• United States
by Steve Taylor and Larry Hettick

Update on unified messaging

Apr 23, 20032 mins

* Defining unified messaging

In this newsletter we’d like to start looking at where unified messaging is today. One problem with doing that is if you mention “unified messaging” in a crowd of technologists, you’d probably get as many definitions for the concept as you have individuals in the room.

So we’ll go with the “official” Web site definition: Unified messaging is accessing “voice, fax, and email from anywhere, using any device, at any time.” Unified messaging can be premise-based, using a server to bring together the applications, or it can be offered by a service provider as a network-hosted service, a.k.a. Unified Messaging Service.

One key element of unified messaging is the conversion of text to speech. For example, if a user wants to access e-mail via phone, the unified message server will provide a computer-generated “reading” of the e-mail over the user’s phone. Speech-to-text conversion is also available, but in the early stages of effectiveness.

On the flip side, if a user wants to “see” his voicemail log while at his computer, he can view the log onscreen. If he wants to hear the voicemail, he has the option of clicking on the voicemail entry and hearing the message on the computer-attached speakers. Some systems can also let the user see the log onscreen and hear the message on a phone handset.

Fax message titles can be “played back” by phone using text-to-speech (based on the message title “read” by optical character recognition) or by associated phone number; the fax can then be forwarded to a PC application or traditional fax machine.

While unified messaging can exist without voice over IP, VoIP protocols make integration of these two services easier. We’ll discuss the progress of this integration in the coming months.