AI Social and Contextual UC #405 – Compare Outlook Free/Busy Times Free Trial on Microsoft AppSource – Skype Business Lifecycle Management

 (c) AI Forum & Unified Communications Forum

July 7 – 2017 – Issue #405

AI Forum – Exploring the Wild World of Artificial Intelligence and other Communications, Mobile, Contextual-Intelligence and other communications companies.
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Compare Outlook Free/Busy Times Across Companies – Free Trial Now Available from Microsoft AppSource

Approved Contact allows you to compare your open times in Microsoft Outlook with contacts outside your company to easily find open times for everyone.

Approved Contact announced the availability of Approved Contact in Microsoft AppSource. Approved Contact allows you to see available times on any online calendar from Microsoft Outlook with Approved Contact’s patent-pending Calendar Comparison technology.

Approved Contact deployed its solution on Microsoft Azure and stores calendar data in Azure SQL Database so that calendar integrations with other technologies such as email, bots, text, and voice recognition systems are simple and more secure.

“Supporting Microsoft AppSource also meant integrating Microsoft Azure Active Directory for single sign-on. When new users sign in with their Microsoft account, we automatically create their account and sync their calendar after Microsoft authenticates the new user,” said Dana Sale, president, Approved Contact. “So, it is easy to start a trial of Approved Contact directly from Microsoft AppSource. We support every major calendar system, but our ‘Sign in with Microsoft’ integration has streamlined how new users come into Approved Contact.”

Rob Howard, director of Office 365 Ecosystem, Microsoft Corp. said, “Calendar management is a central pillar of business communication, so initiatives that make daily scheduling more effective are important business tools. We’re pleased to see Approved Contact’s commitment to Microsoft Services and offer its solution in Microsoft AppSource.”

(Without Approved Contact, you cannot see open times outside your company)

(With Approved Contact, you can see open times outside your company.)

New Calendar-Syncing Option: “Sign in with Microsoft”

Our newly available “Sign in with Microsoft” support allows you to use your Office 365 account for easy new user sign-in and calendar syncing. You can use your Office account to create your profile and grant access to your free/busy times. We keep your changes in sync automatically, so as you add/delete meetings, your online calendar is always kept up to date.

“Sign in with Microsoft” grants access to your free/busy times securely because it does not require your password to be stored on a third-party site. For enterprise sites, an Office administrator can establish your employees’ profiles and connect their calendars automatically from Azure Active Directory. Alternatively, you can easily create your own profile from your Office 365 account by navigating to www.approvedcontact.com.

Cloud Services Integrations: Open API Streamlines Scheduling

Approved Contact enables you to connect your calendar intelligently to almost anything used in digital communication: websites, text, email, mobile, voice recognition, CRM, and telephone systems. Although the Approved Contact API is available only to customers and partners, it is free to use to further automate the scheduling process into your business processes.

Every day millions of business users rely on their calendar to make them more productive. This new integration between Outlook and Approved Contact will reduce the untimely interruptions required to schedule your next meeting.

For more information, visit Microsoft AppSource to start your trial and then enable our add-in from the Microsoft Store.
Follow Approved Contact on Twitter at @approvedcontact.

About Approved Contact

Approved Contact is an innovative company that is improving productivity for companies large and small. 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. For more information, visit www.ApprovedContact.com.

Here’s a new look at the way you deploy Skype for Business from Audio Codes.  User Management Pack 365 also consolidates and enhances the user management of cloud and on-premises users into a powerful yet simple web portal. This makes your Skype for Business operation more cost effective, by replacing the need for multiple management tools like PowerShell, Skype for Business control panel, and the need for on-staff masters.
  • Automates user life cycle management entirely
  • Increases productivity of IT staff
  • Lowers the TCO of Skype for Business operation
  • Reduces the requirement for advanced training courses
  • Simplifies the setup of hybrid voice over the Office 365 connector
  • Makes migration of users to Cloud PBX (Office 365) very easy
  • Provides full control over all Skype for Business user modalities including the Office 365 Cloud PBX users
  • Enhances user management by consolidating multiple tools into a single, powerful web portal
  • Improves security
  • Provides clear demarcation between customer environment and Skype for Business setup
  • Enables identity management over multiple forests
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Interactive Network Architecture

Here’s a new look at the way Cisco sees network architecture in an interactive diagram.
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.

