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Universal communications on a global scale

By Thomas Ganswindt, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and Group President, Siemens Information and Communication Networks

The communications industry is yet again entering a new and stimulating phase in its very dynamic evolution. We are seeing the emergence of new communication models for enterprises, carriers and most importantly individual users. The barriers between home networks, enterprise networks, wireline and wireless carrier networks are being surpassed. Networks are now capable of providing seamless, intuitive and accessible communications through highly flexible applications and services that run independently of devices and locations and offer presence-aware, real-time communications as well as new entertainment services that are easy to use.

Focused innovations
We are producing technology that transcends the limitations of today’s accepted modes of communication by providing better control over information, making communications more convenient and intuitive, and offering applications independent of the underlying infrastructure.

Moreover, we have come to understand the key to our own success lies in our customers’ success, very simply. In other words we must innovate and provide the kinds of support technologies that people need to accomplish their professional goals and enrich their personal lives. We must offer professional users more effective, intuitive communications, resulting in increased personal productivity and reduced stress. We must offer users greater control over the daily glut of information that they face and the ability to personally manage their availability. We must give users the power to better balance their private lives and professional obligations through a new, higher standard of service quality, thus making it more convenient and more fun to integrate the applications into their daily lives. This is where our future lies; and this is the focus of our recent Wall Street Journal Europe award-winning innovation, called “LifeWorks” that will make the incompatibility between phones, computers and PDAs a thing of the past.

In the recent past we faced the challenge of integrating voice and data networks to accommodate increasing traffic volume and volatility. We addressed this challenge by creating scalable, flexible next generation solutions that improved network efficiency, offered better quality of service and yielded new profits. We gave carriers the tools to optimize their existing network capacity through IP, the Internet Protocol. In this way, we made networks more powerful, flexible and more economical. This is what is known as IP convergence. What is now needed are new applications that make use of these powerful networks and support increased productivity and profits for all parties involved.

Individuals
The most exciting aspects of this new standard of communications are in the realm of the individual. Most individuals have both professional and personal roles. We discharge our professional duties and live our lives on an increasingly global basis. This means different time zones, diverse cultures, adaptable skills and flexible tools. In order to thrive in this new global world we must have systems that do not simply circulate information, but that delivers the right information to the right place at the right time under the direct control of the end user.

We have a complex array of communications gadgets at our disposal, most of which completely incompatible. It is not unusual for business people to have several mobile phones, each with its own telephone number and voice mail, plus a PDA and a laptop computer not to mention the fixed and even cordless devices that are already sitting in their offices. Curiously these devices were all designed to increase productivity, but clearly, we are wasting time trying reach each other, rather than spending quality time talking to each other.

Not just a better mousetrap

One might argue that this issue has already been addressed. We already have forms of unified messaging; we can already forward messages from a PC to a mobile phone or PDA, so what’s the big deal?

IP is once again the key. IP enables our disparate PDAs and PCs and cell phones talk to each other. This makes the everyday communications tools we depend upon smarter and more universal. And because they can communicate, they are better able to gather and share intelligence and offer more flexible, individualized services. For example, users can set up a profile determining how they want to be reached at any given time; this is called managed presence. By the same token the user can see if other users in his address book or buddy list are available and how they prefer to be contacted, i.e. via an office phone, e-mail or mobile device.

We can now offer a common user experience across a unified domain. We have furthermore bridged the gap between corporate and public networks, desktops and mobiles and integrated communications between home offices, small offices, branch offices, regional offices, and headquarters. This approach will clearly save time, money and increase productivity. You could also say that this is more human approach, as it recognizes and accommodates personal boundaries that we all set between our personal and working life, and offers the flexibility to step in and out of these roles at a moment’s notice, complete a task and return to private pursuits without a profound disruption of either role.

Changes to the Infrastructure
Public networks are increasingly being annexed within private boundaries and private enterprise networks are becoming more accessible from remote locations via the public network. This is chiefly a reaction to the evolution of business and private communications as an accoutrement of “lifestyle”, rather than an inert communications tool. The communications infrastructure is rapidly evolving to incorporate flexible combinations of personal, business and carrier technologies as well as wired and wireless access, tools and applications into a unified network environment; thus creating a unified domain across both carrier and enterprise segments, across networks and devices regardless of location. It similarly streamlines communications between teleworkers and their corporate headquarters, SOHOs, branch offices, regional offices, as well as offering new more versatile carrier-based business applications.

Operators
Actually, this next generation of communications offers carriers some considerable opportunities to generate revenue and increase value per subscriber. Carriers will be introduced to avenues of profit that were previously closed to them. These include solutions for the managed service provider and carrier markets. It permits carriers and other service providers to offer a complete portfolio of services for the business customer segment, such as IP-Centrex, hosted communication services and so called next-generation applications from a centrally managed server. Centrex is a business telephone service that is offered by the local telephone company. This represents just one on many of a new range of individual services and “single source” applications that carriers and other service providers can use to strengthen their market position and tap new revenue streams. Some of these services include unified messaging, click-to-dial, multi-party videoconferencing, whiteboard collaboration and other multimedia applications, as well as integration in Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes. Support for conventional Centrex voice services is also included.

One of the revolutionary aspects of this kind of service delivery is the use of session initiation protocol or SIP. Initially SIP was intended to deliver voice and video over IP, but it quickly developed into an essential building block for many new next-generation, multimedia applications. This fact is evidence of the inherent intuitiveness of these new technologies. SIP attaches an identity to the end user, rather than a communications device such as a telephone this promotes freedom of mobility and enables multimedia communications and work from any location, via any network and in any situation, by telephone, PC, TV or mobile phone, via cable or cordless links, in the office, at home or on the go.

The new services and applications that SIP supports have opened up a whole new world of mobile desktop style communications that address the dynamics of the active lifestyles and global business that are the hallmark of business in this new century. Carriers have made great progress by deploying flexible next generation solutions that maximize profitability by making the best use of network assets and simultaneously offering revenue-generating services and applications.

Businesses

When we address the needs of the enterprise network we must once again invoke the importance of the individual. Enterprises are of course teams of individual users who sometimes sit at a desk, other times work at home, and more and more often travel either across the street or across the globe. As such we see the fundamental role that communications can have in boosting productivity.

The advantages of this new technology for small businesses include access to state-of-the-art applications without the need for IT staff, systems integration or economies of scale, which are in fact currently required for deploying such applications. The productivity and managed accessibility of these solutions will enhance the speed advantage of the small business and simplify the acquisition of products and services. One of the most compelling advantages for the small businessperson is the ability to superimpose business and personal communications tools, because small business are “always-on” businesses as any owner will tell you.

Furthermore these new systems provide owners and managers and employees more flexible communications provisioning choices. For enterprises that might be interested in a subscriber-based solution, for example the system offers IP hosted telephony with the delivery of advanced services and applications via a subscriber-based IP model. This combines the advantages of the IP Centrex method with the advantages of next generation applications and services, as described above.

In conclusion
This new model of communications will offer an antidote to the impersonal aspects of recently entrenched tools like email, voice mail, automated call centers and the Internet. The next generation of communications will be interactive and multimedia. It will give us the global reach of the Internet and email yet will incorporate the personal virtues of human communications, the sight and sounds of interaction, the gestures and signals between people, face-to-face over infinite distances. This will foster a cross cultural understand and wider era of prosperity by transcending the artificial boundaries imposed by today’s technologies.

For more information:
Please contact: Rüdiger Mühlhausen, ruediger.muehlhausen@siemens.com
Or visit: http://www.siemens.com/networks


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