Avaya Launches E169 Media Station, Linking Smartphones and Tablets with Desk Phone

If your customers are like a lot of the ones I’ve been talking to, they’re finding that it makes sense to support their users (or a subset of their users) differently than they had in the past.

In the old days, we didn’t think twice about providing a hard phone (ie 96×1, 96xx, 46xx, etc) to every new employee that started. It was all simply part of the new hire onboarding package. But more and more employees are asking “Hey, why did you send me this phone? I’d rather just use my cell phone.”

In reality, they’re not saying they don’t want enterprise telephony. They’re simply saying that they don’t plan to be sitting at their desk every time they need to talk to someone. Avaya has certainly come up with some great SIP-based mobile applications for when the user is away from their desk. One-X Mobile SIP, Avaya Communicator for Android, and Flare Experience for iPad are just a few of the apps that let us be connected inside or outside your normal work environment.

But as great as these application are, you soon realize, “Hey, wait a minute. I do actually sit at my desk quite a bit. And I hate using my cell phone for those long calls at my desk. I’m burning through battery like crazy, and I want better voice quality than I’m getting from my cell phone. I guess I need a desk phone also.”

Or do you? What you really need is a way to augment your mobile device with the missing pieces that you so desperately need when sitting at your desk. This is where Avaya’s new E169 Media Station comes into play.

Avaya E169 Media Station

Let me just start out with how much I love this device. Normally, when I’m working from home, my standard practice is to plug my iPad/iPhone into USB power and pair up the E169 Media Station with my Jabra 510 speakerphone. (Side note, I’ve been installing these outlets in every strategic place in my house to make sure I’m always near USB power: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J3PMU4C)

The Jabra 510 is a great speakerphone, but offers no privacy, and tends to get annoying to anyone around me. The E169 Media Station solves all of this. It is a base station for just about any mobile device. It has docking capability for a mobile phone or a tablet. To be flexible, it ships with one micro USB, one 30-pin Apple connector, and one Lightning Apple connector. It also includes a variety of inserts to keep your device firmly situated and stable. This modular approach gives us the flexibility to adapt to future devices (as long as they’re ultimately USB connected, which everything is nowadays).

Its speakerphone sounds fantastic, rivaling that of my personal Bose Bluetooth Dock. Beamforming spatial audio, 4 dynamic echo-cancelling microphones, 6 high-performance speakers and a downward firing subwoofer make this the best-sounding SIP phone I’ve ever heard.

Avaya E169 Media Station

What’s interesting about Avaya’s approach on this is that there are two modes supported. The first uses the media station as the actual SIP phone. It functions with or without a mobile device docked. Its clean, simplistic, physical look is complimented with a “companion” app (available for iOS and Android) that lets you program every detail of the base station.

Administratively, we can determine how long the base station keeps the identity of the mobile device once it is removed from the base. I can set it to lose the identity immediately, keep it infinitely, or keep it for a specific amount of time following undocking. The other option is to simply use it as a Bluetooth audio device for the existing Avaya mobile apps.

There’s definitely advantages and disadvantages to each of these.

For example, the base station itself is very easy to use, switching back and forth between speaker and handset like you would expect. It is a generic SIP’ing 19 phone, with interoperability to many different SIP environments.

While these third-party SIP profiles are selectable, they are NOT yet supported by Avaya. But as an Avaya endpoint, it means that the E169 is NOT an Avaya AST (Advanced SIP Telephony) device. So, no feature buttons, advanced conferencing, etc. It subscribes to the Message-Summary feature set for MWI, but that’s about it. It does, however, support the same methodology for settings files and firmware upgrade files. As in, when the media station boots up, it looks on the HTTPSRVR server for a E1x9MSUpgrade.txt file that helps it get its firmware updates. That file then calls for a customized settings files named E169settings.txt. This is exactly how it works with existing Avaya IP phones. Avaya has full plans to add more advanced telephony functionality in future releases.

When using it as a Bluetooth base station for Avaya’s existing AST devices (such as Flare Experience for iPad, one-X Mobile SIP, and Avaya Communicator for Android), you do get a lot more features and tighter integration. BUT those apps currently don’t know how to talk to the other cool features of the E169 Media Station (Handset keypad, volume control, mute, MWI, etc). Avaya tells me that the future versions of the Avaya mobile apps will become Media Station-aware. With that, you will be able to use the cool advanced apps, but can leverage the hardware of the E169 directly, the same way the Avaya Media Station companion app does today.