50 Forbes World’s Most Influential CMOs 2017 by Twitter Followers 
Forbes put together a list of Most Influential CMOs, I went through the list to see how involved in Twitter they are. A bit surprising found that most CMOs are really not involved in Twitter.  If you look at the CEO Scoreboard (see below), CEOs are taking Twitter and really expanding the “marketing brand reach” of the companies they work for to new horizons.  It may be Forbes didn’t really explore CMO’s Twitter presence as part of their methodology which was “CMO influence is defined as the impact a chief marketer’s actions and words have on his or her internal organization’s motivation and performance corporate brand perception; broader marketing and advertising industry shifts and trends; and, ultimately, corporate financial performance, including stock price.”
Moreover, Forbes said they evaluated the CMO’s social media influence which may have not have had an impact on the overall rating of a CMO – “To assess influence, CMOs were evaluated based on brand performance indicators, such as engagement rate on brand posts on social media; personal impact on brand awareness, such as total direct and indirect Twitter mentions; and industry and internal influence, such as a CMO’s volume of LinkedIn connections.”
In comparison, CEOs are viewed like this:
From Jack Dorsey – “When a leader, CEO or someone in a leadership position takes to the platform they have the opportunity to humanise their organisation, make it feel smaller and relatable to people.”
The Winner in our CEO Scoreboard is !
The top Twitterer is Richard Branson @richardbranson with 10.9 million gaining 1.3 million followers and certainly the most engaged CEO with 3-Star rating.  As reported by Entrepreneur magazine, here are:
1. He connects on the most human of levels.
2. He uses social media to drive traffic to the Virgin website.
3. He has fun.
4. He welcomes input from customers.
In today’s business-political-social world, you are measured by many factors including the number of Twitter followers you have.  In fact, many surveys have found that websites in general are perceived as passive customer communication tools with Twitter being a far more proactive customer-engaging tool.  These surveys have also found an increasing number of customers go to your Twitter account before they go to your website doing “due diligence” on you looking for call-to-actions, thought leadership and content useful in their purchasing as well as customer complaints regarding your solution.  Your client may not have a Twitter business account but they may have a personal account and their advisors may as well.  In some small way John Legere’s Twitter efforts have also impacted the price of the stock.
As noted Twitter expert Evan Kirstel just named Top B2B-Business-to-Business Influencer with 128K followers stated, “Twitter is not just way to meet new prospects and partners, it IS the way you run your company. If you aren’t engaged, your competition likely is!”
That is, CEO’s are beginning to see the real value of Twitter not just for their company but for their role as CEO in the company they run.
If you need help in gaining-retaining and having a major social media influence, contact Evan @evankirstel or click on image.
Bottom-line – CMO’s should get engaged with Twitter the same want they hope to do with their customers, otherwise customers will evaluate them on their own Twitter efforts which may not be a good thing.
Bottom-line – If you are asking why I added this and why this is important is that UC and every other technology is driven more by marketing than any other factor.  With more than 500 UC providers, there is only room for a few and those few capture the “minds of the customers” more than all the technology you may have.  So if your CEO and CMO do NOT have a presence on Twitter then likely you will fall farther and farther behind.

Podcasting Social Media Posting App
In a business meeting, want to interview a colleague, recording a key conversation, its easy with HashNewsGram 2.5.  Other new features include: Podcast-Music library – record music, songs, interviews, lectures, business meetings, presentations along with other recordings and easily post them to Twitter as well as share them via email, Gallery, SMS, Facebook and other ways.
Never get stuck at 140 characters again!
HashNewsGram 2.4 breaks the Twitter 140 character limitation barrier. You can post essentially unlimited text, videos, pics, audio recordings including pre-recorded music and audio from the HashNewsGram library, created freehand paintings or drawings using the drawing features and library, multimedia images called Acticons-Action Icons.
#HashNewsGram is a FREE Twitter #hashtag news gathering app for iPhone and iPad. You can select your favorite #hashtag topics and put them in folders and subfolders and organize your Twitter news gathering and personal newsfeed. Then tap on the selected folder subfolder and see the posts in the categories selected. This is a great way to simplify your Twitter news feed.
HashNewsGram is one of the many apps such as ZoomLite, Basketball Fans, ReallyReal, Sports Fans Club, Football Fans Club, iSeekSugar, BiEyes, iFlipTips, SleepTracs, iSeekSugar, MedsMinders, BaseballFansClub, RewardsVIPClub, and others from TECHtionary.
Click on either image for iTunes. Click here for custom versions and advertising also available.

Top-10 Reasons for Gateway
 
Here are just some of the Top-10 reasons to seriously consider a gateway or premise appliance if you prefer.  Click on image for all 10.
Here are my favs:

4 – Simple to monitor and operate.

