Waves of innovation in communication technologies change us

I like to think about how we operated as kids in my days of using fixed line phones and voicemail machines to get organized for parties or meetups on the beach.  In California we perhaps were limited in the technologies, but never limited in imagination. We had ways to organize music events at the beach or in some house that had the parents away for the weekend. Progress in innovation has made our kids world today all about internet based communications and connectivity to information.

We were recently watching old movies during the holidays and my kids were just amazed at the people in “Beverly Hills Cop” not even having a mobile phone to call people on the move. Life for them is really all about being connected and having the ability to share info over communications channels that are “many”. For that era where I was about the same age as my kids, it was not imaginable to be 13 and have a magical little device (expensive one) that can essentially put me in touch with friends globally in live video or even see where they are walking using location services. We had paper maps! GPS was military stuff for rocket guidance, not finding a nearby starbucks. My kids have unbelievable power to communicate that has changed the way they “operate” and collaborate.

During these last few weeks of 2016 we have seen “shopping mall mass organizations” that are in the news because they are both linked to social media and also that the purpose was to form fights and disruptions at scale. These “instant crowds” are snapped together with little effort on the organizational side other than posting some compelling inspirations over tweets or instagrams. It appears that in many cities across the USA 100’s of teenagers are “snap organizing” fights and protests at local malls by simply broadcasting the “calling” to join over social media. These had me think about the numbers: 600+ teens organized at the swipe of the finger is amazing. It has changed how we operate, and the communications technology opens doors for things like business organizations, events, and feedback in channels for what we live and breathe: contact center unified commutations.

But with change and power there are risks, downsides and people emerge that try everything to stop or slow progress. For each new revolution the resistance is remarkably the same. If you lived thru the change that happened with email being introduced you will recall the pleas to regulate or abolish it. The same arguments were used for VoIP; we heard it cannot be allowed because of regulations for emergency calls, and of course it would be a tool for criminals. The same is being said about social media and how it is a phenomenon that creates mischief.

Today we are seeing the real need for security in social media.  To protect and preserve confidentiality certainly, but also to mitigate impersonation and data theft. Yet, whenever encryption is spoken about there is a chorus of people that claim it leads to criminality and we should keep our commutations somehow like an open post card that anyone can read, copy or manipulate. Kind of inverse to innovation huh?

For 20+ years we have seen email emerge, mature, then age and to some become a roadblock to efficiency; nevertheless email  became and still is the defacto standard to inner-operate communications between people, groups, and even large organizations. It also became the way to create accounts and establish an “identity” over the internet or even for your local government organization to add to your profile on their record base. Email at the end of the day is simply an Internet address space, and that concept will continue to evolve, I hope..

In many ways email was extended and enhanced to accommodate all the demands we put on the system that was really just a replacement for postcards, paper letters, envelops, postboxes, and mail men to move it around in the digital sense vs physical. We pushed those envelopes to also take “packages” of data, ISO images, HTML content and more. Email changed the way we live, and thru growing pains we adapted our society and processes as a personal or business entity. The evolution of email was real-time commutations and effectively the chat UX bloomed and blossomed into many different “gardens of social media groups”.

Another big change coming is brought to us from our kids: the way “news” information is distributed and consumed. For better or worse, the rise of sharing and opening up our lives began with reality TV. But all that has moved over to social media rapidly; TV screens, syndication and advertising have new meaning now. Stars are born with likes and follows at scales never imagined with “spins” in radio jockey days back on the beach in LA. A star today is a “social media influencer” and can be more powerful in 40 characters than “60 minutes” was on Sunday night.

Recently we have seen how twitter has thrust itself into the forefront of “news distribution” as a result of the political “reality show” that happened in 2016. Large media corporations have resisted fiercely the rise of social media, mocked it, claimed it is disinformation at best and fake malicious warfare in most cases in their view. But that is perhaps a lost war already when you turn on the TV and see every anchor sitting there with a twitter post on the screen as the topic of discussion for the day.

Imagine that in 100 places around the world this morning a prime minister, maybe a king, or the chancellor, perhaps the president of that country is looking at Twitter to see what was posted overnight by other leaders. At first this behavior was met with disgust and viewed as amateurish. This week I have taken a smile to see that those leaders around the world are now posting their thoughts and comments too on twitter and that is a good thing in my view as the sources are now front and center and this will change the way we operate, think, and make decisions.