I wish a couple of things were different.

I’ve already found a need for 4 USB ports. Right now, there are only 2, and with the handset using one of them, there’s only room for ONE docked device. So, while the E169 can physically dock a tablet and a phone, you can only use one at a time. This makes total sense from a user-interface perspective, but I actually would like to have both connected for charging purposes.

It also can only store a Bluetooth profile for one device at a time. So, having a Bluetooth link to your mobile device AND a Bluetooth headset doesn’t currently seem to be an option. There isn’t a traditional RJ11 headset jack. Headset support comes from USB or eventually the integrated 3.5mm mini stereo headset jack. The good news is that Avaya has already tested the USB integration to the Jabra 9460 and 9470 and offer full support there.

I’ve been using the E169 for a week now and have become a big fan. General availability comes July 7th. Avaya will release a smaller, “mid-range” version, called the E159, in August. The functionality introduced initially is really good. But the roadmap for future releases looks even better.

Bottom line, the E169 and the E159 are a great way for your customers’ telecom teams to stay relevant to how their end users want to communicate. BYOD is very real. Consumer-grade device mobility is very real. But enterprise-class communications is also still very real. Help your customers live the best of both worlds. Talk to them about Avaya’s new Media Stations.

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A totally new way to approach customers—and a million reasons to do so

Last month, Laurent Philonenko wrote about some of the exciting work being done with the Avaya Breeze™ Platform, noting that many of our 2016 DevConnect Excellence Award winners were making the creation of Avaya Snap-ins a center point of their strategies.

There is perhaps no better proof point for this than the efforts of Engelbart Software GmbH, our 2016 DevConnect Partner of the Year.

DevConnect business development manager Bill Petty recently sat down with Dirk Engelbart, founder and owner of Engelbart Software, as part of our new DevConnect 8-and-Out podcast series, and talked about their experiences with Avaya Breeze. Avaya Breeze represents “a totally new way to approach customers,” according to Dirk.

In the interview, Dirk speaks directly to the opportunities his company is able to pursue through Avaya Breeze, with “millions of use cases” solvable at his fingertips through Avaya Breeze. His examples, including a manufacturing-related solution to enable warehouse workers to reach suppliers by mapping part numbers via SAP integration, clearly demonstrate the power of this platform.

But most impressive is his story of delivering a deal-winning proof-of-concept implementation in less than two days. This isn’t just a mockup, or some fancy slideware that shows what could be done, but rather a demonstrable, tangible example of how it is actually implemented.

We’ve been hearing this speed-to-market feedback from Avaya customers and partners alike, as we’ve been running bootcamps and training programs on Avaya Breeze and related tools like Avaya Engagement Designer. Avaya Breeze simply makes it easy and quick to create solutions that, using more traditional CTI methods, would have taken weeks to months to complete.

So grab a cup of coffee/soda/tea, and have a listen to what Dirk has to say about Avaya Breeze and why Engelbart has shifted all of their development focus towards leveraging Avaya Breeze.

Why Healthcare Providers Need to Deliver Uber-Like Service

I have a confession to make: I’ve never used Uber. Personally, I like to order my taxis the old fashioned way – by calling the local service on my smartphone and paying via credit card. I know, so 2009.

But while seemingly all my friends are now Uber converts, I’ve yet to download the app, because I know it would be used once, or never, and then just sit on my phone. While there are now literally millions of apps available to us, not many of them actually get used. According to data from Nielsen, the average U.S. smartphone user accesses less than 30 apps per month, with 70 percent of total app usage coming from the top 200 apps.

So, which app would get my vote? A recent unfortunate event has made up my mind for me. The event was my son breaking his arm, and the dream app for me would be one that simplified my healthcare journey.

That dream healthcare smartphone app is yet to be created. After we rushed my son to the emergency room, we had to present his insurance card, answer questions about his previous medical history, any allergies to medication, list his emergency contacts and so on, all before he could be admitted to see a physician. By the time he did actually see a doctor, he was in so much pain his screams echoed through the hospital, and I was in tears.

Even worse, when we got to the operating room, the doctor went through the same list of questions. Fast forward another few hours and my son has now been transferred to a hospital room for two days of observation. With each doctor and nurse on duty, most of the questions asked before are asked again.

