UCStrategies on Wireless Devices

UCStrategies on Wireless Devices

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UCStrategies on Wireless Devices by Michael F. Finneran

This week the UCStrategies Experts discuss wireless devices. The conversation is moderated by UCStrategies' mobility expert Michael Finneran, and includes Marty Parker, Dave Michels, and Kevin Kieller.

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Transcript for UCStrategies on Wireless Devices

Michael Finneran: Good morning, good afternoon or good evening. This is Michael Finneran, I am here with a group of the UCStrategies experts, and the topic for our podcast today is wireless devices. Now Dave Michels proposed this, but since I am the wireless guy, I was selected to kick this off and basically set the stage.

We are talking about wireless devices. We are talking specifically non-cell phone in this case. The two major populations would be Wi-Fi and DECT. Of course, there are differences regionally in terms of adoption. Here in the states or in North America, Wi-Fi voice has been around for a number of years. The number of devices that can do voice over a Wi-Fi network is increasing. The originals were purpose-built devices like those from Spectralink, Cisco, Ascom and Vocera. They were basically Wireless 2500 sets, fundamentally a voice device that works in a Wi-Fi network.

Of course today, virtually every smart phone and tablet comes with a built-in Wi-Fi interface and with the correct software, you can have those operate over a voice over a Wi-Fi network. Of course, the big challenge there is getting your Wi-Fi network tuned up for voice. Generally that means the radio coverage has to be engineered correctly and certain features, in particular quality of service. We do have a standard for that in Wi-Fi called Wi-Fi multimedia. It is from IEEE 802.11e, and also call emission control have to be in place if we’re going to provide adequate service.

Now most organizations seem to feel their Wi-Fi networks really cannot support voice. That is categorically untrue. The question is, how many simultaneous voice calls can an AP support? In terms of planning, the infrastructure does have to be in place, up to capacity, and really tuned for a voice application if we are going to provide a decent user experience.

The other option and one more popular in Europe than it is here is DECT, which is digital enhanced cordless telephony. DECT has some real advantages over Wi-Fi when it comes to voice. First, the battery life is better. There are no quality of service issues. It is basically a TDM network; it is secure. Also for DECT coverage we need far fewer AP’s than we need Wi-Fi access points. Best of all since it runs a completely different frequency band, we can have a DECT network in place for our voice stuff and it absolutely creates no interference for our Wi-Fi devices.

The downside on DECT is there is virtually no data capabilities. You can get a data rate of up to 300,000 bytes/second. In terms of data, we are limited to things like text messaging as the sole data service.

But certainly, if all we need is good voice coverage, DECT is an option that is worth looking at, and one that you will find is generally cheaper than doing Wi-Fi voice. Those are the basic pieces of the market now. Here, most of the interest is on Wi-Fi. I know Marty Parker, you have something to say about the role-based use case studies for these wireless devices.

Marty Parker: Yes, that’s right Michael. Thanks for that great explanation of the choices customers have about the networks they use. Then they get to say okay, who is going to use them, and that is so important.

We usually find that if a customer wants to plan for improved workflows, plan for business improvements, then they very quickly get down to which roles are going to use it? In a hospital environment, it’s going to be the care providers, nurses and the community around them that are actually providing the patient care. Maybe it will be DECT devices or may be it will be Wi-Fi; some of them are moving more to tablets where the communication is actually integrated into the electronic heath record so that if they need to find a care provider for the physician to give orders to give medication for a specific patient they do it right out of the patient’s electronic record. Everything is logged and there are no double entries. There is traceability.

There are a lot of fabulous applications that depend on roles. You can go into almost any business in manufacturing – we’re talking about the production and logistics areas – a wireless device that goes in and out of a firewall you are probably back to cellular that can move between Wi-Fi and the cellular network. In that case, you are talking about people like field sales, field services and so forth.

If you are talking about people that move to home offices, well then they are going to get the device of their choice. Maybe it is going to be a DECT headset that attaches to their landline. Maybe it is going to be smart phone that can operate off of their home Wi-Fi network which may have enough bandwidth depending upon their subscriptions and their cable or DSL subscription model.

If you start thinking about this in terms of specific levels it tells you two answers. One is, it tells you how many of those people there will be. The second is it tells you where they will be. So in care providers there is only a certain amount of care providers in any particular wing of the hospital at a time. You can then begin to plan for their traffic, even in an emergency peak load environment they will not all be on that network at the same moment. You begin to understand the patterns, the traffic and what kind of access point capacity it needs.

