Getting On Board with Team Collaboration
Team collaboration applications are emerging in the business environment as an effective way to communicate, collaborate and manage projects. With today’s knowledge workers spread among different locations, working remotely from a home office or frequently on the road and not necessarily working within the same organization, collaboration requires a new and different way of working.
New team-based tools help with this challenge, allowing users to access multiple technologies such as messaging, audio, video, multi-party meetings and content sharing within a single user interface from a desktop or a mobile device. Team members simply log into a virtual “room” or space where they can easily share together in real-time with others on the team. This concept of centralizing a particular project’s related conversations, interactions and documentation can really make a difference in the successful management and completion of a project.
When it comes to any kind of teamwork, one can see why these new applications are being cited as potential email killers or at least good alternatives to email as a primary means of communication. Sifting through multiple strings of email messages among multiple people is certainly not an ideal way to manage a project and keep track of assignments and related materials. Consider the time savings involved when the entire project history is easily accessed in a single, centralized place and how easy it is for new team members to join in and to get up to speed. Support for touch-of-a-button video conferencing adds another important dimension – the human element of face-to-face interaction. Some surveys indicate that these newer team-based tools can cut down on the use of email by as much as 40% or more. Though, it is important to note, that team-based applications are only useful when the entire team is on board; email will be an important form of direct communications for a long time to come.
Analysts have been following this trend closely, with some coining the category as "workstream communications and collaboration” and more recently as "workstream messaging" considered to be a more succinct and less redundant way to describe “team collaboration.” Market research firms are beginning to track market impact and adoption. Here is what some are saying:
- Synergy Research is watching teamwork applications as “an emerging and super-high growth area that features Cisco's Spark and vendors like Slack, Cotap and Redbooth.”
- IHS Infonetics notes that “the use of collaboration tools continues to rise, including the arrival of team collaboration, which has gained momentum from upstarts such as Slack and established vendors like Cisco with Spark.”
- IDC speaks to the intersection of workplace and mobile messaging. "The exposure of users to applications that are simple, easy to use, and that connect a disparate group often across geographic boundaries, has become a standard expectation."
Who is On Board?
A range of team collaboration apps are now available, including many on the market for years from cloud providers (e.g. Slack, Redbooth, HipChat and others). Just recently, BroadSoft acquired Intellinote, adding this team collaboration tool to its portfolio of cloud-based Unified Communications and Collaboration services. In June 2015, cloud UC provider RingCentral acquired Glip and its team messaging and collaboration application. Glip by RingCentral is included at no additional cost for all RingCentral Office customers, and RingCentral reports “significant traction” of Glip, citing three times the usage since the acquisition.
Traditional telecom manufacturers (nearly all of which have now added cloud services to their portfolios) are quickly getting on board too with new team collaboration applications that are easily accessed as subscription-based cloud services. Below we highlight several applications now available, or coming soon, from these established vendors (in order of their rollout).
Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise and now a division of the European IT service company Atos) is offering Circuit, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) collaboration platform that was first introduced under the project name Ansible in October 2014. Circuit is designed to improve teamwork by enabling natural, contextual collaboration that combines voice, video, screen sharing, messaging and file sharing into a single user interface. Unify has been evolving Circuit since its introduction with more mobile device support, new features and additional integrations, including a Universal Telephony Connector that enables integration with any Unify or third party SIP voice platform. Unify originally released Circuit at a subscription price of $14.95 per user per month. Today, the company offers multiple packages that include a Free plan for up to 100 users, with three users per conference call and 1GB of storage. Monthly fee-based Team, Professional and Enterprise plans support unlimited users, more storage and more features, with pricing set at $3.95, $6.95 and $14.95 per user per month depending on the level of capabilities required (Unify cites a significant increase in users since introducing these multiple pricing packages). Circuit (Ansible) was originally developed in partnership with frog design.
Cisco Spark was first released as “Project Squared” in November 2014 as a business collaboration application designed to ease communications among virtual or distributed teams that need to share files and work together on projects. The cloud-based application combines chat, audio, video, multi-party meetings and content sharing into a single user interface and uses a virtual conference room concept to organize content, messages and conversations by topic. Cisco first offered the application as a free service in order to encourage usage and gain feedback. In early 2015, Cisco officially released the application as Spark with new features and additional device support, offering a free version with limited functionality or a fee-based monthly subscription with additional features such as room moderation, directory synchronization and broader meeting capabilities. Today, Cisco defines three “M” level packages (for Messaging and Meeting capabilities) and recently added telephony and video conferencing with a new “C” level package (Spark Calling) that can be layered on top. Cisco continues to offer a “free” Spark service for instant messaging and one-to-one video with other Spark users. Otherwise, list pricing ranges from about $8 to $29 per user per month for an annual subscription (pre-paid) for the M options or about $20 to $39 per user per month for an annual subscription (pre-paid) for the C options; partners offer discounted street pricing. A few add-on services are available, including for room registration and event training centers.
Interactive Intelligence introduced PureCloud Collaborate in March 2015 as a free real-time collaboration tool that enables persistent group chat (up to 1,000 people per chat room), screen and file sharing, 5-party video, activity stream, advanced search, corporate directory and active directory integration with one terabyte of data storage – all accessible via a web browser, desktop, iOS or Android mobile device. A more advanced version called Collaborate Pro (starts at $9.99 per user per month) offers unlimited storage, additional third party integrations, telephone support, an API, an audit trail and more. Since its introduction, Interactive Intelligence has rolled out a steady stream of new features, including chat keyword search, external contact creation, activity and geolocation indicators and additional presence status options. More features are forthcoming such as video conferencing and screen sharing for 20 participants and video recording. PureCloud Collaborate is part of the company’s PureCloud suite of customer engagement, communications and collaboration cloud services running atop Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Fonality announced a partnership with Intellinote in April 2016, giving its customers access to an online, virtual workspace where teams can manage projects, track tasks and capture, store and share documentation such as notes, reports and emails. Intellinote is launched from the web browser-based version of Fonality’s Heads Up Display (HUD) unified communications application where users manage all of their communications from a single interface, including phone calls, voicemail, unified messaging, directories, conferencing, call recording, presence status, group chat and video. The new Intellinote integration, at $10 per user per month for the Standard subscription, adds a team collaboration tool (including video conferencing) to the HUD Web experience. Intellinote is among a number of new integrations for HUD in recent months as Fonality continues to add access to third party business applications and tools for improving business processes and outcomes. On May 31, 2016, Broadsoft announced it would acquire Intellinote.
