveyed business executives on the shift to “innovation” in supporting end user needs and making business processes (which has to include communication contacts with people) more efficient. The study highlights the importance for UC and CEBP, showing CIO responsibilities outside of IT for telecommunications as the highest (64%) domain of responsibility and interest.
The study also describes how “innovation” is taking over automating business process applications, particularly in online/self-service activities, and is relying on more comprehensive analytics to monitor, evaluate, and improve such processes from an end user interface perspective. Since UC is not limited to just speech interfaces with automated self-service applications, it is obviously going to be a powerful element of any automated application process, as well as providing access to available live assistance when necessary. However, even as consumers rapidly adopt mobile, multi-modal end point devices (smartphones, tablets) for business contacts and interactions, the analytics world seems to be slow to integrate voice telephony contacts as part of the brave new world of seamless UC.

Business Communications - What We Say Is Only Part Of What We Do
Capturing what people say during a business call can be useful, especially if it helps describe the customer’s state of mind and satisfaction with the business process. Analyzing conversations for keywords and emotions can provide insights into what the customer is doing and, if displayed in real-time to a customer-facing agent, can expedite better resolution of the operational issues involved. That’s like having a customer hooked up to a lie detector while discussing any problem that requires live assistance. But, do we need that much “analytics” data all the time?
UC, by definition, covers all forms of business contacts and interactions; so tracking all communication activities is an effective way to monitor all business communications, not just customer interactions. The practical definition of UC as a concept has been well stated for a number of years by UC Strategies, i.e., “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” After all, business processes involve internal staff, external business partners, as well as consumer/customers. So, we really need to be looking selectively at key business processes as the starting point for what communication activities with people the analytic tools need to be tracking.
With the increased adoption of smartphones for all forms of contact with people, especially for text based messaging (SMS, chat, social networking, email), voice conversations are slowly becoming less significant for interaction analytics. So, the fact that technology for capturing and analyzing voice has become very sophisticated, that does not mean that all other forms of business contacts should be ignored. In particular, automated business processes that initiate time-sensitive notification contacts with individual end users (CEBP), will not be having voice conversations with customers and will exploit text and visual interfaces of personal smartphones and tablets.

Self-service Applications and UC
I recently reviewed a report in Speech Technology magazine on contact center technologies that focused primarily on call management and speech analytics to evaluate and manage customer-facing agents. Referred to as Work Force Optimization (WFO), the article describes the progress of speech analytics as key to evaluating both agent performance and customer satisfaction. While this perspective is certainly valid for customer contacts via traditional phones, it is definitely not adequate for exploiting multimedia self-service application access by customers through multi-modal mobile devices.
In talking to an old colleague, Jeff Schlueter, marketing VP at Nexidia, a leading provider of Enterprise Speech Intelligence software, I raised the question of how speech analytics fits into the overall multi-modal mobile UC picture. His first response was that smartphones was all that he personally needed. Then I reminded him that UC is not just about person-to-person contacts and that enterprise applications needed to be integrated into the picture (CEBP). Obviously, their technology is still evolving and that perspective remains to be defined and developed.
Needless to say, speech analytics does become useful when speech is involved for information input, whether in a voice conversation or even when speech commands are used as self-service application inputs. Otherwise, tracking all forms of user interactions is necessary for monitoring and evaluating end user communication activities. That’s why business communications need the flexibility of UC as well as comprehensive analytic tools to track all interactions that may occur during the course of a business process.

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs and UC

Copyright © 2011 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs and UC

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

I had just finished posting this old article I wrote about the first iPhone announcement, when I heard the news of Steve Jobs passing. So, in a way this is a tribute to his vision of the mobile devices to support what end users really want to communicate and access information in a UC environment.

Steve Jobs will be sorely missed!

Here’s what I wrote about the first release of Apple’s iPhone back in January of 2007. The recent announcement of iPhone 4S (instead of the expected iPhone 5) didn’t get rave reviews except for the new “Siri” capability which enables speech input for a variety of functional informational and messaging tasks. However, it was a step forward in the right direction.

The new Apple bringing more innovation to mobile communications?

Well, Apple, no longer calling itself “Apple Computer,” got your attention, didn’t it?

The big splash it made with it’s iPhone announcement seemed to draw everyone’s attention to what we have been waiting for in UC - end-user demand. That demand will come from individual consumer needs (communications, entertainment, customer contacts) and individual work-related needs (desktop, roaming, traveling, mobile communications and information exchange). The common denominator between consumers and business users is the communications piece, and that’s exactly where application client software fits in with well-designed multimodal mobile devices and user interface form factors.

