The world in a click: Communication moves to a new beat

03 Nov 2015
Imagine walking into a new office you’ve never visited before and your work station is ready before you have even sat down, configured to your preferences, right down to the settings on the air conditioning. When a client arrives to meet you at the office you can arrange for them to be sent to a meeting room automatically, and talk to them on their mobile as you walk to greet them. If your boss wants to join the meeting they can dial in on their video phone and keep the conversation going as soon as they step through the door,

Science fiction? Hardly. With 25 billion devices, or ‘things’, set to be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020, according to researcher Gartner, collaboration technologies are already being used by organizations to enhance the workplace experience, increase productivity and boost profitability. The huge variety of communications-enabled devices we will all be carrying will interact with an even greater number of sensors and objects, transforming not just vertical sectors like government, banking, healthcare and education but all our lives.
 
Taking connectivity to this unprecedented level requires safe networking technology that can smartly allow the right levels of access to all of these devices and objects – and handle the exponential increase in data loads. The network has to be able to secure and prioritize traffic optimally and make sure it is handled in the most desirable locations, whether that is an on-premise data center or in the cloud.
 
Combining IoT systems with smart network connectivity and real-time communication services – whether that is mobile phone, VoIP, Wi-Fi, SMS, or whatever – is already helping companies achieve more effective and integrated communication with customers.
 
For instance, tens of thousands of customers may call a bank each day to request information, often having to make multiple calls to obtain the information they want. If the bank’s contact center can’t cope with the volume, then calls are dropped, customer complaints go through the roof and staff are tied up in customer service.
 
But what if a banking customer speaks to a contact center agent about home loans, realizes they need to make another call to obtain or relay additional information – and is able to speak to the same agent they spoke to previously? The magic at work here is the biometric app that the contact center runs to recognize each customer’s voice and identify who she/he is. Next the call is routed to the most-skilled agent in a certain area, say, credit cards or to an agent figuring in the customer’s call/chat history.
 
Smart communication tools in banking will let the customer connect across multiple channels (e.g., call center, self-service, email, text, video) and switch between them seamlessly, providing a more authentic omnichannel experience. This makes it easy for the bank’s agents to handle the increase in customer numbers and reduce the number of dropped calls, in turn leading to fewer customer complaints.
 
By virtualizing contact center infrastructure, which makes multiple contact centers appear like one center, banks can create a large pool of agents across these units, reduce call load on individual units, and free up staff significantly. The same bank can offer partner-led services, such as investment banking, insurance, and real estate services, with a one-stop on-premises experience in their own branch. They can do this by getting customer service representatives from these partners to sit side by side with their own bank representatives. Making this experience possible is the technology for smart traffic isolation and diversion, running on the bank network.
 
Going forward, bank CIOs can rest assured that their confidential banking data is fully secure even when the representatives from their partners access the network. Because the partner system’s traffic is smartly isolated and diverted directly into their own enterprise network over the Internet, it doesn’t get “mixed up” with the main banking system traffic.
 
Just about everything will be connected to the internet in nearly 100-odd smart cities the government is planning to develop in India. While connectedness is most welcome, what about the security of devices plugged into the network? , Smart cities need a smart and robust foundation: the network infrastructure. This foundation intelligently allows the right devices to be connected automatically and securely, while transporting data packets along the shortest distance. And should a portion of the network fail, this smart infrastructure will switch over to a different path instantly. This will keep the network up and running at all times, no matter if an individual connection fails. The network also includes a unique way of bringing connectivity to IoT sensors to take care of the surveillance of traffic violations, crime, and the like.
 
In healthcare, as hospitals move from paper records to electronic medical records (EMR), there is significant pressure on the network. Aided by high-speed networks, medical staff can access patient records and medical images at any time. The IoT-enabled network can smartly allow medical devices to be connected to the network without needing manual configuration while also blocking access to rogue devices trying to misuse access to the hospital network. Besides, using advanced videoconferencing features, a patient in a distant village can get a remote diagnosis performed by a doctor in the city. In critical cases, medical teams on the field can do face-to-face video interaction with specialists in bigger medical hospitals. Latest video technologies maintain high image quality transmission without any data loss. In summary, medical assistance in India can be delivered anytime and from anywhere and, more importantly, on a personalized basis.
 
Smart education systems can transform the learning environment and make it safer and more effective. By building location-detection technology into the next-gen Wi-Fi network, along with the iBeacon-based student ID tags, a nursery or primary school can ensure a safe ambience, with children continuously tracked by the school administration throughout their presence on the school premises to ensure they are always in “safe zones” and are automatically detected before they can wander and end up in some “no-safe zone.” The set-up is complete with video cameras and emergency phone lines for instant help. Both location detection and iBeacon technologies are tightly integrated into IP phone technology.
 
Drab classrooms can be transformed into smart learning environs that employ Wi-Fi networks to automatically take class attendance and deliver study material only to pupils who are present in the class. This comes with a host of control-specific applications that let the student take charge of her studies and enjoy the thrill of learning what interests her most - and that too at her own pace. Video-enabled communication has good scope in smart distance education. These can help, say, a coaching institution, deliver classes to students in far-flung areas. With a simple click of the mouse, students can access video on any device as well as collaborate on projects, among other things. Even as they chat or speak on phone, instructors can view and control the students’ screen.
 
A new world order has emerged in the old world of communication. People expect video and chat and flexibility and ease of use. They expect not only uninterrupted network connectivity but also more by way of smart networks that address their everyday challenges. Effortless is the buzzword as people expect the world at their click.

This article appeared in ETTelecom.com on 3rd November 2015