Mitel released MiTeam in April 2016, describing it as a “mobile-first” team collaboration solution since it is designed first and foremost to run on smartphone and tablet platforms, namely iOS or Android mobile devices (the solution can also be accessed from Windows PCs and Mac computers). MiTeam creates a topic or project-based virtual workspace where team members (up to 1,000 per team or room, including 50 video users) can collaborate and manage projects in real-time through voice and video meetings, chat sessions with context, task management, screen and document sharing – all stored and organized chronologically in a single, persistent “workstream” and easily accessed by all team members at any time, including those outside the firewall who are added via email invitation. MiTeam also integrates with third party applications such as DropBox, Salesforce and Zendesk for additional notifications. MiTeam is included within the new MiCloud Office subscription bundles: Premier ($24.99/user/month) and Elite ($29.99/user/month). MiCloud Office is the company’s new unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering generally available in the U.S. since April 4, 2016 and also recently introduced in the UK (see the related write-up on MiCloud Office UCaaS for more detail). MiTeam will also be part of Premium UCC licenses on Mitel’s premises-based systems, including MiVoice Business, MiVoice Office 400, MiVoice MX-ONE and MiVoice 5000 call control platforms.
Avaya’s new subsidiary Zang is offering a controlled release of the new Zang Spaces team collaboration application in June 2016, with general availability expected in Q4 2016. Zang Spaces is a cloud-based persistent workspace where teams can collaborate using video and group chat, share documents and access contextual links to other resources such as for storage. Avaya entered into the cloud-based communications platform-as-a-service market in March 2016, announcing the new Zang application development environment where developers and end users can build and deploy custom communications-enabled applications for mobile device, computers or integrated into traditional phone systems. This includes integrations with third party communications solutions, but also some pre-built applications such as the forthcoming Zang Spaces team collaboration application.
In the coming months, more of the established telecom vendors (and the cloud UC providers) will announce support for a team collaboration application, whether internally developed or obtained through partnerships or acquisitions. Stay tuned.
Mitel Introduces MiCloud Office in the US and UK
Recently, Mitel introduced MiCloud Office, a new unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) offering available in the U.S. and UK markets now, with Germany and France to follow soon (third quarter 2016). The cloud-based service is generally aimed at smaller businesses and touts functionality for today’s mobile work style in which knowledge workers are often spread among different locations, working remotely from a home office or frequently on the road. Key to the new UCaaS offer are two mobile-focused applications: the new MiTeam virtual workspace where team members (inside or outside of a company) can collaborate and manage projects from a smartphone or tablet, and MiCloud Analytics for monitoring call activity and viewing call metrics from anywhere via a mobile device. (MiTeam is also now available for premises-based MiVoice platforms and planned for Mitel’s earlier MiCloud Business and Enterprise cloud services.)
MiCloud Office is derived out of hosted UC technology from the Swedish company Telepo that was acquired by Aastra just before Aastra consolidated with Mitel in 2014. Mitel describes the solution as “born and hardened in the Nordics” where mobile devices are typically the only devices used in business. Additionally, MiCloud Office was built specifically for the cloud environment with a multi-tenant (shared) approach whereby multiple customers use a single instance of an application on a common hardware platform, each separated by a different database or data-source. By contrast, Mitel’s earlier MiCloud Business and MiCloud Enterprise cloud offers are based on the company’s flagship MiVoice Business software (formerly known as Mitel Communications Director) and use a multi-instance approach where each customer has a separate application instance (separate virtual machine) on the hosted server. Both approaches are considered secure.
When asked about positioning of the new MiCloud Office versus the earlier MiCloud Business and MiCloud Enterprise, the company explains that it really depends on a customer’s needs. As noted, MiCloud Office ideally suits multi-site businesses with workforces that are highly mobile (hence, the access to Mitel’s new mobile-centric applications: MiTeam virtual workspace and MiCloud Analytics). The earlier MiCloud Business and Enterprise services are a good fit for organizations that have more sophisticated UC and contact center needs; these cloud offers support Mitel’s MiCollab UC application and Mitel’s full contact center and call recording portfolio. Additionally, the common MiVoice Business software for both cloud and premises deployments means that MiCloud Business and Enterprise services can be part of a hybrid configuration with portions of the solution implemented on-premises, and other portions deployed in the cloud. This will be important to customers with existing Mitel MiVoice Business (MCD) investments that may want to flexibly network a mix of premises-based and cloud-based solutions across geographically dispersed locations (more on the many benefits of hybrid cloud here).
MiCloud Office Highlights
- Targets SMBs (1-500 users)
- Available in U.S. and UK (GA April 4, 2016); Germany and France (3Q 2016)
- Hosted in Mitel data centers; sold directly by Mitel or through Mitel dealers
- Based on technology from Telepo, with Mitel enhancements (MiTeam, MiCloud Analytics)
- Seat Types:
- Essential ($19.99/user/month) supports one connected device and popular telephony features, including voicemail with email forwarding.
- Premier ($24.99/user/month) adds support for two connected devices, plus MiTeam collaboration, a mobile/desktop client and softphone and unlimited long distance calling.
- Elite ($29.99/user/month) builds on Premier and Essentials to enable four connected devices, Microsoft Exchange integration, a unified inbox and CRM integration.
The MiCloud Office UK offering differs slightly in user packages and capabilities; however, these offers are expected to align in the very near future.
Mitel is covering all bases with a MiCloud portfolio that comes in multiple flavors to address the needs and requirements of any size business, small to large. There are offers for customers seeking a cloud communications solution (MiCloud Office, MiCloud Business and MiCloud Enterprise) and for partners and Service Providers that are looking to resell Mitel cloud-based services (MiCloud Enterprise UCaaS, MiCloud Business for Service Providers and MiCloud Telepo). Each of the MiCloud offers now has the same seat types (Essentials, Premier and Elite), simplifying the options for customers and resellers from as many as seven different seat types in the earlier offers. Perhaps more streamlining will occur in coming months. Stay tuned.
NEC Develops Across a Broad Technology Spectrum
NEC is forging ahead with innovative solutions that integrate its expertise in a variety of technologies. The Insider has long focused on NEC’s telephony and unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) products and services (voice, messaging, mobility, video, etc.), but the company also develops solutions around emerging information technologies (IT) and identifies three technologies - software defined networking (SDN), data analytics and biometrics – as particularly synergistic to UC&C. By integrating these varying technologies, NEC is creating some unique and forward-looking solutions for businesses today (and tomorrow) in an increasingly digital and increasingly connected world.
NEC is on-target with its vision around the “smart enterprise” that recognizes the value of converged communications and information technologies (ICT) to ensuring efficient, effective and secure operations. It’s true that communications and collaboration are key ingredients in any modern business, but what about the underlying network infrastructure to support these and the data that flows through it? NEC’s SDN enables flexible and real-time network traffic control through a software interface, eliminating the need to manually configure any network hardware devices. NEC’s analytics solutions turn data captured from a communications system or network into valuable metrics and trends that can shed light on a company’s business performance. Biometrics software from NEC for facial detection and facial feature extraction and fingerprint and palm print matching is used in public safety and law enforcement, but also has really interesting use cases in retail, hospitality and other industries.
