Verizon Unifies Communications

Subscription service, developed by uReach, targets small businesses and highly mobile workers.

Dr. Rohit Keswani, a partner in a two-physician private rehabilitation practice in West Orange, N.J., is away from his office 90 percent of the workday. But for $13 a month, he and his partner can gain access to all their voice mail, e-mail, faxes and patients medical files at any time—from anyplace they can get to a telephone, Web-enabled laptop computer or Web-enabled wireless device.

The service Keswanis practice relies on, Verizon Unified Communications, became available last week in Washington as well. It includes a "find me/follow me" service that routes calls to the subscribers "universal number"—which can be a local or toll-free number—to as many as four wireless or wired telephones. In addition, the service includes a single message in-box, from which all voice mail, e-mail and faxes can be reviewed.

"Wherever I am, I can use my cell phone, log in and dump my faxes to whatever fax machine Im near," said Keswani, who treats patients at several hospitals near his practice. "Prior to using this system, we had to communicate with nurses and patients in various different ways, with beepers, office phones and separate fax numbers."

The service notifies subscribers when a fax is received and allows them to download it onto a laptop or print it out on the nearest printer. Patient records and other documents stored in a data center can be viewed at any time via the Web.

Subscribers who do not necessarily want to be found or followed by everyone theyve given their universal number to can listen to the recorded name of the caller before taking the call or letting it go into the message box.

"I look at the system as a filter because calls dont reach us directly," Keswani said.

For small businesses and highly mobile workers, the service, developed by uReach Technologies Inc., in Holmdel, N.J., offers considerably more than the "paging plus" features Keswani uses, according to Eric Belove, director of marketing communications at uReach.

For professionals who spend a lot of time in their cars, the systems speech-to-text interfaces can make hours on the road more productive. Subscribers can listen to e-mails via their wireless phones, and they can respond hands-free.

"I have a 45-minute commute," Belove said. "I dial in to the system, it reads me my e-mails and I reply to them. I can deal with 80 percent of my e-mail before I even get to my desk."

Several other service providers are testing the uReach system, Belove said.

For large enterprises, legacy telephony vendors are promoting unified messaging systems for private networks. Earlier this month, Cisco Systems Inc. rolled out Cisco Unity 3.1, enterprise-class unified messaging software. The latest version of the software includes broader interoperability, increased security and new failover capabilities.

For PBX users, Interactive Intelligence Inc., of Indianapolis, has launched a unified communications product called Communité, which incorporates call screening and "find me/follow me" services. Integrated with Microsofts Exchange 2000, Communité is aimed at enterprises of all sizes and is installed on Windows 2000 servers.

Also this month, Captaris Inc., a unified communications systems provider in Kirkland, Wash., unveiled a faxing solution that supports Oracle9i Application Server, allowing wireless telephone users to send any print documents, including e-mail attachments, to any fax machine. Combined with the Oracle server—the most widely deployed wireless application server—Captaris RightFax Enterprise Server becomes a mobile printing solution.