Similarly, if you talk about people who are going to move inside and outside the building, well, a bunch of their traffic will move off of the corporate network whenever they go out into the cellular environment. In some cases, like say the Sprint mobile integration, that traffic may come back in through your MPLS network rather than coming through the PSTN (the public switch telephone network) but you again can be specific. I have so many field sales, so many field service people that I need to serve. How much traffic is that going to generate?

Of course, I’m going to match all of this up to job. So more and more, as I said in health care, it may be tied to an electronic health record; in field sales or service, it may be tied to a CRM product (such as) Salesforce.com, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics; you’re going to find that the communications is integrated into the business process and into the business applications on those wireless devices. So the person is going to want to use the device that runs their application.

Probably a tablet; maybe a mobile PC, in a few cases for similar applications it can be a smart phone. So I recommend to our clients is to look at the roles in their organization that are going to use wireless and then apply that to the planning criteria that you described Michael, in terms of whether they want Wi-Fi or DECT, and how much capacity they might need in order to drive their access point planning or their firewall planning for bandwidth, in and out and how many people.

Sometimes, by the way, that will move people to a hybrid cloud-based solution, because if mostly I have field sales people talking to customers, there is no need to haul that traffic into my enterprise and back out. I can just put a host of my enterprise communication system up in the cloud and then all of that traffic stays on the carrier’s network and never comes in through my firewall. It never uses up my bandwidth. So just a thought I think representing the effect wireless is having on how people work and how enterprises plan.

Michael Finneran: Thank you, Marty. That is good advice. Actually, we are hitting one of the verticals there that really has been among the heaviest in adopting Wi-Fi voice, which is health care. Of course it started with things like the Spectralink and Vocera phones, but increasingly now is moving to electronic medical records, tablets and smart phones, are being seen on those networks almost as often as the old Spectralink devices. Dave Michels, you had some ideas about wireless headsets.

Dave Michels: Thanks Michael. The part of wireless that doesn’t really get as much attention is headsets. I think that the wireless headsets offer a lot benefit of the wireless freedom without so many of the liabilities associated with the portable devices.

The problem that I find with wireless headsets is this craziness associated with the electronic hook switch. Personally, I believe that the mechanical lifter on the telephone was probably the most embarrassing invention our industry has ever come up with. I would love to see that eliminated. But in order for the mechanical lifter to go away the phones need to support electronic hook switch, and most importantly, the phone to headset integration needs to support electronic hook switch.

It’s surprisingly difficult or inconsistent I should say in how each of the vendors accomplishes this. I was talking to some folks at Plantronics about this. I was first exposed to this with the Polycom phones and when I got my Plantronics headset, I had to order a special cable, which went from the Plantronics headset to the Polycom phone. It was very unusual. It was like a five-pin connector into the back of the Polycom phone. That was effectively the electronic hook switch as far as I was concerned.

Then when I switched to a different kind of phone that cable no longer worked. The headset still worked but that cable did not work. Then I had to order from Plantronics yet another electronic hook switch cable. It turns out that most phones have their own electronic hook switch, because none of the vendors have agreed on an interface for this. But not all phones have them. I have talked to Plantronics about this. They have done some very interesting things to accommodate that. I think it’s the ShoreTel phones that do not have an electronic hook switch connector. So the cable that they sell actually has a little microphone and speaker on it. When it hears the ring, it is able to activate the electronic hook switch. It is amazing to me how they pull this stuff off. A lot of variation, and of course the electronic hook switches costs as much as the entire headset.

Most of the headsets are either proprietary or they support DECT. It is actually through the headset that I discovered how well DECT works. People look at Wi-Fi and DECT as two competing or alternative technologies. But really, Wi-Fi was never designed for voice. It requires a lot of power, battery capability, and it also is just not designed to accommodate voice packets as well. They have improved Wi-Fi to do it better.

But DECT was from the get go for voice. So the range and one of the other problems people run into is if you have a contact center with lots and lots of headsets, the likelihood of DECT interfering with each other is much lower than with Wi-Fi. I am a big fan of the DECT headsets. I use one here in my home office. I am pretty much able to go anywhere including down the driveway and around the back of the house and whatnot, and still stay in range with great quality. I am a real fan of the DECT technology.

I have thought about and tried switching to DECT handsets, but I cannot find any that I like. I find that they all have very similar characteristics. I was hoping the Polycom one, because I like the Polycom phones, I was hoping the Polycom ones would have more of the Polycom characteristics. But Polycom acquired a company, Kirk, out of Denmark and they never integrated the firmwares together. So they are very separate phones.

