Interoperability was the topic of the day at the recent VoIP Conference and Expo, hosted by the Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Applied Technology. From service providers to vendors to application developers, the talk centered on the need to make different platforms able to communicate.

This need stems in part from the fact that the amount of IP traffic on the core backbone is growing steadily. According to Mike Paradise, assistant vice president at AT&T Network Operations, during the next three to five years, there will be a major shift in traffic growth due to the popularity of handheld devices and smart phones. He noted the competition between three major operating systems: "How do we get all of these things to talk to each other? You’ve got to have a network cloud supporting this."

The network of tomorrow will be less about individual products and more about the integrated user experience, Paradise added. While voice and data channels are separate in a CDMA system, the move to LTE will help because that technology creates a pure VoIP solution. "We’ve got to get to the point where services are designed to work together with a more intuitive customer experience," he said, although the imbedded base of traditional TDM is "not going away soon. VoIP is the key to an integrated networking vision.”

Is ‘Video’ Part Of VoIP?

Cameras are ubiquitous in consumer mobile devices. Already, the percentage of point-to-point video minutes on Skype has risen to 40 percent, and 4 percent of international VoIP minutes overall are attributable to Skype video. Richard Shockey, chairman of Shockey Consulting, believes the public is even more in tune with the concept of video chat, given Apple and its promotion of its FaceTime application.

Non-verbal communication can add value to a conversation, be it business or personal. The concept of video intrigues people, said Polycom CTO Roger Farnsworth, because its ability to convey emotion is second only to face-to-face communications. The future could see a push-to-talk video-communication option, perhaps to set up an instant-messaging-like functionality that allows for remote medical diagnostics or an instant ability to switch to a video conference during a business meeting.

"This is about interactive video and being able to view something through a protocol that allows you to interact with someone,” commented Bud Walder, enterprise marketing manager at Dialogic. “You are viewing a video and see other participants are watching the same thing and talking to each other at the same time. It is a shared experience."

Here’s the problem: There are myriad interoperability challenges, including multiple codecs, multiple encapsulations and multiple end point naming schemes, according to Bernard Aboba, chairman of the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum. "If we don’t address the interoperability issues, we will have a nightmare for years,” he said. “We need interoperability baked in before we have hardware pieces that don’t interoperate."

"There is nothing wrong with islands of VoIP, but getting it beyond the edge and more ubiquitous is what the conversation is about," Walder added.

Show Me The Apps

A huge range of devices and applications will emerge if the Web model and the cloud-computing environment integrate with SIP.

Kicking off a second panel discussion, industry consultant Henry Sinnreich noted, "Web developers hold the keys to the golden gate, which are the apps. That is what consumers buy. All these Web apps are mute. They have no voice. SIP has one single application: voice. To bring these two together, you have to try to integrate them in some fashion." While the goal is to bridge the two worlds, VoIP needs to be attractive to developers. As such, it needs to be a widget, easy to drag to and then activate on a Web page.

This doesn’t mean that SIP itself will be in a browser or that the communication in the browser will be SIP, said Alan Johnston, consulting member of Avaya’s technical staff. "We need to pick out the pieces we need and figure out how to standardize,” he explained. “Then a huge range of devices and applications (can) take advantage. This area is about giving applications voice and making is so that application developers can add voice and video into apps."

-Monta Monaco Hernon

The Daily

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