AI Social and Contextual UC #398 – New Huddle Solutions – Nectar Serious Innovation – More Slack v. Teams

 (c) AI Forum & Unified Communications Forum

May 19 – 2017 – Issue #398

 

AI Forum – Exploring the Wild World of Artificial Intelligence and other Communications, Mobile, Contextual-Intelligence and other communications companies.
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Built-in speakers for audible call alert and phone ring light to avoid missed calls. Integrates with headset, desk phone or softphone and works as an on the phone indicator light.
Compatible with Skype for business, Lync, Cisco Jabber and more.
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AudioCodes Gets Your Huddle Game On !

AudioCodes has always been a leader in the UC game brings new Huddle room solutions.  Eric Bauer VP of NA Marketing noted, “The technology space is changing at warp speed and consumption habits are evolving at every turn.  As users, we look for high quality technologies that feature an intuitive interface and are available at an affordable price.  These consumer demands translate into the work place and how we collaborate.  With AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution (HRS), you can turn any space into a meeting space.  Transform your office into a professional meeting space with a high quality audio solution in a powerful and cost-effective package that is simple to operate and manage.  Available in 3 sizes, the AudioCodes HRS solution offers full integration with Skype for Business and centralized management and control to lower operational costs.”

Here are some other details and click on any image for more information.
– The majority of meeting spaces in a typical enterprise are small rooms that can accommodate up to 6 persons

– AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution is a cost-effective solution ranging from two-person huddle rooms up to fifteen-person small group meeting spaces

The solution delivers:

– Familiar user experience based on AudioCodes 450HD IP phone UI including conference management, participants’ photo display, click-to-join and more

– High definition call quality and audio with SILK voice codec

– Advanced microphone technology to provide crystal clear sound

– Fully managed by the AudioCodes Managed IP Phone solution for efficient deployment and ongoing IT operations

Easy Conference Scheduling for Skype for Business, Office 365, Cisco Spark and Avaya
Approved Contact has quietly but surely worked on getting their multi-platform scheduling and planning solution chatbot approved by Microsoft, Avaya and Cisco to speed staff scheduling and meetings. They ask a simple question – How much time do you waste going back and forth to schedule meetings? Approved Contact allows you to easily share calendars with anyone. Changes you make to your calendar update automatically to Approved Contact. Using Approved Contact enables you to connect your calendar to websites, text, email, mobile, voice recognition, and telephone systems.  Click on logo to contact Approved Contact.

Easy as 1-2-3, for Cisco users, compare open times on your calendar to open times on any of your Approved Contact’s calendars from right inside of Cisco Spark space
FreeTime – Compares available calendars from everyone in the space and displays up to the first 3 available times.
First, set up a new profile on Approved Contact
Second, sync your calendar into Approved Contact and invite your contacts to become your Approved Contacts
Third, add the Approved Contact BOT to any Cisco Spark space that you want to compare your free times to other’s in the Cisco Spark space.
Products supported
Office 365
Azure
Skype for Business
Outlook 2013 or later
Outlook 2016 for Mac
Outlook on the Web
Cisco Spark
Avaya
 Bottom-line – In the seminal work called Organizational Velocity written in the 1970s, the author spoke about the speed or velocity of business is dependent on the pace of collaboration.  He suggested the pace of technology ever slowly but surely increased the pace of organization work.  At the time IBM conducted a study that the average delay in scheduling a meeting and the meeting actually taking place with 5 people was about 5 weeks given other meetings, vacations, meetings already scheduled, and other factors.   Then it took hours just to complete the concalls just to check peoples’ schedules.  This has shortened a little with endless emails between principals and assistants.  Now this can be dramatically shortened to minutes at a fraction of the cost and most importantly, ease of access.   In a later book called Split Second Society, the speed of business was said most aptly like this – “Strategically, the faster you can communicate, the faster you can change and those corporations that change the fastest will be the most successful.”
Approved Contact may not have all the answers to the challenges of human communications but they are working on ways we can collaborate faster.

Why Nectar Was Chosen as an IDC Innovator

Nectar has always been an innovator.  I have first-hand knowledge of their solutions and so it is cool they were named an IDC Innovation.  It is because its Unified Communications Management Platform (UCMP) software – offered through its Network Assessment Partners – provides unique and critical performance information. It focuses on critical areas for ensuring performance management for Microsoft Skype for Business deployments, including planning and deployment, network pre-assessment, monitoring, advanced reporting, analytics, and real-time diagnostics.
You can make up your own mind, click on the image for the detailed explanation.

Chirp-Chirp Post to Twitter – Voice memos, Tunes, Songs, Interviews, News, Podcasts with Boundless Text, Videos and more

One of the more exciting features in HashNewsGram is the easy way post on Twitter voice memos, Tunes, Songs, Interviews, News, Podcasts with Boundless Text, Videos and more via an easy to use iPhone app.  Here are a few screenshots on “how to” do it.  Click on the image for iTunes.

You can also see from the image the Gettysburg Address which is 271 words. This is an example of how you can use the Notes App to record using Siri a speech or interview which is captured and translated from voice to text.

You can easily Copy-All and Paste the complete text in HashNewsGram to be posted along with a picture or audio recording to Twitter. What is really means is that you can create Twitter posts of essentially unlimited text length beyond 140 characters.