Christmas and New Year event – Nice Côte d’Azur 2016

The CommuniGate Systems Christmas event this year was wonderful; not only was the weather awesome for some fun outside, but with our partners and clients it made the tours around Nice exceptionally memorable! This year we made the theme “niçois” which is the name of the culture in Nice that has specialties to eat, dress, and there is even the dialect to speak. Kind of a blend between French and Italian cultures with a lot of influence from the sea and marine lifestyle.

Durning the week we found the region to be a lot more peaceful and calm. The locals were happy and helpful in the markets around the Cours Saleya and Libération to greet and speak with us about the unique niçois facts about their history, products and the buildings around the “old town” part of the city. However, many of us found that the marché in Libération was very beautiful and reminiscent of markets in Paris along the rue Mouffetard.

Of course there was a good amount of fun with hats and Christmas themed poses under just about everyone’s iPhone; stretching the limits on storage and iCloud quota! But like any team of geeks we had more fun talking about the technology to filter and change the pictures perhaps than anything else.

Like all our events we try to mix in some sport activity and took this trip on the electric bikes that got us up to Mont Boron and around the Castle in the Port region and along the Sea towards Ville Franche and Monaco. We learned that the “e-bike” is really all about assistance to the rider and not like a motor bike or scooter. We had a good mix of Beach cruiser bikes, to BMX style and sport versions that have Bosch motors that can be, let me say, “enhanced”. Like all good electric devices, there is a logic board and controller and that means some good old fashioned programming changes can be a lot of fun ….. But if all else fails  you can always grab a soldering iron and use your high school tech-ed course principals and figure out how to “exchange” the resistors  for added “options”.

Spectacular views are some of the best features of the rolling hills in the region around Nice. The great part is that the climb up the hills is super fun with the electric bikes and the amount of places we could manage to visit in one afternoon was at least 3x more with a large group of people peddling with a little help from the technology from bosch.

One of the downsides of the precipice of mont Boron is that you really do not want to leave and stay on schedule. So like any good amount of southern European cultural influences we adopted the tardiness of our stop for lunch and arrived quite late back on the Port at “le Plongeoir”.

The restaurant is a great place to relax on the sea and not just enjoy the views but some awesome French cuisine. To keep with our theme, we exposed some of the culture of the restaurant history. Durning the belle Époque era there was actually a small ship attached to the rock and later on diving boards for guest to jump off into the sea that can still be seen today.

Our evenings were spent in the “marché de Noël” enjoying the Christmas themed snacks and foods. We also really liked the new fountain and park in the city center that was accordingly decorated to be Christmas like yet still clearly a sea side community.

Winter training academy in Tunisia

Another successful Academy session with new alumni to take a stronger approach to the delivery of Cloud based Unified Communications.  Many of our candidates have been working with CommuniGate Pro for more than a decade and relish the chance to become accredited on the platform thru our training sessions. While some enter the course felling the first level would be too much of a walk in the park; the graduation topics are always centered around how challenging the curriculum actually can be.

For some of us that live in Southern Europe the environment in Tunisia was like being at home. But for our colleagues from the Moscow office the fact that Dates were outside the window for the picking was a “pleasant surprise” along with the fact that you could keep the windows open in December!

No trip to Tunisia can finish without a visit to the Souk. Very traditional and historic; the souk El-bey is right in the vieille ville (old town) and right next to the prime minister offices. A real treat is to sample the “Tunisian sweets” and bargain a little for some spices or scarfs. The local currency is accepted of course, but if you have a few Euro’s in your pocket you can get some movement on the negotiations. Just be careful to use a good calculation on the exchange rates as the vendors talk fast and are sharper than a tack when it comes to money!

The night views of the sea are as spectacular as are the daytime sun covered beaches. Tunisia is very much a tourism paradise with a massive amount of history that keeps you busy at night reading up on the cultural melanges that makes this country a superb choice for not just a visit but to have good business partners like our new graduates from the CommuniGate Systems Academy!

 

 

When will Watson be hungry?

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This week many geeks traveled to IBM Paris in search of intelligence.  Something a bit more; more than what we we have seen as glorified scripts and hashing tables today. Somehow all of us geeks are expecting to walk in to some demo and “finally” the computer will speak and think, not in feeble steps, but somehow in a way that will shock us to gratification.

Of course I am taking about the IBM Watson partner event!  This was an opportunity to see what is new in the “Big Blue” world of Artificial Intelligence or “cognitive” as they coin it these days. For some of us geeks we simply are salivating for the day when we get some sort of response from AI that makes one snap to attention in surprise. That would be the moment of unexpected capitulation that the machine has indeed crossed a crevice that brings us pleasure that we have finally spawned a new form of life. Until then there are some truly amazing advances or steps that demonstrate how we can be more responsive to big data and complexities in the world we live in so far!

