Startup Zinc Adds Push-to-Talk to Deskless Communications Platform

San Francisco-based Zinc is carving a niche for itself with something called the All Mode Communication Platform, which is aimed at an important portion of the workforce: deskless workers.

Zinc is back in the IT news, but it isn’t the metal or the ARM-based server Dell donated to the Apache Foundation several years ago.

This one is all about “deskless communications,” which is said to be a vastly underserved sector of the work force.

San Francisco-based Zinc is carving a niche for itself in this market with something called the All Mode Communication Platform, which is aimed at this important portion of the workforce: deskless workers.

Deskless, or so-called firstline workers, are the people on factory floors, in restaurants and numerous other hands-on working environments where a computer doesn’t play a major role.

More Than 2 Billion 'Firstline Workers'

"Firstline workers comprise the majority of our global workforce. Numbering 2 billion people worldwide, they are the people behind the counter, on the phone, in the clinics, on the shop floor, and in the field," Microsoft Office 365 General manager Bryan Goode said Sept. 25 in eWEEK. "They are often the first to engage customers, the first to represent a company's brand, and the first to see products and services in action."

These workers don’t sit in front of a desktop, laptop or even a tablet PC most of the time. They’re out interacting with customers and potential customers. They would be known as “first responders” in the emergency-care industry.

“We all use consumer apps to do this every day (messaging through Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and many others), but they just aren’t enterprise-grade—they’re not good for a company,” Zinc CEO Stacy Epstein told eWEEK.

So enter year-old startup Zinc, which on Oct. 24 introduced Zinc 5, the first All Mode Communication Platform that it describes as “mobile-first, secure, and designed for high adoption.” Adding to Zinc’s existing modes of communication–messaging, voice, video and broadcasts–Zinc 5 now includes integrated push to talk, providing real-time communications for front line teams.

Epstein claims that Zinc, which has raised $31.5 million in venture capital thus far, is the first company to deliver all modes of communication in one enterprise-grade platform to its customers.

Zinc is All Voice-Controlled

“Zinc is all voice controlled; you’re not choosing from among eight different apps from different modes of communication. We have messaging, voice, video, content sharing, location sharing, group calling, video calling and now, with Zinc 5, we have that final Holy Grail, push to talk," Epstein said.

“Hospitality is an industry where push to talk is probably strongest, although plenty of other industries use it as well. At the end of the day, we all need live streaming audio—it’s how we all operate.”

Push to Talk can work around the corner or around the world, Epstein said. A lot of people don’t realize that with your mobile cellular phone, you’re sending audio files, which isn’t real time, Epstein said.

“With push to talk, you press the button, you talk, the person you called hears you in real time,” Epstein said. “Unlike walkie-talkies, where you have to be pretty close together, I can do push to talk to somebody in China right now.”

Using Zinc 5, enterprises can set up official groups or facilitate direct team communication through a variety of modes, including all the ones noted above. This enables quick, accessible communication for employees who need immediate answers.

Additionally, corporate teams can send targeted or company-wide broadcasts to keep colleagues up to date, share key content, send alerts to streamline operations and measure engagement with analytics.

Capabilities in the Platform

Zinc 5 capabilities include:

  • Push to Talk: With Zinc, mobile devices become a globally connected two-way radio or walkie talkie. Users share information at the push of a button by streaming audio to any individual or channel and avoid using multiple devices and costly investments for radios.
  • Communication Analytics: Business leaders gain insights into cross-functional communication patterns and trends. Users can uncover problem areas and better understand communication by location, department or topic to drive change and improve performance.
  • Hands Free: Employees stay connected while driving safely, troubleshooting, or simply staying available for a customer.
  • Updated User Experience: An updated UI  provides a better experience on newer devices, including faster initiation of any communication mode.

The deskless workforce is continuing to grow, and in the United States alone it is estimated to eventually comprise 73 percent of the population by 2020, according to IDC.   

Zinc customers include GE, Hyatt, BlueLine Rental, Vivint and Gaylord Hotels. For more information, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...