An easy to understand dashboard clearly shows you everything that’s happening and lets you configure your Mediant CCE appliance without needing to use PowerShell scripts. In addition, the appliances are natively integrated with the AudioCodes One Voice Operations Center (OVOC), so you don’t have to tie up financial and human resources in developing proprietary monitoring tools.

5 – Easy to update and upgrade.

The AudioCodes wizard and dashboard have automatic Cloud Connector Edition version detection and self-adjustment for forward and backward compatibility. This makes it easy to schedule updates and upgrades, including on a per site basis. Again, all this can be done without ever having to write a single PowerShell script.

6 – The AudioCodes Helpdesk and the Microsoft Office 365 Service Operations Center have integrated support procedures.

AudioCodes is certified by Microsoft to provide support for the Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition. This collaborative approach assures that any technical issues that might arise can be dealt with very quickly, bringing you real peace of mind.

7 – Effective High Availability (HA) configuration functionality.

The Mediant CCE appliances support HA configuration, which can be easily set up using the AudioCodes wizard. They also support SBC floating licenses. Importantly, the Microsoft live upgrade process does not negatively affect your service or traffic.

8 – Part of an advanced Cloud PBX Networking Solution.

The Mediant CCE appliances natively integrate with AudioCodes Routing Manager (ARM) topologies, enabling global call routing and policy enforcement to be centrally managed from a single location. The appliances also include support for the One Voice Resiliency (OVR) cloud resiliency solution, bringing you a level of dependability that you know you can rely on.

Skype’s New Skin  

Rebuilt from the ground up, the new Skype vastly improves the ways you can connect with your favorite people and, of course, chatting is front and center. We’ve made group chats more lively, expressive, and-most importantly-personalized, so you can chat the way you want. With the new Skype, you’ll have countless ways to share life’s moments together, every day. Wherever life takes you, Skype allows you to seamlessly create, play, share, and do more with the people you care about most.
Highlights lets you create a highlight reel of your day with photos and videos, so you can share everyday moments. To post a Highlight, swipe to access your camera, take a photo or video, then post it to your Highlights or send it directly to your contacts or groups. Once you post a Highlight, your friends and family can react to it with emoticons or by jumping into a conversation. The new Skype is your canvas, and now you’re free to share in more expressive ways with your closest friends, family and groups.
With the new Skype, it’s even easier to turn talk into action with group conversations, add-ins, and bots*. The new “Find” panel takes center stage, and makes Skype infinitely searchable. Looking for seats to a big game? Pull ticket pricing and seating options directly into the chat with the StubHub bot. Trying to find the perfect recipe for the brunch you’re hosting? Discover the latest trends with the BigOven add-in and learn the many ways you can make that avocado toast. Planning a weekend getaway with old friends? Chat with the Expedia bot to check flight times and pricing. And that’s just the start. New add-ins and bots will continue to be added, making your Skype experience even more rich and robust. With the ability to connect to your favorite businesses and brands from within the app, the simplest conversations can pave the way to lasting memories.
Bottom-line – Changing your fashion does not change the fact that you are over-weight or any other issue.  User adoption grinds to a halt when new features are added just for the enjoyment of the product manager without adding real value.  I would put all of them on a major “weight loss” program instead of more “bloatware.”

Acticons Adding Action Images for Faster-Better Communications as “A Confused Mind Always Say No!” 

There are three apocryphal events in human communications, in my humble opinion.  First, was drawings.  In the beginning, cave dwellers made drawings on the wall to tell stories, share ideas and be creative.  The Egyptians formalized drawing into a language which can be shared both across distances and time – from one generation to the next.  Probably the most dramatic use of language was the Ten Commandments delivered to Moses. Of little note was probably one of Jerry Seinfeld’s distance ancestors thinking to himself while Moses was presenting these commandments – “thank goodness there was only 10 commandments, one more commandment would have been too heavy to carry.”
Thus, stone tablets and pyramids make great and very long-lasting devices for storing information but a very difficult and lengthy for newspaper writer to carve their stories and the paperboy to deliver – imagine a load of stone newspapers.
Second, the next apocryphal communications technology was the creation of the printing press by Gutenberg around 1450 which made the job of printing much easier.  However, the creation and delivery of the content was still expensive, lengthy and potentially lethal (book burning and censorship – banned books).  However, today there are probably two billion books published annually with billions more stored in libraries.
Third, major apocryphal communications technology came in the form of the internet.  With 4+ billion users accessing the internet worldwide daily, the internet can distribute almost any kind of information, whether music, video, art, graphics, animation as well as spam.  If Jerry Seinfeld were to say something, among other things, he might say “putting static text on the internet is a waste of the internet.”  However, the vast majority of web sites have no animation, video and little content worthy viewing by anyone.

