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Integrated Communications

What if you could stop thinking of phone calls, email, voice mail, and faxes as separate forms of communication? What if you didn't have to wonder whether your coworker had her cell phone with her (and turned on) or how soon your boss would get that email or fax you just sent? What if the University's next generation of communications tools tied it all together for us in a more natural way, allowing communications to happen in the richest possible ways, all while honoring the wishes of the parties involved. Communication tools would allow us to send and receive information in new ways, such as:

  • Deliver email to a fax machine or a voice mailbox
  • Place a phone call to the audio player on someone's computer
  • Video conference between a next generation television and a next generation PDA
  • Listen to voice mail through a portable audio player, such as an MP3 player or a PDA

These are just some of the things that integrated communications could make possible.

The point is not so much about dreaming up strange combinations of devices and services as it is about relieving us as the users of communications hardware and software from having to guess at what is the best way to communicate with a given person at a given moment in time. The point is that perhaps we shouldn't have to know or care. Our devices, applications, and communications networks should be helping us to make that call.*

First Steps

Today's desktop computers are probably the most readily identified communications devices, enabling users to take advantage of a myriad of communication methods. Increasingly, however, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), high-function mobile phones, and portable music players are becoming constant companions to many of today's students, researchers, and information professionals. While all of these devices can allow for communication with other people, a new kind of demand is being created. People are beginning to look for integrated communications. Further evolution of communications access equipment holds the promise of enabling tomorrow's advanced applications. The first step in moving toward more naturally integrated communications for the University community is to adopt the use of tools that allow for these types of communication.*

To further the University's move to Integrated Communications, ISC Networking and Telecommunications will begin providing a next generation voice service starting in the fall of 2005. The service sends voice communications over the Internet, allowing for the option of integrated email and voicemail service, and eventually voice service combined with instant messaging and video communications. Small department-sized installations of the new voice service will be deployed this fall (2005). To participate, a department's members must be willing to regularly test the service and to provide feedback to our technical and support staff as we work out any production issues before a larger service rollout.

If your group is interested in participating in an early next generation voice service installation, ask your LSP to volunteer your group to ISC.

* Paraphrased from sections of the Third Edition of PennNet-21.

Last updated on 03/11/05


Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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