Phil Edholm
Phil Edholm is the President and Founder of PKE Consulting, which consults to end users and vendors in the communications...
Read Full Bio >>

Phil Edholm | January 13, 2015 |


CES 2015: My UC Takeaways

CES 2015: My UC Takeaways Consumer oriented or not, last week's CES extravaganza provided a look at innovative technologies that may find their way into the world of enterprise communications.

Consumer oriented or not, last week's CES extravaganza provided a look at innovative technologies that may find their way into the world of enterprise communications.

I know CES is predominantly a consumer event, but I think it shows what is coming for those of us in the enterprise. So last week I ventured into the world of 4K TVs, drones, robots, 3D printers, wearables, smart cars and all other things technical and weird to see what I could find. Yes, I went to CES 2015 in Las Vegas looking for unified communications products and their impacts.


CES was huge -- almost overwhelming, with more than 160,000 attendees converging on multiple venues. One of the small halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center is bigger than the entire Enterprise Connect floor, and CES filled 10 or so of those, as well as many other venues. It featured an astounding range of technology, from cars to sous-vide cookers. Taking it all in, I found a few trends worth mentioning here for the impact they'll have in enterprise communications.

The Rise of Machine Visualization, Augmented Reality
The first area of interest is in the connection of technology to the real world. This requires mechanisms for computers to visualize the real world and then present it in new ways to the user. I saw a number of technologies in the area of machine visualization, for example, with the most significant being Intel's RealSense.

The RealSense technology enables 3D mapping of the real world through cameras and processing. Intel demonstrated a number of use cases, including facial recognition, the ability to fly drones that don't hit anything, and the ability to allow a blind person to "see." In one demo, for example, RealSense was a core part of new security technology, with 3D facial mapping allowing simple user access. The demo showed how you could walk up to your door and a camera would recognize your face and use two-factor security, also matching the smartphone in your pocket to you, to let you into your house.

Demoing RealSense in an iRobot, Intel showed how the telepresence machine could move autonomously in a target environment. Instead of having to guide the iRobot, the user would just say, "Go to the conference room," and the robot would move on its own, avoiding people and other obstacles along the way. It is not a big jump for use of this technology, which is expected to be available later this year, to find its way into the enterprise -- recognizing me, for example, as I enter a conference or identifying participants in a room.

The second part in this trend reflects how we interact with the environment. While a number of vendors showed immersive virtual reality helmets, augmented reality (AR) seems to have much more promise. Glasses with AR capability, for example, could overlay the real world with information for the wearer. For example, a name might overlay a person as he or she walks into a meeting room. In another use case, Sony had a cool warehouse demo showing how AR, in conjunction with location and RFID technologies, could help find and identify the content in boxes. In another interesting example, Intel showed a demo of playing a virtual keyboard in midair with a projected 3D display. A company called Touchjet showed a relatively low-cost solution to turn any surface into a touchscreen. These technologies will quickly find their way into our enterprise environment.

A Move to Continuous Audio Feedback
A second area of interest is the emergence of lower-cost continual audio devices. Bragi, GN ReSound and other companies showed Bluetooth devices designed for near continuous use -- put them in in the morning and wear them all day. With unobtrusive sound (you can listen to what is happening around you while still getting audio messages) and built-in mics, these devices will enable our UC systems to listen to us continually. This will blur the boundary between communications and assistance. Voice in the cloud can enable communications and collaboration, as well as provide assistance (think Suri) or to record. Everything a person says in his lifetime amounts to about 2 terabytes, so the capability for continuous communications is coming.

Ultra-HD Video Gets Real
4K TVs, which provide ultra high-definition resolution, are here to stay. A large number of vendors showed 4K TVs at CES and, while expensive, the price points are sure to drop. As I have discussed in some of my white papers on business video, 4K has potential advantage in certain room situations as the near viewers at a table can see the display without pixels. While definitely not mandatory, it is a consideration.

For video conferencing, I think we will see the advent of 4K video HD coming sooner rather than later, especially as the cost of 4K video equipment drops. For the network teams, this is a really significant consideration. As 4K video has four times the bandwidth of 2K TVs, even with newer encoding like H.265 and VP9, its use will mean a doubling to tripling of bandwidth for higher-end conferencing. I expect a 4K round of telepresence systems later in the year, as well.

WebRTC Fuels Development
WebRTC also had a place at CES, and I found two demonstrations of such. Amaryllo, a camera manufacturer, showed its iCamProHD, a new video camera that uses WebRTC. And businessfriend (why do all of the new companies eschew the use of capital letters in their names?), showed a WebRTC-based business communications and collaboration offering. Businessfriend provides four basic services: social integration, communications, contact management and cloud storage (available in free and premium versions, depending on storage capacity). WebRTC was critical for development, Freddie Pierce, vice president of product, told me. Such will be the case elsewhere too, I believe, as developers take advantage of the speed and innovation that WebRTC can offer to create platforms for the business user. In the large enterprise space, Unify's Circuit product/platform is similar. It will be interesting to see how pricing and business models.

Overall, I found CES incredibly exciting. As I've said, the range of products and technology is astounding-- and innovation was everywhere.

From the Living Room to the Conference Room
More generally, after attending CES I've concluded that 2015 (and beyond) will become much more challenging for profitability in consumer technology as a wider range of categories are competing for the consumer dollar. The Consumer Electronics Association predicted that overall spending will increase around 1% this year, but U.S. spending will grow by less than 3%. The fact is, consumer income is not increasing rapidly and fixed costs (housing, food, transport, etc.) are increasing faster than income growth (excluding the recent drop in fuel prices). As a result, discretionary spending is flat at best and decreasing for many. The emergence of multiple new technology categories means that spending in many categories will drop.

For example, Samsung quoted a survey finding that 32% of consumers are interested in smart home technology, but fewer than 2% have invested in it. I see this as the interest vs. income gap. If you have $500 to spend, do you buy a Nest thermostat and home automation, a new mobile device, a 3D printer, a drone, a robot, a...? You get the idea. In consumer electronics, competition in categories has driven margins in many categories (think DVD players) to razor-thin levels. I think the same will happen across categories going forward. The result is that many primarily consumer-oriented companies are looking to business opportunities for growth. This was evident in the Samsung booth, where a large area showcased use of Samsung displays in business applications.

Many of the technologies that today seem expensive for enterprise communications and collaboration will become affordable and integrated. Vendors and enterprise IT staff must both have a clear view of these technologies and how they'll effect the near future and beyond. Your users, managers and executives will see these technologies at home and will expect you to have them available in your solutions.

Find me at Enterprise Connect Orlando, March 16-19, where I'll be presenting:


March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.