Industry pundits almost hysterically jumped on the Apple iPhone announcement, pointing out that most of the functionality is not really new, having been incorporated in legacy technologies like voice mail and cell phones. They also highlighted missing pieces like the lack of 3G cellular, speech interfaces for mobile users who might need it for hands-free, eyes-free situations, the fact that text input really benefits from a “hard” alphanumeric keyboard rather than a button-less screen, and that “visual voicemail” has been around for years for the few enterprise systems that moved beyond the desktop telephone TUI. However, they also grudgingly admit that the packaging was innovatively well done, the missing elements can be added in a variety of ways, and, last but not least, their device design success will be emulated by the competition.

“Different strokes for different folks!”

The bottom line for all coming mobile “UC smartphones” (a generic descriptor), is that they will come in many form factors and combination of features to support the different needs and preferences of the individual end user for business and personal contacts, including business applications, and consumer entertainment. Enterprise organizations will have to support such end user UC devices and UC in the same way they supported TDM/TUI telephony for universal phone access over the PSTN, except now it has to be multimodal communications over IP and wireless networks too.

The enterprise UC ball is in the business end user mobile smartphone court!

Ever since the IP telephony and messaging technology developers started touting “unified communications,” the enterprise market has been sitting on its hands wondering why, when and how they should start migrating to the converged world of UC. Well, the writing is on the wall, as handheld device designs become the center of attention for accommodating the complexities of converged communication applications, rather than focusing on just infrastructure cost savings to do traditional phone call and messaging functions.

In a recent column (before CES /MacWorld) I highlighted the role of mobile communications as a driver for unified communications in the enterprise. I pointed out that increased mobile accessibility would enable greater contact efficiency and therefore faster task performance by everyone involved in the business process. That would include people inside and outside of the enterprise organization, and to do that means making UC services universal, like good old PSTN telephony.

One of the key assumptions about such benefits from UC capabilities was that more and more people would be carrying personalized, multimodal, mobile devices that would be flexible enough to maximize real-time business communications in any form, not just voice. While UC is useful at the desktop with PC-based softphones and text messaging, UC will really pay off when users are “mobile” and need to switch modalities all the time.


The “UC industry” is making progress by consolidating infrastructure, application, and communication device needs. Until end users see everything at the interface level, they won’t understand the difference UC will make for them. Enterprise management must also see those benefits as well, otherwise there just won’t be much movement in UC migration based on cost reductions alone

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Strategic Role of Unified Analytics for UC

2011 - Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

The Strategic Role For Unified Analytics In UC

Posted on by Art Rosenberg

Note: I haven't been writing lately due to some serious health problems, but I still have been watching the UC world evolve.

Jim Burton just wrote a provocative blog on NoJitter entitled “The Next Phase in Communications.” It referred to the role of analytics in the evolution of UC. Labeling that capability as “UC-A,” it “adds analytics and metrics to business processes.” With that thought in mind, I see “Unified Analytics” as being key tools to both UC planning and managing effective and efficient business process performance wherever people are involved.

One of the biggest challenges for any size UC implementation is to plan for its selective use in high-value business processes. That includes knowing which end users will require which UC capabilities and which business applications will also be involved through CEBP integrations. So, this means understanding where both person-to-person contact activities need the flexibility of UC, as well as which business process applications need to initiate contacts with which people and how.

Unfortunately, no one may really know what is needed and where, when it comes to UC planning. Compound that with the sad economy and existing legacy technologies, it is hard to make a quantifiable case for UC benefits, either “UC-U” or “UC-B.” Although everyone talks about proper and selective UC implementation planning, there really have been no tools to do that easily.

As Jim points out, “contact center” technology has been improving its “analytics” capabilities for a number of years, primarily to evaluate customer satisfaction and customer-facing agent performance. Such analytics have started to move beyond just call handling to other forms of customer contacts and interactions. I believe the technology has reached a point where analytics can play a bigger role in UC implementation, by providing the tools to evaluate all current business processes and communications activities in order to quantify and prioritize UC planning for everyone in the organization as well as those outside of the organization that may be involved with a business process.

The timing for such a “universal” view of unified business communications is most appropriate as the rapid adoption of multi-modal smartphones means that ALL end users will be able to benefit effectively from the flexibility of UC and the integration with business process applications through CEBP. It is just that organizations need to know where best to selectively start their UC migration, whether via hosted, “cloud”-based services, traditional internal technologies, or a hybrid combination of both.

“Analytics,” like “UC,” covers a lot of territory that is continually expanding beyond the limitations of traditional telephony communications, but has not really penetrated the market much beyond traditional call center operations. However, it’s potential value from a number of management perspectives is starting to be recognized. The lack of standards and definitions for UC capabilities hasn’t helped the problem either. I think it is now time that analytic tools can help management understand who is doing what in all business process communications and lead the way to practical UC implementation planning.