In-house expertise across a broad spectrum of technologies, along with some strategic partnerships, puts NEC in a good position to address the challenges and requirements of businesses into the future. At the recent NEC Advantage conference in Ponte Vedra, FL, NEC further demonstrated its commitment to ICT, announcing a new division called the “Enterprise Technology Group” that brings together its UC Network and Infrastructure group and its IT Network and Infrastructure group into a single division that will accelerate the development of new, converged technology solutions.
Below we highlight some of NEC’s new and forthcoming ICT innovations that combine its telephony and UC&C products with the company’s SDN, analytics and biometrics technologies.
- NEC’s next generation UT880 desktop telephone combines a traditional desktop phone and an Android tablet into one device designed to enable easy access to NEC’s UC Suite Client with a corporate directory, presence, instant messaging unified messaging and call control. Integrated video cameras enable two-way video conferencing for virtual receptionists, for example, to greet visitors through the display from a remote location. The NEC Marketplace App Store offers three categories of applications that run on the phone: General Market Apps (free basic business tools, communications and entertainment apps), Premium Market Apps (productivity-enhancing apps at no charge under NEC’s Premium Software Assurance program) and Premium Select Market Apps (industry-specific apps such as for hospitality, healthcare and retail verticals purchased through NEC as a license). It is this last category that will include some unique, converged applications such as incorporating NEC’s biometrics solutions (facial recognition) for security purposes or for recognizing priority guests in a retail or hospitality environment. More to come on this emerging solution for the UT880.
- NEC has a new partnership with video communication and collaboration solution provider Vidyo. NEC channel partners will be able to offer NEC-branded room, desk and mobile video collaboration solutions, either on-premises or in the cloud. Moreover, NEC will be integrating the Vidyo technology with its own solutions to create new vertical applications for healthcare, hospitality, education, financial and other industries. NEC is looking to combine Vidyo technology with its biometrics solutions to provide a second level of authentication in point-of-sale scenarios and at ATM machines, or for time and attendance verification in distance learning applications, among other use cases.
- NEC continues to evolve its unified communications as-a-service offering, UNIVERGE BLUE (previously known as NEC UNIVERGE Cloud Services). The company’s focus going forward is on simplification and making it easier for channel partners to position, sell and support the cloud-based offer. The soon-to-be-announced improvements will include a simplified self-service portal (for dealers and end-users), a more dealer-friendly pricing model and new telephone set options (including the UT880) that are more in line with other NEC platforms. What may not be as well known, and what sets NEC apart from many competing UCaaS providers, is that NEC owns the technology from end-to-end. NEC manufactures the UCaaS components, develops the call control software (NEC UNIVERGE 3C software), manages and provisions the Tier 3 geo-redundant data centers, manages a 24x7 Network Operations Center and monitors the MPLS network to identify and avoid QoS issues when transporting voice, data and video.
- NEC has its own servers and storage solutions and has integrated its fault tolerant server (the Express5800 FT) with its voice platforms, including the UNIVERGE SV9500 Communications Server designed for larger enterprises running a VMware virtualized environment. The bundle delivers a single box solution, complete with computing, storage, networking and high availability for mission critical environments, which significantly reduces the complexity associated with typical multi-server deployments. NEC has also developed new SDN-ready controllers that integrate the virtualized UNIVERGE SV9500 and/or UNIVERGE 3C software (benefits include transport efficiencies for high bandwidth functions like video). And, a cloud-based disaster recovery solution that involves NEC’s ExpressCluster software is in the works.
The bottom line is that NEC realizes the value of converged technology solutions for the smart enterprise of tomorrow and is actively developing around this vision. The company’s ICT innovations are already benefiting NEC’s business customers across all industries, and at the same time, helping NEC stand out from other vendors bringing UC&C solutions to market. Stay tuned.
Panasonic Introduces Scalable KX-NS700G for Small Business
Panasonic introduces the new KX-NS700G, a lower-end communications server within its latest generation of KX-NS business communications systems. The new model, available to Panasonic’s authorized resellers in the U.S., is designed to serve the very small business (to 26 extensions) and joins the KX-NS700 digital/IP communications server (to 288 extensions) for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) and the higher-capacity KX-NS1000 IP/SIP-based communications server that handles up to 1,000 networked users across as many as 16 locations.
Panasonic’s KX-NS family offers scale and built-in functionality over and above the company’s earlier KX-TDA, TDE and NCP systems. The new KX-NS700G provides authorized resellers with a good alternative to Panasonic’s TDA50G for smaller installations, not only because of its enhanced feature options, but also the added benefit of a simple software migration to the larger NS700. A software activation key (the “Capacity Unlock Activation Key”) allows a growing business to easily unlock the capacities of the full NS700 without replacing any system hardware (the hardware of the NS700G and NS700 is the same).
Essentially, the NS700G is packaged with pre-installed cards and software activation keys that lock down the allowable extension maximums. The features and options of the NS700G and NS700 are generally the same even without unlocking the system, as long as the option doesn’t affect the extension capacity limits. See below for more on the specific system capabilities.
- A standalone KX-NS700G supports 26 extensions, including up 18 digital, four IP proprietary and four single-line telephones and a maximum of 102 trunks. As noted, a software activation key opens up the capacity to that of the full KX-NS700 communications server, without replacing any system hardware. A standalone KX-NS700 supports 168 extensions; up to three expansion cabinets (NS720) are added to reach the maximum station capacity of 288 extensions and 210 trunks.
Standard Messaging and UC
- A two-channel voicemail capability (with email notification), licenses for four IP telephones and Panasonic’s Communication Assistant (CA) Basic-Express for basic unified communications are pre-installed on the KX-NS700G (and KX-NS700) and standard for every user.
- At the basic level, CA supports visual control of calls and messages from a user’s Windows desktop PC. Both the messaging and desktop call management capabilities are easily expandable via licensing.
Additional Productivity Built-in and License-activated
Additional productivity capabilities are built-in and easily license-activated. A 60-day free trial license is available for most of the functionality, specifically Unified Messaging, Call Center, Communications Assistant and Mobile Extension.
- Unified Messaging: The Unified Messaging license adds up to 24 messaging channels, voice guidance to outside callers, message backup and two-way call recording.
- Call Center: A call center capability allows every user on the system to function as an ACD agent. The KX-NS software supports call routing by trunk, group or longest idle agent, as well as priority routing, status monitoring by supervisors, listen-in, group/delayed ringing and busy override, ACD reporting and calls-in-queue announcements.
