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Powerful Collaboration Applications Result When the Internet of Things (IoT) Meets Unified Communications (UC)

Posted by Paul Desmond

May 4, 2015


I’m sure we’ve all heard lots about the Internet of Things and how all sorts of devices will be outfitted with sensors so they can be monitored from afar, and all the possibilities IoT holds in store. But after listening to my colleague Kevin Gulley’s podcast interview with an executive from Jupiter Systems, it hit home how IoT data also has a significant role to play in unified communications.  

Jupiter is an interesting company. Its history lies in “display walls,” which involve multiple monitors working in unison to display all sorts of information and video content. Jupiter, founded in 1982, pioneered the concept, according to Brady Bruce, VP of marketing and strategic alliances for the company.

About 5 years ago, Bruce had an aha moment when visiting a customer that had a gigantic display wall showing lots of information company managers needed to see. He asked the customer if there was anyone else who was not in the room who would benefit from seeing all that data. The answer was “yes,” so Jupiter got to work on taking what was displayed on the wall and making it available to others who could be anywhere.

Pulling Virtually Any Video Stream, Data and Device Into a UC Conversation

The end result was Canvas, software that can take pretty much any voice, video or data feed and make it part of a UC session. The software runs on Windows machines, iOS and Android devices, enabling them to both view content coming from other devices, and share what’s on their own screen with others.

“Any kind of visual or sensor information can be used in Canvas,” Bruce says. “Real time data feeds, video cameras, business intelligence dashboards are all available to us.”  What makes Canvas powerful is its ability to arrange information sources in such a way that they collectively become more valuable when compared to users looking at one source at a time.

“If I see two camera views of a factory and two views of real time data, I’m able to understand more about what’s happening there than if I were looking at any one alone,” he says.

Canvas is best suited for “operational” applications and as opposed to simply holding an online meeting, Bruce says. By that he means collaboration sessions involving data that represents the heartbeat of the organization.

Business Use Cases Around IoT and UC

That real time data is where the Internet of Things angle comes into the picture. In the podcast, Bruce discusses a number of ways customers are using the technology – to powerful effect.

The oil and gas giant Conoco Phillips, for example, uses it to help manage its drilling and production facilities around the world. Perhaps the company needs to plan a drilling operation in the North Sea. With Canvas, it can bring together geologists and drilling experts from wherever they may be, and enable them to confer on plans while looking at real-time video feeds of the site, sharing data, diagrams and the like.

Banks use Canvas for all sorts of applications, including managing and monitoring their ATM networks. It can collect data from machines around the country and determine the health of each one, dispatching service and repair technicians as necessary. It can even help monitor trading operations, helping staff in various offices collaborate with one another as they view real-time market data feeds.

One of his best examples was a major pharmaceutical company that has some 30 production facilities around the world. It uses Canvas to measure and monitor seismic events, because even the most minor earthquakes can be troublesome.

“The sort of thing we would sleep through in San Francisco can throw a multimillion dollar production line out of whack,” Bruce says.

With Canvas, they get real-time data feeds from seismic sensors around the world, along with the ability to tie in engineers who can help out when problems arise. After getting an alert regarding a seismic event, engineers can immediately get several views of the affected factory, zoom in on production lines and get real-time data about what’s being produced, at what rate and what level of quality.  

If anything needs to be fixed, they can tie in consulting engineers, do some white boarding and far more quickly come up with a solution. “They can be back up and operational in a matter of minutes rather than days,” he says.

Latest Enhancements to Canvas

The latest version of Canvas also enables non-Canvas users to join the conversation, Bruce says. Canvas users can dial out to users of any SIP-based conference system and those users can also dial in to a Canvas-based session.

The platform is also now integrated with Microsoft Lync, enabling Lync users to escalate sessions to Canvas when needed, or start a Lync conversation from Canvas.

Canvas represents some interesting technology that enables powerful applications. But my sense is we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible as we tie together IoT and UC.


Topics: video, collaboration, Business Case, Monitoring, Internet of Things (IoT)

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