What will truly unified communication be like?

* What do you think unified communications will look like 10 years from now?

There's a lot of talk about unified communications - the integration of e-mail, voice, fax, video, presence-enabled applications like instant messaging, collaboration tools and other capabilities into a unified system that can be accessed through a single interface. But what if we look 10 years down the road and examine the characteristics of a truly unified communications system? Here are my thoughts on what that might look like.

There's a lot of talk about unified communications - the integration of e-mail, voice, fax, video, presence-enabled applications like instant messaging, collaboration tools and other capabilities into a unified system that can be accessed through a single interface. But what if we look 10 years down the road and examine the characteristics of a truly unified communications system? Here are my thoughts on what that might look like:

Instead of having multiple e-mail addresses, instant messaging handles, phone numbers, etc., each of us would have just a single address – either an e-mail address as we have today or a phone number. To support this, we would have a powerful directory system that would be populated with information on all of our various modes of communication – published and unlisted phone numbers, e-mail addresses, instant messaging handles, etc. – as well as detailed information on our preferred methods of communication based on time of day, day of the week, presence status, travel status and, perhaps, even our current mood based on biometric sensors at our desk or on our mobile device. 

For example, based on my presence information, when I’m out of the office on business travel I may prefer to receive a communication from a business associate as a text message on my mobile device. However, if that communication were urgent, it would then be converted to a voice call for both the sender and recipient so that a real-time conversation could take place. If that communication took place on a weekend, a normal message might be sent to my e-mail client, but an emergency message might go to my home number. The bottom line is that the sender does not know how to reach us – he or she simply sends a message to our only address and we, using a sophisticated directory system, decide how and when to receive these communications.

The interface for such a system, I believe, will look more like social networking tools we know today than traditional e-mail clients. For example, in Facebook I can receive e-mails, view the presence status of others in my network and obtain other relevant information all from a single interface.

Further, such a system would learn from my behavior and would be tightly integrated with a variety of Web services. For example, instead of having to set up an autoresponder in e-mail when I’m away at a conference, the system would know my travel plans and automatically enable and disable the autoresponder.

I’d like to get your take on this: What do you think unified communications will look like 10 years from now? Please send me an e-mail with your thoughts. (Compare Unified Communications products)

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