Unify with Protection
Unified communications, or a platform where various voice and data technologies (such as phone, email, and IM) can communicate, has been justifiably generating much attention. And, there is good reason for it, too— if done well, users can quickly locate and connect with others via the most appropriate communication channel.
This concept is not new. Avaya, Nortel, Siemens, and others have their own products and plans for cross-channel communication—much of which will be unveiled or upgraded this year. But when Microsoft revealed its plans to incorporate speech technology into its unified communications platform last summer at SpeechTEK East in New York, industry pundits took notice. Integrating speech technology with its unified communications platform, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, could give speech technology the adrenaline shot it needs to become ubiquitous
During his keynote presentation at SpeechTEK East, Richard Bray, a general manager in Microsoft's Unified Communications Group, demonstrated how two disparate channels can communicate. He spoke into a smartphone, with his words converted from speech to text into an instant message application, while a colleague typed his responses back to Bray's wireless handset.
The next demonstration was more complex. Through his smartphone, Bray verbally commanded his Microsoft Outlook calendar application to check his schedule; switch an existing appointment for a more urgent meeting; and via email (with a voicemail attachment) invite those affected by the schedule change to a meeting at a different time.
Inspired largely by Bray's demonstration, we decided to delve deeper into what unified communications technologies other vendors are offering. Our cover story, "Would You Do This?" by Senior Editor Leonard Klie, reveals plans from some of the pioneers in unified communication technologies. After reading this story, you'll see that unified communications is not simply a pipe dream.
If the concept of unified communications sounds appealing, first make sure your house is secure enough for it. Companies that merge their voice and data channels also increase the risk of exposure to malicious codes that could cause disruptions, not only to their computer networks but their phone networks as well. To find out more about this, read Leonard's feature story "Heightened Level of Alert," and see why security experts are urging that companies invest in more VoIP security measures.
Between the two stories there exists an interesting divergence of thought. The cover story suggests unification; however, experts in the security story suggest separating the networks for added protection. But the latter defeats VoIP's purpose to simplify voice and data networks through integration. As more unified communication platforms develop, my guess is that so will security measures to protect both voice and data networks. What are your thoughts on this?