Unified Office, a managed services provider with pioneering virtualized private networking technologies originally crafted for human communications and collaboration, announced today at the IoT Evolution Expo in Orlando, Florida, it has expanded its reach from monitoring and analysis of IoT data to actually triggering changes in infrastructure and environmental controls based on that data.
Total Connect Nowsm Operations Performance SuiteTM2.0 (TCNOPSTM 2.0), smartly layered on IoT infrastructure management (including monitoring, maintenance, optimization and additional value creation through data and analytics) gives customers a universal view of how their facilities and businesses are performing.
Unified Office’s Ray Pasquale, CEO & Founder of the company, following a few decades of work in disruptive networking technologies at companies including Cascade and Sonus, cracked the code on software-defined networking. He established Unified Office, and to his credit, is one of the first real-time communications service providers to make the big leap from “UC” into “IoT” with an approach that is practical and visionary.
“Our strategy is to serve our customers better than any of our competitors can, and in this case, our customers consistently asked for a common network platform from us that supports all their connectivity needs, with a single view into what is happening operationally and economically,” Pasquale said. “Our customers understand their businesses better than anybody, and when they saw the potential to run their retail stores and entire franchises better by adding the monitoring of things as well as people, it was easy for them to pivot. It’s been an extremely interesting and rewarding process to work with our leading customers to build this extension of our platform and deepen our relationships with the smartest restaurateurs in the business.”
While it may seem obvious to some, that adding connected things into a “unified communications” offering is a natural next step, surprisingly few companies who have extensive customer footprints for voice, video, messaging and even pure data computing offerings have built on IoT capabilities.
For some companies we’ve spoken with, the idea of “M2M” and “IoT” has been minimized given the “low value” of the services (for carriers, for example, IoT uses less capacity than rich multimedia) – which is true if all one does is connect things for relatively dumb applications, like health checks.
Pasquale and his team figured that out early and built intelligence into “TCNOPS 2.0” which not only monitors and analyzes IoT data but adds the ability to automatically or dynamically control thermostats and other components such as air conditioners, refrigeration equipment, make tables, stove exhaust vents, heaters, security and video systems, safe doors and other devices.
“Most IoT systems today simply monitor and receive IoT information,” Pasquale said, “and no service like that will be valued by smart business owners. We make it possible for customers to make changes and control machines and systems based on policy and intelligence, and easy for them to do this with notifications and alerts, which are available to the local manager of a pizza franchise, for example, or to the regional franchise manager, or even national franchise group.”
Changes to environment and infrastructure can be made manually or dynamically based on data gathered by the TCNOPS analytics engine. It is also predictive in nature and can proactively spot underlying subtle changes in the devices being managed and report on them before suffering a potential outage.
The same virtualized network (which operates using proprietary routing software and secure session management) makes the economics work for Unified Office as the service provider, and the customers who don’t have to pay for multiple networks and clouds or T1s or MPLS circuits.
“We’ve already helped our customers grow their businesses and bottom lines,” Pasquale said, “by going beyond traditional connectivity to data and analytics, which include the ability to view how revenues are coming in. 40-50% of revenues in certain national pizza chains, for example, are not coming in through web or mobile apps,” Pasquale said. “People still call to order pizzas, and they still call back to find out where their pizza deliveries are. The mix will continue to change, and with the earlier solutions we built with our customers’ expertise informing the product development, we have become an important analytics partner, way beyond ensuring the phones are working.”
Now, those same customers are opting in for a broader suite of services, including checking in on the productivity and potential of people and things, with real-time views of customer service showing how people are performing. It also shows the status of resources including coolers, ovens, HVAC systems, lighting and more.
“All the expenses within restaurant chains can be lowered and controlled with a single dashboard,” Pasquale said, “but even more importantly through a single managed service provider. That’s where we are getting traction – build a trusted relationship, commit to never letting customers down, and deliver real results that are easy to prove. Our early testing in building the platform showed immediate benefits, including simply making smart operations easier.”
The platform has been engineered to integrate with other systems through APIs. For example, if a franchise owner gets an alert that the temperature in a cooler is rising and moving towards a non-compliant temperature, a contracted third-party technician service can be sent a text including information based on analytics a certain gasket may be compromised, or Freon levels may be down.
“This has positive implications across the supply chain,” Pasquale said.
As for their customers, who are mainly medium size companies in distributed locations (thousands of small retail branches, for example) “improving profits just a few points means millions of dollars a year being added to their bottom lines.”
“Downtime on these critical systems can cost SMBs dearly in terms of regulatory compliance, lost revenues and potential reputational damage,” said Tom Phelan, CTO of Unified Office. “Network unavailability can derail any IoT system and the critical business functions that rely on it. This data gets top priority on our network. TCNOPSTM 2.0 is a simple, easy to use, pragmatic work horse for our clients that takes no time off.”
The company’s announcement included an interesting, brief statement about the avoidance of legacy approaches to the networking itself, saying Unified Office’s “Highest Quality Routing Protocol (HQRPTM)” transmission network provides superior VoIP/UC and IoT services without the need for costly dedicated T1 access lines or MPLS tunnels, with a secure elastic cloud, engineered to scale as more applications or locations are added.
When asked about the local networking and multiple IoT protocols, Pasquale was quick to add their approach has always been open. The low power networking, for example, at a retail shop can collect data, which can then be moved through a gateway and routed over IP for compute and analytics in the cloud, all flexible depending on the applications and services required for any given business.
“When connectivity is virtualized, creativity in how we implement and manage both human and machine networks is limitless,” Pasquale said. “What really matters is how we help business owners improve their operations and economics, by serving their customers better – with more responsive people, and safer, cleaner and more compliant facilities.”
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