8x8 Contact Center now integrates with two of Google Cloud’s Contact Center AI (CCAI) solutions. These include 8x8 Virtual Agent (a virtual, automated agent for incoming calls that combines 8x8 topic modeling and speech-to-text with Google Dialogflow and Agent Assist) and Agent Assist (automatically supplies agents with articles and knowledge documents based on the conversation). Both contact center solutions are expected in the second half of 2019. At the recent Enterprise Connect conference, 8x8 showcased its new Meetings video collaboration solution with voice, chat and one-touch conferencing which now incorporates the acquired Jitsi technology. A number of new features are possible over and above the earlier 8x8 Meetings solution such as personalized virtual rooms, remote desktop control, live streaming to Youtube, geography optimized routing and enhanced speaker statistics, among others. General availability of the new 8x8 Meetings (powered by Jitsi) will be part of the 8x8 Series desktop and mobile application when it becomes available this summer. New 8x8 Room Systems, also due out this summer, will integrate an in-room hardware kit and 8x8 Meetings software. Details about the equipment options and partners are forthcoming.
Accent Communications is partnering with OrecX to offer OrecX’s call recording software with Accent’s VoiceONE Cloud Contact Center (deployed with both VoiceONE Connect and Enterprise Editions) and Accent’s new Customer Service Cloud (CSC) offerings. Accent integrates with all of OrecX’s products, including its Total Call Recorder (Oreka TR) that enables screen recording, mobile phone recording, live monitoring, on-demand recording, multi-site recording, audit trail, call exporting, retention management, auto tagging (for speech analytics and phrase spotting) and more. OrecX also offers Cloud Recording (Oreka CR), Quality Monitoring (Oreka QM), Screen Capture (Oreka SC), Oreka TR SIPREC Recording (uses the SIPREC SIP protocol for call recording, based on IETF standards), Mobile Recording (Oreka MR), and Open Source Recording (captures and retrieves calls via a browser-based interface).
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has added a native business calling capability (for placing and receiving calls) to its Chime cloud-based service for team meetings. This introduces AWS Chime as a new competitor in the unified communications as a service (UCaaS) space. The new business calling capability supports U.S. phone numbers with calling and texting to over 100 countries. Customers pay by the minute for incoming and outgoing calls, by the message for outgoing text messages, and by the month for phone numbers. Chime business calling is initially available in the United States with international calling to over 100 countries. Also new is a SIP service called Amazon Chime Voice Connector that communicates with an on-premises phone system to enable inbound and outbound calling to over 100 countries, via the internet. In other news, AWS is adding AI-based speech analytics capabilities to its Connect cloud-based contact center, including packaged solutions of its Transcribe, Comprehend, and Translate capabilities. New meeting room capabilities are available for Alexa for Business, including integration with the Trio conference phone from Poly (Plantronics-Polycom).
Avaya made a series of announcements recently, including several new video collaboration solutions for smaller meeting spaces: the Avaya IX Huddle Cameras (HC020 and HC050), the all-in-one huddle room solution Avaya IX Collaboration Unit 360 and Avaya IX Workplace application for calling, messaging, meetings and team collaboration. Avaya also introduced a subscription pricing model for the new IX Collaboration Unit. With ‘Huddle As-a-Service,’ users will pay a monthly subscription fee to an Avaya partner for the IX Workplace software, delivered on-premises or in the cloud, plus the huddle room devices which are rented for between $19 and $24 per month, depending on the contract length (businesses will return the devices to Avaya at the end of the contract). In other news, Avaya announced integrations between the Avaya IX Contact Center and Google Cloud Contact Center AI for three new solutions: Virtual Agents (Human-like automated Bots), Agent Assist (delivers contextually relevant knowledge base to agents) and Conversational Topic Modeling (uncovers key topic areas that customers have been inquiring about). Avaya also announced a cloud-transformation program, with partner incentives and resources around implementing the company’s OneCloud solutions for public, private or hybrid customer deployments.
CenturyLink has added Cisco BroadCloud Flex to its portfolio of services. Cisco BroadCloud Flex, now available to CenturyLink partners for customers in the U.S., enables cloud-based calling (telephony features), group features such as auto attendant and shared call appearances, and support for Webex Teams with messaging, screen sharing, and three-party audio/video conferencing. Optionally, customers can subscribe to Webex Meetings for larger meetings, up to 1,000 participants. The service offering supports Cisco phones, headsets and video endpoints.