HashNewsGram will put up to about 110 characters on Twitter like this:

If a user clicks through More at they will see the complete post along with audio, video and more.

Soon you will be able to add “free hand” drawings or sketches to complement pics, audio or acticons-action-items to your twitter feed.

Click on any image for iTunes to get HashNewsGram and explore the world beyond 140 characters.

Slack versus Teams
I don’t see this article or any article on Slack v. Teams to be a “one-off” definitive answer to the subject.  I see it as an ongoing discussion of the subject of team collaboration.   Cisco Spark is a rising star in the collaboration area and think I will explore how companies are dealing with this complex issue.  The companies I talk to have a very complex and mixed environment coping with migration of Avaya to Skype for some but not all functions.  Some have Cisco but use Microsoft understandably for many of their basic office functions.  Never hear much about Google but they are out there somewhere as well.  Here is one article I saw on the Slack v. Teams.
Then there is info from Slack directly on their integrations.  Admittedly, it will be really hard to test drive all their integrations nor find them interestingly enough to use.  Here are a few.  If anyone has used the Slack-Skype integration give me a shoutout and add your feedback.

Breakthrough Twitter 140 Character Barrier 
The problem with Twitter has always been the 140 character limitation.  If you want add a link that takes 20 characters and writing good English well that is another lot of characters including spaces.  HashNewsGram eliminates that problem.  Write your heart out and include a video, pics, audio recording and even an Acticon-action icon you can really get your message across.  Of course, Twitter doesn’t expand to fit posting long text or other ideas is not limited anymore.  Click on the image for the “how to” do it.
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“We didn’t make Twitter, we made it better.” 

Click on image for iTunes

Key new features include:
– Search and one-touch save for the fastest-easiest access to Twitter news.
– Save your favorite Twitter accounts to your Folders/Subfolders with one-touch.
– New UI-user interface for faster-easier news gathering and tracking
“We didn’t make Twitter, we made it better.”
#HashNewsGram is a Free Twitter #hashtag gathering app for iPhone.
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Broadsoft Cloud Paas – Cloud Platform
Broadsoft has patiently and earnestly gained respect as a major UC service provider.  Now they are expanding their operations by opening up their technology to provide a full platform to others.  With BroadCloud PaaS, service providers have the ability to:
– Accelerate their innovation cycle with unprecedented control and flexibility to develop differentiated, on-demand cloud unified communication and collaboration services
– Gain a 50-75% time-to-market advantage delivering new cloud communications services based on the entire BroadSoft Business application suite
– Minimize non-strategic OPEX and CAPEX while moving to a consumption cost model that greatly minimizes the ongoing marginal costs for new features and capabilities
– Benefit from carrier-class reliability and BroadSoft data centers with physical, environmental and access level security
– Reduce operational complexity and costs with simplified and scalable packaging options
They also added this BroadCloud PaaS is an option available to service providers as part of the BroadCloud cloud platform powering BroadSoft Business, a fully integrated portfolio of enterprise-ready cloud, unified communications, team collaboration and contact center applications. BroadSoft Business can scale to all market segments, and includes three core applications: UC-One, Team-One and CC-One, with BroadSoft Hub providing contextual intelligence across the entire platform so users can access the information and apps they need in one place.  You can also get their Ebook on their platform.
Bottom-line – Broadsoft continues to expand their global UC operations.  Opening the planform ability to a wider range of users not just carriers will further aid their viability.
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Siri Likely Gets Smart Speaker 
According to Neowin, “According to 9to5Mac, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated in an industry report that the Siri-powered smart speaker will most likely be unveiled at Apple’s WWDC 2017 conference. The unit will be positioned as a much higher-end competitor to Amazon’s Echo, with a price to match, having “excellent” sound reproduction due to its seven tweeters and one subwoofer.  Leaker Sonny Dickson told Mashable that the Siri speaker would have a concave top where the controls would be (not too dissimilar to the Echo), a design that’s quite close to the ‘trashcan-like’ Mac Pro, and a similar mesh style to that of the UE Megaboom line from Logitech (pictured).”
Bottom-line – Apple is sitting on $250B in cash and also sitting on their hands in regard to innovation.  They are app fat with all that cash and don’t think they need to do anything to remain viable focusing on the iPhone their principal cash cow.  No doubt they have a lot to do but they could be doing a lot more and having smart home solutions along with car, office, space plane and any other place that humans or devices can occupy.  More and faster innovation is expected sooner than later.
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Amazon Tackles Telephone Service with Alexa
This week Amazon added video conferencing to the Alexa calling feature with Alexa Show for $229 retail probably less with Amazon Prime and other promos they will have.  Due tell what they are really trying to do other than take all your money. Regarding, their more traditional product Alexa, GeekWeek said, “The system Alexa described in the patent would link an existing cellphone number with the Alexa device, and includes a provision for identifying authorized users by their voices. Alexa could let the user know a call is coming in, and then pick it up and route the call over its speaker when the user gives the go-ahead. Users could also initiate calls via Alexa.  Call charges would be billed through the user’s cell carrier, but once the call is routed through the Alexa device, the cellphone would be left out of the picture. Instead, the Alexa device would send the call to the carrier through a type of connection known as voice over Internet Protocol, or VOIP.”
Amazon VC is already funding an home intercom solution call Nucleus for an outrageous price of $250 and if you need a family size you could put out a $800+ so this gets to be another ridiculous device homes really don’t need.

