Avaya Patents Bolster Unified Communications Platform

Avaya is building its Unified Communications platform on a massive patents portfolio.

Avaya is continuing to sharpen its focus on unified communications technology with the announcement the U.S. government has recently approved patents for a several new UC software components.

With these grants, 60 percent of Avaya's U.S. patent portfolio is in the UC field.

UC enables enterprises to integrate their various communications systems, office phones, PBXs, mobile devices and PCs into a single platform using Web interfaces and VOIP (voice over IP).

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This in turn enables tighter integration of communications applications that are essential business tools, including, e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging, calendar, contacts and collaboration applications.

It also allows enterprises to deploy and integrate more advanced forms of communications including voice and video telephony, video conferencing, voice and video mail, instance messaging and telepresence.

Among the recently approved patents is technology that supports an application that augments calendar reminder systems by accessing information that allows the system to estimate the time users must leave their desks to arrive at a meeting on time.

Another patent covers software that creates a "ring back" audio file that informs callers about the location or activity of the persons they are trying to reach. A third patent covers the technology that automatically adjusts speech compression levels to help speech data packets travel efficiently over voice and data networks while preserving high sound quality, even at times when the networks are congested.

All told, Avaya holds more than 4,400 patents worldwide that have either been granted or are pending for various business communications technologies, according to Stuart C. Wells, senior vice president of Avaya's Global Communication Solutions, in Basking Ridge, N.J. Avaya's U.S. patent portfolio alone has 40 percent growth over the past five years, he said.

However, the announcement of these patent grants doesn't signal that Avaya is about to embark on a wave of patent enforcement litigation, Wells said. Companies generally obtain patents as a defensive measure to protect their technology portfolio, Wells said. Nor is this announcement a sign, he said, that Avaya feels its technology is under any particular attack or threat from competing communications companies.

Instead, it's a demonstration of Avaya's commitment to assembling the technology to support its UC platform and the effort that has gone into building the patent portfolio, he said.

A number of large enterprises are deploying Avaya UC technology to try to streamline communications throughout their global operations.

For example, Redback Networks, a subsidiary of communications and technology giant Ericsson, is deploying Avaya UC technology to make it easier for its large mobile work force to keep in touch with headquarters.

Avaya worked with BrantTel Networks to integrate its existing Avaya Intelligent Communications systems with Microsoft Office Communicator desktop applications. Redback Networks also added the Avaya one-X Mobile application that makes cell phones an extension of the corporate network.

To integrate these two systems, Redback installed the Avaya Application Enablement Services server. The combined system gives workers access to a range of communication services through Microsoft Windows on their PCs or laptops.

With Microsoft Office Communicator, workers can see when colleagues are available for an instant message session or a live telephone conversation. The Windows interface provides the ability to "click to call" colleagues whose names are displayed in buddy lists, e-mails or network directories.

However, some smaller customers who use a variety of Avaya communications products are not yet in a position to deploy full-scale unified communications.

For example, the Contra Costa County in the greater San Francisco Bay region is using Avaya's VOIP technology along with IVR [Interactive Voice Response] and Automated Call Distribution systems, said Ed Woo, the county's deputy CIO.

The county's tax collection and election call centers are using ACD and IVR, while the county's Employment and Human Services Division is using the ACD system, Woo said.

IVR cuts down the amount of time and effort it takes county residents to reach the right office or official that can provide the service they are looking for, Woo said. ACD is similarly designed to help speed up call processing and reduce the amount of time residents spend on hold before they reach the right official.

Woo said the county was interested in possibly upgrading to Avaya's UC when the county put out a request for proposals to replace its aging Octel voice mail system. Avaya bought out Octel several years ago.

However, Woo said that the county was not able to upgrade to Avaya's Modular Messaging system because it doesn't readily integrate with the county's existing Harris, Toshiba and Siemens switches, he said. Instead, the county upgraded to a voice messaging system from Applied Voice & Speech Technologies.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s eWEEK.com since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...