8x8 Patently Celebrates its Patents
Just like some sharks that must swim constantly to stay alive, business communication companies must innovate in order to survive and thrive. 8x8 recently demonstrates its ability to innovate as the company celebrated the award of its 100th patent. In fact, they received number 99 and 100 on the same day.
I had the opportunity to speak with Bryan R. Martin, 8x8’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Technology Officer, about the importance of these patents and what it means for 8x8 and its customers. Patents are great and provide companies with bragging rights, and occasional licensing revenues, but what do they mean to customers? According to Martin, it’s about working with a partner that can keep up with new innovations as technologies and business processes change. He added, “It’s key for customers to work with a company that will be a long-term partner and can anticipate and keep up with changes.” Our industry is constantly changing – case in point, everyone used to carry a Blackberry, and now very few people use one. In the telecom world, ISDN used to be the key protocol, now it’s SIP, and in 10 years it will be something else. Vendors and providers need to not only keep up with these changes, but anticipate them as well.
Martin explained that many of the patents 8x8 has been awarded are focused on issues that 8x8 identified and spotted before they became problems. The company was able to identify what would be future or potential problem areas and solve them before the customer even saw that there was an issue. For example, they realized that some issues may occur when agents in the contact center have access to the in-house PBX, or that there may be problems for companies that install Lync for chat but use a cloud-based telephony service that doesn't use Lync. Martin notes, “We started looking at these things years ago before customers started seeing any kinds of issues,” and came up with solutions before a situation becomes a problem.
This is especially true when it comes to security. Clearly security is top of mind for all businesses today, and it seems that there’s not day that goes by without another large-scale security breach. When I speak with businesses about moving to the cloud, one of the top three reasons they haven’t made the move is because of security concerns. 8x8 has been very focused on security, and its 100th patent was actually the very first patent they filed on security. This patent deals with the processes and automation used to ensure customer communications are secure, and that all the data 8x8’s customers generate, such as call recordings, can stay secure.
According to Martin, “We were talking about security as it relates to these services from day one. We saw that people would want to use endpoints while mobile and use the public Internet, and not just have communications sit behind the firewall. It seems obvious today and most services let you plug in from anywhere today, but we were the first.”
When I asked Martin which patent he is most proud of, he noted, “We all have different views of this internally. There’s a patent that was filed in 2001 but not issued until 2008, called Distributed Local Telephony Gateway. Back in 2001, what we patented was a dream of open, free communications so that someone could place a call and have it routed however they want – such as over the PSTN or Internet,” which is how we communicate today.
Looking towards the future, much of 8x8’s R&D is focused on mobile communications and how tablets and smart phones change the game. “As easy as cloud services are, there’s still a jump we can take to make this stuff very powerful but still very simple to use.” Like other companies in this space, 8x8 is challenged by providing services and capabilities that satisfy the demands of technologically-savvy customers, while making the same service usable by customers that don't understand or care what the technology does under the hood. Martin explained, “There’s a paradigm developing where I get one-click fulfillment from mobile apps - I click a button and an Uber car pulls up. We have to figure out how to make communications this simple.”
Another area that’s been a challenge to 8x8 (as well as other UC vendors) is how to get more adoption of video capabilities. Martin acknowledged, “We continue to invest in video but our commercial success has been limited.” This is clearly an area of focus for 8x8 and many other UC vendors, as video is the next logical step for business communications.
As cloud services continue to grow and more customers migrate to the cloud, expect to see more innovation – and patents – that will hopefully make these solutions easier to use while providing more value to end users.