Next Generation Communications Week in Review: Telstra, Etisalat and Alcatel-Lucent

The need for ultra-broadband networks that are faster, more capacity, secure, software-defined, and programmable/agile be they wired, wireless or hybrid, is already off to a rush in 2015 as the core conversation pieces of the Next Generation Communications Community.  It is reflected in the news from this week along with the features and blogs. 

News

Interestingly the news this week starts with not just one but two items regarding Australia’s largest service provider Telstra (News - Alert). In the first item which speaks to the need for speed, Telstra Global announced that it is now offering announced 100 gigabits per second (100G) connectivity to its undersea cables. And, in line with its global aspirations and desire to be a preferred services provider for the media and entertainment industries as real time and streamed video continue to explode, the company launched its Global Media Switch for Video Delivery platform service.

Community host Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) (ALU) also scored with a twofer this week.  In keeping with what many are seeing as 2014 having been the year of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) trials and 2015 looking like the year for NFV deployments, Alcatel-Lucent is helping Middle East service provider Etisalat (News - Alert) move to the cloud with an NFV-based wireless controller for deployment in Etisalat Group's access network in both the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka. Plus, a field trial conducted by Alcatel-Lucent and the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) consortium, which connects France to 16 countries in the west coast of Africa was carried out successfully. The 300G/400G technology was able to transmit 12.6 terabits-per-seconds (Tbit/s) of data per fiber pair.

Other industry news included why Infonetics Research (News - Alert) recently predicted the transformation of data center switching, again with that focus on the need for speed will soon be seen via 25G and 50G solutions. And, in what I like to call the mission critical plumbing portion of the industry, Panamax announced improvements to its billing solution, BillCall, with the addition of a CRM Module

Features

It is not because I had the pleasure of writing this item, or that I had the great good fortune not that long ago to dine with him, but you should be interested in Bell Labs President and Alcatel-Lucent Chief Technology Officer Marcus Weldon’s take on the future of multiservice operators (MSOs) network architectures and how they need to change and why.   And, part of that future is going to be centered around all of the aspects of data center interconnection, as TMCnet Contributor Mae Kowalke’s feature on the subject highlights.  

Blogs

It really is coincidence, but the ACE announcement cited in the news does highlight the recent remarks I summarized by Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes on the importance of bringing ultra-broadband to Africa. This means not just giving the populace access to clean water and energy, but in a digital world ubiquitous and affordable access to businesses and individuals to high-speed broadband communications is now not just a foundation but a pre-condition that is essential for moving ahead.  

Finally, while the song in the U.S. is called “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” it turns out that in order to be more operationally efficient and effective the railroads have been working to implement next generation communication IP/MPLS networks as the foundation for their operations and customer experience transformations.

Weekend reading

What’s new and exciting and the industry buzz?  A great way to find out is to use the community home page as your gateway to constantly up-dated news, whitepapers, videos, podcasts and case studies.

Plus, the home page also links to several eZines. Recent additions of note are several Alcatel-Lucent TechZine articles. In line with the interest in NFV noted at the top, check out 5 must-have attributes of an NFV platform.  And, like a good Netflix series such as Sherlock, by all means start a binge viewing of mobile data plan innovations by reading Part 1 and Part 2 of the six piece series.

The other eZines, GRIDTalk, TRACKTALK and LIFETALK have detailed articles into key market sectors that are equally as timely and informative.

Outbound Call Center Week in Review: Cisco, DialAmerica, TeleVoice, 8×8

January 24, 2015

This week in outbound call center news we saw a number of new product releases, partnerships and news of executive appointments.

360 Mortgage Group, has announced it selected TeleVoice to provide an IVR system for its banking customers that will allow better access to account information.

Also this week, Energisa Group, a Brazillian energy distributor, said it was able to improve its customer service with the help of Cisco’s (News - Alert) Unified Contact Center Solution.

After deploying Cisco’s solutions, the company was able to integrate telephone, email and real time chat as well as add social capabilities to their customer care offering. In addition to an Outbound Dialer, the desktop client makes it easy for both agents and supervisors to use.

Call center provider DialAmerica also made headlines this week with the announcement that it appointed a new vice president of Business Development to its team.

Richelle Litteer who has been named to the post, will now be responsible with helping the company to build its key strengths and help enhance existing accounts, as well as leverage new business initiatives.

Finally, 8x8 (News - Alert) said it has expanded its presence in the APAC region in a bid to meet the needs of its growing multinational customer base.

