Unifying the Connection of Things and People at the Intersection of IOT and UC

By Cynthia S. Artin March 14, 2018

As more and more Communications-as-a-Service are heading over-the-top and to the clouds, the distinction between different network types (fixed, WiFi, cellular, even LoRa, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and NB-IoT) is blurring.

With lightweight clients being created that enable any endpoint (smart phone, laptop, wearable, connected thermostat, smart car) to register securely to a network and applications and services, the Internet is once again become the go-to network, particularly when overlay software tames the Internet into a multitude of private networks, much more cost efficient and agile than old fashioned VPNs and expensive MPLS alternatives.

Ray Pasquale, founder and CEO of Unified Office, has figured out the leveling out of communications earlier than most, and has made a courageous pivot from what businesses traditionally perceive of as “UC” (bridging fixed and mobile networks to deliver voice and collaboration services with VoIP, SIP trunking, and web-based applications) into the extended world of things.

Pasquale announced in the last year their foray into the IoT, with an interesting, lightweight service purpose built with some of their existing customers in the hospitality industry. It’s classic. The company made their customers so happy with Internet-based advanced telephony services (not only reducing the cost of transport but also delivering productivity applications with data and analytics that help restaurants serve customers better over the phone and web), that those same customers asked Unified Office to help them benefit from connected equipment.

You see, they heard about this Internet of Things thing, and given regulations regarding food compliance (temperature being one major requirement for Department of Health certifications), owners of chain restaurants wondered if they could monitor not only voice interactions and customer service sentiments, but also if they could monitor the full operations of each location, whether corporately owned and managed, or franchisee owned and managed.

“Made sense to me,” Pasquale said in an interview, “so we jumped on it and built a platform able to pick up data from sensors and deliver it up to a cloud application that multiple, authenticated users could view. It runs over the same ‘big pipes’ the restaurants already have in place, and simply brings more information to the right management teams, with a series of reports, notifications and alerts built in.”

This week, at Enterprise Connect, which is a large trade show focused on human communications, the company is one of the few who will be talking about enterprise IoT connectivity as a service, alongside real time communications as a service.

“We know that connecting people and things is different and requires different protocols and software architectures, but when we started to build our dual strategy with our customers, it became evident that many of those differences are nuanced given the evolution of IP networking,” Pasquale said. “It’s really at the very edge of the network where the value is being created now, where any electric thing can include a sensor and client of some sort to talk to the network and exchange data. We tried not to overthink it, and just tackled the challenges at the edge and realized when we did – we could really help our customers manage anything!”

The progression has been fast for the company and drove Pasquale to develop an even “higher level” of “unification” manifest in their Total Connect Now (TCN) single management portal.

“It makes sense, right? You’re a big, growing, distributed company and you want to know what’s going on so you can coach the managers or franchise owners, so everybody can optimize the bottom line,” Pasquale said. “Who wants to log into different systems Log into one, knowing it is secure, and manage your domain the way you want to, and the way you want your team to.”

Their new portal unites all Total Connect Now services from high quality VoIP and unified communications (UC) to advanced business analytics and Internet of Things (IoT).

End users can configure their services, set thresholds, and view alarms and alerts across our entire product portfolio from any device.

TCNOMS provides advanced analytics for all services, and an interface to add, change and configure services, viewing all indicators as well across all of their stores or offices, down to a single store or office location from any device, including remote access – without the pain and cost of dialing into a VPN.

The platform behind the portal integrates voice and video communications, messaging, service-level monitoring, business continuity, and business analytics tools for the SMB or franchise owner to better manage their store operations. There are features including an at-a-glance view of customer service responsiveness in real-time, as well as on-demand and scheduled reporting for any store, or combination of stores, all accessible remotely. This includes status of equipment, and signals sent from that equipment (for example, a refrigeration unit has gone above the acceptable temperature, or a door has been left unlocked).

The company’s transmission network works with any local Internet access and eliminates the need and cost for T1 access lines or MPLS tunnels.

“We did a great job building the Internet,” Pasquale said, “and we haven’t begun to harness the value of it. This is not great news for the carriers which is why we set up our business as a service provider and why our customers are so happy with the results. Adding IoT just made sense. And when we combine real time voice, video and messaging together with real time IoT connectivity and applications, we are making our customers’ lives easier, and we’re being rewarded with double the business from them as a result.” 

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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