- Unified Communications: Additional Communications Assistant (CA) productivity features (Pro, Supervisor and Operator levels) are easily license activated to enable screen-based presence, instant messaging, integration with Microsoft Outlook, group conferencing and IP camera integration. CA can also tie in CRM applications such as Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, as well as third party applications for hospitality, call center, security and home/business automation.
- Mobility: Mobile Extension is license-activated to allow two extensions to be assigned the same extension number so that calls to an office extension, for example, can be received simultaneously on a smartphone. Optionally, KX-NS systems support Panasonic’s new UC Mobility solution for access to unified communications, including video calling and chat functionality, on an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. In-building DECT wireless handsets are also an option for mobile users, including Panasonic’s KS-NS0154 Cell Station with LAN synchronization, Bluetooth support and noise reduction technology.
- One-Look Networking: Panasonic does not recommend One-Look Networking on an unlocked NS700G, so if multi-site networking is required, the customer should opt for the full KX-NS700. One-Look Networking software is license-activated and connects multiple KX-NS700 servers and the higher-capacity KX-NS1000 server (up to 16 systems and 1,000 users) as a single system with centralized administration and reporting. A Web Maintenance Console for the administrator allows the management of all phones and system units from one central point, including devices, features and system updates and changes.
Panasonic is known for protecting its existing customer base by ensuring that current equipment investments remain compatible and reusable when migrating to a newer Panasonic system. The KX-NS700G and KX-NS700 support many of the same digital and IP phones as the earlier KX-TDA, TDE and NCP systems, but also Panasonic’s latest line of IP, digital and DECT phones, namely the KX-NT500 Series of IP phones, the KX-DT500 digital phones and the KX-TCA85 Series DECT handsets. Panasonic continues to support earlier KX-TDA, KX-NCP and KX-TDE systems with minor updates and software patches, though future development will focus on the KX-NS series.
The KX-NS700G is generally available in the U.S. as of May 9, 2016 from Panasonic’s authorized resellers (MSRP $2,089). Panasonic offers other KX-NS models, such as the KX-NS300 and NS500, in other world markets.
RingCentral Offers Room Videoconferencing, Expands Global Reach
Cloud business communications provider RingCentral continues its focus on the enterprise market, developing new features and applications that are important to larger businesses and expanding the availability of RingCentral Office unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) into additional countries to meet the needs of a growing base of customers with multi-national operations.
RingCentral began investing in the enterprise in 2014 when the company announced the RingCentral Office Enterprise Edition, along with enterprise-targeted applications for web and video collaboration and mobility. In 2015, RingCentral continued to deliver on services for the enterprise, opening up its Application Programming Interface (API) to customers and partners (RingCentral Connect Platform), creating an Integrations App Gallery, rolling out RingCentral Contact Center (in partnership with inContact) and introducing RingCentral Teams, a team collaboration application (from the acquisition of Glip), among other new capabilities and features. This year, the company further extended integrations with third party solutions and announced RingCentral Global Office for multi-national companies.
These efforts seem to be paying off in terms of growing the company’s traction “up market.” Metrics reported for first quarter 2016 show positive momentum due to larger enterprise bookings (the average new deal size is now over 100+ users), an indirect channel approach (sales from value-added resellers and carriers represented 25% of software subscription revenue, up from about 20% last year) and traction with multinational enterprises (the Global Office cloud service has been adopted by more than 170 companies since the Q1 2016 launch).
This June, the company announced a new room-based videoconferencing service (RingCentral Rooms) and expanded international coverage (12 additional countries).
The latest addition to RingCentral’s portfolio is a new software-defined room-based videoconferencing solution called RingCentral Rooms for enterprises with smaller huddle rooms, medium conference rooms and even larger boardrooms. The new solution works in conjunction with the company’s RingCentral Meetings conferencing service which comes standard with every RingCentral Office subscription (4, 25 or 50 participants with Standard, Premium and Enterprise Editions, respectively). With RingCentral Rooms, the “room” is, in effect, another endpoint or “participant” within RingCentral Meetings just like any individual joining the conference via mobile client, desktop client or telephone.
As a cloud-based service, RingCentral Rooms is easily accessed for a monthly subscription fee ($49 per room per month). It requires no technical skills to set up or use. The only required equipment is an iPad for controlling the meeting (start, join, zoom, etc.), a camera, speakers, large-screen monitor(s) and a Mac computer to power these display(s) – all of which is purchased off-the-shelf (RingCentral Rooms is currently compatible with the Mac operating system only). Additionally, for enterprises that already own an H.323- or SIP-based videoconferencing solution, such as from Polycom, LifeSize or Cisco for example, RingCentral is offering the RingCentral Room Connector cloud service ($49 per port per month) that connects this legacy equipment as another endpoint within RingCentral Meetings.
Simplicity is the key. Many enterprises today have legacy videoconferencing hardware, often from multiple vendors and spread across multiple locations. For others, expensive videoconferencing hardware is a barrier to even utilizing the technology at all. RingCentral Rooms, as a simple cloud-based subscription that requires only standard, commercially available equipment to connect, along with the RingCentral Room Connector for tying in legacy equipment, can be the answer to these interoperability and budgetary challenges.
RingCentral Rooms is powered by Zoom, the same partner that provides the RingCentral Meetings conferencing service, and is available now as an add-on to RingCentral Office plans in the U.S. and Canada (not sold as a standalone service). RingCentral Room Connector is available as of mid-July 2016.
There is an increasing interest in UCaaS by mid-market and enterprise organizations with geographically-dispersed, often international, offices. To meet these needs, RingCentral is expanding its global footprint, doubling the number of countries where its RingCentral Global Office cloud service is offered. The global service, just launched in February 2016, allows a growing base of multi-national companies using RingCentral Office UCaaS to consolidate billing across international locations and manage all offices via a single centralized administrator dashboard.
RingCentral Global Office will be offered in 24 countries outside of the U.S. by July 14, 2016, with geographic coverage spanning North America, South America, Europe and Asia. By fourth quarter of 2016, the company expects to be offering its full UCaaS service in as many as 37 countries. Note that RingCentral International Virtual Numbers (IVNs) make it possible to extend local inbound calling into 79 countries.
An Enterprise Focus
RingCentral is on the move. The recent developments in terms of portfolio expansion (RingCentral Rooms) and geographic expansion (RingCentral Global Office) – along with extended professional services and new executive hires - all position RingCentral Office as a viable communications alternative for larger businesses.
An enterprise focus is the right focus, according to research firms studying UCaaS market trends. Gartner, for example, predicts the UCaaS market will be an $18 billion global business by 2019, up from $6 billion last year, with the highest growth rates coming from large businesses. Estimated growth rates are 15-20% (SMB, 1-99 employees), 25% (Medium, 100-999 employees) and 40-45% (Large, 1,000+ employees), according to Gartner. There are inherent benefits of UCaaS for larger, distributed businesses (ease of adding new locations, consistency across a network and built-in disaster recovery to name a few), and the availability of cloud services that address their more sophisticated needs and requirements further removes any doubts and concerns about hosting communications in the cloud. Stay tuned.
