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Avaya Labs tries to fast-track good ideas

Using a start-up mentality, Avaya labs tries to cut product development time

By , Network World
July 22, 2010 07:51 PM ET

Network World - Avaya is working with virtual reality, context engines, and prioritizing relevant Facebook and Twitter entries in an effort to streamline how corporations do business by better managing their communications.

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More than just tinkering, Avaya Labs is working on turning these software elements into products on a short timescale in order to pass its competitors and please its customers, says Brett Shockley, the vice president who heads up the 800-person Emerging Products and Technology Team that includes Avaya Labs and that is part of the company but acts "like a start-up that wants to be acquired by Avaya," he says.

Some of the innovations recently popped out as products or enhancements with the announcement of contact center and unified communications upgrades, but this effort also includes virtual reality software -- think Second Life -- that can be used for training, collaboration or online sales, as is the case on the Web site of computer vendor Lenovo, Shockley says.

Also in the labs is software for what the company calls contextual communications. The platform has a context engine that keeps track of all the communication an individual engages in and sorts it so it can be more useful to that person. "It's attention management in a very smart way, pointing you the end user to what you need to take care of right now," says Venky Krishnaswamy, director of IP Communications Research at the labs, "be it an e-mail, a document, a phone call or a person you need to reach." Products based on the engine are in the works for smartphones, softphones and desktops, he says.


For example, one application of contextual communications is a platform called Phone Mash. If a person has had a recent series of e-mail exchanges with another individual and then gets on the phone with that person, the software displays a menu of all that correspondence so it is handy for discussion during the call.

The engine analyzes users' calendars, phone calls, access codes, Web URLs and other communications data and draws together related items on a single screen in preparation for a meeting. The user can initiate a call about that meeting by clicking on a single button on the screen, and the rest of the data is listed there as a resource to tap during the call. Similarly, the software creates a screen of such resources on the fly for unscheduled incoming phone calls, including who the person works with, recent contacts shared between the caller and the person being called and documents related to recent contact with the caller.

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