Mar 102013

Enterprise video conferencing endpoints need to surrender their numbers and URIs.  Enterprise VoIP should as well.  Addition by subtraction. Maybe multiplication by subtraction. The best way to force enterprise video out of its current architecture and into Internet community based architectures.

Remove numbers, cultivate communities

What if your EX60 or HDX 4000 videoconferencing unit didn’t have a number or URI?  Would you stop receiving video calls?

How many people have contacted you on IM, Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, Instagram and Tumblr over the past week? Any of them dial a bunch of random numbers to reach you?

The removal of the number would force Cisco and Polycom to deliver you an Internet community enabled video endpoint – to ship every new EX and HDX as if it was an IM client, social network node or interactive web page.

The numbers and URIs in enterprise video and VoIP are now obstacles instead of enablers. The best way for enterprise video to grow is to shed the enterprise model. Start by eliminating the numbers – it will force enterprise video into entirely new architectures – Internet community architectures.

Hold on, IT is voting “no”

Would stripping the number and moving to user-managed community architectures create issues for IT?  Sure.  All architectures create issues.  The key is to dictate which parts of the architecture are the foundation that can’t be compromised. Optimum user experience is non-negotiable and the foundation for optimum user experience is user-controlled communities.  We can build security around the communities - build instrumentation and controls on top of the foundation – but it needs to be built in the upper layers in a manner that doesn’t compromise the foundation.

Hold on, people outside my community need my number to reach me

Back to architectural foundation elements.  User experience within our communities comes first.  It is where 90% of our usage will be.  The numbers are preventing community architectures so the numbers need to go. Then, after we nail the user experience within the community, we can optimize for external calls in any manner that doesn’t compromise the foundation. Keep in mind that enterprise video is dominantly intra-enterprise today and enterprise B2B VoIP usually has at least one PSTN leg, thanks again to those numbers.  However, many models can develop on top of our Internet community foundation for the external calls.

  • First of all, external calls will be a much smaller slice of the pie than they are today.  Why?
    • We will extend our communities out across enterprise lines, starting with our dominant B2B transactions with key customers, partners and supply chains. Many of today’s external calls will move inside your communities.
    • There will be so many islands and communities that there will always be one that we can use – at least one that is in common to both you and I and matching our use case – and it will be easy to hop in and out of a given community.
  • There will be innovation to build virtual, transient, secure inter-community meeting places, built specifically for the situations in which they are required.  Current conferencing providers should be innovating int his space.
  • Lowest-common denominator solutions such as browser-based VoIP and video will serve as inter-community options (often with federated presence and third party authentication).

Replace my UI with CEBP?

What if we disable all user initiated calls?  You can’t even click an icon or soft key to call me – it isn’t exposed to your UI. Instead, some other app or service must hit a video calling API to call me.  Crazy?  Maybe, but let’s consider why you want to video call me in the first place?

  • To discuss how to close a deal – a deal in which all the other relevant notes are in  Then SFDC can use the API to enable you to video me…within the context of the notes on this deal in SFDC…with our conversation recorded and added.
  • To review the changes or comments I made in your doc?  Then Google Docs or Excel can hit the API.  And maybe in that case are conversation is converted to text and linked into the doc as a searchable file.

The forcing of API-initiated calls as the only call model is extreme for the sake of example, but consider the impact on communications enabled business processes (CEBP), hypervoice (see Martin Geddes) and purple minutes (see Jeff Pulver). Voice and video minutes become embedded in higher business value, more pervasive and more sticky interactions, processes and applications. This is also why WebRTC and CU-RTC-WEB are exciting. Even better if we can add traditional video endpoints to the mix.

Multiplication by subtraction

In telecom forests, standards bodies and industy forums there is constant discussion on B2B VoIP and video architectures – E.164, URI, prefix syntax, directories, LNP, ENUM, etc.  Great discussions.  But we might be lost in the trees.  Or in the numbers.  

Subtract the (user-exposed) numbers and (often inaccessible) URIs to force us to move into Internet community forests. Multiply how good our user experience is within our communities, enable us to easily extend our communities and provide room for innovation for specific use cases. We tend to stay in familiar forests, even if we know some of their faults. Sometimes we need a forest fire to move us out. In this case, we just need to get rid of the numbers that are keeping us anchored to this forest.