Toshiba UCedge 2.5 Adds New Modes, New Features
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division has made some major enhancements to its UCedge client software that runs on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, Windows PCs and Mac computers. New Release 2.5 software adds an “Essentials” version that is no additional cost to all users of the IPedge IP-based communications system. The UCedge license opens up access to the full set of UCedge unified communications (UC) features, including new capabilities for agents and supervisors in a contact center environment.
Toshiba released UCedge in 2014 as the forward-looking alternative to the company’s Call Manager Mobile and Call Manager for Windows clients, adding a number of benefits over and above these earlier UC clients. With UCedge software downloaded and installed, workers can use their mobile device (smartphones and tablets) or desktop/laptop device (Windows PCs and Mac computers) as their business telephone, displaying their office extension in the Caller ID for ‘single number reach’ whether the user is in or out of the office. The single UCedge client enables the same telephony and UC functionality across all supported device types, including advanced capabilities like federation, desk phone pairing and consolidated call and IM history.
Since its introduction, Toshiba has made steady improvements to the UCedge software, making it available as-a-service within Toshiba’s cloud-based VIPedge Application Service, adding a softphone capability across all device types and enabling one-touch customizable buttons and fax mail support, among other enhancements.
The latest UCedge R2.5 software extends the usability of the mobile client even further with an Essentials mode (free to all users) and new features for contact center agents and supervisors.
UCedge Essentials for All Users
Toshiba has created a new version, UCedge Essentials, which supports the essential features (the basic operations) of the full UCedge license. UCedge Essentials comes standard with the IPedge user license bundle at no additional charge so it is available to all users of the IPedge business communications system, as well as Strata CIX digital/IP phone systems with an add-on IPedge Application Server. With UCedge Essentials freely downloaded and installed on an Android or iOS smartphone (from the Google Play or the iTunes App Store) or to a Windows PC or Mac computer (from the Chrome Web Store), all users will be able to access a good complement of the UCedge productivity features - most importantly, the convenience of using their smartphone as their office extension.
In addition to dialing and answering calls via Toshiba’s callback/call through feature, UCedge Essentials users will also be able to click-to-call from a corporate contacts directory, view call history and voice/fax mail, manage greetings and settings such as for Follow-Me call routing and transfer missed calls to another extension – from anywhere using a UCedge-enabled smartphone, tablet, computer or laptop.
UCedge Features for the Contact Center
Purchasing the UCedge license opens up the full suite of UC capabilities, including a built-in softphone to make and receive calls through the Toshiba phone system over a low-cost corporate Wi-Fi connection. Users can share presence and exchange instant messages even with external users (Microsoft Skype for Business (Lync) Server users or external organizations using the Toshiba software), as well as access consolidated call and IM history information from anywhere via cloud-based Google Drive service.
The latest UCedge R2.5 software adds features for a contact center environment. With the UCedge client and built-in softphone installed on a smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac computer, agents and supervisors can manage customer calls and their own settings from anywhere, along with a number of key contact center functions, namely Agent/Supervisor Login, Agent Status Change, Call Handling and Call Notes, Broadcast, Real-time Displays and Warnings, Agent Help and Supervisor Monitor. In addition, agents and supervisors can take advantage of UCedge’s pairing feature that synchronizes an iOS or Android device with a Toshiba desk phone to conveniently initiate dialing via the mobile device.
Look for additional improvements in the coming months. UCedge Essentials and the UCedge license are available to Toshiba customers that install the Toshiba IPedge communications system or the Strata CIX phone system with an add-on IPedge Application Server. Toshiba’s VIPedge cloud-based UC service includes the full UCedge license at no extra cost in the per-user monthly fee.
Vonage Business Coalesces Around Essentials and Premier User Plans
Through a series of acquisitions in recent years, Vonage has built out its Vonage Business division with new cloud-based services that enable the company to address the needs of small, mid-size businesses and larger distributed enterprises, ranging from two to thousands of employees. The acquired offerings have resulted in a portfolio of business services that spans unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS), networking and quality of service (QoS), SIP trunking, cloud backup, hosted email and infrastructure-as-a-service, and more.
Vonage first entered the hosted business market in 2013 with the acquisition of cloud provider Vocalocity and its custom-built telephony services for very small businesses in the U.S. and Canada. In 2014 and 2015, Vonage purchased two additional cloud UC providers, Telesphere and SimpleSignal (both of which use BroadSoft technology), allowing Vonage to serve larger businesses with a more robust set of services, including voice, video, mobility, web and video collaboration and a private, national MPLS network. Subsequently, Vonage acquired iCore Networks, another BroadSoft-based UCaaS provider, but also offering IT cloud services such as virtual desktop and infrastructure as-a-service (IaaS). This was followed by the purchase of middleware technology company gUnify (now rebranded as Vonage Connect) for integrating unified communications with business applications.
Just recently (May 2016), Vonage entered a new market - the Communications Platform as-a-Service (CPaaS) market - when the company acquired CPaaS provider Nexmo said to be the second largest CPaaS company worldwide. This move is expected to be a real game-changer for Vonage. The CPaaS market is growing fast, with estimates of this market reaching $8 Billion by 2018 (IDC), and custom application development is already becoming a significant differentiator among cloud UC solutions. In the near-term, Nexmo and Vonage will “cross-sell” into their respective markets, but overtime, integration will take place, creating new service offerings for Vonage’s business customers.
All of this M&A activity has propelled Vonage into a top spot in the North American UCaaS market. The IHS Infonetics May 2016 UCaaS Scorecard North America ranked Vonage second in terms of installed base of seats, financial stability, market strategy, service capabilities and support options. Frost & Sullivan awarded Vonage its 2015 Growth Excellence Leadership Award for Hosted IP and Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) Services. Gartner placed Vonage in the Visionaries quadrant of its 2015 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, Worldwide after evaluating 20 UC solutions providers on "Ability to Execute" and "Completeness of Vision" within the market.
Essentials and Premier UCaaS Bundles
In a relatively short period of time, Vonage Business reshaped and streamlined multiple acquired offerings into two main UCaaS product lines, one designed for small and mid-size businesses (Essentials) and the other aimed at the mid-market and enterprise (Premier), though Vonage stresses that it sells services based on specific business needs, not necessarily on the size of the business.