Cool company Dialpad used the Alexa SDK to build their own telephone network interface. Unlike a platform-specific communications system, Dialpad will eventually be compatible with multiple voice assistants, ensuring an excellent user experience no matter what other communications platform or virtual assistant your contacts are using.

Here are the Dialpad features available through Alexa include:
  • Place a call to a contact
  • Add a contact to the current call
  • Transfer the current call to another person
  • Place a call on hold
  • Record a call
  • Check Dialpad voicemail and text messages
  • Enable and disable Do Not Disturb
  • Transfer a call from device to device, for example, from Alexa to a mobile phone or a mobile phone to Alexa
  • Listen to Dialpad system reports, such as “total call volume for the current week”

They also say integration with Google Home is coming soon.  As they said, “Being a pure-cloud business phone system, Dialpad makes it easy for people to communicate via desktop, mobile, tablet-you name it. Integrating with Alexa, another cloud-connected device, takes business communications into the Internet of Things (IoT). Alexa is truly your personal assistant: instead of paging a person or pressing some complicated key combination on your desk phone, you just say “Alexa, transfer the call to the sales department.”

Bottom-line – Amazon Alexa is winning in all kinds of ways and portends to be an even more important solution for business offices, hospitals, fast food and any other situation where voice conversation takes place.  Adding telephony is a great way to extend their reach and make Alexa even more relevant to their customers.
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Google Assistant SDK Transforms UC via Conversation Actions
Transforming voice has been one of the key tenants of UC though much of the effort has been NOT on voice but other forms of communications especially chat.
Now voice is back ! With the vengeance of a tornado, Amazon-Alexa, Apple-Siri, Microsoft-Cortana, Google-Voice and others all want hear every precious word you spout off.  The issue has been and always will be the written work is not the spoken word and what we see and touch is not often what we would say.
More often the restaurant or coffee shop server misunderstands what you say.  Meanwhile, here’s the pitch from Google. Google calls them Conversation Actions which help you fulfill user requests by letting you have a two-way dialog with users. When users request an action, the Google Assistant processes this request, determines the best action to invoke, and invokes your Conversation Action if relevant. From there, your action manages the rest, including how users are greeted, how to fulfill the user’s request, and how the conversation ends.
When you build conversation actions, you define these major components:
– Invocation triggers define how users invoke and discover your actions. Once triggered, your action carries out a conversation with users, which is defined by dialogs.
– Dialogs define how users converse with your actions and act as the user interface for your actions. They rely on fulfillment code to move the conversation forward.
– Fulfillment is the code that processes user input and returns responses and you expose it as a REST endpoint. Fulfillment also typically has the logic that carries out the actual action like retrieving recipes or news to read aloud.
 
Bottom-line – If you home alone you may find all this very cool but if you can add other family members and even animals (love to hear how Alexa would react to a Parrot) who knows what kind of chaos could erupt much less a business office, train station or ball park.  It is not that the idea is flawed it’s like any application, it only works for a few use cases. Building voice technology into cars, homes, and even IoT devices again is another nice idea but not sure if you want to have a device listening to everything you do or have to argue with them until they understand what you are talking about.
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West UC Challenges Us with Chat Bots 
West UC has issued a wide range of exciting blog posts include one that really outlines the issue with chat bots.
Here is what they have to say. “A bot is software that automates tasks you might do on your own manually, such as adding an appointment to your calendar, making a dinner reservation, or for simulating conversation. The last bot example describes call or chat bots – software that resides in calling or messaging apps and resembles human conversation and interaction. For instance, some fast food restaurants allow customers to order and pay for their meals through automated chat conversations. Other automated scheduler bots can take over the process of scheduling a meeting, complete with sending emails, notifications, and adding appointments into user’s calendars.

How do Software Bots Work?

A common implementation of bot usage occurs with hosted communications and cloud unified communications (UC). Software bots often assist with enterprise customer service. They are built into programs like Cloud Contact Pro, a sophisticated contact center platform that helps to boost rep productivity and enhance the customer’s experience. For example, bots integrated into West’s Cloud Contact Pro quickly provide contact center reps with detailed contact record information, using intelligent, skills-based call-routing, call flow, queue editing and dynamic agent scripting. Bots also help automate the connection process, assist with maintaining required PCI compliance recordings, and increase efficiency through workforce management solutions. Cloud UC solutions, like those from West, use bots to intelligently transfer desk phone calls to a mobile device, seamlessly and effortlessly.
Whether used to drive sales, offer client support, or conduct surveys, etc., bots help to formulate and improve features like advanced predictive dialers, proactive system monitoring and the capabilities provided by multi-channel communications. In fact, another common area for bot usage has been in the arena of social media. Social media tools such as Twitter use computer-generated algorithms to exhibit human-like behavior, such as automatically producing content and interacting with humans on social media (CACM). Bots are used as marketing tools on web sites, populating side ads and popups for recently visited sites, seeking to drive site activity and sales for companies. Bots can also be used in cloud UC tools like Cisco Jabber, through Presence and instant messaging (IM), to determine user availability, initial user contact dialogs and intelligent response. And when this type of technology is integrated with other UC tools, it works to enhance customer service, tailoring it specifically for each customer interaction.

