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Will Wearable Tech Transform UC?

Wow, is this really getting interesting! Our options for input and output of information and communications continue to expand at seemingly exponential rates. In the past month we have had several attention-getting news items that are highlighting advancements in wearable technologies, of which many are communication-centric products.

Wearable tech is the January cover story for Wired Magazine, perhaps the leading observer of all things tech. The headline shouts, "HEADS UP--Why Wearable Tech Will Be As Big As The Smartphone." Inside, you'll see goggles, wristbands, rings, earbuds, and more that are able to deliver and collect information and are able to communicate via images, text, audio and video.

Wired also picks the 10 best products from the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and, no surprise, 3 of them are wearable tech and 2 more are personal video devices connected to the network.

In addition, Intel blew the doors off at CES with wearable, mobile breakthroughs in both computers and 3-D video cameras that will land in a number of personal (communication) devices. The new Edison computer is exactly the size of an SD memory card (you know, like a thick postage stamp) and includes onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There's hardly any limit to the imagination about the apps for this.

We've seen this new type of display coming (no pun intended) for almost a decade, and have written about it before. It started with high-priced heads-up displays used by field military personnel, but increasingly, it's personally accessible--both economically and commercially.

This reinforces the observation that like all things technical, smartphones and tablets are only interim steps. Clearly, they will have their decade(s) at the top of the charts, but, as many have said, "The only constant is change," dating back to 500 BCE.

So what does this mean to us in UC&C? Here are some suggestions.

1. Drop the idea of a phone call (or even a video call) over a PBX. It's already the case, and will likely soon become the norm, that real-time communication will be invoked, conducted and ended in the context of an app running on the user's device. From an enterprise communications perspective, these apps will be part of customer relationship management (CRM); part of operational workflows such as enterprise resource management (ERM), electronic health records (EHR), and similar transactional applications. They'll also be part of collaborative applications such as shared workspaces, project management systems, personnel management tools, and more.

2. Evolve the enterprise architecture. It will be necessary to decide where communications services will come from. Will each application have its own directory and its own communication software? Or will the applications be expected to use standard tools and interfaces to utilize the enterprise's communications platforms? Will the enterprise choose to use the IP-PBX as that communication platform, or perhaps other vehicles such as the communications-capable systems from IBM (WebSphere), Microsoft (Windows Server and Lync Server), or Oracle (Beehive and AquaLogic)? Will communications move to web servers (including those mentioned) using WebRTC or an equivalent? Almost certainly, the user experiences will be defined in context of the application software, much more than in context of the communications system platform.

3. Bring Business Process Analysts into your team. It doesn't take more than a glance to realize that the workflows of the future will be remarkably different. We've seen this happen when call centers and contact centers replaced the old, inefficient, labor-intensive methods of group ringing, call pickup groups, or hunt groups. But that's just the beginning of communication transformation in this emerging era of mobile, wearable tech. Information on mobile devices will replace huge numbers of calls in the enterprise workflow for employees as well as for customers and partners. Communication will be expected to be in context (of the application and the information), not an isolated parallel channel. Perhaps the enterprise can become even more virtual, invoking human brain power and relationship skills at just the right time for any business process. For sure, we should remember the Steve Jobs Apple tag line: "Think Different."

It's a wonderful time to be in UC&C. We will be able to look back and say, remember when we reinvented enterprise communications? Glad to be part of this with all of you.