Essentials is the former Vocalocity service and is a good fit for businesses, often smaller businesses, with basic telephony and UC requirements. Essentials is delivered over the public Internet. The Premier user bundle is based largely on the former Telesphere UCaaS service, but with elements from the SimpleSignal and iCore acquisitions, and targets businesses that have more sophisticated UC requirements such as for web and video collaboration. With Premier, Vonage offers access through a private, managed MPLS network for quality of service (QoS), enhanced business continuity and security. The SmartWAN service provides real-time packet optimization, network performance monitoring and failover (SmartWAN can be combined with Vonage MPLS services or can help to ensure QoS for public Internet connections).
Below are some “fast facts” on each of the Vonage Business UCaaS business phone plans.
- Acquired Technology: Vocalocity (Vonage has since enhanced the mobile capabilities and added business applications integrations through the gUnify technology)
- Target Market: Small and Mid-size Businesses
- Scale: Typically under 50 users, but can support larger businesses that do not have more sophisticated UC or CC requirements
- Data Centers: Six data centers, located across the U.S. and Canada
- Service Delivery: Public Internet
- Telephony/UC: Single plan with 40+ built-in calling features, including desktop/mobile client application and softphone
- Advanced Applications: Optional add-on capabilities include call queuing, call recording, paging, meet-me conferencing (30 parties) and voicemail transcription (delivered to an email inbox), among others; also supports a number of free or fee-based plug-ins to third party applications from Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and others.
- Pricing Model: Single plan is priced from $19.99-$39.99 per user per month; sold under a no-contract model (month-to-month)
- Acquired Technology: Telesphere, SimpleSignal, iCore
- Target Market: Mid-market and Enterprise
- Scale: 20 to thousands of users; businesses that need more advanced UC or contact center capabilities and/or desire managed MPLS networking services and QoS
- Data Centers: Nine data centers (seven in North America, one in EMEA and one in APAC); 21 POPs across North America and two POPs in the UK
- Service Delivery: MPLS private networking or public Internet with Vonage SmartWAN service
- Telephony/UC: Three business plans, each with progressively more functionality:
- Premier Basic for lobbies or common areas; includes inbound/outbound calling, 3-way conferencing, call transfer, caller ID and 200 long distance minutes
- Premier UC for unified messaging needs; includes 50+ telephony features plus voicemail, voicemail-to-email notification, visual voicemail and unlimited local and long distance calling
- Premier Plus for full UC capabilities; includes 50+ telephony features plus voicemail, auto attendant (one), unified messaging, the MobileConnect client application, click-to-call toolbar, one hunt group and unlimited local and long distance calling
- Advanced Applications: Optional add-on capabilities include WebConnect web collaboration with interactive white boarding, desktop screen sharing, chat, file share, recording, co-browsing, polling and surveys; VideoConnect (powered by Vidyo) for HD video collaboration and interoperability with SIP and H.323 endpoints and Telepresence systems; Call Center (BroadSoft); multi-media Contact Center (partnerships with inContact or LiveOps); Contact Center and Analytics (BroadSoft acquired Transera in February 2016); third party applications using VonageConnect (gUnify) software to integrate with Salesforce, Zendesk, Clio, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Sage, Zoho, Act! and others
- Pricing Model: Three user plans priced from $20-$50 per user per month
Additionally, a unique customer portal called Zeus handles provisioning and monitoring of single- and multi-location enterprises, but also includes a comprehensive dashboard for viewing incident response, customer ticket tracking, bandwidth utilization and IP deep packet inspection for identifying and fixing issues remotely.
So, what’s next for Vonage Business? The company plans a continued focus on network interfaces, business application integrations, contact center and mobile network integration. Also, with Vonage's recent acquisition of Nexmo CPaaS now complete, the company will be able to offer businesses and developers an environment for building, testing, deploying and managing custom business applications that will integrate with Vonage UCaaS. The use cases are endless and will be found across all industries, including education, real-estate, retail, healthcare, legal, government and more. Stay tuned.
In recent news:
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise introduces new capabilities within its OpenTouch unified communications (UC) suites for larger enterprises (OpenTouch Suite 2.2) and for small and mid-size businesses (OpenTouch Suite for SMB) with a focus on simplicity, efficiency and mobility. For enterprises that have deployed the OmniPCX Enterprise on-site or in the cloud, OTS 2.2 adds Mac OS-X support, now extending the single UC client across all major device types, including Apple iOS and Android mobile devices, Windows PCs and Mac computers, as well as adding new integrations with third party business applications from Microsoft, Google and IBM, a new visual auto attendant and a new video collaboration solution for small meeting rooms. For SMBs, the latest version of the OmniPCX Office RCE (R10.3) adds new user endpoints, including two new DECT handsets (8212 and 8262), a new entry-level IP desk phone (the 8018 DeskPhone) and an IP Softphone for Android tablets and smartphones. Near Field Communications (NFC) technology synchronizes a smartphone with a desk phone, and an embedded hospitality solution supports properties with up to 200 guest rooms.
Avaya makes a series of announcements of late, including the new Oceana solutions for real-time integration and management of omni-channel customer service (voice, chat, video, email, co-browse, SMS, social). General availability is expected by early fourth quarter of 2016 globally, though the initial phase of the related analytics and reporting platform called Oceanalytics is expected sooner, in third quarter 2016; a new Oceana Workspaces client for agents and supervisors will follow. In other contact center related news, Avaya adds a mobile self-service capability to Aura Experience Portal (R7.1) and introduces the Workforce Optimization Select solution (integrates with Avaya IP Office Contact Center, Avaya Contact Center Select and Avaya Aura Contact Center and represents the first Avaya-branded offering from the KnoahSoft acquisition in 2015). Meanwhile, Avaya is reportedly exploring the possibility of selling assets (major businesses) amid revenue declines and large debt. Per Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy: “Goldman Sachs is helping Avaya evaluate expressions of interest that have been received relative to specific assets, as well as explore other potential strategic opportunities.”
BlueJeans has three new packaged plans for its video conferencing services to address varying business meeting requirements: Business (video meetings with screen sharing; 25 attendees), Enterprise (adds Command Center Pro for Live Meeting Control, additional integrations; 100 attendees) and Primetime (for large interactive video events; up to 100 presenters and 5,000 attendees). The company also unveils Enterprise Video Cloud, a new bundled service for large-scale, globally distributed businesses that combines BlueJeans Primetime with IT management tools and integrations with third party applications and systems.
BroadSoft has acquired Intellinote, adding this team collaboration tool to its portfolio of cloud-based unified communications and collaboration services. Intellinote enables an online, virtual workspace where teams can manage projects, track tasks and capture, store and share documentation such as notes, reports and emails. Team collaboration tools are fast becoming a key trend and effective way for today’s distributed workforce to communicate, collaborate and manage projects. See the related write-up on these emerging tools. BroadSoft also offers the UC-One portfolio that includes a group collaboration workspace called My Room. More to come on BroadSoft’s strategy for these two collaborative tools.
