Phone, presence, e-mail, instant messaging, conferencing: These are the familiar facets of unified communications. Now add to this roster another elementtypically overlooked but no less significant: push-to-talk (PTT) radios.
Seattle-based Twisted Pair Solutions says the latest iteration of its software, WAVE 4.0, will allow businesses to incorporate PTT into a UC scenario. Twisted Pair, which has a track record in the public safety realm, is now looking to bring its solution into warehouses and other business settings that, heretofore, have been largely cut off from the mainstream communications network.
"Businesses are looking for a technology that plugs [PTT] into their existing communications architecture," said director of marketing James Mustarde. "They want to know: How can we add radios to our UC in the most cost effective and seamless fashion?"
Twisted Pair's answer lies in a software package that uses standard IP networks as the unifying medium. WAVE allows disparate communications systems such as radios, analog and new IP phone systems, PCs, and PDAs to all interoperate seamlessly. Integrator partners and solutions developers build UC applications on the back of WAVE's capabilities.
In its latest version, WAVE 4.0 integrates with Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS), an enhancement intended to broaden market uptake for Twisted Pair.
"If you are selling solutions to customers in a Windows environment, then you are most definitely going to want to engage with the Microsoft partner community," Mustarde said. "In that context, Microsoft OCS obviously represents an opportunity."
WAVE 4.0 supports both Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323, and introduces a Nortel IP Phone Communicator client, dedicated for use with Nortel IP handsets. The latter provides another way into a potentially significant market, as Nortel represents a vast PTT install base.
In the five years since its first product release, Twisted Pair has worked largely in the defense and public safety sectors. The company lately has approached private industry in a number of verticals including transportation, distribution, aviation, energy, and finance. In each case, companies may have a significant PTT component in their communications environments.
In the enterprise space, on the other hand, the benefits of embracing PTT in an integrated communications environment have not been generally recognized.
"All these enterprises are open to discussions on how we can accelerate their business, but typically when they look inside their organizations, they don't realize that radios should be considered as part of the overall communications environment," Mustarde said.
A similar division existeduntil quite recentlybetween telephony and data networking. They were separate services with separate administrators. "That's what it is with PTT in the enterprise market," Mustarde pointed out. "They are in a separate camp, and it's been like that for a long time."
Yet, the integration of PTT and UC clearly can yield significant benefits, Mustarde said, including speeding up a sometimes inefficient decision-making process.
"In lots of enterprises, part of that delay, that latency, is because the people who make the decisions are outside the standard process," as for instance when a decision maker is out on the warehouse floor, Mustarde said.
In such a case, UC and PTT together can speed connections. "Wouldn't it be great if I could just call the warehouse on my WAVE client? This guy is wandering around a 500-million-square-foot warehouse and I have just contacted him immediately from my desk, without a radio, reaching him on his radio."
Taking it a step further, Mustarde notes that UC makes it possible to achieve the same efficiencies throughout the entire span of a PTT environment. "The beauty of radios is that it is one-to-many," he said. "With UC, you can sit there at your console and tell all your guys at once: Hey everybody, let's do this."