When Presence Green-Lights Distraction
Avaya's David Chavez talks about ways to improve presence, and upgrade it to "awareness."
Just about every vendor's implementation of presence uses the convention of red, yellow, and green to display a person's availability. But if users treated stop lights the way they tend to treat presence indicators, every intersection would be a continual accident scene.
I regularly run the red light of presence, figuring that if someone's really busy, they'll just ignore me until they get un-busy, an actual state of existence that may or may not coincide with what their presence indicator says. I'd guess that half my IM exchanges with colleagues occur while one or both of us is signaling red for reasons unrelated to the exchange we're having.
However, there's another presence problem I hadn't thought much about, that David Chavez of Avaya brought up in his talk at the UC Summit today. Basically, Chavez said, that green symbol is a "bright shining icon that says I'm available to be interrupted on that device."
Of course, you can go and manually re-set your presence to Busy or Do Not Disturb, but Chavez's point is that we should be able to implement systems that help you do this automatically. He also suggested that we ought to use the range of capabilities that our devices possess to help the system understand how to treat presence and instant messaging.
One idea that has a creepy element but makes sense on a technical level is that the camera on a device could be used to keep an eye on the user--not in the service of some corporate Big Brother, but as the user's own proxy. Chavez's idea is that the camera could, without broadcasting your image to any other end user station, be capturing your image and telling the system useful information about what you're doing--often by using facial recognition.
One straightforward application would be to use facial recognition as a security access method; another might be for the camera to be able to "tell" the system that it sees more than one face in its field of vision. Why would that be useful? Well, if you don't want someone looking over your shoulder (consciously or otherwise) at IMs that could be popping up on your screen, the system might know not to display such IMs when it knows someone else might see them.
That kind of example is a little out there, but what I like about it is that it at least shows that Chavez and Avaya are thinking about doing innovative cool things with enterprise communications applications, and are thinking about how people actually use the systems--which is exactly what we say we want vendors to do more of.
Of course, this sort of innovative thinking has to be tempered by reality. During Chavez's Q&A, one VAR attendee here at the Summit challenged him about vendors' tendencies to tout capabilities and exciting new features that they're not prepared to deliver on. "Don't tell me cool stories" and set unrealistic expectations, she cautioned him.
And while some of the previous ideas were more futuristic, Chavez also discussed some integrations that Avaya is putting into its clients that do seem to promise greater efficiencies, putting these under the heading of what he called not presence, but "awareness."
For example, the Avaya client can present "predictive contacts" to the user when he or she is in a conversation with another colleague on the system--contacts who are shared by the two participants will appear at the top of this list, being the most likely candidates that the communicating pair would be inclined to conference into their conversation, should the need arise.
Likewise, the client can present recent contacts between the participating end users, in various media, as well as documents that they may have collaborated on in SharePoint or a similar such content management system.
And one final intriguing point: Chavez said that, while these integrations are available in Avaya "heavy clients" today for UC, by year-end, Avaya will also have a browser-based implementation of these features based on WebRTC.