The latest buzzword in the communications industry is UC – Unified Communications. How much of what ever comprises of Unified Communications is actually useful? Well, we list down some of the features of Unified Communications and you decide.
Presence is not Instant Messaging (IM). Rather, it is not IM alone, but IM is a part of Presence. So, in-addition to letting your colleagues know if you are available, you could also let them know how you are available in that particular point of time. The status in your presense contact list could show things like – Not Available, Available for chat, Available for a voice call, Available for Video conversation, Available on my Cell Phone, Leave a Voice Mail/Email Message, Contact my junior and anything else. Presence is a powerful feature of UC – it gives people the exact option by which they could communicate with you, if you are available for communication, that is. Yes, people could also click on your name and text chat with you!
UC is about allowing people to join a conference by any means – cell phone, video conference systems, video phones, PDA, soft phones on their PC, and of course their desk phones. It is also about enabling multiple modes of communications to be added on the fly – an audio and video enabled client might want to communicate through video while an audio session is going on. Or, they might want to share some content to collaborate.
A meet me conference enables participants to dial-in through video/audio etc and it also enables the conferencing system to call out to participants at the scheduled time. The participant’s calenders/ mail client could be automatically integrated with the UC application to remind the users of the conference call at the right time and also enable them to log-in to the conference using their preferred choice of medium.
Simply put, it is about having a single mail box to receive email, fax and voice mail from multiple sources. Some vendors also support cross media responses. Answering voice mail messages through email, and answering email messages through voice mail – as per the availability of communication resources at that point of time. The reminders for meetings etc, can be in the form of a call or SMS if the user desires so and the user is also notified of any alerts for pre-defined happenings – like receiving a new email could be alerted through a message on cell phone, and there could be alerts for even new RSS messages as soon as they come. Some vendors also integrate the various instant messaging clients in to a single IM list.
FMC is about integrating the cellular networks, Wi-Fi Networks and IP PBX, all in a single cloud and aware of each other. There are dual mode cell phones that support Wi-Fi and GSM/CDMA. When the employee is in the office, the Wi-Fi network is selected, but when the employee is on the road, the GSM/CDMA network is selected for making/receiving a call, automatically. The caller has only one number, and the employee gets the call where ever he/she is. Even if an employee walks out of the office while speaking to the client on the Wi-Fi network, the call is automatically transferred to GSM/CDMA network once the employee is out of the Wi-Fi range.
Speech Recognition/ Text to Speech:
Speech Recognition, when integrated to the enterprise PBX could enable quite a few things – the caller can just speak the name of the person they wish to talk to (instead of pressing the various levels of buttons in the IVR) and the system connects them to the appropriate extension. If IVR navigation for special applications like banking etc. is inevitable, the caller could still navigate through the menu’s by selecting the options via voice prompts, which is more natural. In addition to this, if an urgent email has arrived, and the employee is on the cell phone only, the PBX just reads the contents of the email to them.
Single application: UC Client
A Unified Communications is actually a single application that integrates with the IP Phone, Email, Voice mail, Cell phone, Video Phone, Fax, Video conferencing, IM Client etc. and lets the users use any of the services and also switch between these services on the fly. It lets users access their PC based applications through IP Phones, initiate a video conference session between their video phone and a Video Conference system, etc.
As you can see, there are a lot of components that needs to be integrated on a single unified platform. And enabling all the applications in a unified environment is a very complex procedure, unless it is being done on a green field deployment. And there are cost implications too. A modular, step by step approach of enabling Unified Communications might be more useful.
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