I realized and I hate to sound ethnocentric, but every DECT phone on the market, Michael you mentioned earlier that all the DECT phones are much more popular in Europe. Every DECT phone on the market is designed in Europe. The Kirk folks out of Polycom, company called Spectralink you have got the folks out of Aastra designing them out of Germany. You have got Siemens designing them as well. But they are basically all out of Europe.

We were talking just last week at a different conference about how calling features are so different in Europe than they are in the U.S. My theory is that the Europeans like very small keypads on their DECT phones. We often scratch our heads as why DECT is not more popular in the United States. I don’t think a phone has been designed for the U.S. market yet. I think it would take off here if there was a decent one to choose from.

There is one other point that when Marty was speaking he was talking about the access points for a wireless network. One trend that I am finding very interesting on a separate note here are these new cloud managed access points. Cisco just acquired technology for that. ADTRAN has been offering that for a while. I think it is a really interesting cloud premise solution.

I was working with the school district here that is trying to get all of their classrooms upgraded to Wi-Fi to accommodate the device for every student, and I really like the idea of the outsourced AP management. Especially like school districts who don’t want to deal with it. It is an interesting new trend. With that, I will turn it back to you Michael.

Michael Finneran: Thank you Dave the company that Cisco acquired for that is Meraki. But you did mention ShoreTel and they made an interesting announcement on the Wi-Fi front last week with the ShoreTel iPad dock. Well the iPhone or iPad dock, which still is one of the problems that I have with the overall concept. You can bring your iPad or iPhone, plug into their docking station, which gives you a handset and a speakerphone…

Dave Michels: Michael, maybe this is the next topic you had in mind, but I am little confused by this because as you know and I think it was as you experienced yourself, we see a lot of demonstrations. We saw some at the UC Summit, and we see them at the vendor conferences. Every demonstration today... you cannot get more than a few minutes into it without somebody pulling out an iPad and using this as wireless device. Obviously the ShoreTel dock is centered on this as well. I am really confused by this. I personally cannot imagine using that as a primary device. What are your thoughts on that?

Michael Finneran: I don’t see it as a primary device either. I actually just finished a post for NoJitter on that very topic. Given the fact that even if it is docked, it’s still running on the Wi-Fi network. If you’re concerned if there are too many calls in progress, you will get busy signals... It just seems like a bad configuration for a person that is going to be using a stationary position. It gives you all of the bad stuff in mobility with none of the good stuff, which is the ability to move around. We will see how they deal with it.

The other interesting thing about DECT and I have watched the technology for years, the problem is that none of the smart phones or tablets are incorporating a DECT interface. It’s always the cellular interface. It seems the consumer bent of the market is really driving us more to the Wi-Fi than to the DECT here. Of course again, the shortcomings that DECT has with regard to data services.

Now what is interesting about the ShoreTel one, is that it is using the ShoreTel mobility client on the iPad, which is one of those things I have said time and time again, this is a product that was designed for demos and not for selling to customers. Because nobody seems to take them up on it.

I know Kevin Kieller is on with us here, and Kevin is one of resident experts on Lync. Now that Microsoft has come out with a full suite of mobile clients for Windows 8, iOS, and soon for Android. Do you think Microsoft is going to have any different luck with mobile clients as part of the Lync offering? Mobile clients either working over the cellular network or the only other choice they would have in this case would be Wi-Fi, Kevin?

Kevin Kieller: Well thanks, Michael. I think in this space it’s always great that we have an increasing number of options. Although, I read that a psychologist had said we as humans deal best when we have between four and eight options. If we have fewer options we feel constrained. If we have more options we feel overwhelmed.

I think maybe that’s one of the problems in the UC, but in the wireless and mobile space in general. There are so many options in terms of how to make a call, complete a call, and answer a call, that without training in usage and adoption focus it’s challenging to get people to use it.

Yes, absolutely the new Lync 2013 mobile clients allow for the first time voice and video over either a Wi-Fi connected network or over cellular. But I think from a usage and adoption perspective, they are going to have the same challenges that the traditional PBX vendors had and were never able to solve in terms of their clients that ran on these same mobile devices. Which is, users typically when they go to make a call -- they click on the phone icon that is more integrated into the platform. They are not that enthralled about starting a secondary application in order to make a phone call and so therefore they don’t, and they bypass the opportunity for instance to make a free Wi-Fi call and instead are using their cellular data plan.

I think Microsoft has a unique opportunity maybe on the Windows phone 8 platform, to integrate it deeply like what you talked about Michael, like Blackberry has done with regard to allowing that option more seamlessly from the regular dialer. Certainly when that happens and customers and end users are just able to simply dial as they have all ready done without going through “there is an app for that,” I think that the usage and adoption will increase.