In the spirit of incorporating visuals into human and business communication, we created more than 150 Acticon-Action-Icons to depict business and other activities to help speed communications and reduce confusion as visual communications is the fastest form of communications.   We react visually faster than by any other means.  You see a “Stop Light” and you instinctively know what to do without even thinking about it.  In addition, as communication is more global, multi-lingual, cultural, religious, ethical, etc. other issues come into play when attempting to convey thoughts, beliefs and actions.  My own saying is “communication will always fail except by chance” in hope for the best but assume the worst when communicating with another person.  We have incorporated these “acticons” into our new app that you can include in any Twitter post in hope that it will reduce confusion and enhance communication.

Never get stuck at 140 characters again!
With HashNewsGrams you can break through the Twitter 140 character limitation barrier. You can post essentially unlimited text, videos, pics, audio recordings, freehand paintings and drawings, multimedia images and Acticons-Action Icons.

  In addition, #HashNewsGram is a FREE #hashtag news Twitter gathering app for iPhone and iPad. You can select your favorite #hashtag topics and put them in folders and subfolders and organize your Twitter news gathering and personal newsfeed. Then tap on the selected folder subfolder and see the posts in the categories selected. This is a great way to simplify your Twitter news feed.

HashNewsGram is one of the many apps such as ZoomLite, Basketball Fans, Baseball Fans Club, ReallyReal, Sports Fans Club, Football Fans Club, iSeekSugar, BiEyes, iFlipTips, SleepTracs, iSleepTrack, iSeekSugar, MedsMinders, RewardsVIPClub, and many others from TECHtionary.
Acticons(TM) are more than emoji’s they are actionable communications images.
Click here for ALL Acticons:

Kirstel Report from #1 UCaaS Social Influencer
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Follow Evan @evankirstel and get him to help you with these and other services:

HashNewsGrams 2.3 Adds FreeHand Drawings, Audio Recordings, Video & Pics 
 

Breakthrough the 140 Character Text Barrier

You can post essentially unlimited text, videos, pics, audio recordings, freehand paintings and drawings, multimedia images and Acticons-Action Icons.
#HashNewsGram is a FREE Twitter #hashtag news gathering app for iPhone and iPad. You can select your favorite #hashtag topics and put them in folders and subfolders and organize your Twitter news gathering and personal newsfeed. Then tap on the selected folder subfolder and see the posts in the categories selected. This is a great way to simplify your Twitter news feed.
HashNewsGram is one of the many apps such as ZoomLite, Basketball Fans, ReallyReal, Sports Fans Club, Football Fans Club, iSeekSugar, BiEyes, iFlipTips, SleepTracs, iSleepTrack, iSeekSugar, MedsMinders, RewardsVIPClub, and many others from TECHtionary.

Deep Learning Is About to Revolutionize Sports Analytics. Here’s How
Lucey recently described an approach for teasing player formation out of raw geospatial data in a paper he co-authored with other researchers from Disney Research and the California Institute of Technology, titled “Data-Driven Ghosting using Deep Imitation Learning.”
The central thesis revolves around the creation of a “ghosting” model that can accurately learn and subsequently predict how actual professional soccer players moved on offense and defense. The model was based on a recurrent neural network that was trained, in an unsupervised fashion, on 17,400 soccer sequences across of 100 games. The training it took several hours, according to the paper, which won second place at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March of this year.
The visual nature of the ghosting system could provide direct benefits to teams that invest in it. Coaches and players would be able to watch a replay of a particular play, and see how the ghosts defenders respond to their opponent’s attack.
“Given an attacking play by a team, how did that team defend, or how should they have defended?” Lucey says. “How should they have moved to minimize the likelihood that that team scores? This is where we get into the realm of deep neural nets and deep imitation learning. It’s very similar to what Google and Deep Mind did for AlphaGo.”

According to Fast Company, “If Apple is diving into the category Amazon created, it may be less about taking on the Echo and more about building out its HomeKit connected-home vision.”  The picture is Apple’s version of Alexa or any other others.  Apple HomePod is a “late to the game” and recognizes that they are certainly “asleep at the wheel” in the innovation department when it comes to TV and many other fields. Alexa is the new “iphone” that Apple should have built and would have had Steve still be around as Apple cannot even keep up with needed iPhone features liked cordless charging, weather-proofing etc.  Meanwhile I hope they will bring out a more Siri-enabled Apple TV and speaker-iPhone unfortunately overpriced as usual.

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

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.

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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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.

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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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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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