• United States
by Christine Perey

Three flavors of presence

Jun 02, 20034 mins
Collaboration SoftwareNetworkingSmall and Medium Business

A look at the various implementations of presence technology.

1. On-tool presence

Next time you attend a live online presentation, take special note of the participant list. The session host is clearly indicated either at the top of the screen or in the participant list by an icon. A moderator who answers questions from the audience’s text chat sessions also might be identified by name. In most premise-based audio and Web-conferencing products, such as Sonexis’ ConferenceManager, Polycom’s WebOffice or Latitude’s  MeetingPlace, all participants’ names appear on the meeting Web page and, in some configurations or services, a small speaker symbol appears next to the name of the person who has the floor. In some systems, a conference manager can mute all or any number of selected participants.

Select the name of another meeting participant from the list and right click. In systems using Sonexis’ Conference-Manager or Ubiquity’s SiPEAK platform, two or more people can open a private instant-message session or leave the main meeting and open a sidebar conversation using their desktop interface. Polycom’s WebOffice has gone so far as to build presence  into the specific page on which participants are expected to be looking. When the conference host’s page is no longer a meeting participant’s active page, for example, when checking e-mail or consulting another application, the conference host sees a red ball next to the participant’s name.

2. On-site presence

Employees using WebSphere portals enhanced with Sametime technology – which IBM dubs Collaboration Center – can search a presence-enabled organizational chart to find online peers with whom to share or request information. Portals  include built-in Sametime IM, and also can show current Web meetings and Lotus QuickPlace workplaces.

Some public Internet Web sites show the status of a customer service agent. Because every company portal has a contact page, one can expect presence to emerge in order to facilitate rapid response to inquiries. If you enter your phone number and push an on-screen button on eDial’s corporate contacts Web page (, your handset will ring and automatically initiate a telephone conversation with a company representative.

Instant Technologies’  Web site has the equivalent of an electronic WalMart greeter associated with it. Via the addition of several lines of code, known as Sametime Links, to the site’s pages and a Sametime server in the network, an attendant is notified when someone lands on the site. In addition to information about the visitor’s domain, the attendant has the option to initiate an instant-message session with the visitor. An HTML window pops up on the visitor’s screen. “Can I help you find anything?” it asks.

3. On-network Presence

The broadest interpretation of presence is that which associates a user’s registration with a network, be it a telephone network, a public instant-messaging service provider’s or the enterprise network. An enterprise directory running on LDAP or Active Directory can be presence-enabled by adding a presence-state field (associated with each entry) and having one or more presence servers publish information to the user’s presence field. PresenceWork’s  PresenceWorks Enterprise Server pools presence information from all public instant-messaging service presence servers, as well as enterprise instant messaging servers ,and populates the presence field of any enterprise application database.

In addition, presence-enabled enterprise business software include:

•  IBM’s WebSphere and Sametime•  Lotus Notes, Domino and Sametime•   Oracle  Collaboration Suite•   Microsoft  Outlook XP and MSN•   PeopleSoft’s  Enterprise Portal with Yahoo! Messenger or Lotus Sametime

Enterprise and service provider communications systems with hooks for presence include:

•   Seimens’  OpenScape Suite and Microsoft Greenwich server•   Nortel’s  Succession IMS•   Interactive Intelligence’s  Customer Interaction Center and Enterprise Interaction Center•  Mitel’s  IP PBX with “Your Assistant” Back to main feature: “Real-time apps”