The idea of presence in unified communications is a very powerful one. It can be perceived as an electronic onlooker who reports to those trying to reach a party on whether he or she is available and, in some cases, what they are doing (at least electronically) that is keeping them from joining the session.
No Jitter Editor Eric Krapf posted an interesting commentary last week detailing a conversation he had with Cisco’s Eric Schoch. Schoch told Krapf that presence will become a core function – not a separate add-on – to telecom systems.
That’s undoubtedly true. But the more intriguing idea Schoch voiced, Krapf pointed out, is that presence will become far more powerful. The example he used is that not only would presence be able to identify whether the end user is available or not, but it would be to steer the session – if the subscriber indeed is available – to the predetermined device of choice.
I agree with Krapf and Schoch that presence will be a hot area going forward. Starting with an awareness of what is in the network and where the end user is makes presence the fulcrum around which a garden of valuable services can grow.
LightPoint, a hosted and cloud-based unified communications provider, also believes in expanded presence. This is from a press release that described the company’s placement in the visionaries quadrant of the recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC as a Service report.
There is another potential benefit from strengthening presence. One of the traditional problems with unified communications is that it resists a concise definition. Systems, due to the fact that they have a wide variety of feature sets, generally all look different to end users. If the focus is on presence, however, unified communications could become known simply as a collection of linked telecommunications services that are aware of each other and of the activities of the end user. The focus will be off the specific functions – which will continue to confuse – and on how they are linked together.
Some insiders already define unified communications in this manner. It isn’t, however, the definition that generally is offered to outsiders. Perhaps it should be, especially if it serves as the natural entry point for additional features and functions.
These will play an increasingly central role in the next generation of communications. Presence services, in particular, are expanding to enable aggregation and publication of presence and location information from and to multiple sources. This enhanced functionality is sometimes called “rich presence.”