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Most interesting for many of us was the assortment of cakes and cookies. Ahhh….got you on that one; just to see if you are reading. Well there were some really amazing French pastries  and the presentations that actually made them better was where we got to see Watson in action!  I really have had more power points in my life than pain chocolat; so being able to get real examples was the highlight of the event for me.

Several partners showed us how interactions with customers can be streamlined and that of course had me thinking about Customer Experience and the Contact Center issues we all face today. Specifically authentication, validation, and routing to the right knowledge bases.

Stay tuned as we will be making a few steps of our own in the direction of cognitive capabilities for better workflows in the Contact Center. Leaving the Watson Partner event that evening we had a good time thinking about how Watson would grow over the next 10 years and learn about us and our world. I wondered if he indeed became aware of himself and the environment around him; would he too be more inclined to ask for brownies or macaroons if he had the choice? Would he be hungry in the sense of interest to taste vs. pure nourishment? We indeed learned a good deal at the event and we pass our gratitudes over to our partner colleagues in the IBM French team!

Alumni Autumn 2016 CommuniGate Academy – Munich

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Our team helped get our partners accredited this week in Munich at our Autumn 2016 academy training sessions. The class was a great mix of people from Universities, integrators, ISPs and Cloud service providers. We had a good time learning about how the platform is used in each particular setting; and what types of external systems are integrated with CommuniGate Pro. For example, on the hosting companies premises we discussed how provisioning and billing systems are working for their needs and with the partners from the Universities we shared security and policy concepts for a diverse campus topology.

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Many of our partners have been using CommuniGate Pro for more than a decade, and some thought starting from the first level of the curriculum would be too easy.  Nevertheless, we found that everyone went away believing that the administrator level I was a challenge with rewards and not a cake walk in the park.  We will hold our next Academy in the Spring 2017. The following structure will be offered throughout the year:

  • Administrator Level I – for all those that use the platform in production as an administrator
  • Engineer Level II – for those wanting a little more on the API’s,  CG/PL development language and customizations
  • Business Applications – Advanced CG/PL applications – Contact Center 2.0 + IVR applications

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All of our events begin with some fun and “geekness” activities. For Munich what better than to have a look at some German engineering and manufacturing? We spent the first day over at the BMW Werk; which means the “production factory” where many of the cars are actually produced with cool robots; simply awesome! You can take the tour yourself, check out the details here “BMW Werk”

Later in the day we had a “BMW Genius” give us a  briefing about Electric Vehicles and the roadmap of their iSeries cars. We got to mess around with the i3 and yeah that really slick i8 supercar was there too.

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We were not allowed to take any photos or video of the Werk tour. ☹️☹️☹️ But this video below over at youtube is actually really good and will give you the idea. Highly recommended if you get to visit Munich!

The view of the city of Munich was beautiful even when wrapped in the clouds. Those buildings are really colorful just like back in Nice. Join us for our next event and until then follow us on Twitter @communigate

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Secure messaging opportunity for Cloud Hosting providers

Messaging systems are the core of the business no matter which size you look at or shake it. Most people would still prefer to have the lights off for a day, versus their email being offline in the business hours. Candles and flashlights might actually be fun, but not being able to get email from clients or partners, or in the support department is not cool at all. As email and realtime messaging have grown in pervasiveness so has its challenges for security become far more augmented with the inception of the Cloud deployment model that many businesses look towards today.

Many of us grew up on freemium Webmail services in our personal lives and the so called “corporate messaging” systems in the office that were primarily desktop application based. Somewhere along time the lines of distinction in these technologies became blurred. Current day “messaging systems”are nearly all “capable” of being Web accessible, or they are built this way entirely. Yes, you can still find IMAP and SMTP settings on most Cloud services, but try to explain that stuff to a user  coming in workplace these days and you could paint a Halloween mask with the blank starry eye looks.

The movement to the Cloud is not only great for consumption in a mobile workforce, but it also helps contain the data and access points which are fundamental to security. However, the challenge for a Cloud service is the barrier to acceptance of having data in the “hands” of a provider and the perception of “unscrupulous” access to this information. Hosting companies can look to these areas of “customer concern” as centers of opportunity in their offers with encryption, escrow systems, and secure archival-retention solutions as regulations are more often demanding on financial services and medical organizations to store and have available years of data involving the messaging systems.

Expertise and service level agreements are key subscription based values.  As an simple example, having expertise and certifications for messaging systems is perhaps something that you would not find in a Architect’s office, even one with 50+ staff. You might also use this measure to think about medical practices, or logistics companies of global size, all of which need secure messaging as a core infrastructure for business communications.

