Much has been written about unified communications enabling more efficient interaction and removing the human and system delays from our day-to-day communications.
Many also talk about how we are losing the art of conversation in the workplace and that everything now arrives as some kind of machine-enabled message, removing the human factor from business transactions.
But in the not-too-distant future, there may be a resurgence of traditional forms of communication – and it might be technology that leads us there.
Face-to-face communication is the best way to communicate, whether just doing business or at a collaborative project meeting. When we sit down around a table, problems seem to be resolved much more quickly.
We are all trying to be more productive and efficient these days as budgets get tighter and employees have to be in varying locations.
However, travelling to multiple locations to meet is costly and takes time, so some have adapted their communications to include presence and instant messaging to try to reclaim some of the immediacy lost by relying so heavily on email.
Yet with business interactions, it is not about rediscovering the art of lost conversation or always having face-to-face meetings so much as not getting locked into a particular communication mode. It is about being adaptable and using the appropriate communication method for the time and place.
Now, as unified communications evolve and mobile solutions become ever more sophisticated, we may see a resurgence of face-to-face communication with the help of technology.
Many people rely heavily on electronic messaging and the telephone because they work in geographically dispersed locations, and we are now seeing tools based on GPS technology and the location of the mobile device between antennas.
It will not be long before this location information is incorporated into presence-based applications so users will know where their colleagues are in real time. With that knowledge, the electronic communication could be replaced by a traditional face-to-face interaction where appropriate.
Whether you consider presence a Big Brother tool for keeping tabs on employees or an incredibly efficient utility for improving communications, it is most often associated with the presence of an individual.
Soon, inanimate objects, places and possibly inventories will be given an identity and associated presence state to improve the immediacy of knowing if these presence-entities are available.
Imagine being able to see immediately if any of the meeting rooms in your company are available by browsing your buddy list and querying the group of meeting rooms for the next available slot.
In a hospital, a piece of medical equipment with location and presence information would be invaluable in times of emergency. General-knowledge bots that can provide information about an organisation – a product or service knowledge base that responds to textual queries – would also be highly useful.
In the supply chain, imagine an inventory of products that can be queried or have their presence colour-coded – and now imagine being federated with your supplier so you can immediately replenish any shortfall in that inventory.
The options become limitless once organisations extend presence beyond employees to a wider set of entities.
Of course, with all this technology there will have to be controls – especially with location-based services, as nobody wants a queue of people waiting for them to become available as they exit the toilets at Victoria Station.
Alex Donnelly is applications portfolio manager at Damovo.
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