The expansion is the result of a new partnership with EntrustICT which makes it possible to offer its Virtual Office and Virtual Contact Center solutions to the Australian market and a partnership with Equinix (News - Alert) that gives 8x8 the ability to establish a point of presence at Equinix's Sydney, Australia facility.

That’s all for this week. Be sure to check back for all the latest outbound call center news as it happens. Until next week…

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Contact Center Analytics Week in Review: 3C and PwC Weigh in, Mphasis and Aureus Buddy Up

January 24, 2015


By Alisen Downey
Contact Center Analytics Web Editor

Across the board, new advancements in analytics are enabling contact centers to achieve higher efficiency, build stronger workforces and business strategies, and improve the customer experience in innovative and personalized ways previously too labor-intensive to attempt for large enterprises. With such an active industry, it’s no wonder there is plenty to keep track of in the contact center analytics space. With that, let’s take a look at some of the industry highlights from this week.

Focusing on ways to enhance the world of customer service for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), this week Toronto-based 3C Contact Services, a provider of SMB contact center solutions, weighed in on the debate over ways to improve call center metrics in 2015. "Customer satisfaction has always played a vital role in both keeping and attracting new customers,” said 3C Contact Services customer service manager Damian Reyes. “Whether it's business-to-consumer, business-to-business, or product- or service-focused, excellent customer service will translate into bottom line growth…With the economy improving, 2015 will be more competitive than last year. To stand out in the crowd, brands need to provide the best customer service experience possible."

But, as we know, metrics and big data analytics don’t stop at improved customer service. Another increasingly relevant way in which contact center analytics can help is in meeting contact center compliance regulations. Research and consulting firm PwC notes the rise of trade-based money laundering—and the challenges it presents to banks, global trade organizations, and the financial services sector as a whole—as one unexpected place in which big data analytics can play a very important role. These tools, along with statistical transaction monitoring, can help financial firms weed out anti-money laundering by identifying anomalies, connections, information, and trends that are indicative of trade-based money laundering schemes.

In an effort to meet growing demand for contact center analytics solutions, two companies announced a partnership this week that will allow them to create a new and improved analytics platform for clients. Mphasis and Aureus Analytics penned the deal to provide more advanced predictive analytics and big data solutions for the insurance and banking sector in particular. The hope is that, through the partnership, Aureus' big data analytics offerings will complement and enhance the service Mphasis provides its customer base.

There is plenty more news where this came from, so be sure to check back regularly to the Contact Center Analytics Review for all the latest happenings in the contact center analytics space. 

Call Recording Week in Review: Swisscom, Call Cabinet and Storacall

Call recording technology has reshaped the way businesses all over the world ensure a high level of customer service quality while also reinforcing compliance regulations. With such a pivotal role to play, call recording technologies—and the laws governing them—are constantly changing and evolving, creating a lot of news to cover not just at home but internationally as well. Let’s take a look at some of global the highlights in the call recording space from this week.

Starting the week off with some overseas news, France’s Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) issued new standards—a “simplified norm”—to streamline compliance with privacy laws that could lessen the burden on enterprises that report the recording of workplace phone calls. CNIL is an independent regulatory body in France that seeks to enforce data privacy laws as they relate to the storage and use of personal data. With these new, enterprises may be allowed to get away with providing the organization fewer details about their call recordings. Anne-Sophie Mouren, a law expert with Pinsent Masons, says the new regulations will alter data retention periods and definitions that govern various forms of data processing.

Across the border in Switzerland, telecommunications provider Swisscom launched its new Mobile Voice Recording (MVR) managed service. Built on technology from telecommunications solutions provider CreaLog, Swisscom's MVR is intended for financial service providers, enabling them to automatically record and store all communications that take place over mobile networks. While in France call recording regulations appear to loosening their grip, a recent mandate by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority tightened its reins on call recording, declaring that communications in the financial services industry be archived in an unalterable form for a minimum of two years. Swisscom's MVR solution enables full compliance with the FINMA's regulations.

Hopping into the Southern Hemisphere, Call Cabinet South Africa, a provider of voice logging and call recording software for businesses in South Africa, this week announced the launch of its new cloud-based voice logging product. The company says its new software is the first of its kind in the country. The call logger, Call Cabinet Atmos, attempts to change the manner in which businesses handle data and consumer protection laws, which require businesses to record and store data about their interactions with customers. Taking this into account, Atmos has been built specifically to comply with data protection laws on the books in South Africa while operating entirely in the cloud.