Cloud providers that have core competence in messaging systems have a card to play over a company mainly focused on racks, connectivity and grid power metrics. Fact is more and more businesses are not with in -house competencies for backend messaging expertise, and this drives the need to seek out offers that are reliable, secure, and available in a SLA format. Freemium services have their place, and we would not recommend a fencing war with those guys as the scale of the battle is massive and everyone is looking at a nickel profit like its a manhole cover.

Follow the money and provide clear value on the hot topics the market requirements demonstrates. Today the largest concern of Cloud services revolves around security and providing a reliable system that just does not go down is key. Hosting companies already have a core competence around infrastructure and redundancy; so play that card and translate this into the service as a whole. As companies push their roles up higher in the stack to “managing users” and control panels in the system, the provider must also absorb the pieces of the application stack that is being thrust upon them and see it as a good thing. That means getting in bed with SMTP and breathing deeply all the joys of messaging for the good, bad and ugly.

Key advantages of the CGatePro Messaging system for Cloud managed services companies:

  • Multi-tenant platform allowing 100’s of thousands of domains
  • Zero downtime change management Dynamic Cluster
  • Ability to white label and brand the Web experience by domain
  • Secure message storage with Escrow features
  • S/MIME system for encryption of email
  • Policy control with SMTP
  • WebRTC based interface Pronto! enables Unified Communications
  • Works with cPanel environments with adapter integration kit
  • Chat server built-in with clients for iOS and Android, plus Web widgets for support or sales desks

Partner with us today and get your team in our training academy to build the next generation of messaging in your cloud.

 

Tis the season to be jolly

As Autumn arrives upon us and leaves fall off the tress painting the ground with bright colors, so does change come to IT decisions for the end of year planning. With the almost majestic calm closing out the summer season a rolling drum beat begins and grows as preparations commence for IT managers around the globe.  The imminent arrival of the holiday season means that Contact Centers are ramping up to prepare for the rush that is sure to deliver spikes on systems for telephony and messaging.

One of the major hurdles for IT decision makers during the seasonal spikes is that there is never an easy way to predict what the loads will be; even with historical data. This of course means more often than not, over capacity planning or provisioning “more” to be safe. Historically ramping up IT systems for spikes and human resources is a costly endeavor for large operations that have to deal with changes that occur on a daily basis.

Thankfully with WebRTC and leveraging a Cloud deployment our Contact Center technology can be ramped up or down with ease. With the entire stack available in the Cloud the cost factor for a Web based Contact Center is low impact and predictable. Furthermore, our technology seamlessly integrates with existing Contact Center technologies allowing deployments to co-exist as a team, specific sales queues, or overflow capacities. This means better control without upheaval of legacy systems that are in place.

The CommuniGate Pro platform Contact Center is ideally built to scale up or down and adapt to pre-existing work-flows with ease. Fully customizable Web Agents can be provisioned on any computer running a WebRTC capable browser making virtual teams a snap to handle sales or support loads. Best of all you can get started today by partnering with us if you are a Cloud services provider before the holiday season kicks off!

 

 

CGatePro Academy Nice Côte d’Azur

It is always a warm moment  as a teacher you get the chance to help people become knowledgable about something you understand. It is not just self gratification, but there is something really special to “bask in the glow” of the smiles that emanate from those you have helped. The best teacher is the one that strives to prepare students on a path to become even better than you are at the skill you just shared.

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This week the CommuniGate Academy sent more students home with accreditations that will help them perform better in their responsibilities but also be better prepared and more responsive for the challenges that come with operating large scale systems.

 

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X = “I believe that”

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It is quite apparent that mother nature and age is at play when you listen “older people” take issues with how the “young people” are doomed because they are not doing things the way they did this or that. Currently there is an interesting development in the chatting space of the internet; new languages are forming. For many millennials here in France texting “x” can mean not just one but several words and meanings. “I believe that” is at the basic form of “je crois”, but mated with images, the “X🙄” becomes maybe, maybe not, or much more. Keyboards based on avatars and smileys create stories that magically everyone “gets” faster, with emotion or feeling behind the words typed, than explaining something in the French language itself.

