Unified communications has come a long way from the days when it represented a Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX) that handled phone calls and little else.
Now there are smartphones in every pocket with mobile broadband spreading high-speed Internet far and wide. Employees can access emails from around the world while web conferencing can be done from airport lounges. But where do unified communications applications go from here? Will the technology progress to new and entirely different forms of communication? And what are the factors driving change?
According to Frost and Sullivan research director for enterprise communications, Audrey Williams, the age old need for voice communications still rules the roost.
“Voice still accounts for the majority of revenues,” she said. “But integrating voice with other applications is where the value will come from.”
After voice communications, Williams claimed email and instant messaging were the next biggest items on client wish-lists and that both were growing in importance.
Looking to the future
Beyond those basic requirements, richer new applications are readily being developed and sold to customers. One of these involves the integration of mobile smartphones with the features available at desktops today. According to Williams, this goes beyond the email pushing offered by devices such as Research in Motion Blackberries and Apple’s iPhones. Video telephony and ‘one-ring’ apps are already here and will be steadily improved until they become ubiquitous.
“If someone rings an office desk phone the system will also ring your mobile device at the same time,” she said. “I would say it’s still it’s still in the very early days of uptake.
“The whole smartphone evolution is going to change the way we operate. A lot of the UC vendors are going to develop rich enterprise apps on these devices that link what you use in the consumer world with what you use in business.”
NEC Australia supplies a variety of UC solutions to businesses. Its converged communications strategy manager, Mike Rose, said that integration was the biggest trend facing UC applications at the moment. For him, the next step is to personalise the solutions for each and every employee depending on their roles and what they want to see.
“We’re moving to individualisation,” he said. “It’s really around what the people do within their role, what context they’re in (in terms of location) and where they are depending on what time of day it is.
“You then start to build communications into those processes so that it supports what they’re doing. The challenge we have these day is we’ve got multiple devices and ways of communicating.”