Cisco shared an update on its partnership with Apple first announced in August 2015. With the new iOS 10 due out this fall, Apple will open up its personal assistant Siri to developers along with APIs for the dialer and address book. Based on this, Cisco is developing new integrations such as native iOS calling features and Siri integration with Cisco Spark. In other news, Cisco Meraki introduced a proprietary cloud-based voice platform called Meraki MC that is comprised of Meraki’s MC74 SIP phone, the Meraki cloud service (call control and management) and SIP service from designated service providers (general availability is in the U.S. first). Meraki was acquired by Cisco in 2012 for its cloud-managed Wi-Fi solution.
Dialpad Communications introduces Dialpad Analytics, a new capability for employees, managers and IT administrators that provides actionable insights into phone and messaging usage patterns - by person, department and location. The new tool is designed to make it simple to find out about current calling trends through easy-to-view visuals; this includes call statistics, minutes per device, messages per user, a “leaderboard” that ranks users by number of calls made and received, length of calls, missed calls and more. Dialpad (formerly Switch.co and Firespotter Labs before that) launched its cloud-based, business-grade phone system for Google Apps in January 2015 for $15 per user per month. Integration with Microsoft Office 365 was announced in October 2015. The company also offers the UberConference audio conferencing and online meeting service.
Fonality announced a partnership with Intellinote, giving its customers access to an online, virtual workspace where teams can manage projects, track tasks and capture, store and share documentation such as notes, reports and emails; Intellinote is launched from the web browser-based version of Fonality’s Heads Up Display (HUD) unified communications application. See the related write-up for more detail on this and other team collaboration tools. In other news, Fonality HUD adds an integration with Zipwhip, allowing HUD users to text to and from their business phone line instead of calling. Also, Fonality cloud-based business phone systems are now offered on the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace for Ingram Micro resellers throughout North America, Europe, and Asia through.
Fuze (formerly ThinkingPhones) continues the expansion of its cloud UC services into the Asia Pacific region, opening data centers in Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore and a new office in Sydney, Australia. Earlier this year, Fuze opened new offices in Germany and Switzerland, adding to an existing presence in the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and France, along with the US and Canada. (Fuze now has data centers in London, Boston, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Singapore and Sydney). In other news, Fuze introduced Global Unmetered calling to over 100 countries, with three fixed-price calling plans: Single Country (unlimited calling into a selected country), United States and Europe (unlimited calling into the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and 17 European countries) and International (unlimited calling to over 100 countries).
Grandstream Networks is preparing to launch a new series of Asterisk-based IP PBXs for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) that will feature a faster processor and more memory compared the current UCM6100 for SMBs. The forthcoming UC6200 series will include three models (UCM6202, UCM6204, UCM6208); all will support up to 800 users, but will differ in concurrent call capacities and FXO ports. The appliances are in beta testing now and expected to be generally available this July or August. Grandstream will continue to offer the UCM6510 for mid-size enterprises (2,000 users) introduced in 2014. In other news, Grandstream’s current UCM IP PBXs add support for CTI Solutions’ Anthias STAT billing and call statistics software developed specifically for Grandstream UCM.
Jive Communications updates its softphone application for iOS and Android mobile devices. The new Jive Mobile 2.0 adds location-based rules (“Geofencing”), point-to-point video calling and business texting to send and receive SMS messages. In other recent news, Jive announced Jive Video Professional, a multi-point video conferencing service with content sharing and the launch of its hosted/cloud VoIP and unified communications services throughout Mexico where Jive has invested more than $1 million (USD) in infrastructure and channel development, including colocation space in a data center (Jive expanded its services into the Canadian market in 2015). Jive’s new Partnerplus web toolkit is designed to help partners build proposals, manage leads and accounts, track conversations and access marketing and training resources.
MegaPath introduces a new unified communications (UC) suite called MegaPath One that leverages BroadSoft’s UC-One portfolio. This includes My Room, a new group collaboration workspace where team members can communicate using multiple technologies such as multi-party chat, voice and video conferencing and content sharing – all accessed within a single user interface from a PC, smartphone, tablet or web browser. External team members simply join via any WebRTC-compatible web browser. My Room and other MegaPath One UC features are included with MegaPath’s Premium Business Voice and Enterprise Voice subscription plans. MegaPath also offers the more basic Business Voice user package which supports UC and My Rooms as add-on capabilities for an extra fee. In other news, MegaPath has integrated its Hosted Voice and UC service with Microsoft Skype for Business, enabling click-to-call from within the Skype for Business client or other Office 365 applications and documents.
Microsoft is acquiring professional social network vendor Linkedin in a transaction that is expected to close this calendar year. According to the announcement, LinkedIn will retain its “brand, culture and independence.” Potential Microsoft-LinkedIn synergies include integrating Bing with LinkedIn to search for the “best professional,” creating an integrated Office 365-LinkedIn newsfeed with news specific to a user’s professional network, industry and profession and other possibilities. There has been a lot of coverage and speculation on the impact of this major merger; more to come on the strategy and integrations as these unfold.
Mitel announced a definitive agreement to acquire Polycom in April, creating a $2.5 billion revenue company (enterprise communications plus conference and video collaboration) with a global workforce of approximately 7,700 employees. The combined company will operate under the Mitel name, but the plan is to maintain Polycom’s strong global brand. There has been a lot of coverage and speculation on the impact of this major merger, including this write-up posted on TalkingPointz, and even news that Polycom received a revised offer from a previous bidder. Nevertheless, approvals are proceeding, and the transaction is expected to close in August. More to come on the strategy and product line integration as it becomes clearer. Update: On July 8, 2016, Polycom announced it would terminate the merger agreement with Mitel Networks after receiving a new offer from Siris Capital Group; Polycom will pay Mitel a $60 million termination fee concurrently with termination.
Mitel released the new MiTeam team collaboration solution that creates a topic or project-based virtual workspace where team members (up to 1,000 per team or room, including 50 video users). MiTeam is available with the company’s new “MiCloud Office” unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) generally available in the U.S. since April 4, 2016 and also recently introduced in the UK. MiTeam is also planned for future releases of Mitel’s MiCloud Business and Enterprise cloud services and its premises-based MiVoice platforms. See the related write-ups on MiTeam and MiCloud Office for more detail. In other news, Mitel has a new OEM partner Choiceway Boan that will resell MiCloud Enterprise UCaaS in China, and Mitel has enhanced its HotelMGR hotel guest service solution with improved service ticket creation and management.