In the Lync space, it’s exciting. There used to not be any wireless headsets that would work with Lync, and quite frankly going back to the OCS days there were very few IP phones that would work with Lync. Now it is almost an overabundance of choice, whether it is the mobile client running on your Android phone, your iPhone, your iPad, your Windows phone, your desktop, or whether it’s a wireless unit going over Wi-Fi or DECT connected to any of those mobile devices or paired with your PC... I think it really does circle back to what Marty started talking about is really defining the use cases. Defining what are we trying to accomplish. What is going to make the business efficiency better? What is going to drive sales or save costs? Then looking at the plethora of options and figuring out what best brings you to that point.

I think it’s exciting in the Lync world that we have these options now to consider. But if you mismatch the use case to the technology, you are never going to get user adoption. Even if you get the adoption with a mismatch, you are certainly not going to have the cost savings or the return on the investment that most organizations are looking for.

Marty Parker: I’d like to add to what Kevin had to say if I could there, Michael. One thing that I think may play in favor of Microsoft, and IBM, and perhaps Google, but particularly Microsoft and IBM, is that they are basically the winners of the enterprise instant messaging game. If you go to a large enterprise at least, the smaller enterprises are going to be using Google, AOL, MSN and so forth, Yahoo, for IM. But for the large enterprises where they need to have that auditable and they need the accountability and control of IM, they are going to install a corporate platform.

I will tell you I have a Lync client on my Android smart phone and on my iPad tablet and on my Windows computer. So across all three. What I use it for is instant messaging. However, I am using it off of Microsoft Office 365 with a plan that does not include enterprise voice. But on my smart phone, if I click a person in my IM directory, it will bring up my Android dialer, my Verizon dialer and I can make a call. It will be on the voice network, which is fine because my voice plan is fixed. My voice plan is now a fixed cost to me and my data plan is a variable cost, which is exactly the opposite of two years ago.

I think that we should not discount the instant messaging client, IM and presence on the mobile device, I think, is a lot more powerful than voice clients on the mobile device because it does not use as much bandwidth. It gives you access to the directory. It tells you who is available to talk to. You can talk on your cellular plan, which is probably corporate funded or fixed cost.

Dave Michels: On that line, Marty there is a lot of speculation right now about Google. There has been a code project called Google Babbel which is apparently going to be re-branded now which is confusing to me, as Google Hangouts. Which is basically all of their IM clients coming together in one family and so it’s everything on the Android messenger to the Google Talk on the desktop and I think a few other versions as well.

What’s really interesting about it that I do not know if anyone else has cracked this and again this is all, it has not been announced yet, but there is enough press about it that it seems pretty eminent. If somebody IM’s me today on my Google devices, like it pops up on my desktop, it pops up on my phone and then maybe I will respond to it on my phone. When I get back to my desktop there is this entire residue left over. What this new version is supposed to do is synchronize all that and understand that I responded and had the conversation on my mobile device, and therefore eliminate and hide. It is still there as a history. But it will hide all of the pop-ups and the fragments of the other conversations. This is a problem that I have with Skype. This is a problem that I have with other products where you have got multiple clients and they all have part of the conversation displayed on them. I find Skype very annoying.

Marty Parker: I don’t have that problem on my Lync client. With customers of ours who use Sametime, they don’t have that problem either. So I believe that Google is doing this in large part to round out their enterprise story. They certainly would like to be in the enterprise, there’s no doubt about that.

Kevin Kieller: It’s interesting in that regard Dave, Google is rumored to announce that Babble service or whatever they are calling it now. But preemptively, Microsoft just announced that Outlook.com, which already has the Skype IM integration and Skype integration, they are now rolling out internationally over the next couple of days with integration into the Google Talk IM service.

So it seems that the IM client really is becoming where you live. A lot of people live in their inbox now. But I certainly I think, Marty, to your point, if the end users live in their IM client, so it gives you presence and the ability to IM, and then you can click to talk from there, I think Michael, to your point, if that is how users are living on a mobile device, then we would see the mobile adoption of the voice over IP or click to talk whether it is over cellular, Wi-Fi or DECT greatly increase because it would not be starting another app, that would be the app that they generally live in and leave their phone in in the normal mode.

Michael Finneran: The thing I liked about Marty’s description there of the Lync client is that you can just jump from text right to the phone dialer. Even on my iPhone, I have to dump the iMessage or whatever their messaging application is called, and open the phone dialer to make a phone call. If I start in the directory, I can either start a text, an email, or make a phone call to any of the recorded numbers. But getting between them isn’t as seamless as what Marty described.

