TOP VOICE PREDICTIONS FOR 2017 AND INTERVIEW WITH TODD CAROTHERS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES AND MARKETING AT COUNTERPATH

Can you provide a bit of company history? When and why did CounterPath come about?

Todd Carathors
Todd Carathors

CounterPath was founded in 2002 in the midst of a nebulous, confused communications environment where any communications tool fell under the umbrella of UC (unified communications). The company has grown up and developed on the crest of the UC wave, and we’d like to think that we, and companies like us, have helped to bring more clarity, innovation and progress to the field.

Our focus is fixed mobile convergence, UC and over-the-top (OTT) solutions in the desktop and mobile VoIP software industry, for the operator, enterprise and channel markets.

The culture of CounterPath has always been about collaboration, flexibility, ease of use and security; only through working together do you get meaningful progress. This philosophy is manifest in our flagship product, Bria, which is unique in its integration with users’ existing systems. Instead of pushing against the current, we use our technology to enhance the capabilities and work in harmony with our partners’ systems, thereby ensuring a secure, cost-effective, user-friendly and innovative solution for our customers.

How would you define Unified Communications (UC)? What is its value?

Recently, the definition of UC, particularly to end users, has become more stringent and communications are finally becoming unified within a single experience.

For me, this has always been the real meaning of UC. Instead of having a Cisco WebX, an Avaya phone system and a DropBox repository for example, everything is, or is finally becoming, integrated into a common application that seamlessly achieves all of that across mobile, desktop, tablet… you name it. That’s the making of a good, true UC solution.

What are the key benefits of switching to a UC solution?

UC has a host of direct, tangible benefits to the core of business processes that are often overlooked, but the savvy among us are quickly realising that to do so would be perilous.

One clear benefit is project times. The introduction of a tool that will facilitate communication and collaboration between the workforce will, as a natural result, decrease the amount of time needed to complete projects, therefore increasing the overall productivity of the company.

Customer satisfaction is often another direct beneficiary of a UC platform. Being able to reach customers in a timelier fashion, thanks to having diverse points of contact and multi-device connectivity, will improve overall user experience for clients and customers.

Having a UC solution is also great for the pipeline. A more integrated sales process increases effectiveness and efficiency, allowing for a quicker close. Ultimately, this allows for more sales leads to be processed, vetted and followed up on.

Your new UC solution, Bria X, is now out. What should we expect?

Bria X is a feature-rich service collaboration suite that is accessible across desktop, tablet and smartphone devices; and it’s centrally managed from the cloud. Just like previous Bria solutions, Bria X overlays any hosted or on-site call server, enabling users to integrate high quality voice and video calling with the hosted services provided by CounterPath.

While Bria X may feel similar to previous offerings from CounterPath, there are significant differences that make it more robust and streamlined for SMBs and enterprises, such as improved web-based management tools, integrated desktop screen share, hosted team messaging and presence, simplified user experience and an affordable subscription pricing model.

What makes Bria X unique? Any particular points of difference?

Bria X is the only solution on the planet of its kind, providing a complete overlay to any call server, whether it be Cisco, Avaya, Broadsoft, or any other existing call service technology present in the office. It instantly adds the capabilities of HD Voice, Video, messaging, presence and screen sharing.

Whilst the likes of Broadsoft or Cisco may offer similar solutions, their offerings are vertically integrated. In line with the CounterPath culture, Bria X can overlay to any solution on the market, regardless of the vertical.

What’s the significance of CounterPath’s recent announcement that Bria X is now interoperable with Plantronics Hub, for the finance sector particularly?

This accreditation is further proof of CounterPath’s commitment to providing the best user experience across any device, any network and any platform by ensuring that the full UC experience – from software to headset – is optimized, and functions with little to no effort on the user’s part.

Integrating the Plantronics Hub APIs into Bria X enables desktop and mobile devices to leverage deeper functionality of over 25 headsets that will work out of the box with full feature support. For example, in the case of the Savi series from Plantronics, Bria X will set the presence status even when a call comes to the mobile native dialer. This level of attention to detail makes for the best user experience.

This is particularly pertinent to the finance sector because Bria X leverages standards based security protocols such as TLS for signaling and SRTP for media. This means every call can be delivered securely without risk of being compromised, while saving money in the process. Other solutions, including Skype, use proprietary protocols making them a risk for potential security vulnerabilities. Bria SDK technology, on the other hand, could be leveraged into an application from a bank on a mobile phone. All calls could be via IP and save millions of dollars in cost.

What products or features do CounterPath customers love?

