Woman on phoneThis past week I slid my finger across my iPhone screen and was greeted by a beautiful Japanese Zen garden background that I had recently selected as wallpaper. A subtle beep alerted me that it was my turn in one of my Words with Friends games but this was not the reason I unlocked my phone. Instead of the game, I needed a phone number for a restaurant: Safari to the rescue. As I googled the restaurant’s name, an incoming text message alerted me a server was down at the office. I found the number I needed, and nimbly switched apps to YouTube and found a video about the restaurant I was interested in. With one easy click, I had the greeter on the phone and I made my reservation. I then remotely accessed the server at the office, made a simple correction and it was quickly back on-line.

In the course of a few minutes I had played a game, watched a video, made a phone call, contacted my office, scheduled a reservation, re-booted the server and checked my email: a unification of technologies in the palm of my hand, on my desktop at the office or my iPad at home. As we approach 2012, Audio Visual (AV) and Integrated Technologies (IT) have done more than just converge; they have simply melded into one unified form of communications.

About eight years ago, many leaders in the “Audio-Visual” integration field began accepting that AV and IT were merging. The “AV/IT Convergence” term began greeting attendees at major trade shows, appearing in industry newsletters and moving to the home page of many web sites. As this trend unfolded I saw changes occurring in the delegation of responsibilities in client organizations. In K-12 school districts, English teachers were being re-assigned to run the school’s television studio. The IS departments in many corporations were now being tasked with integrating and supporting networked, audio-visual equipment. As digital signage made its way into the mainstream, Creative Services and IT were merged and now mingled at the water cooler making decisions about content over a new network.

A stroll around any mall makes clear that portable devices are becoming human extensions. Everyone is walking around with a cell phone or mobile device pressed against one ear or attached with headphones or a wireless appliance. As people continue to rely on these tools and carry them everywhere, including into the office, how will organizations and employers solve the need to integrate these personal, mobile tools into their communications infrastructure?

Everything in the UC (Unified Communications) universe is touching everything else

It’s interesting to read various industry leaders’ perspectives on this complex issue. Most see the human extension shaping the way in which integrators and clients are developing long-term strategies. “Everything in the UC (Unified Communications) universe is touching everything else,” said Dave Michels, a well-known and respected researcher, analyst, and writer. “It’s no longer possible to just be the voice guy.” Unified Communications includes “collaborative” processes that allow people and products to work in sync with one another.

3GC Group’s, CEO Henry Park said, “it’s all about finding streamlined communications solutions that merge a variety of ‘cool’ functions in a platform that people find simple to use. UC is taking any platform used for communication within a business environment and making it as elegant as possible, and as user friendly as possible.”

A great example of unified communications appeared in Sound and Communications’ magazine. In an article by Dawn Allcot entitled, “Early Adopter; AstraZeneca Upgrades,” Allcot writes about Advanced AV’s history of collaboration with their client AstraZeneca. In the article, Rebecca Everitt, senior manager of corporate communications at AstraZeneca states, “The success of the project was due to a cross-functional team, including people from Corporate Communications, Facilities, Information Services, Engineering, and Procurement, working together to identify the best solution to fit our needs, from both a functionality and compatibility perspective. Each team member served as an expert from his/her area to help guide the project to success.” The article goes on to describe how “IT and AV Converge (Once Again).” It’s this collaborative partnership and the ability to unify new with old, products with services, and technologies with devices, that sets companies like Advanced AV apart.

Unified Communications will ultimately be defined by the success of collaborative projects like AstraZeneca’s. The more unified systems become, the easier they are to use. Additionally, costs can be reduced, but according to Marty Parker, an industry consultant with Unicomm Consulting, “cost savings is certainly a factor, but it isn’t the only one. UC can ramp up employee productivity, save time and streamline business practices, which are valuable improvements for any business that can be tough to put a dollar amount on.”

The growing usage of tablets and smartphones supports the trends in collaborative media integration and unified communications. People are tied to their mobile devices and bring them everywhere, including to the office. Now, unified communications integrators like Advanced AV are helping clients develop new, innovative methods to include these mobile tools into a total communication’s strategy.

I’ve got to get going! The phone is ringing, an alarm is beeping, and my on-line order is arriving at my front door! Now, if we could just somehow unify the driveway delivery method! Who knows?