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Creating Context-Rich Real-Time Communications
Real-time communications isn't a new concept. Neither is the idea of contextual communications. So can a merger of the two bring about something fresh and exciting for businesses -- even if the result sounds suspiciously like what we've long called "CEBP," or the communications-enabled business process?
The answer, hashed over by a panel of industry insiders at the 11th-annual IIT Real-Time Communications conference held this week at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, is "Yes." (And, it's about time.)
Applause, applause. Communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) and communications API and SDK providers take your bows.
While once communications was mostly monolithic and intractable, it is now fluid, easily placed within applications as needed. So, yes, today's focus on adding context to real-time communications does sound a bit like the CEBP of yesteryear -- it is about embedding communications into applications, as noted by panelist Santhana Krishnasamy, director of product management for Kandy, Genband's CPaaS offering. But with CPaaS and other enablers of embedding communications, developers can go one step further and add in context to the communications and, oftentimes, use that context to trigger a next-step action, he said.
Turning communications into portable chunks of code means the ability to tailor communications to fit specific applications and purposes, and then by using analytical insight to add context, make that communications core even more effective, said Dean Bubley, founder of Disruptive Analysis, a tech/telecom analyst firm and the panel's moderator. He gave a few examples to illustrate the value of contextual communications that we might see over time.
Traveling With Context
The first step of our journey to contextual real-time communications involves the relatively familiar, although still mostly elusive idea that a traveler who fires up an airline's mobile app and clicks to call from a pull-down menu of numbers shouldn't have to give his frequent flier number to the customer support agent who answers the call. That agent should have that and other passenger profile information at his or her disposal, as well as where exactly in the world that traveler might be, down to the terminal and gate, and to where he wants to get. In other words, when time is of the essence, the traveler needn't waste any of it providing the context for his call.
What if that traveler has reached out to the customer support center to rebook, having missed a connection because his plane sat on the airport tarmac for an hour waiting for a gate to open? Knowing that emotions of harried travelers can run high, the airline contact center might employ emotional analysis within the media stream of incoming calls to help boost the customer experience, Bubley said. A sentiment analytics engine could detect extreme anger and be programmed to transfer the caller to an agent with soothing voice tones and a special script for dealing with irate passengers. Again, knowing the context changes communications.
Now imagine that same traveler hasn't missed his connection after all -- but is beating feet down the terminal concourse to make it to the gate before the jetway doors slam shut. Wouldn't it be something, Bubley asked, if an incoming call could trigger an automated response that said something along the lines of, "The person you're calling is currently at the airport, and running. I suggest you call back in two hours." That would bring contextual communications to a new level.
What if that traveler, while waiting for his flight, places a call to a potential client. The phone app recognizes the number, pulls up the user profile, and prior to connecting the call tells the traveler, "The person you're calling likes people who get to the point. He'll appreciate a bit of humor, but don't waffle." Maybe the app would even have a whisper mode, Bubley continued. Like a little bird in the caller's ear, it'd say, "'Stick to the point' or 'Close the deal.'"
Clearly those examples are within a sales context, but the ability to use data -- both measured and inferred -- to add value to a communications stream has relevance in any number of other business processes, Bubley added. Who knows, perhaps that traveler's ultimate destination is a sun-drenched tropical spot for a long-overdue vacation. But he can't help placing one last "wish you were here" call -- and the phone app suppresses the background line noise and allows the ambient sound of the waves to accentuate the conversation instead.
As panelist Tim Panton, a futurist with Westhawk, pointed out, Bubley's ideas for context-rich real-time communications involve a fair amount of science fiction and inferences. And trust and privacy concerns loom large over all of this, too, as do a variety of other hurdles, he added. But I'll leave those discussion points for another day and instead bask in the promise of a communications experience tailored to my every need.