Q: I’m confused by the phrase “unified communications.” What exactly are people referring to?
A: I’ve been asked this a lot as the phrase is fairly undefined at this point. I thought, at first, it was a marketing slogan from a manufacturer. I’m now of the opinion that both the IT sector and video conferencing folks have begun to latch onto that phrase to describe the various applications, integration methods and different forms of media and technology on a common or virtual network. That’s how I would describe it.
Why I find this confusing is that every integrator and application developer has their own definition. For example, I recently came across this explanation: “Unified Communication is a relatively new term used to describe a suite of integrated communication media that harnesses the latest technology to drive presence awareness, enable mobility and provide the ability to quickly shift from one communication media to another.” Huh?
The problem is that some have created a definition that sounds like marketing hype while others are very specific about their applications and user interfaces. Compounding the confusion are add-on words like cloud computing and virtual hosting. So, just as we are scratching the surface of our industry’s role in network integration, we are faced with new applications driven by the IT world. We now find ourselves in need of direction on how this new network environment will interact with A/V and physical security applications that are migrating to the enterprise networks. It’s certainly something to pay close attention to. –CW