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With Apologies to Gartner, Four Practical Unified Communications Predictions for 2016

Posted by Paul Desmond

Dec 23, 2015

The other day I came across Gartner’s annual list of top 10 strategic technology trends for the coming year. It’s typical for the list to be a bit ahead of the curve, but this year’s list was particularly out there. So it prompted me to ponder what a more down-to-earth list might look like with respect to the unified communications space that theUCbuyer.com covers.

Gartner: Lots of Mesh, Autonomy, Post-this, Post-that

First, a look at the Gartner list, which you can find here in its entirety. We’ve got a couple of “mesh” related items, beginning with “the device mesh,” which Gartner describes this way:
The device mesh refers to an expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses. The device mesh includes mobile devices, wearable, consumer and home electronic devices, automotive devices and environmental devices — such as sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT).


Unified-Communications-UC-Predictions-2016.jpgCall me crazy, but it sounds like that could’ve been described as simply, “devices.” But David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow, says “in the postmobile world,” mobile users will be surrounded by all these devices, which extend “well beyond traditional mobile devices.”  I guess that's true, but postmobile? What does that mean? “After mobile?” Didn’t mobile just get here, pretty much?

Further down the list we’ve got “mesh app and service architecture,” a method of building distributed applications that involves containers and emerging “microservice” architectures and a bunch of other buzzwords, some of which I suspect Gartner just made up. It ends with this tidbit:

Application teams must create new modern architectures to deliver agile, flexible and dynamic cloud-based applications with agile, flexible and dynamic user experiences that span the digital mesh.
At least we’ll all be agile and flexible; that’ll be nice.The Internet of Things is so mature that Gartner has it branching out into new areas, including “Information of Everything,” which includes all that stuff coming out of the digital mesh, including “sensory and contextual information.” All this will “bring meaning to the often chaotic deluge of information.” Finally!We’ve also got “Autonomous Agents and Things” that are evolving from the likes of Apple’s Siri. Application interfaces – those annoying menus, forms and buttons – will give way to people just talking to their apps all day long. "Over the next five years we will evolve to a postapp world with intelligent agents delivering dynamic and contextual actions and interfaces," Cearley said. “Postapp.”  First we got rid of mobile, now we’re getting rid of apps. Not sure how I feel about that. I like a lot of my apps.The list goes on with items including “Internet of Things Platforms” and “Advanced System Architecture,” which involves “high-powered and ultraefficient neuromorphic architectures” that are “fueled by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).”  Yummy!

Down to Earth Unified Communications (UC) Predictions for 2016

I don’t doubt that some bleeding edge companies are on the same page with Gartner but I suspect the vast majority of customers won’t be implementing neuromorphic anything in the near future. For them, I offer my UC outlook for 2016.

Skype for Business Buzz Continues

Skype for Business was already getting lots of buzz and I expect the new Cloud PBX feature will only further its cause. Users now have all sorts of options for getting telephony from Microsoft and, with the Cloud PBX PSTN calling option, can include users employing any kind of phone or telephony service. While Cloud PBX initially is only available in the U.S. Microsoft will be rolling it out more broadly in 2016. Expect Microsoft to maintain its position alongside Cisco among the leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for UC, if not edge ahead a bit. 

UC Goes Mobile for Real

When it comes to mobility, UC is most definitely not “postmobile.” Rather, it’s been taking a good little while for UC to truly take hold among mobile users. But 2015 saw some progress, with the likes of Avaya partnering with Tango Networks to mobile-enable Avaya’s UC suite. Those sorts of partnerships combined with widespread availability of LTE networks, and related VoLTE service and devices, will make effective mobile UC solutions possible. VoLTE supports applications such as high-definition voice and enhanced voice, video and data services (as we covered some time ago). The market research firm ReportsnReports.com expects the VoLTE market to grow at a 100% CAGR in terms of subscriber base through 2019, so it seems the infrastructure will be ready and waiting.

WebRTC Becomes Viable and Useful

WebRTC is another technology whose time will likely come in 2016. We’ve reported on some companies making good use of the technology this past year, including Unify (which was recently purchased largely due to their WebRTC UC application, Circuit) and Interactive Intelligence, as well as companies such as Sonus Networks, which introduced a WebRTC Gateway that helps enable cloud-based WebRTC applications. It appears the components are in place such that we’ll see more and more solid, useful WebRTC applications in the coming year.

UC Gets Embedded in More Apps

Expect also to see UC capabilities to become more integrated into various applications. We reported not long ago on Twilio, which has a cloud-based platform for embedding communications into all sorts of applications. The company has 750,000 developers working with its platform, which tells me it is on to something and that there’s lots of interest in embedded communications. It certainly makes sense when you think of use cases such as UC-enabled CRM applications. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about not just Twilio but the whole idea of adding UC functions to all of the applications that employees and consumers use day to day.

I realize these are not exactly ground-breaking, out-on-a-limb predictions. But, unlike some on Gartner’s list, they represent technologies that are mature enough such that organizations of all stripes can go implement them right now – and start deriving real benefit. If you’ve got any you want to add to the list, by all means chime in using the comments below.

Topics: UC Industry, Gartner, Unified Communications,, WebRTC, Internet of Things (IoT), Skype for Business