One other point about something you said earlier Kevin about Microsoft potentially going for a higher level of integration since they control the Windows phone operating system. I am not so sure that Microsoft is going to want to do that.

One, for antitrust reasons which they are very sensitive about. But also, they face sort of the same problem that Google has owning Motorola. Since the success they are looking for from that operating system will come from more and more manufacturers wanting to incorporate Windows phone in their devices. It would be difficult. For example, Nokia. Let’s say they have a close relationship with them, thereby alienating some of the developers and the overall strength in the ecosystem they are trying to create. Strategically it is a difficult decision to make.

Kevin Kieller: The thing is that I agree with you. The funny thing is that it comes down to subtleties. For example, I have a Windows Lumia 920, the latest greatest until the next Lumia comes out shortly...

Michael Finneran: That was this morning...

Kevin Kieller: I know, exactly. I am current for a few months at best... The difference is and it really comes down to the subtleties with end user experience and adoption, and this is when it comes back to use cases. If I click the phone dialer, which arguably is just an application, I am at the dial pad and I am there in one or two seconds. The subtlety is if I click on the Lync 2013 client, and this is crazy but because it takes four or five seconds to bring up then I get my contact list and I can just click to dial. But that difference between one or two seconds and four or five seconds seems to be the bridge between user adoption and user non-adoption.

Marty Parker: That goes to the question of mobile device capability. If you have a device like an iPad or an Android phone that can run more than one app at a time... Lync is always on so there is no launch time. It’s just the switch time. It’s like switching Windows. I get to Lync right away. When it launches my dialer, the number is all ready in there; I’m not touching the pad again, all I’m pressing is the green button to make the call. I agree with you in terms of user adoption, Kevin. The question is, will people discover the easy way or will their first impression be, this is hard? It is still an issue; no doubt.

Kevin Kieller: I think the issue of the slowness through the true multitasking on different OSs – that goes away. So I do believe that once again, people will live in their people lists that have presence. That will be the primary interface that is built into the phones. Then we will get the mobile client adoption and calls going over Wi-Fi or cellular, simply because that will become the de facto standard on these devices. We are not quite there yet, but certainly many of the ways that people are starting to use the Lync client, it’s not perfect but it certainly gives us a look toward the future where these things work a lot more seamlessly together. They are pretty seamless now. But I think just in the next year there is going to be a huge coming together of these different integrations both from systems, the wireless devices, so the choices and just in the simplicity regardless of how the call is processed. Users will just be making a call and the call quality will be reasonable, however the signal is getting from point A to point B. That is what I am looking forward to.

Marty Parker: It just comes down to, what is it I am trying to get done? Michael, you have some data I believe from your Information Week surveys that show while essentially every corporation that was surveyed already has a bring your own device plan or is developing one. Still, 62 percent of the enterprises are providing devices for the employees rather than the employees paying for it and providing the devices themselves.

I believe that in certain roles, let’s take in-patient health care, there is an accountability and a privacy consideration there that may cause the hospital to insist that they provide the device. The device is under their control. They can’t trust patient information on a device of the employee’s choosing. So we may find that when you check-in to do you shift that that is the only time you can be communicating about a patient, then you get a device – whether it is DECT, Wi-Fi, tablet or phone, a Vocera-type model, special purpose, that depends on the workflows in that hospital.

I think we are going to see, back to the use case point, some that are absolutely corporate funded, purpose filled, or purpose defined workflow defined, and others that will be for personal preference. Michael any comment on that?

Michael Finneran: Certainly, the one thing we have learned from the mobile revolution is choice. No one vendor is going to have one hundred percent market share, and not everyone is going to want to do things the same way, as much as Apple would like that to be the case, it’s certainly not working out that way. But it is in a way that great challenge that we face.

We see that particularly in regulated industries like health care. How do you balance the employee preferences with the organization requirement for security, compliance and support? Health care I found to be a real interesting segment in that and probably a good topic for another Podcast.

Of all the various solutions we have seen come about in health care institutions as do whether it is bring your own device, bring your own device and we’ll slap an MDM client on it, we will give you a device when you walk in the door, or the myriad other ways we have for meeting those two conflicting ends. That is probably a topic for another day.

This has been an interesting Podcast. Certainly glad to be driving the bus on this one because mobility is close to my heart. I should say that it does get down to what Marty said to knowing your use case and planning appropriately for a good overall user experience. I think it is time for us to sign off for our podcast and we will be talking to you next week.


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