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UC will be indispensable

By Zafar Anjum, MIS Asia
May 17, 2010 07:52 PM ET

MIS Asia - No one can be without a mobile phone today, and it will be the same for unified communications in the near future, says Choo Yuh Joo, director - professional services, regional director - Indonesia and Vietnam, Transition Systems Asia.

Why is unified communications (UC) being talked about these days?

UC has been steadily gaining ground over the last few years primarily because of the sheer economics of consolidating networks and saving operating and capital expenditure. The second factor is the unprecedented connectivity that UC can provide to the sizeable class of road warriors who carry out much of their business from airports and overseas, as they manage regional networks and global conglomerates.

The most recent event that turned the spotlight on UC is the volcanic ashes from Iceland which caused the shutdown of European airspace for over a week, throwing international travel into chaos. Business turned to video conferencing and telepresence for their business meetings, in an effort to continue with 'business as usual'.

You want your customer or colleague to be able to reach you easily, using the medium of communication which is most convenient to him or her. It can be a phone call to your desk phone, a call to your mobile, voice mail, e-mail, fax or instant messaging. On top of these various communication media, you are mobile. The Internet allows you to be connected no matter where you are in the world, and UC makes it possible for communication to be "unified" on a single device, i.e. your notebook. If your customers can reach you and you are able to respond quickly, you are already one step ahead of the competition. No one can be without a mobile phone today, and it will be the same for UC in the near future.

In the telecommunications space, there are two most talked about trends: UC and Telepresence. What is the difference between the two? Are they two sides of the same coin?

UC covers a broader spectrum: it is a communications system that includes three or more of the following elements: voice, video, mobility, Web/data collaboration, conferencing, unified messaging and presence management. A UC system integrates these communications platforms to provide a unified user interface across multiple devices.

The difference between UC and Telepresence is in the quality of the video. Telepresence is a subset of UC and is essentially high definition audio and video technologies. The experience is akin to meeting the person face-to-face, except for the inability to do a hand-shake. This rich, high-quality real-time experience enhances productivity and facilitates many critical business processes like decision-making, hiring, internal and external meetings, etc.

In the era of YouTube and iPhones, do you think video will become an integral part of UC? Or is it already?

Generally, mobile phones are already an integral part of UC. With a mobile phone, the 'follow-me' feature of UC allows you to be contactable with a universal phone number.

Smart phones like the iPhone are on the way to become a fully integrated part of UC. Today, you can get access to your e-mail on-the-go on a smart phone device. From e-mail on-the-go, you can get your voice mail and fax, via your in-box. You can also make and receive free calls using SIP (session initiation protocol) clients. However, easy-to-use, integrated applications on smart phones is not yet easily available for the functions of voice, video, e-mail, and instant messaging. This is expected to change as the market grows and more options will soon be available.

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