Hyperconnectivity, Live and in Person

You can’t escape the reality that interconnectivity between humans will increase at a more rapid pace as time goes on. The myriad ways in which we connect with one another, e-mail, social networks, blogging, IM, SMS, telephone, voicemail and others are mushrooming.

It seems obvious that today’s teens will demand social networking in the workplace meaning IT departments will have to support these myriad communications mechanisms while dealing with the repercussions of compliance management. Not allowing social networks into your company may even be a deal-breaker when hiring the best talent in the market. We may see a time where publicly traded companies fearful of social networks will lose workers to smaller companies who are more social-network friendly.

Another challenge is web browsers on phones. If you provide a device with a web browser to your company’s employees and one of them discloses information on it to another person via a social network, will you be able to produce this as evidence in an investigation?

I got to discuss and learn more about these issues at the recent in Dallas at the INNUA/Global Connect 2008 event. The organizations hosting the conference are a mix of independent Nortel user groups.

A closing shot of the Nortel booth at the Global Connect 2008 exhibit hall. At this point the show was over and the press and analysts had a chance to see the latest products and services

One of my first and more memorable conversations was with Phil Edholm the company’s CTO. Our talk revolved around how technology has the ability to truly change the way companies work. He explained how his company is building SOA objects which allow companies to be more efficient. He also beamed with enthusiasm as he explained how these software objects are reusable – meaning objects created for one application can quickly be repurposed for similar applications with little recoding.

This is not a trivial concept – object oriented programming revolutionized the world of technology and if you can more easily embed communications into object-oriented buckets which can be more easily weaved into the corporate infrastructure, you improve productivity greatly. In addition

The trend towards increased use of SOA is clear… Avaya too has been espousing similar concepts and NEC’s purchase of Sphere was primarily to acquire the Chicago-based company’s SOA technology. A large focus of TMC’s Communications Developer event this September will revolve around building SOA-based communications applications.

Edholm was especially proud to explain how Nortel has automated hospital interactions and more specifically the methods and systems by which patients are discharged. The average hospital bed costs one to two million dollars and this obviously means there is tremendous incentive to get the people out of these beds as soon as possible (yes of course, once they are better. 🙂 ). It should be noted that healthy patients also want to get home as fast as they can.

Many times, 5-6 doctors have to approve the discharge of a patient and the process of tracking down this number of doctors can be very time consuming. It can take so much work that sometimes nurses decide not to discharge patients on their shift – instead leaving the work to nurses on the next one. Keep in mind that while the patient is still in the hospital, drugs, food and other preparations are being made for them and this additional expense is absolutely unnecessary.

An application I witnessed actually emanates from the Periphonics division of Nortel. The company was purchases by the Canadian telecom giant just under a decade ago and then went very silent. Now they are back in the spotlight and have produced a solution which amounts to a group find-me, follow-me application where every doctor is phoned until they are reached and once they are and consent to the discharge, the nurse is alerted to the fact that the patient can leave.

At this point the various departments in the hospital can also be notified by phone or computer and even the family can be told by a predictive dialer and IVR that they can come and pick up their loved one. Interestingly, Avaya would call such an application CEBP and or intelligent communications but I seem to prefer just in time communications, a term I coined years back which has more recently been eclipsed by unified communications.

IDC’s Nora Freedman and Nortel CTO Phil Edholm discuss hyperconnectivity study

At a Nortel dinner, IDC’s Nora Freedman was also on hand to discuss a recent hyperconnectivity study her company conducted. What is interesting about the study is that Asia seems more hyperconnected than the US. In other words a higher percentage of information workers are Hyperconnected. Part of the reason for this according to Edholm is likely because The US has more information workers who are automated – such as bank tellers, etc. In Asia there are less of these automated information workers meaning a higher ratio of people using technology are hyperconnected. The definition of hyperconnectivity is roughly someone who uses multiple modes of communications such as social networks, etc via multiple devices. I think of it as the level of withdrawal you feel if someone takes your devices and or broadband connection away.

Other interesting parts of the survey revealed that many people receive and send text messages in houses of worship as well as bed. Oh and one other difference between the Hyperconnected and the rest of the world — if their house catches fire and they can only take a single device is they take their laptops with them. Others just grab their cell phones cell phones.

Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski gives a keynote speech

In a keynote speech, Nortel’s CEO Mike Zafirovski discussed how as mobile broadband becomes better, we will be even more hyperconnected. Other interesting parts of his talk revolved around how the enterprise and service provider markets are both important to Nortel.

A moment of surprise for me and opportunity for the industry occurred shortly after the keynote and during a panel of analysts and customers. During this session, a room full of hundreds of Nortel customers were asked if they believe unified communications will happen. Most of the hands in the room went up. When asked who in the audience has a unified communications strategy, there was not a single hand that went up. Truly shocking.

I learned a great deal at this conference and I am glad I went. What I can’t stop thinking about is work/life balance. This topic came up in a conversation with Phil Edholm and at this conference and more and more often I hear from colleagues and coworkers how they wait till their wives fall asleep and then they go to their computers and work. One wonders if humans will be forced to evolve into creatures that do not ever sleep. Or will Starbucks just open up a store in the bedrooms of those who pass over the theoretical Hyperconnected line? I could go on an on about this for hours but its last call here at the Starbucks in my home.

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