Small applications equal big IP telephony growth

A single application will not boost the Internet Protocol (IP) telephony market. Instead, a series of smaller, intensely popular applications will fuel the burgeoning technology's growth.

That was one point made by Don Proctor, Vice-President and General Manager of Cisco Systems Inc.’s Voice Technology Group, at the company’s second annual Innovation Through Convergence (ITC) Expo held this week. Delivering the event’s keynote speech on Tuesday, Proctor said the IP telephony market will not see something like Lotus’s popular 1-2-3 program rocket it to ubiquity in the enterprise. A series of smaller applications primarily used by specific vertical industries will aid the platform in reaching that point.

"Don’t expect a killer app for IP telephony, but several very lethal ones, usually centered around vertical markets where rapid innovation, customization and competitive differentiation are becoming increasingly important," Proctor told an audience of about 300 attendees.

Cisco used the conference to showcase some of those applications. The company attracted approximately 70 developers that took the Cisco AVVID (Architecture for Voice Video and Integrated Data) platform and tailored it to a specific need.

One exhibitor missing was the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, with which Cisco this week finalized a deal. The company will deliver IP telephony offerings to the newest terminal at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport early next year.

According to Christian Bazinet, Cisco Systems Canada’s manager, product marketing, the airport deployment will focus on two primary areas: check-in gates and self-service kiosks distributed throughout the terminal.

With Cisco’s phones deployed at check-in desks, airline personnel will be able to tap into their specific airline’s phone system. This is especially convenient, Bazinet said, because such counters are used by multiple airlines and direct links via IP eliminate the need to share a private branch exchange (PBX) line with competing carriers. Representatives will also enjoy the convenience of four-digit dialing, as opposed to using regular seven-digit numbers and extensions.

At user kiosks, passengers will use IP phones to order wheelchairs, request medical assistance and a variety of other features.

"The phones display visual logos, such as a red cross for medical help, which makes it easier to overcome language barriers," said Bazinet. Because the terminal will be a hub primarily for international traffic, this ability was especially important, he said.

Bazinet also divulged that a new air traffic control tower set to open in the near future at Pearson, Canada’s busiest airport, will also utilize Cisco IP phones. No other Canadian airports are yet in line to deploy the technology. Bazinet told IT World Canada that further details about the Pearson deployments will be forthcoming shortly.

Cisco also used the conference to announce the use of its IP Telephone 7970G at Pearson. The phone's new headset features greater resolution on the display screen and is the company's first phone with touch-screen technology, Cisco said.

The company said the phones will make multimedia services interaction a faster and easier process, thus improving customer and employee satisfaction.

The new model also supports applications for mobility and collaboration, and should especially benefit retail, hospitality, education and government markets, Cisco said.

The 7970G, with a list price of US$995, enters the market in the first quarter of 2004.

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