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Innovation at Enterprise Connect 2014

While Enterprise Connect is filled with enterprise-class, well-known communication solutions, it also features some emerging startups. Be sure to check out the Innovation Showcase.

Each year, four young and innovative companies are selected for the showcase. Each has new solutions that foster enterprise communications, representing some of the most innovative products of the year.

Here's what you need to know:

Who are the companies in 2014?
This year's showcase has two interesting takes on video, an interesting twist on UC mobility, and one that leverages text.

* HRLive: A social platform for video interviews. An application that uses video communication to screen, engage, test and ultimately hire candidates.

* Perch: Provides intelligent always-on video portals to naturally connect distributed teams, facilitate ad hoc collaboration and maintain a unified company culture.

* Tango-Networks: A solution that provides federation between the mobile network and enterprise UC applications. Enables rich enterprise UC management of any device.

* Textgen: A turnkey application that enables messaging-based conversations, leveraging ubiquitous and universal text messaging as a communications channel.

Where is the Showcase?
The four companies will present their solutions in a single breakout session on Monday, March 17th. In a new format this year, all four companies present in the same session. It takes place on Monday (the first day of the conference) at 3:15 PM in Sun B. This session is open to all attendees (including expo pass only).

All four companies are available for deeper consultation during exhibit hours in booth 437.

Who Were the Judges?
A big thanks to this year's volunteer judges. Assisting me this year were Tim Panton and Scott Muller. Tim is a communications developer and brought strong technical and entrepreneurial experience. He is the owner of Westhawk Ltd, a communications software and network consultancy.

Scott contributed his extensive experience of what sticks (and what gets replaced) at enterprises of all sizes. Scott is a Principal at Technology Plus, a consulting firm with broad expertise including design and engineering technology infrastructure, and selection and integration of major UC Communication initiatives.

Who Applied? There were 23 applications this year. Several products were based on WebRTC. Solutions this year covered video, cloud-based as-a-service offers, Google Apps solutions, instant messaging solutions, comms-enabled robotics, and several collaboration services. The showcase is designed to identify young firms--for innovations from the more established firms, check out the Best of Enterprise Connect.

What Makes a Company Innovative?
It is very hard to compare and measure innovation. We home in on what makes a product or service compelling. Sometimes it's a totally new approach, but more often it is just a new twist. This could be technical, pricing, or a unique combination of attributes. It doesn't have to be a new mousetrap, sometimes just better. In essence, we are seeking solutions that address a known problem from a different and compelling angle.

HRLive, for example, brings rich video-enabled solutions to the very specific area of recruitment. It goes beyond just sending a link for an interview. HRLive integrates with existing talent management systems as well as job boards, websites, and email. It offers a fresh update to a very manual process.

Video is commonly used to bring distributed teams closer together. Perch offers a new take on persistent video with always-on video portals that connect people and places. The solution includes an impressive collection of technologies; facial detection and call management tools to create an intuitive and natural feel.

Tango-Networks bridges the gaps between mobile and enterprise communications with network based federation. The solution allows a mobile subscriber to access their mobile phone from desktop, mobile, and tablet browsers. The solution enables enterprise capabilities such as recording on BYOD mobile devices--even feature phones. It can also leverage WebRTC endpoints.

It turns that just about everyone uses text for personal communications, but it remains underutilized for B2C communications. A bit odd since text is practically universal and often preferred, global, and useful even in noisy environments. Textgen intends to change this by making text accessible and functional to facilitate solutions. It works with toll-free numbers, and even offers translation between languages.

Only 4 Innovative Firms out of 23?
No, we really had a tough time this year. There were some very innovative solutions presented, but we can only choose four. In addition to selecting innovative firms, we look for a mixture of ideas and technologies in the showcase. Though, first and foremost is an innovative approach.

Aren't These Firms Too Small for Enterprise?
The vast majority of today's communications giants started as small firms with an innovative idea. The enterprise communications space has a tremendous amount of innovation taking place, and often, exciting innovation holds an inverse relationship to company size. Both end-user organizations and vendors are encouraged to check out what just might be the next big thing.

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