Cisco Systems and Apple are showing the first results of their year-long collaboration with new business communications features built into Apple’s newly released iOS 10 mobile operating system.
Apple unveiled the new OS Sept. 13, and Cisco officials outlined a range of new capabilities that they said will make it easier for iPhone and iPad customers to use their devices for business and to connect with Cisco collaboration applications. Smartphones have become essential devices for business users, and Cisco officials said the new features will help them more easily use them in their work and for IT departments to incorporate the devices into their business environments.
“The network is the foundation for digital transformation, and mobility has never been a more important part of the customer and employee experience,” Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) and Collaboration Technology Group, wrote in a post on the company blog. “To help our customers transform their business through mobility, we needed to help our customers put their workers’ business phones in their pockets. Since iPhone was already in most of those pockets, we partnered with Apple last year to improve the experience. Now it is a thrill to deliver what is available via iOS 10: optimized Wi-Fi connectivity, prioritization of business apps, and the integration of voice and enabling of collaboration.”
Officials with Apple and Cisco previewed some of the features in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, but with the release of iOS 10 comes more details. When the two companies first announced their plans last year to work together, they said Cisco would optimize its networking and collaboration gear for Apple devices and software based on iOS, enhancing the experience iPhone and iPad users have when using them with Cisco’s broad portfolio of collaboration tools, including TelePresence video conferencing systems, WebEx online conferencing and the Spark collaboration platform.
In a post on the Cisco blog, Jeff Reed, senior vice president of Cisco’s Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions Group, wrote that the features will lead to eight times faster roaming than in previous iOS devices and a 90 percent reduction in web browsing failures. In addition, call reliability increases 66 percent and management overhead is reduced by as much as 50 percent. Over the summer, more than 30 customers and partners participated in field trials to test the new features, Reed wrote.
One of the new features is an API called CallKit, which makes it easier for iPhone users to make voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls on the device using apps like Cisco’s Spark. Before, making VoIP calls through the iPhone’s native dialer came with a number of challenges, including dropped calls and having to take multiple steps to find a missed VoIP call and then return the call. However, with CallKit, VoIP calls are now treated as any other call on the iPhone.
“iOS 10 does a magic trick yet unseen on any smartphone—it unifies VoIP calling and cellular calling so that the native phone app handles both,” Jonathan Rosenberg, Cisco Fellow, vice president and CTO for Cisco’s collaboration business, wrote in another blog post. “Now you get the same experience with all of your calls, while still preserving the unique benefits the VoIP app provides.”
Cisco, Apple Partnership on Display in iOS 10
In addition, Cisco is helping Apple devices to optimize their WiFi connectivity. In most cases, when a mobile device is searching for a wireless access point (AP) for WiFi connectivity, they’ll hook up to the AP with the strongest signal, which is usually the closest one, according to Cisco officials. If users begin to move around with their devices and the signal fades, the device will scan up to 25 channels to find the next strongest signal.
However, with the new features in iOS 10, when the iPhone or iPad connects to a Cisco wireless network, the Cisco AP uses 802.11k to offer a list of the top six neighboring APs, which reduces the time and battery power needed to check for connectivity, according to Cicso’s Reed. In addition, the device will connect to the AP that has the best signal and utilization rate—rather than the AP that is closest—which means the iPhone will connect to the one that is the least busy with the highest speed and performance.
There also is a “handshake” between the devices and Cisco technology that allow for fast security negotiation and fast roaming for improved performance as the iPhones and iPads jump from one AP to the next.
Also, when the Apple devices are connected to a Cisco network, applications can be prioritized based on importance. IT managers can select apps they want to prioritize over other traffic via a configuration profile on the iOS device. When the device joins a Cisco network, the AP activates the profile.