Total Pageviews

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