Cisco introduced a new technology vision it calls “cognitive collaboration” that combines a relationship intelligence platform from Accompany (acquired by Cisco 10 months ago) with Webex platform data. Cisco refers to this as a “massive ingestion engine” that is constantly scanning the Web for people and company information. The information becomes part of the Webex Graph, a data model concept Cisco introduced in April 2018. As part of this effort, Cisco has developed the new People Insights feature within Webex that automatically creates profiles on meeting attendees based on corporate directory information and scans of publicly available information on the Web. People Insights is to be launched in the United States in April, with additional geographies later in the second quarter of 2019. New features are available for Cisco’s its AI voice assistant for Webex, including automatic detection of a user entering a conference room by the presence of their mobile phone (Proactive Join will be generally available in June) and a new feature called "First Match" (available now) for placing calls by scanning Webex Teams spaces and a company directory to pull up who is on your calendar for the meeting. Cisco plans to add facial recognition software to Webex in June that will identify users and display a name tag for each participant in a meeting.
CounterPath extends its Bria Teams cloud service with a new package option called Bria Teams Pro that adds a dedicated, multi-party Virtual Meeting Room. Bria Teams Pro builds on the Bria Teams Standard messaging and 3-party voice/video calling features, adding HD audio/video conferencing, in-room messaging and screen-sharing among as many as 200 participants. Pro also enables meeting recording and hosting features like assigning presenter controls, mute/unmute, managing participant capabilities and more. Outside participants can join the conference via a web browser. Bria Teams interoperates with most vendor's call servers (PBX) and VoIP services. Bria Teams Pro starts at $9.95 per user, per month (billed annually).
Fuze and Samsung Electronics America are collaborating on solutions for the mobile, distributed workforce. The first customer, Waste Management, is using Fuze software on Samsung devices in over 15,000 of its trucks to enhance call routing, improve emergency communications, access real-time and historical data and call records, and more. Waste Management plans to also introduce video and meeting capabilities to drivers and technicians, combining Fuze’s huddle room capability with Samsung Galaxy tablets. Other new solutions involve Samsung DeX desktop experience software, as well as Fuze UCaaS running on new Samsung products like the Samsung Galaxy Fold smartphone.
LogMeIn has introduced the new brand, GoTo, for its Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) suite of solutions. These include the new GoToConnect service that integrates Jive UC with GoToMeeting (GA April in NA and LATAM, with additional countries later in 2019). The GoToRoom huddle and conference room solutions include Huddle Room (2-6 people) with a speaker/microphone/camera combination (Polycom Studio), and the Medium Size Conference Room (6-10 people), a speaker/microphone/phone system (Polycom Trio 8500) with camera (Polycom Eagle Eye IV).
Microsoft Teams was recognized at the recent Enterprise Connect event for its vision around making communication and collaboration easier for the entire workforce, including those on the frontline (Microsoft won Best in Show award for the second year in a row). Microsoft also announced a number of new features for the Teams collaboration app designed to make collaboration more inclusive, effective and secure. New features include custom backgrounds, live captions and subtitles, information barriers, live events, to name a few. The company demonstrated an impressive new Whiteboard App in which a photograph of a physical whiteboard, taken via a coming "content capture" feature, becomes a Microsoft Whiteboard in Teams meeting app for the other meeting participants to see. An "Ink Grab" capability is used to make "digital ink" out of the photographed whiteboard (this feature is currently at the "commercial preview" stage for Teams users on Windows 10, iOS or Android operating systems). In related news, Microsoft’s Yammer business social network has been integrated as a tab within a Teams channel; users can see a group, follow a topic feed, or share conversations in Yammer without having to leave Teams.
Mitel has enhanced its Mitel Performance Analytics (MPA) UC monitoring and management solution, adding advanced network testing capabilities, expanded coverage to support MiVoice Connect and new feature integrations for MiVoice MX-ONE. MPA is available globally as part of the Mitel Premium Software Assurance subscription and supports a range of Mitel solutions including MiVoice Business, MiVoice Office 250, MiCollab and MiContact Center.
