Unified communications (UC) brings together various communication services that takes place through the TCP/IP network, both real-time and non-real time time, in a common platform. It ingerates IP telephony, interactive white boards, instant messaging, video conferencing, e-mail, SMS, fax, and many other channels with a consistent user interface, allowing the user to send a message to one or more recipients on one medium, and the recipient to receive the same on another medium. For instance, a user may receive an instant message and choose to access it through e-mail, and reply as a fax, all without leaving the integrated user inferface.
UC promotes collaboration, bringing with it convenience and productivity-increase. The need for UC is felt even more as companies expand to different parts of the globe, and executives now travel for work more frequently than before. These factors contribute to the increasing popularity of UC.
The Spread of the Mobile
One of the biggest UC trend in 2013 is the increasing reliance on mobile devices. More and more people are embracing mobile devices and becoming hyper-connected. 1.7 billion new mobile phones and 100 million new tablets are likely to be sold in 2013. In the work-front, the popularity of BYOD has resulted in a marked increase in the use of personal mobile devices for work. More than 80 percent of companies now allow workers to use personal mobile devices to access business applications and information.
The all-pervasive nature of the mobile would lead to a quantum jump in UC adoption. Texts, instant messaging, and video chat, hitherto considered informal mediums of communications, now find increasing use for work. The tech-savvy workers now use these channels and other real-time collaboration tools now, side by side with legacy channels such as email, fuelling the growth of UC.
Companies are all set to delve beyond the surface capabilities of instant messaging, such as click-to-call or establishing an online presence, and integrate such channels with the business processes itself.
The Rise of the Cloud
Migration to the cloud is one of the top computing trends in 2013, and this has its resonance in UC as well.
The widespread acceptance of the cloud has resulted in more and more services migrating to the cloud. Email and web hosting have already made its way to the cloud, and in 2013, collaboration and IP telephony services are likely to migrate to the cloud as well. The presence of such services in the cloud, with an integrated platform, would make collaboration easy and seamless, and facilitate UC even more.
Server-based architectures have already given way to cloud-based “communications as a service” (CaaS), and the next threshold of “unified communications as a service” (UCaaS) has already started to make its mark. UCaaS allow small and medium businesses the benefits of UC without having to invest in a premise-based UC solution.
The rise of the cloud based UCaaS would coincide with increasing interoperability and open standards. Corporate demands for better convergence and collaboration, and a mature communication market would result in UC providers adopting interoperability, thereby breaking down the silos imposed by proprietary walls.
The Democratization of Video conferencing
UC is all set to bring down video conferencing from its high pedestal in the boardroom to the mobile device. Increasing bandwidth, interoperability, decreasing costs and the overall preference for videos over audio or text would lead to more and more people communicating with others through video chats, using their mobile phones, tablets and laptops. HD video communication solutions are on the verge of becoming popular across-the-board, for collaboration on the fly. Videos would ultimately replace voice calls as the preferred real-time communications medium.
Unified communications promises to be the next significant frontier for technology growth, and 2013 is the year when this technology would, in all probabiility, become commonplace.