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The future of any industry is not always certain, and it can be difficult to predict. However, some trends in the unified communications and collaboration industry indicate 2018 will be a strong year of growth.
Over the next two years, 80% of companies intend to adopt UCC tools, according to a survey published by market research firm Ovum. More importantly, 78% of the 1,300 global companies surveyed have already set aside budgets to adopt UCC tools -- that's a promising sign.
But what exactly will that growth in the unified communications and collaboration industry look like? What existing trends will continue? And what new trends will emerge?
The continued rise of APIs in the collaboration industry
As more companies emphasize streamlining their workflows, more IT departments will embed communication APIs into their existing applications. Integrating communication APIs is faster, easier and cheaper than a full internal development, which can take months. Additionally, deploying commercial software, which requires companies to run their own global infrastructure, can be burdensome.
In 2017, 25% of companies used APIs to embed UC features, according to a report from Vidyo, a video conferencing provider based in Hackensack, N.J. This trend is expected to continue, as half of companies plan to deploy APIs this year, and another 78% plan to integrate APIs for embedded video in the future.
Embedded communication APIs also provide contextual information for workflows. Information out of context does not exactly help organizations, and it provides users with a fragmented experience -- even with a project management interface to organize workflows.
In 2018, look for new features to put more contextualized information at workers' fingertips. For example, a sidebar during a video conference could offer users information, such as certain content to address during the meeting or tasks associated with the active speaker.
The AI party arrives in the collaboration industry
As we push into 2018, keep an eye on the emergence of AI in the unified communications and collaboration industry. Virtual assistants and bots, for example, use AI to enrich the meeting experience.
Imagine sitting through a long conference call when the discussion moves to a topic that interests you. You call out, "Start recording conversation," and a virtual assistant immediately begins recording. Then, you say, "Send me a transcript of this conversation." And at the end of the call, the virtual assistant sends you a transcript with an analysis of the conversation that you can replay with action items.
Emerging technology in the contact center
Unified communications apps are revolutionizing business in general. But I predict 2018 will be a banner year for the customer-support industry in particular. Some companies have already integrated click-to-call features into their chatbots, but the quality of those features to date has been subpar.
Companies will move from telephony to instant video calls when connecting customers with agents. Thanks to instant translation and transcription services, the video widget will include real-time subtitles translated into French, English, Spanish or whatever language the customer needs to understand the service agent.
The agent experience will also improve. We'll start to see AI bots on the back end that transcribe conversations and index all the words, so agents can be prompted with special content as the conversation unfolds. Agents could then send information to customers on the spot with a voice command.
Customers and agents will also be able to illustrate what they're talking about with augmented reality (AR). Imagine you're on the phone with a Comcast agent, and you can show the agent your router with your iPhone. The agent could send you diagrams of what to do -- superimposed onto your router in AR. This process is now possible, thanks to Google and Apple embracing AR toolkits.
These emerging technologies indicate a bright future for the unified communications and collaboration industry. Whatever the next year holds, good luck in your journey.
Stephane Giraudie is CEO and founder of Voxeet, a provider of voice over IP web conferencing software based in San Francisco.