Despite being dismissed as a “marketing buzzword” the unified communication and collaboration (UCC) industry is the fastest growing sector in IT today that will hit $25b in value this year.
Unified communications are a solution that integrates voice, video, mobility and presence services across devices and applications. And its growth is being driven by acquisition and consolidation as companies take voice, video and data and expand its reach to mobile devices and cloud services. Take Polycom’s ‘huddle room’, where connectivity, rich media and content can be accessed across multiple devices and locations.
Unified communications might not be grabbing the headlines as much as flashier technology like virtual reality and smart home automation but it will be the platform that may prove to be the catalyst to a company’s success. There are 46 per cent of businesses planning an investment in unified communications with 32 per cent classing it as a “significant” investment, according to an EMEA Enterprise Communications Survey. And 40 per cent have already invested so things are looking rosy.
But no matter the scale or cost of an investment in unified communications, a business must understand their needs and the needs of their employees before finalising a strategy.
You’re not buying a single piece of equipment – it’s a total solution so it’s far from being a one-size-fits-all proposition. And the goal isn’t just having a group of new and shiny connected gadgets. The goal is to create an environment that’s conducive to workers collaborating regardless of time zones or distances.
This is another reason to engage employees in the decision-making process. After all, who better to shape a system than people who will be using it every day. Unified communications must cover call control, gateway and applications and must encompass compatible and innovative technology. Apart from the obvious voice and text requirements, unified communications include things like file sharing and file synchronization, external peer to peer communication and hybrid services for on-site and cloud-based collaboration solutions.
Companies like TGI, Polycom and Cisco are already playing in this space. Cisco is developing a digital boardroom that has the same look and feel of a physical room as well as being able to access relevant documents related to the project you’re working on. Even Microsoft is getting in on the act and consolidating its investment of Skype for Business to work with its suite of Office applications.
Industry experts joined a panel about the current state of unified communication and collaboration at Integrate 2016 to share their valuable insights including Joel Mulpeter (fusion architect at Crestron), Tony Simonsen (managing director of Polycom), John Ungerer (managing director of Kramer Electronics) and Glenn Roberts (collaboration specialist at Cisco).
The growth of unified communications represents a huge opportunity for the AV industry.
Hundreds of thousands of rooms in companies across the country require AV work. And with the rollout of the NBN now starting to hit rural communities, the remote work opportunities are going to spike. IMB is said to be working with Apple to deliver more intelligent engagement with its customers.
BUT WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Artificial intelligence will play a part in unified communications so it will know what you need and when you need it before you do. As our connectivity improves with both fixed and mobile devices, we will be able to engage in instant conferences with an application that provides a consistent experience for all parties.
And we’re also moving towards a point where social networks will become as significant as traditional networks. By 2025, it will be unlikely that anyone will be able to survive without being part of some kind of social network. It may even expand to a point where social networks are not only where people gather to collaborate but also a place where transactions can be made.
The unified communication and collaboration industry is in great shape. It is a lot more than a buzzword – but a way of life we’ll all enjoy together sooner rather than later.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: STEPHEN FENECH
Stephen Fenech is one of the most respected consumer technology journalists in Australia. He is the editor of the popular Tech Guide website where he publishes the latest reviews and tech commentary. Stephen can also be heard every Wednesday on 2GB on the Afternoon Show. He can also be seen on Channel 10’s Studio 10 where he is the resident tech and gadget expert. Stephen can also be heard on two of the highest-rating tech podcasts on iTunes – Tech Guide and Two Blokes Talking Tech.