The Future of Bots in Communications Software

Bot technology has been rapidly advancing over the last few years. Software bots are automating a great number of tasks across the web as well as in daily life. Soon bot programs may be doing our taxes! The popularity of Amazon Echo products and Google Home this year has shown how far bot technology has come, advancing Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities. Amazon Echo’s Alexa enables users to ask questions and do basic tasks such as making a grocery list, reading and writing emails, etc. Since both Amazon and Google have allowed 3rd party developers access to the device technology, the knowledge and capabilities of bots is steadily evolving, adding smart home capabilities/Internet of Things (IOT) such as turning on lights or closing the garage door. It’s not too hard to imagine that bots could control household appliances and provide guidance in an emergency, placing a call for an ambulance in the event that urgent medical care is required.
Bottom-line – If you are not building chatbots like a fire chasing you through a forest, your competitors may out-chatbot you out of business.
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Jabil Outlines Benefits of 5G for UC

 

This is only an excerpt from an exciting post on the rapid rise of 5G and its implications.  5G in many wants is a wireline killer and transformational technology for OTT-over the top broadcast network killer as well.

Real-Time Feedback Through Low Latency

By Paul Kite President, Jabil Kuatro – The time it takes for a signal to be beamed toward a tower and received by a device is its latency. In other words, the lower the latency the faster a device can respond. Low latency will potentially be a huge benefit for new possibilities through 5G. 4G networks have an average latency of 50 milliseconds, but with 5G latency is expected to go as short as 1 millisecond.
According to the PSB study, when thinking about what customers would like improved in 5G over 4G/LTE, they focus on enhanced speed and reliability. Low latency will be one of the key drivers that provides the reliability customers are seeking through new applications.
Connected, self-driving cars are one area low latency is absolutely critical. Relying on hundreds of real-time data sources, the difference between a latency of 50 milliseconds to 1 millisecond can be a matter of life or death. If self-driving cars can’t communicate with each other, collect and analyze data and make decisions real-time, then we’re getting ahead of ourselves with new technology our infrastructure can’t support.
An enhanced mobile bandwidth, expanded IoT functionality and low latency provide an expanded sandbox where we can develop new products and services, while vastly improving the ones currently in existence. But it is the intimate knowledge of both hardware and software that adds value for brands-the type of knowledge that comes with a manufacturing partner that can take tech innovations and spread them across multiple markets.
Five years from now, when we are expected to begin leveraging 5G in everything we do, we will look back and see how our lives have evolved with these new possibilities and how various industries have been transformed.
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There are four stories – Cisco, IBM, Facebook Workplace Video with BlueJeans and Microsoft Huddle Room with Audio Codes. 
Due to the enormity and complexity of the issues of each system, let’s just say that each has some interesting features.  Integrating Watson into the IBM Cognitive Room is certainly an interesting idea, however, I would like to have hands-on experience before endorsing any of these solutions.  However, this gives you a quick glimpse at each system.
 

 

 Cisco Sparks Ideas

What really is upsetting that in either picture from Cisco they did NOT even read their own great book (Cisco Telepresence Fundamentals) by having a room next to outside windows (which means you get all the highway noise, changing sunlight conditions and heat and more problems).
Cisco Spark has a number of models including the Cisco Spark Board 55 a fully self-contained system on a high-resolution 4K 55-inch LED screen and the Cisco Spark Board 70 is a fully self-contained system on a high-resolution 4K 70-inch LED screen. Click on either image for details.

– Intelligent framing: We’re pushing the boundaries with a smart and effortless experience. It’s like having a TV camera operator in the room. We have had speaker tracking in our high-end systems – and now Cisco Spark Room Kits have it, too. The feature automatically detects who in the room is speaking and selects the best camera framing for that person. “Best overview intelligence” detects all people in the room and selects the best group framing when no one is speaking. If a large room has only two people, the camera intelligently frames those people.
– Analytics in diagnostic mode: Artificial intelligence can be pragmatically applied for resource planning. The Room Kits have a high-performing face-detection module that tracks where people are and the angle they’re facing. The system pinpoints the speaker through audio triangulation using the six embedded microphones. The system also counts the number of people in the room. You can send all this data to a management system for customized applications.
– Voice and face recognition: This is still in beta, but you’ll soon be able to place calls via voice commands and the system will recognize attendee faces and label them with their names. These pre-production capabilities present groundbreaking opportunities for both automated calling and content delivery based on a meeting’s participants.You can deploy Cisco Spark Room Kit in a small-to-medium-sized room, and Cisco Spark Room Kit Plus in a large room. Both options support one or two displays. I think you’ll want dual displays when you see how beautiful the white board looks when dialing into a Cisco Spark Board. Imagine the experience: You see the white-board content in stunning 4k resolution on one screen, connect with people in 4k on the other, and interact with the white board on your laptop or tablet.Bottom-line – Cisco has applied their enormous skills learned in building 1000s of telepresence rooms to this next-generation approach though as I have pointed out their need to re-read their books on telepresence rooms because video is really only as good as the room, lighting, noise, echo and many other factors that make video meetings even more difficult.