Numonix extends its RECITE call recording software to mobile devices, enabling the automatic recording of incoming and outgoing calls using any type of mobile phone, including iOS and Android devices. Numonix has partnered with leading network carriers, including AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in the United States and EE in the UK, KPN in the Netherlands, and the Truphone global network, to use the carrier’s fixed mobile convergence feature to record calls from a mobile device. A duplicate feed of the audio recording can then be sent to an on-site or cloud-based recorder for later playback. Call recording has traditionally involved direct integration with a telephony system, either on-site in the cloud, with calls typically recorded from a desktop telephone or UC client application downloaded to a desktop computer or mobile device. However, this forward-looking solution from Numonix considers the small company that does not have call recording equipment installed, or the mobile user who does not have access to a UC client (or does not remember to use the client) while making a call – this is particularly important to companies concerned with legal liability and compliance with regulatory guidelines.
Panasonic expands its KX-NS family of communications servers with new low-end version, the KX-NS700G, with pre-installed cards that lock down the allowable extension maximums (26 users), but also with a software activation key that easily unlocks the capacities of the full NS700 (to 288 users); the hardware of the NS700G and NS700 is the same. See the related write-up for more detail. New UC Mobility client software for iOS and Android mobile devices, compatible with Panasonic KX-NS business communication servers, enables voice and video calling, chat and image-sharing (between mobile users) and presence status sharing in the future. Panasonic also introduces the new KX-NTV150 and KX-NTV160 IP camera solutions for indoor and outdoor surveillance; these combine HD video and audio channels, a built-in camera, speakerphone and web-viewer features.
RingCentral continues to focus on the enterprise, developing new features and applications that are important to larger businesses and expanding the availability of RingCentral Office unified communications as-a-service (UCaaS) into additional countries. Recent developments include portfolio expansion (RingCentral Rooms for room-based videoconferencing powered by Zoom) and geographic expansion into 37 countries by fourth quarter of 2016 (RingCentral Global Office), as well as extended professional services, new executive hires and new integrations with Web app automation service Zapier and Microsoft Outlook and Skype for Business. See the related write-up for more detail. Later this summer, RingCentral will introduce another edition of RingCentral Office (RingCentral Office Google Edition) that integrates with Google Apps and Google Hangouts ($30 USD per user per month).
Snom Technology AG has opened a new developer community, snom.io, with tools and guides to aid in programming, integrating and distributing innovative applications for snom VoIP business phones. Categories include personal and business applications, industry vertical applications and innovations around IoT, devices, sensors and control. In other news, BroadSoft partnered with snom for a new option that lets customers roll IP phone purchase costs into the monthly BroadSoft service fee (eliminates up-front capital investments); the offer is available in Germany. Snom recently moved its U.S. headquarters from Boston, MA to the Silicon Valley Bay Area in California, but will maintain its East Coast presence for tech-support and back office operations.
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division has made some major enhancements to its UCedge client software that runs on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, Windows PCs and Mac computers. New Release 2.5 software adds an “Essentials” version that is included at no additional cost for all users of the IPedge IP-based communications system. Opting for the UCedge license opens up access to the full set of UCedge unified communications (UC) features, including new capabilities for agents and supervisors in a contact center environment. See the related write-up for details.
Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise and now part of European IT service company Atos) introduces a new OpenScape Desk Phone CP family, with three new phone models for entry-level (CP200), mid-tier (CP400) and collaborative (CP600) requirements. The higher-end models (CP400 and CP600) are interoperable with the company’s Circuit team collaboration application, making it possible for the desk phone user to participate as a team member in a Circuit conversation. Circuit is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) collaboration platform that combines voice, video, screen sharing, messaging and file sharing into a single user interface (see the related write-up on team collaboration for more detail on Circuit). Other notable features for the new telephones include Bluetooth connectivity, Near Field Communication (NFC) for pairing the desk phone to a smartphone and support for Eddystone Beacon URL sharing for exchanging information between desk phones and mobile devices.
Vertical Communications partners with Telchemy to offer a new Voice Quality Monitoring (VQM) solution for monitoring, testing and troubleshooting voice and video communications travelling over SIP networks. VQM collects information from gateways, endpoints and other system devices to provide a real-time view (via web-based dashboard) of concurrent voice calls and video sessions with QoE (MOS) scores and performance metrics on all calls/sessions. VQM also provides SIP Signaling Analysis that analyzes IP messaging for VoIP and video calls and Proactive Notification to alert administrators when service thresholds are exceeded. VQM is available for Vertical’s Wave IP, Vertical Summit and Vertical Cloud.
Vonage entered the Communications Platform as-a-Service (CPaaS) market in May 2016, acquiring CPaaS provider Nexmo said to be the second largest CPaaS company worldwide. This move is expected to be a game-changer for Vonage as the CPaaS market is growing fast, with estimates of this market reaching $8 Billion by 2018 (IDC). In the near-term, Nexmo and Vonage will “cross-sell” into their respective markets, but overtime, integration will take place, creating new service offerings for Vonage’s business customers. See the related write-up for more on this and other Vonage Business acquisitions. Vonage has recently been granted seven new US patents related to CPaaS, UCaaS and QoS, and now owns 113 US patents with an additional 200 pending.
Yealink Network Technology Ltd, a China-based voice and video over IP phone designer and manufacturer, announces new products and large number of integrations lately. On the product side, there are three new Yealink Skype for Business edition desktop phones – the entry-level T40P, the T42G Gigabit phone and the T46G Gigabit color phone. A new videoconferencing room system, VC120-12X, advances the earlier VC400 large boardroom solution and the VC120 for mid-sized rooms with improved multipoint capacity and performance, enabling “8+1+1” multi-point collaboration (8-party video, plus an audio call and 1080P content sharing); a 14-day trial is free. Also, a new W56P DECT phone offers upgraded performance versus the earlier W52P handset, as well as three access levels for Admin, VAR and User. The company announces new or updated interoperability of its endpoints with a large number of communications vendors since March, including BlueJeans, fuze (formerly ThinkingPhones), TruConf, Zoom, Crestron, Pexip Infinity, Video Centrix (UK) and Open IP (France), VirtualPBX, AskozicPBX, reventix PBX (Germany), Swisscom Smart Business Connect Service, GENBAND Nuvia Cloud UC Service and GENBAND Application Service. A new distribution agreement with West Telcom expands Yealink’s presence in Mexico.
Yeastar, a China-based IP communications manufacturer, launches the S-Series VoIP PBX systems for small and mid-size business (SMBs), including four models that scale to 20, 50, 200 or 500 users. Notable features include plug-and-play installation (no fees for features or firmware updates), support for active-passive configurations for failover, built-in system security features (firewall, PIN Protection, TLS and SRTP encryption, automatic DDOS attack detection, and more) and the new Yeastar app store for customizing and extending capabilities. Recently, Yeastar expanded into North America with the opening of a US headquarters in Dallas, Texas that will provide sales and technical support to partners in the United States and Canada.
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