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Communication and collaboration in 2020: Inside UC's faster future

By 2020, communication and collaboration advances like voice command, quick response codes and cloud adoption will streamline workplace interaction and simplify regular tasks.

Editor's note: In part one of this two-part series, networking consultant Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., looked...

beyond 2012 to offer a glimpse at what the future of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) might look like in the year 2020 and how the UC world at large will be different for enterprises. Nolle turns his focus in the second part of this series to how advances in communication and collaboration will simplify regular tasks for individual workers.

In the new world of communication and collaboration in 2020, with appliances like smartphones playing so many roles, keyboard and even touch-screen entry will give way to voice control. (Think Siri on steroids.) Hands-free GPS navigation while driving is already a reality. By 2020, not only will automobile functions be equipped with voice command and natural language processing, but so will factory processes and information interfaces.

How many times have collaborators asked, 'How did you get to that screen,' or 'What were you trying to do?' No more.

Tom Nolle
CIMI Corp.

All of these advances will reform worker communication and collaboration. A worker in a "dialogue" with the cloud can easily transition into a dialogue with another worker or supervisor. Scanning a quick response (QR) code is a small step from sending a live video image to a collaborative partner. The net effect will be that communication and collaboration are unified, and then made into an application component that can be integrated into the information context in which workers perform their regular tasks.

Keep human communication and collaboration, get rid of needless exposition

Adding webcams to appliances will allow workers to present supervisors or expert support personnel with pictures of situations when necessary. The cloud will also aid communication and collaboration by allowing workers to offer collaborating partners summaries of what happened before, as well as details on what specific missions entailed and other relevant information. Human communications will never be eliminated. In fact, the more intimate relationship between workers and the cloud will likely expand interaction.

What will be eliminated, however, is the need to provide time-consuming and often error-prone context-setting information. How many times have collaborators asked, "How did you get to that screen," or "What were you trying to do?" No more. In the communication and collaboration framework to come, dialogue will focus on the real business goal.

Easier remote communication and collaboration will mean more teleworkers

One impact of the transformation created by point-of-activity intelligence will be to increase the effectiveness and productivity of teleworkers. The fact that even remote workers can be tightly bound into an information fabric means jobs that might not have been suitable for telework in the past will be able to be considered. Overall telework productivity gains will likely more than double the number of teleworkers by 2020.

A more significant impact in financial terms will be the increase in the number of information-empowered workers -- those who regularly access IT resources in order to do their jobs. In 2012, information-empowered workers will make up about 26% of the workforce, according to CIMI Corp. surveys. That number is up only 4% from 1995. Yet as many as 40% of workers could be information-empowered by 2020, which could increase the demand for IT resources and network bandwidth by 50%.

Our progress into the information age has never been smooth. Past revolutions like mainframe computing, distributed computing and PCs and the Internet have created radical changes not only in the benefits of technology, but also in the lives of workers and consumers. Since the Internet boom of the late 1990s, we have not had another paradigm shift drive such radical change. One will emerge before the end of this decade, and the world will be transformed by that magical date of 2020.

Don't miss part one of Tom Nolle's two-part series on the future of unified communications and how the world of UC might look in 2020.

Tom Nolle, President, CIMI Corp.About the author: Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982. He is the publisher of Netwatcher, a journal addressing advanced telecommunications strategy issues. Check out his blog, Uncommon Wisdom, for the latest in communications business and technology development.

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