How many contact
information do you have? Or, better still how many devices you’re
dependent upon for the purpose of communication? It’s obvious that
we depend on wide range of equipments for our communication needs,
namely cell phones, landlines, fax machine, PC, PDA, laptops and
sundry such gadgets. Now, is it not a headache to keep monitoring
all these gadgets simultaneously for an important communication?
In other words, wouldn’t it be convenient if there’s a mechanism
that makes it possible to access all the above at a single
Such a concept is
known as unified messaging. Unified messaging
is the integration of several different communications media, such
that users will be able to retrieve and send voice, fax, and
e-mail messages from a single interface, whether it is a wire line
phone, wireless phone, PC or any other compatible gadget.
The essence of
communication is breaking down barriers. The telephone breaks
distance and time barriers so that people can communicate in real
time or near-real time when they are not in the same place at
once. There are now other barriers to be overcome. For example,
people use different terminals to communicate, and there are new
forms of communication, such as e-mail, voice mail, fax machines,
and pagers. The unified messaging concept involves breaking down
the terminal and media barriers so that people using different
technologies, different media, and different terminals can still
communicate to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
is a personal agent for the individual user. It can help send and
receive messages, whether they are voice, e-mail, or fax. It also
will notify the user whenever mail arrives. The concept of
notification is becoming a large part of messaging. Some people
want to be reached at all costs, anywhere, at any time. Whether
they are at home or on vacation, they want to be notified of
messages, while others are more protective about their privacy.
They do not want to be reached when, for example, they are
sleeping or having dinner. Unified messaging technology provides
the power to reach people almost anywhere, at any time and the
flexibility to allow people to control when they can be reached.
This is based on a concept of "your time" communications, where
subscribers can interface with messages how and when they want.
exist that enhance the integration of voice mail and e-mail, such
as text-to-speech software that converts e-mail into spoken words.
For example, at the airport a user could call in on a phone and
hear e-mail messages, making it easy to reach important decisions
without delay. Other enabling technologies, such as speech
recognition, are becoming more reliable and cost-effective. For
example, people who are behind the steering wheel a lot will find
speech recognition a particularly convenient interface.
interfaces are essential to access the unified mailbox. Whether
from the phone or from the Internet-enabled PC, the subscriber can
navigate through the unified mailbox with ease and full control at
all times. Checking e-mail from the phone becomes intuitive, and
likewise, hearing voice messages from the PC becomes second
messaging is a business tool as well. It can provide a
twenty-four-hour storefront. People can use the phone to get
information or to make transactions. They can purchase merchandise
or trade stock without talking to a live person. With the
emergence of new technology, especially the Internet, the
twenty-four-hour storefront has flourished. More information can
be accessed and more shopping can be done than ever before.
Through the Internet, people can search for the merchandise that
they need and find out more information about what they want to
The phone and the
personal computer have become transaction terminals. Newer
technologies are emerging for the phone that will make it more
than a device by which customers can listen and use the keys to
ADSI stands for
“Analog Display Services Interface”. Telephone companies
worldwide, particularly in Canada; have invested considerably to
create services leveraging display phones using ADSI technology.
This technology allows the phone to be switched from voice to data
mode as needed during the connected session. This device has
become a very useful transaction terminal. People can use it for
banking transactions, brokerage transactions, and even to order a
pizza or an air ticket. On the other end of the network, a pizza
restaurant, for example, would have a small database of users on a
conventional PC. Customers call in and enter the data mode. Their
calling number is recognized immediately as a previous customer,
and they can order their pizza with choices presented to them on
the phone's display. The caller's address and telephone number is
then retrieved from the database. This application is an example
of technology yielding business solutions. The concept of
community messaging has also been extended to the business world.
