"Unified Communications" Has Become a Fuzzy Concept

“Unified communications” has been an evolving issue for business and consumer users for some time, as the number of devices and media types has grown from the original “phone messages” to include email, text, social and other content and information types; PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Beyond phone numbers, email addresses or social identities, there are growing needs to extend a single identity to multiple devices, if not to merge identities of various types on a number of devices.

Cloud apps, which eliminate the need for active synchronization, play a part. So do various unified communications systems, devices and apps.

AT&T's Foundry innovation center also is working on Project Cascade, which links AT&T voice and messaging services to any secondary device.

As new classes of devices get connected to the AT&T network, Cascade will allow users to access their AT&T services seamlessly across their personal network of devices.

At first, Cascade will allow users to send and receive calls and messages from any of your devices, including wearables and connected cars, without Bluetooth pairing.

In principle, shared identity and access for voice and messaging is only the first step towards making new and existing services available to any device seamlessly.

That might primarily be seen as a development of primary value to consumer end users. But that also is part of a trend, where many consumer apps perform functions once associated with business phone systems.

That is one reason why the term “collaboration” has joined “unified communications” as a term of art. “Collaboration” speaks directly to people engaged in common work-related tasks.

“Unified communications” might apply to any number of apps and features provided by communication or social apps, devices and access services. That is one reason why many observers essentially lump IP telephony and unified communications into a single category.

Project Cascade represents one more way that “unified communications” might provide value in a consumer context, but also an illustration of how imprecise “unified communications” has become, as a category.
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