Two out of three will do nicely for Cisco Systems partners looking for new market opportunities. The networking giant is currently on the hunt for partners with IP, voice or two-way radio frequency (RF) skills.
Companies able to demonstrate knowledge in at least two of these fields will be invited to join its IP Integration and Collaboration System channel (IPICS) when it is launched early next year. The aim is to provide real-time communication between all voice devices.
"It sounds simple because of mobile phones but whole sectors are totally blinded from the voice network," general manager of strategy and new business, Kevin Bloch, said.
He cited emergency services, defence, mining and physical security as key vertical opportunities. A country fireman, for example, typically alternates between using voice frequency (VF) and RF radios, a mobile phone and a pager.
Access to information
Previous attempts to unify voice communications had looked to solve the problem by cramming everything into one device, Bloch said. IPICS would build interoperability into the network, enabling workers to keep their current array of handsets.
"When emergency services attend an accident site, all three are operating on different radio frequencies," he said. "And if they need to call a chief at home, it means switching to a mobile phone.
"Access to information is the biggest problem for these people in the field. Making decisions on limited information can lead to costly mistakes."
Another application for the technology would see engineers troubleshooting remotely instead of spending days flying to and from mining locations.
Bloch said the major channel opportunity would come from the provision of services. Resellers with IP and voice skills, he suggested, should be looking to partner with RF specialists.
A handful of partners had already expressed an interest in IPICS, including IBM and WA-based ISA Technologies, according to Cisco advanced technology leader, Gary Hale.
He said the channel should be established early next year.
"From a partner point of view we could engage tomorrow but this is a new area for us and we want to get it right," Hale said. "That's how long it will take us to get the first batch through certification.
"We are still at the sharp end but this can't happen quickly enough for some of our partners. There is already a very strong development roadmap to take this technology into new markets like physical security."
Response to terrorism
ISA senior account manager, Barry Hatton, said the development of IPICS technology had stemmed from the difficulty of communication between different emergency services that was highlighted by the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.
"We are talking to local emergency services about this sort of technology," he said. "The miners are also extremely interested from an operation health and safety point of view. IPICS will be a technology evolution."
Although Cisco was looking for its partners to work together on developing solutions, Hatton said ISA had enough skills in-house to go alone.
While the development of IPICS would mean new opportunity for partners willing to grasp the nettle, Bloch said it wouldn't be universally welcomed.
"Cisco will open up this environment - customers and partners like that message," he said. "Some other vendors won't but that's their problem.
"Radio vendors that stick to their proprietary guns have most to fear from this. They are trying to protect margins but that is only sustainable for a finite period of time."