04 September 2006

Integrated Communications Platform (ICP)

This is a buzzword for a software that links instant messaging, voice-over-internet (VIOP) telephony, and e-mail. The object is to coordinate all communications systems to minimize costs to a business client, typically by routing all communications through a corporate intranet. Getting reliable information is somewhat difficult since ICP is almost (but not quite) the name of a specific product put out by Mitel. Still, here's the basic concept:
IEC: An integrated communications platform allows for one-click communication. Instead of having to run through a list of home, office, mobile, and pager numbers and e-mail addresses, someone trying to reach another person could simply click on that person's name. The system would route the communication according to that person's preferences. While this kind of platform enables a new degree of reachability, it also provides more control over who has that kind of access. For example, calls from the boss could be automatically routed to voice mail after business hours.
This is made possible by VOIP, or "internet telephony." In essence, since all forms of telecommunications are to be routed through the same type of hub, it logically follows that the next step would consist of dreaming up some way in which coordination would make the ICP greater than the sum of its parts.

This turns us to the next question, that of evaluating ICP products.
IEC: One feature of most messaging systems is some form of presence awareness. At the most rudimentary level, presence awareness lets users know when other users, particularly those on their contact lists, are on-line and willing to accept messages. But when the IM system is part of an integrated communications platform, presence awareness can become more sophisticated. It can notify others when a user is on-line, willing to accept phone calls at a home or office number or has a mobile phone turned on. Users can even set presence messages so others trying to contact them will know that they've stepped out for lunch and will return at a certain time. [...]

This level of presence awareness does bring up issues, particularly that of privacy. Just as even the basic messaging systems of today allow users to make themselves invisible to other users when they are on-line or to block communication from certain users, more advanced messaging systems will have to provide a certain degree of control over presence awareness. Only the most trusted users would have access to location information, for example, so users wouldn't be broadcasting to the world at large that they're away from home.
Security is another issue, since the encryption system has to be reliable. There has to be a reliable segregation of different types of data streams--those available to web browsers from outside the firm, and those from different levels of security clearance.
ADDITIONAL READING & SOURCES: "IM as an Integrated Communications Platform," 2, International Engineering Consortium (IEC), 2007; "Single communications platform efficiently streamlines inbound call traffic," Jim Steenbergen, April 1994

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