Nextiva is partnering with Ruby to offer the Ruby Receptionists personalized, live chat, and receptionist service. Nextiva customers can opt to have the Ruby service pre-programmed as a button on their Nextiva business phone. Ruby’s customizable software is used to define the handling of each call per user instructions for transferring, taking messages, collecting contact information, making outbound calls, answering FAQs, scheduling appointments or sending callers directly to Nextiva voicemail.
Panasonic adds the new KX-TPA68 cordless desk phone model to its KX-TGP600 SIP cordless phone system family. Notable features include real-time shared call appearances that allow users to pick up calls, retrieve held calls and join calls from lines shared across multiple KX-TPA68 cordless desk phones registered to the same base unit. Users can also monitor the status of up to six phone lines in real-time.
Plantronics and Polycom have rebranded under the new name Poly. In March 2018, Plantronics announced its intent to acquire Polycom, adding Polycom’s audio and video conferencing endpoints and SIP telephones to its portfolio of headset products. The combination has given Plantronics, now Poly, a more comprehensive suite of unified communications and collaboration products and services. The company also introduces VVX 250, 350 and 450 OBi Edition phones as its first IP phones certified for Google Voice for G Suite customers; additional certifications underway for headsets and speaker phones.
RingCentral has made a series of announcements recently, including extensions to its API library with new e-Discovery and message retention APIs for its API library. With the e-Discovery API, administrators can generate a report of all messages (SMS, chat, MMS, voicemail, fax, etc.) and track them by user; the message retention API enables administrators to extract messages related to compliance and data retention requirements. A new RingCentral Embeddable “all-in-one widget” allows developers to embed voice and SMS messaging into a customer’s business applications. RingCentral Persist is a new solution that allows communications services to continue during an Internet failure at a customer’s location; this includes emergency calling, extension-to-extension dialing, and inbound and outbound calling. In other news, RingCentral is working with Ericsson to launch new communications solution for service providers that want to power a cloud communications platform over a VoLTE network; the Ericsson product is called VoLTE for UC.
Talkdesk’s new cloud-based Workforce Management application aims to replace manual scheduling processes. The new application uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine optimal staff levels and to recommend staffing adjustments in real-time. Other notable features include agent self-service shift swaps and time off requests, as well as giving advanced notifications when staffing levels may drop below a threshold and calculations of number of agents needed. In other news, the new Talkdesk xConnect solution addresses the hybrid cloud, allowing Talkdesk’s cloud contact center platform to be used with on-premises IP-based PBX systems from third party vendors such as Avaya and Cisco, connecting via SIP trunks.
Vonage launches CX Cloud Express, a CRM-integrated contact center solution for mid-size businesses that subscribe to the company's flagship cloud-native platform, Vonage Business Cloud (VBC). CX Cloud Express represents the first integrated offering of VBC and the acquired NewVoiceMedia contact center solution as a single stack. Notable features include IVR, skills-based routing, customizable reporting and analytics, CRM integration with Salesforce, Zendesk, SugarCRM and others, and business application integrations with G Suite and Office 365. In related news, Vonage is beta testing a new Number Programmability capability that leverages Nexmo APIs to enable any VBS phone number to be “intelligently programmed,” making it more than just a number. For example, the phone number can be programmed as an automated virtual receptionist that routes calls according to time of day or per the incoming call number. Or, the phone number can integrate with a translation API to recognize when a caller is speaking a different language and provide an English translation.
Zoom Phone service (previously named Zoom Voice) adds native integration with Five9 and Twilio cloud contact center platforms, as well as Salesforce integration and zero-touch provisioning to Polycom and Yealink devices. Zoom Phone was introduced earlier in 2019 for Zoom customers in the US and Canada as an add-on to Zoom’s paid web conferencing platform. In other news, new Zoom Room conferencing solutions are available with additional third party hardware, including the AVer EP65 65” all-in-one interactive whiteboard, the Crestron Flex B Series front of the room solution, the DTEN D7 Dual 55” display all-in-one interactive whiteboard, the Logitech Solutions for Zoom Rooms and the Polycom Studio. Zoom Meetings will add real-time transcription (3Q2019), simultaneous language interpretation, meeting notes summary (3Q2019), enhanced Microsoft Teams integration (2Q2019) and Siri shortcuts. Zoom is expected to announce an IPO (initial public offering) in April.
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