Patents: Sometimes a Force for Innovation, Always a Bellwether

Just a couple of weeks ago, an email arrived for me indicating that my 68th US patent had been granted by the U.S. Patent Office. Whenever I read such a missive, my thoughts turn to the role of Intellectual Property relative to Innovation. As Dave Michels recently blogged, innovation can be encouraged or discouraged depending on the prevailing climate of how patents are used in the market.

Either way, Avaya ranks high in the community of technical companies. In 2012, Avaya was issued 246 patents, ranking us 123rd on the Intellectual Property Owners Association’s top 300 list. We have also been recognized with Edison Innovations awards to Avaya innovators for two years running. These are all sources of pride to the Avaya team. But what does it say about innovation at Avaya?

One measure of innovation is the number of new products a company introduces to the marketplace. In Avaya’s 2012 fiscal year, 57 new products were introduced to our customers. Some of these new products feature capabilities that lead the industry. The foundational shortest path bridging (SPB) technology that spans Avaya’s Fabric Connect portfolio for instance simplifies the configuration of a switched network while introducing a type of flattened software defined network. Its power was recently demonstrated at Interop where it was deployed in a 3 day period with a four person team. This represents a fraction (1/10th) of the effort previously expended by other vendors in years past.

Another recent innovation is a platform for easily building and integrating communications applications for large-scale services. Announced a few weeks ago at IAUG, Avaya Aura Collaboration Environment enables corporate developers, 3rd party ISVs, partners and Avaya itself to easily power applications that typically in mature deployments are so challenging to create that virtually no customer attempts them. For example, Avaya has sample applications that remap caller identity (like when using a guest phone, or to identify customers calling into a business), or to manage multi-channel blast updates (SMS, email, outbound auto-call), and managing on-demand team collaboration when the infrastructure is ad-hoc meet-me oriented. Now, multiple applications that know nothing about each other can be easily snapped into a common platform and work seamlessly together to resolve a unique business problem. The effort to make this happen is a fraction of other approaches today.

The goal of Unified Communications was to evolve telecommunications so that we would collectively become more connected. The reality of this is quite debatable. Ubiquitous software clients that interoperate or domain federate are still lacking, impeding the utility of the technology. There are potential problems with lost productivity from the prevailing clients, anyway – but that’s a story for another day. One thing these clients can do is make collaboration more straightforward to use and deploy. Avaya’s Contextual Services mobile clients cue users’ contacts and previous communications. This allows users to more easily find others they should be collaborating with, and communicate more appropriately and naturally. This in turn reduces the effort required to be more productive.

The Intellectual Property universe continues to evolve, sometimes fostering innovation, sometimes perhaps impeding it. Avaya continues to leverage the power of its engineers, architects, and developers to drive an innovation engine that is well tuned to power productivity and efficiency improvements while the wheel of the intellectual property world continues its cycle of change.

Until next time …

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