SMBs and small teams adore Bria X for its simplicity, its quality, its cost-effectiveness and above all its intuitiveness; CounterPath also provides SDKs for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. This enables companies to leverage the world’s leading client technology and incorporate into any business flow that requires communications.

We’ve also been getting really great feedback from another of our propositions, Private Cloud. It’s been adopted by a number of household names and has proved a huge success. It provides customers with the opportunity to tailor our services to their own tastes and specifications; it looks and feels like the customer’s own personal API. And this service is extremely powerful. It’s scalable to hundreds of thousands of individual users worldwide, but still delivers on the remarkable diversity of apps, security features and user-friendly experience that CounterPath customers have come to expect.

As objective VoIP experts, what is the one piece of advice you’d give businesses yet to make the switch to VoIP?

Negotiating the complex and seemingly ever-changing market of times gone by, it’s easy to see why SMBs and even SMEs may have felt cautious – or even averse – to choosing VoIP; identifying high quality technology that was reliable, secure, agile and on-budget was a potential minefield.

But there has never been a better time to adopt this technology. The improvement in web infrastructure, coverage and speed has helped VoIP-based applications to become both a viable and a desirable option for organizations of all sizes to cover all their telephony needs. Not only do VoIP platforms offer more features that help organizations improve their productivity and enable more effective decision making; they also provide tangible financial benefits that strengthen their business case.

The unprecedented growth forecast for unified communications (UC) combined with advancements in technology make VoIP packages an easy buy-in for any business decision maker. There is a comprehensive range of options – all with clearly labelled and flexible price plans – so it’s easy to find the right fit for you.

VoIP allows enterprises to conduct business in different geographical locations in a more streamlined and potentially more cost-effective way. VoIP applications reduce the amount of hardware needed and with cloud solutions on the rise, the cost of other physical infrastructure continue to decline dramatically, resulting in reduced infrastructure costs.

SMBs, who might previously have struggled with expensive, or free but limited packages, now also have the opportunity to join the full-service VoIP movement, beginning with products like Bria X.

Whatever package you choose, there’s a huge amount of flexibility associated with UC and VoIP today. Due to the web nature of  VoIP, scalability to grow or downsize is considerably easier to achieve and is literally just a few clicks away.

Top voice space predictions for 2017?

  1. Better integrated UC, regardless of size

This year, expect to see a UC solutions market that fits across all elements of the architecture, for all sized enterprises, really take shape for the first time.

Microsoft and Cisco tailor to larger enterprises, but there has been a real void in alternative offerings for SMBs. They want the same solutions but they’re struggling to get there due to the diversity of architecture choices available to them, mostly driven by cost. I think this will be resolved this year with the introduction of overlay solution sets that enable UC in those markets, to match what’s being deployed in the larger enterprises.

  1. Off-site security

A lot of UC solutions being deployed are being done so on the back of security architectures that were originally designed for on-premise use and as a result are all but useless as soon as a piece of kit leaves the confines of the enterprise or physical building.

Overcoming that and allowing a security solution that tailors to off-site, multi-device use is pretty challenging and until now required a multi company architecture that wasn’t inherently available. This problem is being met head on with overlaid technology that works with on-site servers to provide the same solution with minimal cost implications.

  1. Threaded communication

Anyone with an iPhone will now be familiar with threaded messaging, wherein users can pick up the conversation where they left off, seamlessly, across all their devices. Microsoft and BroadSoft both released products that allow for this phenomenon.

2017 will be the year this becomes widely available across all segments of the enterprise, granting the capability to have a threaded communications experience beyond simple screen sharing and video calling.

  1. WebRTC

Each year, WebRTC promises to take over the world; each year our industry believes that it will. Until now, WebRTC failed to deliver.

2017 will be different! We’ll see software development kits and voice communications being added to solutions that were originally intended for the promise WebRTC couldn’t quite make good on.

  1. Telephony integration technologies

Until recently, everything has been siloed, with enterprises using different tools for different purposes. Client and server-based technologies, however, can unite the disparate nature of those user journeys, integrating with the telephony architecture in order to extend voice, video, messaging and collaboration to users, whether they’re inside or outside the enterprise. This telephony integration will start to see real traction in 2017 and beyond.

  1. Software Development Kit (SDK) technology

SDK is going to seriously disrupt the enterprise. These days, organisations want to integrate communications into their business processes flow. SDK can be incorporated into business applications already in use today in order to incorporate voice, messaging and video, just like that.

An example could be a mobile application on an enterprise device that provides a way to look at sales records, like a CRM tool, but then takes SDK technology and implements it within this tool to allow users to make calls directly in their infrastructure, right within their application.

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