WebRTC Expert Feature

September 26, 2014

Why UC Needs Mobile 'Unified Notifications'

Defining “Unified Communications” has always been difficult because it involves a complex variety of communication “modes” and user interfaces. You will therefore get a variety of answers, most of them citing the ability for people to flexibly communicate person-to-person or in a group conference in their choice of modes (asynchronous messaging, real-time connections, text, voice, video, etc.). What is usually omitted is the new ability for automated business processes (CEBP) to initiate personalized contacts with a more accessible mobile person via some form of timely messaging and a variety of immediate response options.

The new Apple “Watch” announcement reminded me that a key function for all modes of communication is how the recipient can be quickly and easily notified of a contact attempt, whether it is real-time, near-real-time, or, increasingly, an asynchronous text message. Rather than describing it as a “Watch” that tells you the time of day, I see it as a personalized communication notification and (text) response device.

The importance of any contact is not really dependent on the mode or media of the contact, but on the “who” (originator) relationship and the “what” (subject/content) timeliness. So, with mobile accessibility increasing the volume of contacts that can be generated anywhere, any time, any way, we should be looking at the communication overload (including notifications) that mobile recipients are increasingly facing.     

With increased user accessibility through mobile devices, asynchronous messaging has now become “near real-time” and is becoming more practical for business communications than trying to connect in real-time. In fact, we are all seeing how IM has rapidly become a “gateway” to a real-time voice or video connection, and WebRTC is doing the same for “mobile apps.” While we now have a variety of ways to initiate contacts directly and indirectly with people, as well as a variety of ways for people to respond to such contact attempts, multimodal mobile recipients now need a more centralized and dynamic way to manage how they should be notified of any form of contact attempt. Whether it is a legacy phone call, a video call, an IM contact, or any type of new message, the mobile recipient must be able to dynamically manage their priorities and preferences for handling any type of contact they will be receiving from either people or automated services.

So, I think we need to add “Unified Notifications” as a separate service (UNaaS?) to the definition of UC capabilities for recipients, where all forms of contact can first be screened and the recipient will control whether and how to be notified immediately or when they have the time to follow up. In effect, what I am suggesting is that the original concept of availability “presence status” that UC offered to real-time contact initiators be extended to contact recipients to dynamically control how they want to notified about ALL incoming contacts. This would eliminate the need for establishing federated presence across different organizations and enable the individual mobile end users to control how they want to be notified for different modes of contact. They can also associate such notification choices with any personalized screening parameters they want to dynamically apply.

Contact initiators (people, automated services) should do whatever they want in terms of making calls, sending messages, etc., but the mobile recipient is the one who should be in control over how those different calls and messages should be handled, depending on their individual priorities and circumstances. This will continue to result in what telephone answering and voice mail has done for decades, converted real-time contact attempts into asynchronous messaging activities, and vice versa. So, it will be appropriate for a Unified Notification service to always let the contact initiator know what is happening with their call/message attempt, so they don’t have to guess about what will happen next.    

Because innovation is moving quickly in mobile business communications, it is hard to keep up with what the technology developers are coming out with. So, if you are already doing “Unified Notification Management,” please let me know!  

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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