Information can be sent to a group of people and feedback can be
received. For the ADSI phone, messaging is the killer application.
consideration is scalable systems. Some of the current
technologies and products in the market only work well on a small
scale. The unified messaging platform should reach thousands of
customers. The network deployment cost for scaling up these
systems must be manageable-merely having the technology to provide
a user service is not sufficient. The service provider involvement
requires that different infrastructure services be available. For
example, users must be added to the system en masse (in
groups) rather than having to type them in one by one. The systems
also must be integrated with the existing service infrastructure
of the service provider. A similar infrastructure service is
needed, such as providing management reports, research data, or
data-collection facilities to allow the service provider to know
which part of the service is being used, what the popular services
are, and which services or features are not as popular. This
information helps service providers determine where to invest
next. The data-collection facility is another feature that service
providers want to integrate into their service and system.
can also streamline operations. The Internet has changed
technology and communications. It has shown how standards work and
how they can benefit even competing products. With standards, less
training is required. Different machines and different systems can
work together based on common standards. The power of the standard
will streamline products and services as well as operations. Fewer
service reports are needed. With network-management standards, for
example, an essential system of control by polling different
machines can be established to find out how these machines work.
Streamlining operations will provide large cost savings for
In a nutshell
The way unified
messaging is beneficial for subscribers or end users, it’s
beneficial for the service provider too. First it means an
increased subscriber base. Secondly, advertisements can be
targeted much effectively since subscribers access a single
terminal repeatedly for all their communication needs.
An end user of
unified messaging gains his major advantage by reducing the number
of places he/she must check for incoming voice, fax, and e-mail
messages. From a single interface, one can check for all message
unified messaging can provide a much more organized way to serve
their customers. The ability to fax from the desktop alone can
increase productivity by about 50 percent.
But then, it’s
very essential that the unified messaging platform should be
reliable enough to handle the traffic. It should also be scalable
to grow as the service provider's market and subscriber demands
grow. Unless the UM service providers (usually telephone companies
or ISPs) ensure an interrupt free service unified messaging can’t
be fully relied upon, because life becomes miserable if your sole
communication terminal (say telephone) goes dead.
architecture open is essential. An open platform not only performs
better in a network environment but places less restrictions on
the service provider who wants to expand its network with new
services or administration applications.
Following are few
possibilities we’re dreaming of and can be realized by Unified
Messaging. Ability to send
and receive fax from desktop or PDA or laptop or cell phone (This
eliminates entire FAX machine, stationery, a separate phone line
etc). Reply, forward and save options are added advantages.
No fear of
loosing calls while on line using dial up connections. (Incoming
calls can be converted into voice mails. One can access their
voice mailboxes while on-line. With a visual interface, either
through a Web browser or popular e-mail client, they can find out
who left a message, when, and the length of the message. They also
have the option of listening to their messages from their
multimedia PC if they wish)
Ability to check
email, voice mail etc from any phone (Assume you missed a flight
but can still be in touch with your office from an airport pay
communication: say you’re on with an important business
negotiation and don’t want to receive any call or other
communication except from few people say your boss.
messages from one form to another: For example the student who has
an e-mail account wishes to message his parents. However, his
parents do not have an e-mail account but do subscribe to voice
mail. With a powerful unified messaging application, the student
can record a voice message and send it via e-mail to his parents'
voice mailbox. The parents receive that voice message and never
even know that it was sent via e-mail. Instead they treat it as
any voice message and can reply, forward, save, or delete it. If
they reply, it is sent back to their son as an e-mail with a voice
message attachment. In an advanced option text to speech and
speech to text applications can also be employed.
The concept of
Unified Messaging is yet to be picked up by Indian telephone
companies and ISPs. Though there’re segregated attempts by certain
firms to offer a part of such services.
paging company Mobi Link enables one who buys their package, to
send email and sms from any phone. There’re many
companies which offer telephone calls over internet (Which’s
mainly marketed as cheap rate ISD calls). Ordering consumer
like pizza on net and by phone is already in practice (but the
requests are handled manually). Cellular
companies readily offering internet on cell phones (which are
compatible with WAP and/or GPRS). Microsoft’s
Office XP and office 2003 have speech recognition feature and
coming versions will be compatible with Indian languages too.
The concept of
Unified Messaging will be realized if someone unifies all above
services and more such that end users like you and me can count on
any one terminal for all our communication needs, in a cost
effective and fail proof manner. Pray that happens soon.