Universal, Mobile, Unified Communications from FirstHand

Expanding capabilities, expanding partnerships bring enterprise network features to more mobile phones.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Nov 14, 2007
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Fixed/Mobile Convergence has been a buzzword on this site for at least a couple of years. Unified communications achieved buzzword status round about the beginning of this year. Now the two have come together—in the technology offering of Ottawa-based FirstHand Technologies.

We covered a milestone adoption of FirstHand's Enterprise Mobility Solution this past spring, when it became a part of IBM Corp.'s Integrated Collaboration suite (by way of an OEM technology partnership with 3COM).

The latest news from FirstHand is the arrival of what CEO Dave Hattey refers to as "our universal product"—formally titled Enterprise Mobility Solution UC (for unified communications)—which is designed to work with IP PBX solutions supporting SIP-standard interfaces.

More specifically, Hattey told Enterprise VoIPlanet.com, "We've integrated it with SIPxchange from Pingtel, with [Digium's] Asterisk, and with Sylantro['s Synergy 'feature server' platform]."

This brings mobility "to the tier two and tier three players that have SIP capabilities in their PBX," Hattey explained, "and also to bring it to a channel that deals with SIPxchange and with Asterisk on a daily basis and give them some mobility options."

The solution consists of a server/gateway component and two client "consoles"—one for single-mode mobile phones, one for dual-mode devices.

The client "mobilizes" (i.e., makes available to the mobile device) an organization's PBX functionality—including such 'mid-call' features as hold, transfer, and call screening, plus enterprise-style four- and five-digit dialing—and integrates other communications applications—including text messaging (both IM and SMS), audio conferencing, voicemail, and presence management—and provides access into corporate directories.

For customers deploying wireless LANs and dual-mode phones, the platform also provides full F/MC functionality, managing seamless call handoffs between the local-area Wi-Fi network and the wide-area cellular network.

With support for a broad range of operating systems—Windows Mobile 5 and 6, RIM OS (BlackBerry), and Symbian—the system works with a wide selection of phones and other mobile devices.

Unlike some mobility solutions, FirstHand's works in conjunction with a customer's existing PBX. "We use the PBX for all of our call routing, for all of our call detail records, Hattey said. "We use the enterprise's voicemail, too. So we use the infrastructure the enterprise has already invested in, already administers, and we mobilize that, and do it in a way that is carrier-agnostic, and multi-carrier," he said.

Enterprise Mobility Solution UC, just launched, is currently in trials in a number of facilities. Hattey expects customer take-up to begin in earnest around the beginning of 2008. " As we roll into next year, we expect to see volumes kick up nicely," he said.

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