IBM “Wake Word” – HAL – World Without Walls

 

Wake words is the new term for initiating a conversation with a device.  Siri, Alexa and others begin listening and acting upon voice recognition though we all know how difficult it is to understand what you are already talking about.  Not to be out-gunned, HARMAN Professional Solutions and IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) today unveiled Voice-Enabled Cognitive Rooms. Click on image for more.

Using IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence (AI) technology and HARMAN AKG microphones, JBL speakers and AMX AV control and switching systems, the companies bring highly connected experiences to medical facilities, corporate offices, hotels, cruise ships and other hospitality environments.

In addition to the current in-market solutions, HARMAN is part of IBM’s cognitive collaboratories based in its $200 million Watson IoT global headquarters in Munich.
 In this facility today, HARMAN is demonstrating the capabilities of its in-room cognitive concierge in a conference room setting. At the same time the HARMAN team is also working with IBM designers, researchers and others to put IoT into the hands of enterprise customers.
Today IBM’s cognitive technologies are embedded into HARMAN soundbars and alarm clocks with other form factors being developed, that users can interact with using natural language. Now consumers can simply ask questions or issue commands with their voice when in a room.
These requests are then sent to the Watson cloud and Watson IoT services, which work with HARMAN’S technology to allow people to easily control their in-room subsystems without having to physically perform any manual tasks and trying to figure the new systems out. For example, now when an employee enters a conference room they can start a video conference, launch a presentation and more using their voice. In the future, these tasks will be executed automatically based on what the system has learned about the employee based on previous meetings.
These voice-enabled cognitive rooms also function as an in-room concierge that can answer general questions or site-specific questions developed by the facility and featuring custom answers created by staff. For example, a hotel guest could ask “What time is checkout? “or “Where is the gym?” while a hospital patient could ask “What are the hospital’s visiting hours?” or “Can you tell me more about my doctor?” Leveraging HARMAN’s expertise in API integration, users can even employ Watson for service requests, including amenity replenishments, restaurant reservations, late checkout, room service, shuttle service and more.
Leveraging key Watson APIs such as Natural Language Understanding and Speech to Text, these rooms also provide users with limited mobility and vision impairment a closer level of interaction with their environment. Now with
Watson, guests can speak naturally to the system without rigid syntax requirements, using simple commands like “would you turn off the lights?”

Voice-Enabled Cognitive Rooms also feature enterprise-grade software tools that can help in-house technical and guest service staff members increase operational efficiency. For example, housekeeping staff can simply say, “Send up an engineer to fix the shower” in their native language. Watson’s multilingual capabilities enable organizations to accommodate a wide variety of users from different countries with an ever-growing list of supported languages.

Bottom-line – The virtual work space is taking hold as “work without walls” transforms the tedium of traditional meetings wasting time and often with little progress on the project at hand.  New non-meetings business methods will change the traditional broadcast style meetings of one person talking at a time to more of a cocktail party approach to getting things done.

Facebook for Workplace on the Rise

 

Not to be outdone by Google, Microsoft, Amazon or anyone else in the enterprise, Facebook is coming at business communications via video rather than telephony.  Essentially you can think about an office is one “virtual open space” (like their own approach to office conditions) where video from all meetings, locations and ideally worksites of any form including construction, home, mobile or mountain top are available anytime or anywhere in one or more locations.  At some point you don’t think about meetings you think about perceptual conversations or in the case of IBM “cognitive” meetings.

BlueJeans for Workplace provides businesses of all sizes with a self-service, professional-grade video platform to bring people together, create collaborative experiences, and broadcast them over Workplace by Facebook.

BlueJeans for Workplace combines the best of Facebook, with the engagement and face-to-face interaction that only video can provide.
– Broadcast meetings and company-wide events on the Company News Feed or directly to project, team, or multi-company groups. Videos are archived on their respective pages and made readily available for on-demand playback.
– Present From Any Device – Join from the full range of video endpoints, including room systems, computers and mobile devices, as well as phone dial-in.