Now, if I had my dream app available, we would have clicked a single button to instantly talk to emergency responders, who could access my son’s up-to-date medical and healthcare profile. My phone could be geolocated and an ambulance dispatched, with skilled medical staff available who could relay information about my son’s condition to physicians while en route to the hospital. That information might prompt the hospital to make an emergency room available and prep the surgical team for an immediate operation–with the entire procedure being completed in a few hours, and questions restricted to immediate medical issues.

Admittedly, this is expecting a lot from one app: Uber doesn’t especially care about what happens to you once you reach your destination, after all. Is it too much to expect our healthcare providers to focus on providing a seamless experience for their users? The ordeal I suffered with my son recently was made worse because the hospital hadn’t done enough to ensure that I wasn’t frustrated as I progressed through the system, and to link its various points of contact… it lacked an omnichannel customer experience.

This seamless experience in healthcare is what each one of us should expect and healthcare providers should aspire to deliver. We take for granted that when we use Uber, we are going to get a reliable and safe journey that will get us to where we want to be. In the future, healthcare providers that don’t deliver the best possible experience to their customers are going to find themselves left behind by those providers who do.

How Enterprise Virtualization Will Save Your Business in the Era of IoT

Having a backyard full of trees is quite therapeutic during a marathon day of conference calls, but it also comes with a fair share of maintenance: picking up the fallen limbs from the elms, keeping the invasive cedars from choking out other species, and trimming up the oaks to keep them healthy and the fireplace burning through the winter. On those maintenance days, it’s easy to get obsessed with a tree or set of trees that are causing a problem … say, dropping large limbs dangerously close to your daughters’ trampoline. When you’re fixing up your backyard, one problem – one tree – at a time, the solution to the problem at hand often fails to take into account the needs of the larger ecosystem. Unfortunately, for many networking professionals, every day feels like a maintenance day.

We see problems with mobility and service chaining in and across data centers. We see problems with cost and reliability in the WAN. We see problems with scalability and security in the campus. In a nutshell, we see problems. Fortunately, for every problem, there’s a good ol’ fashioned snake oil salesman. We’re inundated with the latest and greatest technologies to solve our woes … even some we didn’t know we had.

The problem is that we’re putting Band-Aids on bullet holes. The bleeding stops, but the real problem is still lurking beneath the surface. It’s not that these fixes are bad. The problem is that they’re being positioned as a cure-all instead of simply tools to address localized side effects of the problem.

The problem is broader. The data center exists to host applications. Those applications exist to enable users. The WAN exists to connect the data center to the campus, which exists for the users. And, of course, the users exist to run the business.

Since the business is the thing we’re looking to keep alive and thriving, those users need to be productive. That means that they need fast, efficient access to the applications that enable their jobs. So, those problems we rattled off earlier are really just symptoms that have emerged as we tried to create enterprise services across silos of control.

If we want to remove the bullet and save the patient, we must recognize the need for end-to-end services and look holistically at Enterprise Virtualization methods that will securely extend services from user to application at scale with on-demand mobility and business continuity. Otherwise, the problem is only going to get worse.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming an ever-increasing reality in the enterprise, the need for services from device to application is going to multiply exponentially. Without Enterprise Virtualization, the burden on IT to deal with every little problem across the islands of campus, WAN and data center will be overwhelming. They simply won’t be able to keep pace, and, as a result, neither will the business. The users will be limited and become frustrated, and productivity will suffer in turn. It’s a bleak picture, but it doesn’t have to be.

Enterprise Virtualization provides a number of advantages that have long been unattainable to the general enterprise. While we’ve managed to achieve “micro-segmentation” down to the virtual machine layer for applications, the very same data is set free at the data center doors and left vulnerable in the less secure world beyond.

Enterprise Virtualization enables you to extend the segmentation in the data center to the very edges of the network, where the data is consumed by users. Not only can you extend isolation, you can also view it as one contiguous service from server node to user node.

All of the tools available for measuring quality and performance have a clear view from end-to-end, rather than requiring additional tools to aggregate and correlate metrics across the three different islands of technology. Not to mention, Enterprise Virtualization allows you to significantly reduce the number of touch points while provisioning and troubleshooting, thus minimizing the likelihood of down time due to human error.

Just like that limb-dropping elm can avoid the chainsaw, your enterprise can avoid being cut down in its prime. You see, it was a problem in the ecosystem that would have eventually killed all the trees through their intertwined root systems. It was lurking beneath the surface, but the arborist took a step back to see the whole forest, and then recognized and treated the real issue. Likewise, you need to make sure that someone is looking at your forest of IT challenges … not just banging their head on a single tree.