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No Jitter Roll: Microsoft Ignite Revelations, Teams Room Solutions

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Image: Sundry Photography - stock.adobe.com
This week, we share a slew of announcements from Microsoft Ignite 2021, Poly updates its Microsoft Teams Rooms solutions, and 8x8 reveals enhancements for its experience as a service (XCaaS) platform. IntelePeer introduces an all-in-one monitoring, registration and remediation system to combat spam calls, and Ooma unveils a plain old telephone service (POTS) replacement.
 
Microsoft Reveals Product and Service Enhancements
At Microsoft Ignite 2021, Microsoft pulled the curtain back on integrations, digital canvas applications, improved capabilities around databases, artificial intelligence, developer tools, security, and other Azure cloud platform solutions. Here, we highlight updates to Microsoft Stream, Power Virtual Agents, and Workplace solutions:
 
Microsoft Stream Adds Improves Access Features, Search
The company has added several new features and updates to its enterprise video service to improve its capabilities. They include the ability to view Microsoft Teams live transcripts as a video plays—either as a side pane or as closed captions; the ability to search meeting recordings based on words and phrases, and the ability to access videos on the web through stream.office.com.
 
Power Virtual Agents Updates
Several updates for Microsoft Power Virtual Agents aim to improve the creation, development, and functionality of AI-powered chatbots that respond to employee and customer needs. These updates occur in the following categories:
 
  • Fusion bot development – Any bot maker can share ideas, concerns, and questions by leaving comments relating to specific topics, allowing conversations to occur directly inside the authoring experience (in preview). “Comments let you contextually add notes, feedback, and have conversations with others directly in your bot, just like you would in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint,” wrote Microsoft’s Lili Cheng in a blog post explaining the changes.
  • Always-on service – Bots can connect to phone call interactions as interactive voice response (IVR) for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service. The bot can answer the call to the phone number using speech recognition and text-to-speech and then pass along the context to live agents, eliminating the need for repeat questions (generally available). Callers can interact with the bot naturally using their native language with support from Power Virtual Agents’ 19 languages.
  • Power Virtual Agents as a skill – As Cheng explained, “Business users and subject matter experts can create Power Virtual Agents bots and make them available as skills to the developers. If a Power Virtual Agents bot is added as a skill, the Bot Framework bot will determine if the user’s query matches any of the trigger phrases in the Power Virtual Agent’s bot.”
  • Microsoft Teams proactive communications and inclusion – Bot makers can send a proactive message to a user or group within Teams with full context, based on external trigger events (in preview). Bot makers can also create and add bots to a team channel directly while allowing other channel participants to interact with the bot (coming soon).
  • Sharing bots with colleagues via security groups – Organizations can share bots with security groups and manage who should and shouldn’t have access to the bot (generally available).

 

Microsoft Power Platform Return to Workplace Solution Updates
Microsoft Power Platform has released version 1.6 of its Return to the Workplace solution, which is now available in preview. This update enables the solution to meet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) upcoming vaccination guidelines, which require organizations with more than 100 employees to self-report and produce evidence of vaccinations and test results.
 
 
Poly Updates Studio Kits for Microsoft Teams Rooms
Poly unveiled a new line of hardware offerings that pair with Dell or Lenovo conferencing PCs. Poly Studio Kits for Microsoft Teams Rooms come in three configurations, from focus rooms to large rooms. All the configurations include a Poly GC8 touch controller and a Dell OptiPlex 7080 XE or Lenovo ThinkSmart Core compute appliance. The real variance is in-camera specification – the medium-room kit and large-room kit both offer cameras with automation group framing and speaker tracking – and in audio options available.
 
Poly's Microsoft Teams Rooms Solutions with Dell or Lenovo, which start at $3,150, are now available in North America and select regions, Poly said.
 
8x8 Adds Enterprise Meeting Capabilities to XCaaS Platform, Strengthens Ties to Microsoft Teams
8x8 announced Experience Communications as a Service (XCaaS) platform enhancements for large meetings: the ability to mute and turn off content sharing/video for all participants; the ability to use in-meeting polls or emoji reactions to elicit real-time engagement; and the ability to move across devices without leaving a meeting.
 
In addition, 8x8 is also enhancing its analytics offerings with real-time meeting analytics for its meetings and enhanced analytics options for call center support.
 
The company also announced a customized experience for receptionists and operators who handle high-volume calls to eliminate the need for additional applications to install or support call volume.
 
And finally, the embedded 8x8 Voice for Microsoft Teams app, available for download from the Microsoft AppSource, allows employees to capture, retain, and retrieve call recordings for training, compliance, and archive purposes from any Teams endpoint.
 
IntelePeer Targets Robocallers, Combats Call Spoofing
CPaaS provider IntelePeer launched Reputation Management, a system designed to help businesses verify caller IDs and combat illegal spoofing initiated by robocallers.
 
Reputation Management provides advanced analytics and a dashboard for on-demand reporting of call reputation and performance, and the ability to create alerts for changes in reputation via IntelePeer Insights. The offering comes in two forms: a Starter for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and a Professional for larger enterprises. The professional level includes the analytics features from the starter package plus the ability to manage multiple carrier relationships and phone number updates for businesses to address negative number labeling, improve number reputation, and increase customer interaction.
 
Ooma AirDial Platform Replaces POTS Lines
UCaaS provider Ooma announced AirDial, a platform that aims to replace legacy copper-wire analog phone service, also known as plain old telephone service (POTS). AirDial includes phone service, a T-Mobile data connection, and hardware, in addition to number porting, heat and sink ventilation for fan-less cooling, and an LCD screen that shows wireless signal strength, battery life, and phone line status. External antenna support is available for installations where the AirDial unit isn’t near a building's exterior.
 
AirDial also features up to four analog connections with standard dial tone and is fully compatible with POTS, wireless-only connection options, in addition to failover from a wired broadband connection to wireless, and the ability to mount the device vertically or horizontally. Users can also take advantage of a backup battery that lasts up to eight hours and remote management across multiple locations.
 
Because Ooma AirDial will maintain a managed voice channel that doesn’t touch the public Internet, Ooma expects its solution to meet regulatory requirements such as NFPA 72 and UL 864 for life-safety systems, Ooma said.
 
AirDial will be available only in the U.S. in early 2022.

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