– HD Video & Screen Sharing – Share slides, documents, pictures and pre-uploaded video in crystal clear 1080p resolution.
– Single Video Communications Platform – Need a platform to connect with employees, customers, and partners inside and outside the walls of your company?
BlueJeans is going in the right direction with their solution though Facebook is working on their own approach integrating VR-virtual reality into the mix which makes even more sense giving the increasingly mobile nature of everything we do.  Click on the image for FB 360.Bottom-line – Video is the new means for re-arranging how we think about how we communicate.  From paper memos, secretaries, dictation, telephones, email, chat and other means, video can show more of everything we do.  Though just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should and if you don’t know how to write you can’t really be a great novelist.  Then same applies to presenting yourself on video.  Acting classes might be a great way to get the new video skills you will need to succeed.
AudioCodes Adds Huddle Room Tech
The majority of meeting spaces in a typical enterprise are small rooms that can accommodate up to six persons. AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution is a cost-effective solution ranging from two-person huddle rooms up to 15-person small group meeting spaces
The solution delivers:
– Familiar user experience base on AudioCodes 450HD IP phone UI including conference management, participants’ photo display, click-to-join and more
– High definition call quality and audio with SILK voice codec
– Advanced microphone technology to provide crystal clear sound
– Familiar user experience based on AudioCodes 450HD IP phone UI including conference management, participants’ photo display, click-to-join and more
– High definition call quality and audio with SILK voice codec
– Advanced microphone technology to provide crystal clear sound
– Fully managed by the AudioCodes Managed IP Phone solution for efficient deployment and ongoing IT operationsBottom-line – Huddle spaces or quick meetings are key to faster communications.  Adding solutions to make these types of meetings more effective and efficient is always appreciated.
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Amazon Takes on Cloud Contact Center 
If global domination is not enough, Amazon Web Services wants to tackle contact centers.  Like with any major player they will find that being able to do something, does not mean you should. Here is what they have to say for themselves. Click on image for video. Amazon Connect is a self-service, cloud-based contact center service that makes it easy for any business to deliver better customer service at lower cost. Amazon Connect is based on the same contact center technology used by Amazon customer service associates around the world to power millions of customer conversations. The self-service graphical interface in Amazon Connect makes it easy for non-technical users to design contact flows, manage agents, and track performance metrics – no specialized skills required. There are no up-front payments or long-term commitments and no infrastructure to manage with Amazon Connect; customers pay by the minute for Amazon Connect usage plus any associated telephony services.
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Apple “Clips” Taking on Snapchat, Instagram and …

Well, yet another “pic” app which the world does not need.  Apple says “Introducing Clips. A new iOS app for making and sharing fun videos with text, effects, graphics, and more. One cool feature is Live Titles let you easily create animated captions – just by talking as you record. Choose from a variety of styles, all perfectly timed to the sound of your voice.

Bottom-line – Seriously too many pic apps and encouraging so many more bad pics and even more apps.
 
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Workflow Now Part of the Apple Orchard

Workflow is your personal automation tool, enabling you to drag and drop any combination of actions to create powerful workflows for your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

Workflow includes over 200 actions, including those for Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Music, Photos, Camera, Reminders, Safari, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud Drive, and Health, to name a few.

For example, you can use Workflow to:
– Make animated GIFs
– Add a home screen icon that calls a loved one
– Make PDFs from Safari or any app with a share sheet
– Get directions to the nearest coffee shop in one tap
– Tweet the song you’re listening to
– Get all of the images on a web page
– Send a message including the last screenshot you took

– And so much more…

Your workflow creations can be launched from inside the Workflow app, from other apps using Workflow’s Action Extension, or from our new lightning-fast Today Widget. You can even export a workflow as a standalone app on your home screen.

Workflow opens up infinite possibilities of what you can do with your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. But this is just the beginning. Stay tuned.
Bottom-line – Another app in search of a user, however, with the Big Apple Corporate buying them, well another app gets a nice new parent.  Seriously, has anyone used this app?
 
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Free Visual Traceroute
 
In case you don’t have one or need a new one, here’s a cool free one.

 
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Vonage Meets Alexa – “Alexa, tell conference manager to start my call.”

From Vonage Business, another cool evolvement of the Internet of Things, and it harnesses the power of the cloud (which is what we’re really, really, ridiculously good at). Vonage Conference Manager is actually pretty simple. It works like this:
  • Get an Amazon Echo. Each “smart” meeting room has an Amazon Echo placed in it permanently.
  • Sync the Echo. The Echo is mapped to the physical phone within each room and an organizational directory, which accesses calendars, meeting information and contacts, all through the cloud.
  • Enable Vonage Conference Manager. Once the Echo is synced, the Vonage Conference Manager skill is enabled once through an iPhone or at alexa.amazon.com.
  • Include the room on invites. When you schedule a meeting, be sure to add the room so it knows about the meeting, so you can use the Echo while you’re in the room.
  • Start talking. When it’s time for your meeting to start, just walk into the room and say “Alexa…” to begin. Bam! You’re all set.
Bottom-line – Cool idea can’t wait to try.

 

 

