unified communications without high-quality audio is like…

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It’s like, it’s like…as usual, I’ll use an analogy that involves food. For me it’s like bringing home a superb and crispy baguette fresh from the bakery only to realize you’re all out of butter and jam! There’s both the huge potential and the disappointment of not taking full advantage of this potential. And the same goes for unified communications. Of course, the data center equipment, hosting service and network quality are all very important. But the audio/video devices used to communicate and collaborate on a daily basis are just as crucial to any unified communications solution.

what do we mean?

Certainly everyone knows the following situation: you know, the one where you walk into a conference call with eight to 14 people (if not 20 or more), including five in the same room and the rest on the phone. Yep, now you know what I’m talking about. You have undoubtedly found yourself in at least one, if not all of the following situations during the call:

  • you can’t hear someone sitting in the back of the room
  • a lot of banging and typing noises that interfere with communication
  • one person’s voice is distorted or robotic over the phone
  • of course, there’s always that one person who speaks too closely to the microphone
  • many times conference calls will catch sales reps outside or in public transport where there is too much background noise

In most cases it’s the communications device itself that poses a threat to your conference call.

one device, several devices, or one for each activity?

But how did we manage to do these things before? Back in the day, we had nothing but a desk phone and meetings in person. Then everything changed about our work behaviors and situations: more mobility, more asynchronous work, remote working, telecommuting, personal devices used for work, and the list goes on. It’s easy to see that these new work situations apply to many different activities, so that’s why we talk about contexts and work situations instead of individual professions. Let’s mention a few of these situations to get an idea of what they are and find out what kind of equipment they require:

  • "I work at the office every day:" I would make sure this person has a good-quality, comfortable headset/microphone so they can minimize fatigue and eliminate ambient noise from their open space. And at times, in case they need a little more privacy, their device should enable them to move around up to 20 meters from their communications system or desk.
  • "I telecommute most of the time:" I would give them a dynamic duo: an office headset/mic they can take home for some privacy. If they can work from home, alone or in a private area, a mini audio hub will reduce fatigue and improve sound quality for coworkers on the other end of the line.
  • "I travel a lot:" The best combo for this person is a wireless hands-free set that can be used with their work device (whether it’s a laptop or tablet) and their mobile phone. And for all the work situations where they may need a little more comfort, I would also give them a mini audio hub for the same reasons I outlined above.

In most cases, employees will communicate using several different devices which may be personal or shared with others. As a result, we should arrange it so:

1 employee ≠ 1 device, but rather 1 work situation = 1 device

contextual awareness?

In the end, these devices serve as full-fledged work buddies and may be so even in more ways than you think. That’s right, these devices not only interact with your communications systems – by streaming voice and video, transmitting pick up/hang up/put on hold/mute/etc commands and presence data – but they also interact with you!

Take the following situation for example: a call comes in on your mobile but your headset is in your pocket. You grab it and stick it in your ear, and by doing this your phone answers the call automatically. This means the light and/or position sensors (gyroscope) in your headset recognize your intention to take the call and thus answer the phone for you.

This example explains the idea behind the term context awareness. Devices are becoming smarter and smarter and using more contextual information along with unified communications systems to make your life easier. Pretty soon your headset will even tell you who is calling. And you’ll be able to tell it to transfer the call to voicemail while sending along a message that you dictate (and all this even during a conference call without interruption ;-)). Go ahead and do a Google search to see all the potential lying in store! Keywords: contextual unified communications and context-aware communications.

Roméo Verdier

This post was originally published in French here.

image © jillchen - Fotolia.com

Roméo Verdier

Roméo Verdier est en charge du marketing stratégique au sein d’Orange Business Services dans le domaine des communications unifiées et outils collaboratifs. Dans son rôle actuel, il développe de nouveaux axes de croissances en faisant appel aux talents d’Orange Business Services et les solutions des partenaires pour adresser les besoins futurs des clients entreprises.
Dans ce monde changeant où les frontières des télécommunications et des technologies de l’information s’estompent, Roméo met sa passion dans les nouvelles technologies, son expérience opérationnelle et un regard neuf sur les choses au service de toutes opportunités business de ce secteur.