And this week in the U.K., Storacall Voice Systems—a subsidiary of the Storacall Group, providing call recording solutions for call centers—announced the introduction of new self-monitoring features for its range of call recorders. Called Storacall-ProActive, the internal module ensures that all components of a deployed call recording system will regularly check their connections with each other, looking to see if each component at a given moment is live and active. If a component fails to respond to the monitoring system in time, a request is sent out for it to restart.

That wraps up this week, but be sure to check back here regularly for all the latest call recording news. 

Conferencing Week in Review: Tufts Medical Center, Tele-Maternity, New York State

January 24, 2015


By Rory J. Thompson
Web Editor

It was a surprising week in conferencing this past week, as numerous companies and businesses suddenly “discovered” telemedicine as a viable alternative to actual in-person doctor visits. We have the details.

First up, New York became the 22nd state to enact a telehealth bill that will change how doctors and patients, who are otherwise geographically dispersed, will communicate. Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support a broad variety of clinical and non-clinic services, and is not limited to specific care settings. The bill was sponsored by Republican State Senator Catharine Young and signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. The effort reflects bipartisan support to facilitate patient access to telemedicine services through private sector growth and development.

Elsewhere, Tufts Medical Center is looking to change the way video conferencing is used even more, thanks to the launch of a new virtual neurology consulting system. This system is geared toward making it that much easier for someone who is suffering from a possible stroke to consult with doctors and find out what is wrong rather quickly. Right now, most community hospitals are going to have to transfer a patient to a more urban center. If the virtual neurology center does what it is supposed to do, the doctors in that more urban center will be able to consult easily from hundreds of miles away. When it comes to test cases, the virtual setup has worked rather well. "(We) administer appropriate care to patients and let them stay in those facilities, rather than see them and bring them in," said Dr. David Thaler, neurologist-in-chief at Tufts Medical Center. This new virtual center has been dubbed the Tufts Medical Center TeleNeurology and will help connect doctors at Tufts to community hospitals using video conferencing. 

In British Columbia, a temporary relief for new mothers' worry is often as close as an Internet connection. A new report from the Castlegar Source (News - Alert) details how new moms — and new moms-to-be alike — are using video conferencing tools in a new fashion known as “tele-maternity technology.” The Castlegar Source report details how the tele-maternity systems are part of a pilot project between Shared Care and the Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice. With tele-maternity, women simply make an appointment with the family doctor, who then arranges the connection between a maternity care provider and the woman in question, who can then not only discuss results and care planning, but also perform certain examinations and measuring functions as well. Several sites are reportedly ready to bring this service into play, and more are likely to follow in the near future.

Conferencing is rapidly evolving; be sure to check back often for the latest updates.

Call Center Services Week in Review: Everest Group, CCAP, Teleperformance and Sitel all Making News

It was a mixed bag of news in the call center space this week, with both layoffs and hirings, plus differing regions claiming to be the newest area for call center locations.

For example, despite all the noise about India and the Philippines grabbing the lion’s share of the call center market, a surprising newcomer is making its presence felt, and might well be a force to reckon with in the very near future. A recent report from the Everest Group, “Central America and the Caribbean Answer the Call for English-Language Contact Center Services”, took a closer look at this nascent region and drew some strong conclusions about its viability as a new call center destination. In short, it says Central America is up and coming, and smart managers would be wise to give it a look. Full details are HERE.

But those in the Philippines beg to differ. A new report in the Philippines’ Manila Standard Today says call centers are doing just fine there. The report says that the country will add another 100,000 workers this year to its current 686,000-strong call center workforce. “The Call Center Association of the Philippines [CCAP], which groups more than 100 call center companies, said revenues were expected to grow 15.4 percent in 2015 to $13.5 billion from about $11.7 billion in 2014,” according to the report. Call centers were described as the biggest contributor to the country’s thriving information technology and business process management industry.

Closer to home, Teleperformance (News - Alert), a global provider of outsourced customer service call operations and other customer experience management services, opened a new facility in Louisville, KY, last week. The new call center will add 750 jobs to the estimated 18,000 call center positions in the Greater Louisville metropolitan area. According to a local report, the 50,000-square-foot facility will handle inbound customer service calls for an unnamed Fortune 500 company which provides banking, insurance, investment and retirement planning services to members of the U.S. military and their families.