Let's see what leading analytics developers like Verint come up with!

What do you think?

You can contact me at or (310) 395-2360

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Avaya Gets UC Moving With Healthcare Mobility

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

At Last! Avaya Embraces “Dual Personna” Mobility For Health Care Apps

by Art Rosenberg

I know that one of my UC Strategies colleagues, Don Van Doren, attended the 2011 HIMSS Conference in Atlanta and should be able to report more details in how UC is making progress with health care applications. However, I was very impressed to see Avaya jumping in with both feet to exploit mobile devices for both hospital staff as well as mobile patient contacts to fully exploit UC for operational efficiency and effectiveness. (Never mind reduced telephony costs because of IP Telephony and SIP trunking!)

I have always seen mobility as the real driver for end user interest and benefits from UC and Avaya has finally connected some of the dots between the hospital environment, health care information systems, and patients who are not in a hospital environment but are key participants in operational performance issues. Given that the health care topic is at the top of this country’s financial concerns, anything that will help improve the performance of health care activities will get attention from everybody!

So, the headlines that got my attention are some of Avaya’s new solutions announced at HIMSS this past week. What’s important is that this is not just a start-up company with a bright idea, but an experienced technology provider with an established market share that is finally delivering something significantly better to the marketplace. (So, expect others to follow suit accordingly!)

  • Mobile Device Checkout - Basically, this new function supports “dual personna” mobility on premise by letting hospital staff use their own, personalized mobile devices to be be automatically accessible through the hospital’s phone system and WLAN, by generating a temporary unique phone number. It allows for role-based-contacts, rather than having to know specific individual names and numbers, and it ties into a presence-based system for locating personnel. Yeah!
  • Nurse Call Response - This solution replaces the need for a patient to contact a nurse’s station in order to talk the nurse responsible for her care, but will initiate the contact directly with the appropriate nurse either available or assigned such responsibility. This reduces the wasted time delay and frustrations for a patient who needs immediate attention. (The announcement did not mention any options for such call contacts to exploit the benefits of UC with visual information on a smart-phone device.)
  • Patient Admit Coordinator - This “workflow” solution targets patients coming to an Emergency Room for treatment to be admitted to a hospital bed. Currently, such procedures are paper-based, slow, inefficient, and costly. (I know from recent personal experience!)
  • Patient Appointment Reminder - This is not really anything new, but is a basic application that can capitalize on the multi-modality of UC for personalized notifications. It is particularly useful for health care and especially for senior citizens whose memory starts to suffer with age. It is also useful for other types of reminders, such as time to take a particular medication, or if an automated patient monitoring application detects a new problem, the need to see a particular doctor or take a particular medication suddenly becomes critical.

The above applications are tied to mobility of the individual end user, either as a contact initiator or a contact recipient, which in turn is tied to UC for flexible communications. I am sure there are other apps/solution examples in the health care environment, and some of these will also apply to other business activities, e.g., appointment reminders, CEBP applications, etc. So, I am glad to see some of the fundamental visions of UC that I and my colleagues have been pushing for several years starting to be realized in the real world.

What Do You Think?
Contact me at or (310) 395-2360

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Avaya Opens Up Another Space For UC – Meeting New People With “Virtual” Group Conferencing

Copyright © 2011 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

February 17, 2011

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

I don’t know about you, but there is so much change going on with business communication technologies in the evolution to a “unified communications” (UC) environment, that it is hard to keep up with all the products and services that are being announced. This is particularly true because “UC” is subsuming all kinds of telephony usage and is being applied to every aspect of communication technologies with people, including network infrastructures, mobile multimodal endpoint devices, business process application integrations, and multimedia end user interfaces.

Because I don’t have the time to attend conferences or webinars at different times and locations, I rely heavily on the objective, first-hand reviews that my UC Strategy colleagues and other industry analysts who report on a variety of new announcements and discussions at conferences and presentations. This includes the big shift taking place from CPE hardware products and software suites to software-based and hosted “cloud” application services.

Who Will Control The UC Market?

Although I am interested in the technology startups that develop new UC capabilities that will directly benefit individual end users or enterprise management, I pay particular attention to the leading technology providers that already have large installed business organization customer bases. They will be the ones that can stay out in front of the evolving “business UC market,” providing that their products and services stay tuned into what different types of end users really need and want in order to flexibly initiate or respond to multi-modal contacts with other people and/or self-service applications.

