Unified Communications (UC) systems were popularised in the 1990s when it became possible to integrate email, fax, phone and voicemail on an IP network. The new efficiency in communication between employees quickly translated to commercial efficiencies; now UC systems are ubiquitous in large businesses.
Today, UC is evolving – like much contemporary tech – quickly.
With the dawn of the IoT (Internet of Things), blockchain technology and AI (artificial intelligence), there are new platforms, people and applications to integrate into UC.
This leaves multinational companies with questions over how to manage an increasingly complex UC system: How to budget for something that’s constantly evolving? What human resources will be required? And what are the ramifications for the bottom line?
What, then, is the future for UC?
THE FUTURE OF UC IS UCaaS
UC is getting more complex: there are more communication platforms, a wider range of devices and operating systems, and fast evolution across them all. It’s a big ask for any IT department to manage, and keep abreast of, these changes, across tens of thousands of devices and employees.
As well as this, software and the cloud has made remote network management easier and cheaper, which in turn means the need for on-site (and expensive) network engineers is greatly reduced. A single, off-site team can manage and maintain a complex distributed global UC network.
UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) outsources these challenges to a specialist partner, and takes advantages of the resourcing savings. A UC partner has the facilities to constantly upskill their engineers, move specialists between companies, test and implement new software, and can take advantage of the discounts available for third parties by providing the whole system.
UCaaS partners audit multinationals’ UC to make them as efficient as possible, and in the process of the audit can find additional savings, such as NSC did for this financial exchange. For these reasons – of efficiency, flexibility and cost – multinationals are increasingly turning to the UCaaS model.
THE FUTURE OF UC IS NEW REVENUE STREAMS, NEW BUSINESS AND NEW SECTORS
The development of APIs (Application Programming Interface) means UC systems can operate between businesses, as well as within businesses.
An API allows a third party to build software that plugs into the first company’s software, meaning seamless interaction and creating frictionless new revenue streams.
The development of APIs means UC systems can operate between businesses, as well as within businesses
Deliveroo is an example of the way advanced UC can create a whole new business and new revenue streams. The UC platform works seamlessly across four partners: the customer (buyer), the restaurant (seller), the driver (logistics) and Deliveroo (the exchange).
UC once was a method of merely integrating communications within a company; the future of UC will integrate communications between companies, consumers and computers.
THE FUTURE OF UC IS THE END OF THE LANGUAGE BARRIER (AND MORE WORKPLACE DIVERSITY)
What’s included in a UC ecosystem keeps changing. From a phoneline/voicemail combo in the 1980s, it now includes Skype, mobile phones and instant messengers – all tools to seamlessly connect people who talk the same language.
Translation services are not, generally, included in a UC platform. Seamless communication between two people speaking two different languages requires an expensive, human interpreter … until now.
Google have released the Pixel Buds: headphones that translate in real time. In the near future, a Chinese-speaking worker will be able to have a real-time conversation with an English-speaking colleague.
In the near future, a Chinese-speaking worker will be able to have a real-time conversation with an English-speaking colleague
Not only will businesses find efficiencies in the speed of communication, but they will be able to hire according to the talents of the applicant, without a thought for what their mother tongue is. The future of UC means increased diversity in the workplace.
UC means our conversations are not limited by geography or device. Soon they will not be limited by language either.
THE FUTURE OF UC IS FACEBOOK?
For a company that facilitates communication between 2 billion people every month, Facebook’s foray into the Enterprise space, with Workplace by Facebook, makes sense. Essentially, they’ve created a private social network for business that replicates much of the functionality of Facebook – possibly to the detriment of busy employees liable to fall into a time-engulfing ‘Facebook-hole’.
Facebook is not the only tech behemoth to enter this space recently: Amazon have recently launched Chime. The advantage these companies have, other than reach and familiarity, is they have the resources to offer free versions of their UC systems.
The entry into the UC space by these two battling giants might be seen as a reaction to newcomer Slack, developed for internal use at a games ideveloper in 2013, which now has 1 million daily users and a valuation of $2bn+. Slack provides a single platform that can be used to write code, review contracts, create budgets and more.
The problem with these singular platforms is that – rather than unifying a company’s current, diverse communication platforms – they discard disparate platforms in favour of one singular platform: this means the client company is completely reliant on their tech, employees have to change their behaviour, and there is no flexibility.
THE FUTURE OF UC IS ON THE BLOCKCHAIN
UC allows a worker in India to exchange information with a worker in Brazil quickly. But the blockchain will change the need for information, and who needs it, by making all enterprise data integrated with the UC system.
For example, the employee in India needs to know shipping times for merchandise in Brazil. Circa 2017, the employee in India calls the Brazil office and leaves a message, which is pushed to the Brazilian employee’s mobile phone. They call back with the requested information.
The blockchain will integrate all enterprise data with the UC system
Circa 2020, all the shipping information is on the blockchain. The Indian employee looks (on the public ledger) and gets that information. The Brazilian employee can see that the information has been accessed, by whom, and understands why.
Circa 2023, an AI bot in India wants to optimise the delivery of a product coming from Brazil. It scans the blockchain, gets the information needed, and books space on a ship.
UC can take advantage of blockchain enabled smart-contracts too. As a new employee is enrolled, the UC platform alerts the internal AI, which creates the appropriate smart-contract – saving time, red-tape and expensive legal fees.
THE FUTURE OF UC IS INTEGRATION WITH THE IoT
UC integrates communication platforms. The IoT is the integration of everything that can be connected to the internet. Inevitably, the future of UC will integrate with the IoT.
And as the ‘Things’ in the IoT get more intelligent, with the advances made in AI, they will need to be included in the communications. When a meeting is rearranged, UC informs the attendees, but who has informed the autonomous car carrying the team?
UC integration with the IoT and AI will find new efficiencies for large companies. For example, a UC system can tell a set of smart-lights and smart-radiators that no one is left on a certain floor, and they should turn off. The savings in energy - and money - innovations like these will have over thousands of sites is substantial.
The future of UC is evolving, fascinating and excitingly unclear. As an integrated communications system integrates with more connected tools, across departments, continents and businesses, the opportunities to create efficiencies are unbound and unknown.
What is known is that securing a UC partner, with a UCaaS arrangement, will be the simplest way to take advantage of the developments as they come to fruition.