In less happy news, Sitel indicated the firm is set to cut as many as 675 jobs at its call center in Augusta, Ga. The layoffs are apparently the unfortunate byproduct of Sitel losing a contract with American cellular provider Verizon (News - Alert). Sitel issued a statement about the firings saying that the company hadn’t really done anything wrong, nor had the call center agents done anything wrong. Sitel believes the situation is just the byproduct of Verizon changing what it needed from the call center.

As you can see, the industry continues to remain very fluid, so check back often for the latest updates.

Did You Know that Commuting is Actually Bad for You?

The abundance of conference call services like Web conferencing have given the workforce new found freedom and benefits. Working moms can be present for their children; remote workers aren’t sitting in traffic jams for the morning commute or spending money on gas as well as other transportation expenses. But let’s take a look at why office life as we know it may soon be coming to end, management beware.

Remote workers are proven to be less stressed. According to Group Head of Digital Development at Nationwide Building Society Darly Wilkinson, "There's less stress in the office and the workplace – people feel empowered to work in a way that suits them and suits the business."

Today’s technology provides the remote worker with a bevy of connectivity options. BYOD and conference call services offer a full portfolio of options for a worker to connect the way they wish, and this helps to bread choice. Remote working provides the employee with the ability to work when and how they please. In turn they will be more engaged. Wilkinson noted, "When you're tweeting with people in your team close to midnight, it brings home that people are experiencing something beyond 'doing work' – they're engaged in a different way."

According to Jonathan Swan, policy and research officer for Working Families, "It's about working with the grain of people's lives.” By offering the freedom of working from a place of their choosing, the worker is simply happier. Maybe at 9:30 am I am feeling distracted, so I go throw a load of laundry in and take the dog out before I head back to work. It adds a distressing element to the day while still remaining ‘productive.’

In addition, by implementing telecommuting polices the applicant pool is vastly expanded, as location for commuting becomes less of an issue with the use of conference call services and the high levels of collaboration and communication they provide.

Lastly, did you know that commuting is actually bad for you? Aside from saving the planet by reducing one’s carbon footprint, according to the UK Office of National Statistics, "Commuters have lower life satisfaction, a lower sense that their daily activities are worthwhile, lower levels of happiness and higher anxiety on average than non- commuters."

If your company offers the option, try telecommuting for a day. Take it for a test drive and see how it feels. You may never look at office life the same again.

Edited by Alisen Downey

Industrial Systems PLCs Set for Worldwide Growth

January 23, 2015

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Market maturation tends to hit industries in cycles, and the programmable logic controllers (PLC) market is no exception. These assembly line, factory and industrial control software components should reach $14.58 billion in revenue in 2018 (up from $10.37 billion in 2013), with emerging markets leading the way, according to Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert).

PLCs make up an industrial control system that continuously monitors the state of input devices and makes decisions to in turn control the state of output devices. Think of them as workflow task managers of sorts. They’re found in production lines, machine functions and utility settings in particular.

Frost & Sullivan found that demand has plummeted in the past three years in the mature markets of North America and Europe, with an especially strong decline in growth in 2012 due to the uncertain economic scenario at play at the time. However, emerging regions such as Asia-Pacific are displaying steady up-trends due to increased activity in the construction, water and wastewater, and power industries.

Overall, services, software, modular input/output modules, programmable automation controllers as well as large, medium, small and nano PLCs are all growing over time. In the coming years, the analyst firm believes that the small and medium PLC segments will be instrumental for market development.

Even developed areas showpromise. In Europe, the need to enhance efficiency, comply with regulations as well as improve safety and control capabilities are driving the uptake of PLC. Market progress in the rest of the world is primarily fuelled by the desire to optimize assets, engage in reliable process planning, and achieve operational agility.

“With increasing customer demand and intense competition among tier-one companies, the global PLC market is poised to witness a surge in technology and pricing innovation,” said Frost & Sullivan industrial automation and process control industry analyst Karthik Sundaram. “Market participants have been developing products with new design and control functions that surpass traditional definitions.”

The firm believes that boosting the security features in PLC hardware, software, and the network infrastructure should be a key focus area. As cybersecurity influences end-user perception of PLC, addressing threats will be equally important for continued market expansion.

“PLC manufacturers must offer robust support services, roll out cost-effective products, and communicate winning value propositions to customers,” advised Sundaram. “They should also strive to expand their geographical presence and refine their domain expertise to taste success.”