For a teacher I know at the languages school in the local University, “all of it” is pure armageddon; rendering the youth with “absurd competencies” utilizing “vocabularies in common” of less than 500 words in practice today. While she gleefully reported that people used to have 3000+ words of vocabulary not so long ago in her epoch. I am a little fascinated in the subject because it proves that we might be closer in fact to communicating with the Internet in ways that require less intrusive and perhaps more intuitive I/O; like not having to carry around these iPhones 24×7. Many of the French texting is intended to shorten the amounts of taps, but far more interesting to me is the use of phonetics and images to replace words rather than just using traditional abbreviation methods of chopping words. This is a lot more about “replacing” words with sound expressions. Example, moi becomes “mwa” not reducing the 3 taps, but rather it is the phonetic format of the original word. Even more interesting is that sometimes we see both “benefits” are accomplished when “t’es” becomes “t” and “c’est” becomes “c” in the phonetic and abbreviated formats together; resulting in shortening plus moving to phonetic expression.

Obviously we have seen before systems in the business world that reduce complexity on human-to-machine input-output. Take for example the “language” a Palm handheld introduced and some of us learned. It had the purpose to reduce the quantity of images and strokes we scribbled on the screen to become the “long form” of a language like English or French.  In my fathers office he did not have phones _without_ big wires and shielding cables, and there was not even a word processor, the dictionary was usually in the head of the secretary that would come and be responsible to deliver or “send” important communications. I remember this “special language” as a kid watching in amazement how fast it all went by my eyes and somehow to me there was “english” hidden there in a mysterious code. The secretary could take notes down at over 100 words a minute. Alas moving that code that was written comments before on a notepad (of paper) over to the typewriter “whack, tap, tap, tap, tap, rack, cling” took more time, yet was yet another method of communications language “learned”.

Later machines in stenotype doubled the speeds that my fathers secretary could achieve with the hand, and today most courtrooms and boardrooms use multi-media systems, that can even capture facial expressions, tonalities and perhaps more to come that will bring yet new aspects to our communications that were un-imaginable prior.

The argument might be that indeed I “should” need to know French, at least on some levels, to leverage the new language of French texting. However, if much of it is based on phonetics and images, and the vocabulary is 1/5 of the actual “spoken French” today, in terms of the spectrum of words I would have to learn, then maybe it would be better to just learn “text style French” and not traditional French at all. I mean if I want to interact with the French of tomorrow’s world, and if the rate of French moving into the “chatting space” is like an avalanche, why not start by learning “textoçaise” now? This of course means for my teacher’s view that that kids are not getting less, but rather something new, more powerful with added “features”…..maybe a replacement for French, at least for people outside France that might want to communicate to the “inside”.

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Without question the Internet molds the way we communicate in business into new forms of language at the core; meaning the added characters that are imagery based and a preponderance of informalities unthinkable just 20 years back. Fact: we must have an I/O method adaptable to the machines and network we transmit across. However, looking at the performance gains in speed and diffusion we have achieved already, one would have to imagine that “real soon now” (RSN) we will need to un-lock the potential of our bodies to adapt to new sensors that will not be limited to the alphabetic inputs we use today, tap, tap tap, heads down…..but perhaps have capacities to transmit not only emotional language, with imagery in not icon formats, but really felt and seen. Now that would be a tidewave of human evolution indeed.

REFERENCES:

Gregg shorthand – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregg_shorthand

Stentype – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stenotype

 

peekaboo – I see what you do!

Most of us have lifestyles that are merged; meaning we use communications tools that float between the stuff that we do for work and our personal contacts. Unfortunately, that often times means that other people have access or “could” gain access to our devices that usually contain sensitive information. Sometimes intrusions are malicious in their intent, but other times it is just kids having fun. Either way, our business communication apps today usually reside on a multitude of devices making the challenges of access control multi-fold.

Recently we have added more controls in our Pronto! mobile applications that are Biometric and provide an additional layer of security to your secure business communications. Many times, whether we like to admit this or not, we provide loved ones with our device PIN code allowing full access to the devices we use as we move from personal to business activities. While I am not going to get into the debate around that right now, I think it would be safe to say this is really not a good thing, especially when you think that most documents, presentations and other materials that contain IPR and company information are rarely locked themselves with security. We have become a Cloud enabled society and what floats around can rain down on your head when you do not have some protection.

Pronto! Biometric lockAs with all security measures there is a fine balance between the human methods of operation or behaviors in the workplace matched up with good technology. Each must contribute, or they become the weak link in the chain. Remember the scotch tape and little pieces of paper under the desk with passwords in the old days? It is no different than letting our kids play with the photos on our phones using the PIN code that potentially un-locks much more than should ever be responsibly revealed. We help organizations improve security with mobile loyalty apps that enable contact center environments to have better user experiences that are not burdensome yet provide higher accountability.