Unify Blog

 

By Paul Bender, Global Public Sector Marketing

As I hinted at in my March 17 blog, the Department of Defense (DoD) certainly recognizes the barriers to developing effective incident response: budget and resource constraints, outmoded IT infrastructures, unchecked technology evolution and the growing need for inter-service collaboration. These are all potential stumbling blocks and present a real challenge.

Ultimately, the DoD has a historical problem. The dispatch environment on DoD posts, camps and stations were simply not built for the digital world in which they must now operate. The lack of scalability and flexibility in these aged Emergency Operation Center (EOC) infrastructures is now hampering efforts to modernize and improve response. Add poor communications functionality and bandwidth limitations into the mix and the scale of the legacy problem becomes clear.

Of course, the EOC has changed over time too. We have seen various efforts to centralize on-base command and control/emergency response into a single facility. Success, it must be said, has been limited. Yet the ability to deliver a truly coordinated response certainly exists, and with today’s secure and virtualized technologies personnel don’t have to be in the same location to respond effectively.

A future vision, available today

Extensive though these challenge may be, they are not insurmountable with the right communications tools and approaches. For example, today’s modern dispatch systems are able to integrate all those multiple communications channels and devices – offering bridging solutions between radio, IP and satellite channels – without the need to invest in entirely new on-post infrastructures. And, of course, by bringing together the various modes of conversation quickly and easily, complex operations run in stressful emergency situations can be seamlessly and smoothly managed.

Continuous communications

Operators can leverage technologies like SIP and WebRTC to bring communications together on a single touchscreen console or mobile device. They can push a button to talk on the radio; push another to talk on the phone; and easily add other buttons for specific operational requirements, such as to start an emergency conference call that dials out to critical personnel, asks them for a PIN and drops them into a conference.

Operators can, from a single console, easily join phone conversations with radio talk groups or push another button for intercom capabilities, whether it’s point to point or a broadcast announcement to everyone in the command center. In the case of a major event, these consoles can be programmed with a button that when pressed will dial every phone in building, base or municipality to play a message. The bottom line is that a single communications console eliminates the need for operators to struggle between multiple devices.

Emergency Command Center anywhere

IP communications also provide opportunities to instantly build an EOC at any location connected to the internet – simply by running the communication and dispatch console on a laptop or mobile device. In an emergency, users can even dispatch or control operations from home or another office. Removing physical limitations and barriers from command center operations through all-IP technology can drastically improve response time and operational flexibility.

Extending response capabilities

EOC operators have access to video from mobile units as well as presence information, screen sharing and texting on their single console. For example, in an active shooter scenario mobile security personnel with iPhones or Android devices can stream their video to the command center, giving command personnel live video from multiple angles.

To aid in evacuation or management, EOC personnel can screen share to the mobile devices to display building maps, exit routes or emergency protocols. Real-time unified communications are a must for situations such as these, and operators are now more strongly positioned to manage and respond to a wide range of threats and mission-critical events.

Now, let’s take a look at how federal priorities align with DoD emergency response modernization initiatives. Stay tuned for the next blog!

Posted in Public Sector

By Paul Bender, Global Public Sector Marketing

 

The diversity and proliferation of communications channels and devices requires growing numbers of ‘bridging technologies’ to ensure effective intelligence gathering and collaboration.

The speed of response, so critical in active shooter and similar time critical events, is hampered by legacy IT infrastructures and complicated dispatch environments while the need to integrate dispatch technologies into the wider command center environment uncovers a range of technical and operational integration issues.

Technology aside, an effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel.

As recent events at Fort Hood and San Antonio highlight, the faster the response, the more controlled the emergency. A modern dispatch solution — one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges — is critical to ensuing next generation safety and response on Department of Defense (DoD) posts, camps and stations.

From integration to interface

A typical Emergency Operation Center (EOC) dispatch position has multiple devices and consoles for communications. There’s a console for talking on radios (or portable radios), there’s a console for talking on telephone lines (or regular desktop telephones), and there are satellite communications, intercoms and paging systems. There are handsets, headsets and footswitches, gooseneck microphones, various external speakers, keyboards and mice all related to voice communications.

In addition, the typical operator faces a large array of screens and keyboards providing critical information related to the incident. It’s not unusual to see multiple screens facing a single operator.

In this type of environment, simplifying communications is critical. Switching between devices, from a radio console to a telephone console, or even from one mouse to another can take time, cause mistakes and can lead to disaster. Bringing together the various modes of conversation quickly and easily makes operational sense in stressful emergency situations.

Many EOCs still run on outdated Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology for voice and radio traffic. In this older TDM world, command center personnel are tied to specific locations and expanding to remote users or disaster recovery sites is difficult and expensive.

Then there’s the often-overlooked question of usability. In purely practical terms, the ability to respond rapidly and effectively to an on-post incident depends on the effectiveness of the operator. In turn, the operator’s effectiveness depends on the kit they have in front of them – whether that’s a dedicated dispatch terminal or a software-based dispatch application on a secure laptop.

The usability of the interface therefore is crucial – the ability not only to consolidate the multiple screens, mics, telephones, but to create a single, easy-to-use interface with hot buttons, shortcuts and pre-configured pages to simplify the user experience as well as decluttering the space. Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge: How are you handling the proliferation of communication channels and devices?

 

 

Posted in Public Sector

If you are visiting Enterprise Connect this year, then make sure you leave ample time to discover everything that Unify has to offer.  You will find us right inside the door at booth 1061.