Edited by Alisen Downey

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Digium Launches UC Tech Chat Web Series

Digium Launches UC Tech Chat Web Series

January 23, 2015

Digium, Inc., a company specializing in communications hardware and telephony solutions such as its acclaimed Asterisk (PBX) software, recently launched a new Web-based video series called UC Tech Chat. The show presents unbranded topical information discussing technology trends and their influence on organizations and their employees. Focusing primarily on the field of business communications, the UC Tech Chat series is targeted at small-to-medium-size businesses as well as technology enthusiasts.

"The role technology plays in business today is unprecedented. It impacts daily management and budget decisions, and shapes long-term growth strategies," said Leslie Conway, Vice President of Global Marketing for Digium, in a blog post regarding the series' launch. "We wanted to talk about these issues, but from a vendor-neutral perspective - so we developed a new, web-based series to provide a platform for these conversations."

Hosted by Brian Ferguson, Digium's Switchvox Product Marketing Manager, and Jason Mefford, the company's Inside Sales Manager, UC Tech Chat covers a variety of topics in business communications such as unified communications (UC) and Voice over IP (VoIP). It also includes a segment called "Julie's Inbox" for answering viewers' questions about trends in the field - hosted by Marketing Communications Director Julie Webb - and a quick trivia game.

For a better idea of what the show is like, consider the first episode which premiered on YouTube January 15 with the topic "mobility in the workplace." After a discussion about the increasing prevalence of mobile workforces, the episode focuses on the main benefits and challenges of adopting mobility initiatives. Also included is a presentation of six prominent use cases for the workplace - business executives, IT personnel, sales, healthcare, teleworkers, weather emergencies, automobile sales home emergencies and teachers - and a timeline history.

The biweekly series' second episode will air next week, but for now the first episode is available via a dedicated UC Tech Chat YouTube playlist.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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HID Global Looks at 2015 in Secure Identity

2015 is still a very young year, no matter how you choose to look at it. We're just a little better than three weeks in, and so it's not out of line to see predictions about the upcoming year still arriving for us to consider. HID Global, a major name in secure identity, brought its own breed of prediction into play with specific focus on its own field, giving us a rundown of the major trends it expected to be a part of 2015 when it comes to secure identity solutions.

For 2015, HID Global expects several things to take place, as expressed by its senior vice president and chief technology officer Dr. Selva Selvaratnam. Selvaratnam spelled out his projections, expecting six key trends to occur. One, Selvaratnam projected new innovation thanks to increased interoperability, allowing the same smart card, or the same smartphone, to do several things at once, ranging from opening doors to accessing an electric vehicle (EV) charging station. Two, Selvaratnam expected a rise of new credential form factors—new ways to present credentials—as well as new means to open doors or interact with entrance systems in general. Selvaratnam also expected changes in identity management, using biometrics to change security “from a barrier to a guardrail”, and using the growing population of the Internet of Things (IoT) to better interact with security tools.

That's quite a bit to consider, and Selvaratnam carried on with more projections dealing specifically with certain industries. For instance, in banking, Selvaratnam expects biometric authentication to start appearing at automated teller machines (ATMs), part of a larger movement to converge physical  and logical security tools. Beyond that, Selvaratnam also sees changes coming for healthcare—secure identity solutions will be put to work broadly in medication transactions and the like—as well as in education, in retail and enterprise, and even on government levels. Selvaratnam expects secure identity to play a part in just about every facet of life from protecting stores—and the shoppers therein—against data breaches, improving security for both physical plant and data access, and beyond.

Naturally, some would say that Selvaratnam's predictions are a little biased here; after all, we're talking about some major, sweeping changes throughout a host of industries, the kind of thing that would spell a windfall for HID Global. Thus, it's not surprising to see the CTO of a company that deals in exactly these kinds of solutions predicting unparalleled growth for the industry, and by extension, the firm. But there's little denying that there are many more secure identity solutions these days than there have been in the past, so bringing out more of these into use makes sense. No one wants to run afoul of a data breach. No one wants unauthorized people slipping into a college dorm undetected, or into a hotel room, government building, or anywhere else for that matter. Security has always had its own kind of built-in market, because there are very few people who want to be insecure.

So while we may not see all of Dr. Selvaratnam's predictions come to pass, said predictions do have every opportunity to become reality. It may not all happen in 2015, or even by 2020, but security has always been valuable and likely will always be so, so seeing advances in secure identity solutions is likely to be something we'll see plenty more of in the weeks and months to come.

Edited by Maurice Nagle