When I was a child, if I wanted to meet with a friend in the afternoon for some unplanned quality time, there were basically two options: the direct one, where you would call his home phone and hope he’s there (or at least that his mother knows where he is…), and the indirect one, where you just wander around the neighborhood and hopefully run into him. Oh, life was much simpler then.Two break-through concepts emerged since then, and totally changed the way my son, for instance, would probably be looking for his friends:
- The mobile phone, which enables you to talk to (almost) anyone (almost) regardless of their physical location (and just ask “Where are you?”).
- Instant messaging (IM), made famous by 4 Israeli guys from ICQ, which introduced the general public to the concept of Presence information. Now you can know if your friends are online, and even what they current “status” is.
Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the world’s first commercial mobile phone. Remember?
Combine these two concepts, mobility and presence, and what do you get? Always on connectivity, meaning you’re always connected and your “presence” is always updated. For instance, we are using Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) in RADVISION, and so I can check the Communicator tool and see the availability and location of every RADVISION employee world-wide (pending they updated it using Microsoft Outlook). I can use this information to call them using their preferred method of communication or just send a short chat message, and it will reach them, either in their office, home, meeting room or internet café.
Another cool example of mobility and presence is Fring, a cool mobile application I’ve been using for a while, which manages your virtual presence (among other things) over mobile data plan or WiFi, using popular IM clients, such as GTalk, Skype or MSN Messenger (or all of the above). I can be on the go, and still appear “online” to my friends and colleagues, so that I can be reached using chat or VoIP call.
Mobile presence may be a fun thing for your social life, and applications like twitter which combine mobility, presence and social networking have already gained a lot of popularity, but mobile presence on an enterprise level may prove to be crucial for corporate life, even if they may make us “too connected“. Unified Communication systems can harvest this valuable presence information, especially if always-on, in order to optimize the use of communication methods in the enterprise, to the benefit of all users.
The best of two worlds? Twitter over Fring – a short demo.
For instance, you can have one phone number (single access number) for each employee, which will reach his mobile, office or home phone, according to the employee location and desire. Or you can use instant messaging, which will be translated to either chat messages in his IM client, e-mail message if he’s only using e-mail, text message (SMS) on the mobile phone or even a voice mail message (using text-to-speech). And, of course, you know if the person you want to call is available to accept the call or not (and maybe his geographical location).
Presence-based and mobile unified communications in the workspace means employees can collaborate in real-time across multiple workspaces. It means workforces can be mobilized to home offices and remote workspaces, and it means that employees can use them anywhere, anytime to get updated, communicate and contribute.
Snapshot of my own personal communicator. Hey, I’m available…
So nowadays you are where your presence information says you are, and as long as you have an internet connection in your close proximity, and as long you are carrying a means of communication (mobile handset, handheld device, laptop), you are available for some playful games in the neighborhood. That is, if you don’t have anything more important to do now that you’re “connected”. Oh, how life was so much simpler back then…