 
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There’s meetings and then there’s meetings via teleconference:
Boring face-to-face = boring via teleconference
After your next meeting, ask a colleague “what did you understand that meeting was about”?   The principal feature of teleconferencing or conferencing technology is that it allows interactive communication and helps everyone get on the same page. Even though participants in a teleconference are geographically separated, they can still meet to “get their heads together.” Unlike unidirectional communication, such as a letter or a television broadcast, in which a person either sends a message without getting any cues from the recipient or is a passive recipient of information, interactive communication allows people to be both senders and receivers of information simultaneously. Interactive communications gives each person the opportunity to initiate and respond to information as the process unfolds.  Teleconference participants can converse, talk things over, negotiate, joke, see one another, and exchange numerical and graphic information. When people use teleconferencing to “meet,” a synergy of minds is created. Users find that a greater sense of involvement and trust develops among people who are using teleconferencing to carry out a project as compared to a project that relies upon unidirectional communication.
Teleconferencing lets more people participate in the decision-making process. Advantages of group decision making, compared to individual decision making, include the availability of a greater range of experience than that held by any one individual, a more diverse set of intellectual approaches and capabilities, and a greater tendency to subject ideas to scrutiny and debate. Decision making is improved with teleconferencing, because it encourages participation of those people who are not directly involved in the decision-making process of a particular project; for example, research and development engineers can participate in a conference about marketing. Teleconferencing also allows people, such as the administrative staff who would not normally attend a distant face-to-face meeting participate in the decision-making process. Their participation ensures that they understand the subject discussed, especially the nuances and overall thrust of the decision-making process, often not captured in a written report of a meeting.  This, in turn, means that the decision is more likely to be implemented efficiently and effectively.  Ultimately the reason why meetings suck is that the presenter is not organized, has no agenda and worse has not planned for gaining and organizing feedback as to what attendees heard or thought they heard.
Making Sure Communications Succeed
I have a saying that I have used for 40 years, “communications will always fail except by chance.”  We think we are communicating when; in fact, communications is a two-way, not one-way, process.  For me to communicate effectively I have to get feedback from you to let me know what you heard and what you think it means to you.
To that end, I appreciate the opportunity to help Boulder Phone, your provider of conferencing services and products, help you to do a better job at communications.  We can help you be less boring and more effective in your communications.  We can help you as a value-added service review your presentations, review your scripts or even help you write them.  Speaking of scripts, we know they work.  Writing a script helps you organize and rehearse your thoughts to help you speak more clearly and focused.  You may not need this kind of help but Boulder Phone wants you to know we can help you not just with the technology but with communications as well.
We offer you this indepth book if you really want to know more about the subject.

 

 
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BusyLight – Stop Office Interruption Insanity  
I really hate open space offices.  Aside from the smelly food and people, constant interruptions cause serious office insanity.  The cool folks at Unified Communications sell BusyLight from Plenom and put together a very funny slide show presentation. You can click on any image for all their slides, here are a few highlights.

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Special – Manager/Assistant Dashboard for Microsoft Skype for Business

FONCOMFORT QuickLink greatly improves call handling efficiency with 1 click actions to call, pickup and transfer calls. The Live Tiles allow users/ managers and admins to quickly see the presence status of their colleagues, if calls are forwarded and if given the rights, to see who they are speaking with. This rich information allows for intelligent decision making and if a manager/person should be interrupted or not when transferring calls.  Click on image for more details.


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AudioCodes Connects Any Closet to Cloud Communications

Read First: Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition makes it possible to connect any existing telephone circuit to Cloud PBX in Office 365 using a single server and minimal configuration. This allows for the user’s voice capability to be managed out of Office 365 while their phone calls continue to use their existing phone number, circuits and PSTN provider contract.

Microsoft’s recently announced Skype for Business Cloud PBX and PSTN Calling offerings continue to have a major impact on the voice ecosystem. However, many companies are hesitant to make an immediate and full transition to the cloud. Microsoft understood this challenge and implemented a strategy to offer a hybrid solution, where cloud-based PBX services are complemented by an enterprise’s existing on-premises PSTN connectivity.

The AudioCodes Mediant CCE Appliances for Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition integrate with Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition recommended architectures, providing on-premises connectivity infrastructure. Enabling integration with heterogeneous systems and legacy PBXs, which are critical for a smooth migration to the cloud, AudioCodes’ Microsoft-certified SBCs offer enterprise-grade security and reliability.

Additionally, AudioCodes’ SBCs can add value by delivering enhanced features such as advanced dial plan settings, high availability on incoming calls, support for analog devices and support for call recording from the PSTN side. The combined solution of Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition with AudioCodes’ infrastructure ensures a smooth migration for enterprise customers who want to move their users to the latest cloud unified communications platform from Microsoft Office 365, while preserving on-premises connectivity with their local service providers.
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Six Core Concepts for Social Media Influencer Program & Webinar

By Evan Kirstel @evankirstel & Tom Cross @techtionary

Abstract

IM-influencer marketing is the means to accelerate revenue, lower costs, organize corporate communications and extend company goodwill to name a few benefits. This article explores these issues and a preview of the webinar (click on any image for details on the webinar) with Evan Kirstel Top Social Media Influencer and Tom Cross.
Here are some of the key points presented and discussed in the webinar with Evan Kirstel along with other key topics including the CEO as the ultimate social influencer and “tweet meets” sales lead generation via social media. The term “influencer marketing” (IM) or key opinion leaders (KOL) is the term often used by social media leaders rather than celebrity or movie/sports/rock star endorsements and other leaders of any kind including business, religious and others. Celebrity or star endorsements are not new but certainly less pronounced in the tech space. If Steve Jobs had survived there is no doubt newer, more exciting and more diverse products would be coming from Apple. His role is not unique as the CEO sets the stage for each company. Yet many tech companies believe that their tech speaks for itself not recognizing the role of advisors, consultants and social media influencers on customer decisions. The role of IM and IM professionals is to help core clients look beyond their own silo of solutions to work with customers and others to build more global solutions. The impact can be significant in reducing sales cycles, improve customer service and ultimately vastly increase overall customer and global experience.
Here is a brief summary and analysis of six key points for IM:

Connections
– create and connect with other social media influencers and guide with monthly “tweetchats.” It is truly amazing how many CEO and others fail really fail to understand that social media is social not broadcast media. Social media almost by definition means engaging with others not just preaching to them. Twitter even more than Linkedin is ideal for connecting with potential customers and engaging with them to solve their needs. IM extends the process by educating and ultimately gaining and retaining them. Customers don’t call you anymore they tweet their grievances and if you ignore them the entire world knows that you don’t care and even more importantly, prospective customers can see that as well. Companies that don’t understand are like companies who didn’t have websites 20 years ago and don’t update them today. In other words, engaging with customers throughout their lifecycle is a must-have approach to business going forward.