  1. We will bring your communications digital workplace to life:

We will take you on a journey of scenarios that you will be able to relate to – and see in action – discover how Unify can ease the pain of disjointed or aging communications, and show you a simple migration path to effortless collaboration and joined-up business processes – taking you to the cutting edge of communications technology.

Read more ›

Posted in Unified Communications

I get involved, on a very regular basis, in events management. It’s a part of what I do and I really enjoy it. It has to be said though – I truly believe that alongside children, marriage and house moves it has contributed to those silvery flecks appearing in my hair!

It is stressful. Fact. Mind you, it appeals to my sense of ‘here is a project with a hard stop date, where I can look back one day later knowing I have accomplished something’. I am that swan, serene on the surface but absolutely frantic underneath where no-one sees.
I was, whilst standing waiting for my coffee machine to produce a mega-frothy-choco-coffee-chai-skinny-something during a rare break between audio conferences, thinking (scary!).

Way way back, when I was starting out in events, it was what can only be described as frantic. So much to remember to do, so many people to co-ordinate, so many arrangements to make – and (this is the funny bit) without ‘proper’ collaboration tools! Emails flying back and forth with text as long as ‘War & Peace’. Constant telephone calls that hit a busy tone or a voicemail, and that dreaded ‘your mailbox has exceeded it’s size limit’ALL… THE… TIME.. argggghhhhh!

Even audio conferences were tricky – IF available, which meant multiple calls / leaving voicemails / getting engaged tone and it could take maybe 20 calls to bring together one update on a project.
Often it was easier to get everyone in a room for a project update.

Easy did I say? Well, after having spent a week ascertaining when people’s diaries (still written in pencil in a physical journal) were free, then you all get into a room and have to go off to make calls to find out what had happened on the project since 2 days ago when you had all had calls with your teams or agencies!

Now, I know you are starting to wonder how long exactly mycofee machine takes to produce a frothy cup of caffeine.. as there was clearly a lot of thinking going on!

Today, well, I am lucky – as is anyone that works on projects of any kind. Audio conferences created within moments. ‘Presence’ showing who is available right now. Collaboration tools that share information 24/7. Document sharing, instant updates and reactions to appeals for information. Literally being able to access what I need when I need it – and to be able to share key information as it becomes available. Actually, not just lucky – I am thoroughly spoiled! (Don’t tell my boss tho!)

I guess what I am trying to say is that I recognise how incredibly productive I am now. Organising an event now as compared to ten years ago – well it is like comparing popping a kettle on a gas stove and waiting til the pot whistled to a rather swish little coffee machine that produces my caffeine fix within moments.

Plus, if I had access to Circuit 10 years ago.. I might just have a few less grey hairs…

UC Expo 2015

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Posted in Collaboration, Mobile Working, Virtual Teams

Competition opens 7th March 2017 –  close date 30th May 2017

Enter to win this awesome prize!

  • Seat at Unify Partner Conference
  • Accommodation on 12th & 13th July 2017
  • Return Helicopter transfers from Nice Airport to Fairmont Hotel
  • Speed boat experience around Monte Carlo bay
  • 5 lucky winners!

Just fill out the form in this link to enter – don’t forget to tell your colleagues!  Entries are unlimited. Between the dates of 7th March 2017 and 30th May 2017, Partners must purchase and activate one of the following:

1 entry shall be made each time a Partner sells one of the following:

  • 1 x activated OpenScape Business PAYG licence
  • 1 x activated PAID Circuit subscription
  • 1 x deal won with Trade In-NOW! Promotion  (you MUST go through your CAM!)

Participants must provide the name of the end user and order number for each entry to be validated by Unify (using theCLS /e-Store).

Good Luck to All!Monte_Carlo_FINAL

Posted in Channel Updates

An Apple a day keeps the doctor away

Working smart and not working hard – THAT is the way to go.  We all understand the pressures of an evergrowing workload, and the way that doing the occasional extra hour here and there can escalate very quickly.

This is why a recent article caught my eye. In the article it said that  Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has made no secret of the fact that he regularly works a 100-hour week. And GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt spent 24 years putting in 100-hour weeks.

This piece, ‘Think working long hours is a good thing? This is why you’re wrong’ gives food for thought. When did it become acceptable to think that the work life balance should be so skewed towards work? Scarily – it refers to a piece in The Lancet that tells how a 55 hour week (not that uncommon) can be startlingly detrimental to heart health!

Too many working hours and our health suffers alongside our productivity. No shock really. When I reflect on those times where my office has been more familiar than my sofa or gym or my family (!), I wonder how much quality work did I really deliver?

I freely admit that there are times when I work late into the evening. These late evening are partly because I have a large project on, or am catching up after a holiday or such like, but partly because I enjoy my work.

Back to my opening statement – working smart and not hard being the way forwards.  I stand by that. Working smart does NOT mean doing enough to get by, it does NOT mean not caring or delivering poor quality work, nor does it mean mastering the art of avoiding tasks and projects that might consume a little of your personal time.

What is DOES mean however, is using time wisely, and using the technology available to you to speed up processes or avoid duplication of effort. Working remotely with the right tools to be effective, collaborating rather than being an island, and really communicating – these are what really help to bring your work life balance into order.

Do you have the tools to do your job efficiently, wherever or whenever suits best?  I know that I do.

 

Posted in New Way To Work