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Get In On the IoT-UC Action

I always love it when things in my personal and professional worlds jibe, as they did this week on the topic of Internet of Things -- or as it's known colloquially, IoT.

Early last week, the No Jitter editorial met up with technology professionals at Arrow Systems Integration to get their take on the relationship between IoT and unified communications. And then just a couple of nights later, a real-life example presented itself to me while flipping through a slide deck one of my daughters had asked me to look over before she delivered it as part of her final presentation for a summer internship project.

There, on slide 17 amid a display of program outputs, is a sample text message stream delivered up from environmental sensors in an office environment. Admittedly, this example is crude in terms of IoT potential -- very much more proof of concept than sophisticated implementation. In its simplicity, though, it clearly shows the importance of being able to deliver data collected from IoT sensors to business decision makers in a fashion that's intelligible (plain text rather than number strings, for example) and easily accessible (via their mobile devices, as in this case).

During our call with Arrow SI, Ashish Parikh, VP of software development and solutions, gave us another example of the interplay between IoT and UC. He described a use case in which data pulled from patient's heart-rate monitor gets streamed to a cloud IoT platform for real-time analysis. As thresholds are hit, UC comes into play -- a voice call to a medical practice fronted by a contact center. From the contact center, a nurse might push a text message out to the patient's doctor or other specialist, depending on the data at hand.

By bringing together IoT and UC, you're able to create the end-to-end flow -- "from the consumer to the contact center to the enterprise," Ashish said.

Jeff Reed, Arrow SI CTO, gave another example. In his use case, thousands of sensors on oil rigs feed data into an advanced predictive analytics engine that uses machine learning algorithms to spot imminent disaster and kick off an automated response, such as initiating a video meeting for the emergency response team.

IoT, though a buzzword today, really has been around a long time. The same, more or less, can be said of communications-enabled business processes (CEBP). The shift today is in the availability of cloud platforms that enable IoT at massive scale at the ability to communications-enable just about anything, Jeff said. "This is about machine to people, and when you have people interacting with machines, why not do so with full UC capabilities?"

Enterprises are spending a ton of money on IoT, as these projects tend to be big and costly. That typically places the IoT decision in the hands of top executives -- and that can be problematic, Jeff said. "At the C-level, telephony is seen as a commodity, so they often miss the CEBP discussion."

It's not that the UC modality -- email, voice, video, text, chat -- matters, Jeff said. What does matter, however, is that the tool of choice be a modern version capable of supporting IoT integrations.

If an enterprise hopes to achieve full automation in that machine-to-human link of the IoT and optimize return on investment, it'd better factor in the UC platform. And that platform better provide good middleware -- a well-documented software development kit, for example -- that IoT developers can use to build hooks into the UC platform, we learned from the Arrow SI team.

So it seems to me that enterprise communications manager absolutely must be in the thick of the IoT, as it were. Who knows -- the need to support IoT-UC integration might just give you a leg to stand on next time you ask for the budget to refresh your legacy platforms.