Content
– turbocharge your content reaching hundreds of thousands of users on Twitter and tens of thousands on Linkedin.

Content and curation go hand-in-hand as content, rather data only becomes knowledge after a human has understood, analyzed, shared and hopefully used it in decision-making. Big data is often used to suggest that we have too much information or TMI and that AI-artificial intelligence will somehow distill, synthesize or somehow organize it for humans. Yet AI is not a panacea not likely to give you any deeper understanding of the issue than you have now. In influencer marketing (IM) the knowledge of the influencer is always at risk when content from any source big or artificial is used to answer key questions. An influencer of any kind whether sports, movie or tech star will never have enough information to make specific decisions only general assessments and observations. However, to help all those involved get “on the same page” can be accomplished via IM. There is much to-do about IoT-internet of things but will the smart car talk to the smart home and what protocols, terminology and user commands be common to both. This would be the role of IM to organize different and complex systems, protocols and industry forums can help those involved (influenced) build common solutions. Smart companies can use or build IM to build bridges between companies and players to solve customer issues more quickly. This means that constant content research and development should be part of any IM program.

Curation – review and curate company content, provide guidance and enhanced thought leadership via influencer team.

 Curation actually comes from the term caring and now is applied to anything gathered from multiple sources into one place to writing blog posts. Curators organize ideas to help viewers and users gain insights. Curation can come from articles, thought leadership, research and knowledge base sources. Influencer marketing comes from ongoing research into content curation ensuring its real and
not fake news or distorted in anyway, yet add serious analysis and what is often called thought leadership. Without this content becomes useless or worse can cause confusion and conflict. For curation to be effective the context of its use must also always be in-play. Knowing or context or how the content will be used not only aids but accelerates the use and further application as well as pursuit of further curation and the IM can be of value as a real content curator.

Collaboration – collaborate with internal and external social leaders.

Like said so many times, keep your friends close and enemies close most often attributed to Niccolò Machiavelli author of The Price is also filled with priceless concepts on management and collaboration. Collaboration is not just working together but realizing that there will also be a hierarchical approach to management as the CEO and other C-levels will always rule the roost as collaborative they appear to be. Ideas come in, they bubble up, muck about and if merit, a business case emerges. The role of IM in this process is to guide, validate, collaborate and be the “out of the box” viewpoint on the subject. This delicate role is not as arbitrator or buzz-killer but to give input or collaborate as needed.

C-Level
– assist and guide the CXO on their social media efforts along with gaining-retaining followers via CEO Twitter Scoreboard.

The ultimate social influencer is the CEO who as mentioned like Steve Job sets direction, goals and inspiration to insiders and most importantly to outsiders. If Steve Jobs came out with bottled water or fashion line, we would all be drinking and wearing it. The role of social influencer and the CEO should be aligned as the IM can be the ombudsman, foreign correspondent and advocate. As IBM, Huawei, Avaya and others are finding the role of IM helps them in many ways traditional marketing doesn’t and can’t. This is the ultimate value of the influencer to help the CEO in extending their message, bypassing traditional corporate communications with staff and increasingly manage crises.

Concern
– respond to concerns expressed by customers and build and monitor system for sales, supports, IR/PR and compliance issues.

Aside from other gaps in corporate marketing, the IM can also fill-in where others can’t. Notwithstanding regulatory restrictions, IM can be on the forefront in the media where often the business press takes the company to task. IM can be the independent view responding to complex situations such as layoffs, store closing, product failures and other negative situations.

Crisis
– provide crisis response team to address 7×24 tracking to avoid situations such as Target, Wells Fargo, Chipotle and other corporate devastating consequences with live “tweetchats” demonstrating responsiveness.   In case you missed the current political environment, foreign countries are cyberattacking not just political parties but nearly every company or institution that exists. One small school district (state withheld from security reasons) has been attacked by multiple foreign countries repeatedly. If you think you is not going to happen to you, think again. The role of the IM in this area is manage the mess and to guide and assist the client in “damage control.” You can never have enough friends when stuff happens and in the case of what is going on in presidential politics your company needs this more than ever as you may just be a tweet away from brand, customer and/or

stock crisis. That is, cybersecurity attacks are one thing but other political attacks could be much worse. This means you should have an IM team ready and monitoring your business 7×24 so you can wake up and manage any mess.

 

Summary – these and other issues will be presented by Evan and Tom during the webinar. If you need immediate attention, you can visit http://www.evankirstel.com/ or email cross@gocross.com 303-594-1694 to get started and be ready today.

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Linkedin Selling Unified Communications Group – Buyers Welcome
Please join our Linkedin Group if you are selling and even buying UC gear/gizmos/gadgets/gagals and more.  Beyond networking opportunities, news, and educational resources, this group is about helping its members increase sales. Vendors, VARs, Agents and anyone selling and marketing unified communications solutions are welcome. If you are a buyer, you join and see what’s available.
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