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Unified communications (UC) is an evolving use of communications technology for communication between individual users in real time or non-real-time in which all available human and device-assisted forms of data-sharing are unified into a common experience. The purpose of UC is to enhance human-to-human communications in real-time or near real time. It reduces latency or response time and increases the perceived speed of communications, while minimizing or eliminating dependence on media and devices.
UC also provides for communication through multiple devices and device types. For example, today wireless devices, laptop computers, PDAs, smartphones and cell phones are capable of providing the same communication capabilities as sitting in an office with a desktop computer and other modern office communication devices.
Unified communications first evolved from business telephone systems, either private branch exchanges or the key telephone system. Powerful software was developed to increase the usability and management of these systems. IP networks increased the ability to transmit voice, which eventually reduced dependence on traditional telephone network circuits. Avaya, Nortel and Cisco all helped to enhance the early IP networks to more efficiently route voice calls across a company network. Together with other company innovators, these vendors developed the technology now referred to as IP telephony. Handsets soon became another computing device connected to a network server. More and more feature-laden applications were installed on the handset.
Business process applications developed and UC functionality and tools were developed to automatically identify resources when needed. This included finding human resources with specific skills and abilities needed for a job or project. Integrating such UC functionality into business processes provided greater bottom-line benefits than could ever be achieved by individual productivity enhancements.
Customers and suppliers now routinely use UC functionality to communicate directly with company personnel to check actual inventory, current product prices and evaluate or change current marketing strategies.
Many companies employ an increasingly mobile workforce. UC helps facilitate the constant availability of employee/management communications, which may be customized for each employee’s specific job or department.