From a telephony perspective, it’s all about migrating from the limitations and culture of legacy wired, desktop TDM telephony and conversational voice to mobile and multimodal SIP-based connections, where unified communication applications can take hold. Voice conferencing for group discussions and presentations long ago shifted to Internet web conferencing and webinars, so I was curious to see what Avaya’s latest announcement about web.alive in the enterprise space was bringing to the UC table. (Like many other new application product/service offerings, the names given to them are not very descriptive and “web.alive” is no exception.)

Web.alive Virtual Voice Conferencing

The “alive” label seems to be the latest buzzword to discuss real-time communications and interactions between people. According to Avaya, here’s what’s new for them for their web.alive offering in business group voice conferencing:

“The new purchasing options make Avaya web.alive available as a service through a monthly subscription for individual hosts or via annual concurrent user based pricing. Business organizations can also opt to install and manage the software on their own servers. The flexibility of purchase options enables any size business or organization to use Avaya web.alive for meetings, training, or sales and service opportunities involving both internal and external participants.”

“In addition to the purchasing options, new features and capabilities in Avaya web.alive include:

  • New 3D audio engine for dramatic spatial audio that helps participants better identify and understand who is speaking and their location within the environment.

  • Built-in collaboration tools including desktop sharing and cooperative web browsing
  • Avaya Aura SIP interface for integration with existing communications infrastructure enabling participants to join a collaboration session via the telephone or inside of the web.alive environment
  • New templates that make it easy to design environments that meet the needs of a company or host.
  • Downloadable SDK to enable customers or hosts to independently create and upload their own custom content.
  • Analytics that provide the data to enhance collaboration, selling or learning efforts. For example, insight can be gained into traffic and conversation patterns, sales and presentation effectiveness, travel savings, etc. The notification engine can email contact center agents when customers have entered an Avaya web.alive sales or service.”
As you can see, Avaya is capitalizing on its experience, market share, in legacy in legacy voice telephony to upgrade telephone conferencing with greater operational flexibility, manageability, and lower costs. These are all useful benefits for business organizations that have to deal with remote end users, whether inside or outside of the organization. The latter is particularly important for supporting business partners and customers, who will be communicating with a variety of endpoint devices and services that are not controllable by the sponsoring enterprise. However, their traffic analytics technology can monitor any form of contact from the outside and automatically notify appropriate staff personnel (contact center agents, subject matter experts, operational management, etc.) if live assistance is needed.

So, What’s Really New?

From an end user perspective, which I really look for in driving demand and adoption of anything new in business operations, Avaya has facilitated easy access to any audience members who want to participate in group presentations and discussions. In addition to traditional “virtual’ web conferencing facilities, they allow audience members to interact on a “face-to-face” basis, but without the expense and effort of a video conference.

The web.alive platform also enables a variety of UC-based messaging activities that are controllable by the individual conference participants as either contact initiators or recipients within a common context of the web presentation. This pays off in less travel cost and business process performance time, as well as convenience for end users who are increasingly remote, in other organizations, and even mobile. This makes it ideal for a public, “cloud-based” service rather than a premise-based, enterprise responsibility.

A good characterization of what web.alive does differently is to allow end users of any type to participate in the audience and also selectively “collaborate” with other individuals in an online conference without necessarily having a relationship beforehand. That is what attracts people to attend trade shows where individual attendees can find new people to talk to and exchange information without scheduling a meeting first. All they have to do is be available and communication accessible at the same time, which means that contacts can also be made with “experts,” who are not necessarily attending audience members.

From a UC perspective, the ability to exploit email, IM, SMS, etc. for such new ad hoc contacts is a big plus, because two-way, real-time voice conversations are more difficult to do instantly all the time and appropriate for simple information exchange and collaborative work. Talking may also be inappropriate while listening to a group presentation or discussion. Such different contacts can be initiated separately and concurrently by the audience individuals involved, not just by the speakers or presenters.

The “immersive” use of 3D spatial audio and video avatars is an attempt at recreating the face-to-face conference environment, but the use of face-to-face avatars doesn’t do much for me. I would be satisfied with a real-time voice conversation and the display of information related to the subject at hand, rather than watching an avatar. (Although if you wanted to watch the reaction of a group of people in the audience who are not talking, the avatar approach might be one way to try to do that using some form of automated “group assessment” of facial reactions.)

What is most important from an implementation perspective is that Avaya is moving its real-time telephony technology to a supplementary, UC-based, flexible conferencing service offering that includes users from anywhere, including enterprise customers, with lower pricing and ease of integration with legacy phone systems. So take a look at it from the perspective of a step forward with UC in a group conferencing environment.

For detailed reports on Avaya’s web.alive demo, go to:

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.