Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nifty SIP Stuff

One thing that SIP promised is an open standard that allows for innovative products to be developed and will interoperate with the phone systems, handsets, and software – all based on SIP. There are several companies out there that have taken this to heart and come out with products that dazzle and charm with their usefulness and features.

1. SIP Phones Anywhere

When I first thought about it – I imagined a nightmare QoS issue and hideous compatibility issues, but after testing and implementing WiFi SIP phones from companies like Unidata, I have to say I am surprised at the ease and flexibility these phones offer. These compact and feature-rich phones will work on just about any SIP-based phone system or SIP service and can be used on just about any WiFi network in a matter of minutes. I recently took one of my WiFi phones to Taiwan with me and found open hotspots, connected my phone to the internet and made rather good calls over the Internet from my phone system in California. Sure, you get the quality you pay for, which at the time was nothing, but for a simple, cheap, easy solution, I could not argue. Vendors have all kinds of phones for WiFi and DECT that interoperate will and offer features like single registration for multiple phones, automatic base-station registration for roaming, and even a software phone that works on phones with both 3G and WiFi, offering you a SIP phone wherever and whenever you need it. Can’t wait until I can get a voice-activated SIP phone in a WiFi/Bluetooth headset so I can ditch my phone altogether! Anyone of you smart guys listening?

2. Lights, Ringers, Paging

One issue with SIP has been paging and replacement of night ringers and alert lights. With products like from companies like Cyberdata, that is a worry of the past. The paging gateway I saw gives you IP-based paging wherever you need it as long as there is data there. This fit right in for a customer I had that needed paging for a warehouse across the country where they only had IP phones off the main location. Popped one of the paging gateways in, connected it to the paging speakers, registered it up to the SIP server and now California can page the forklift driver in Indiana to go answer his phone at his desk. Next step is to give the driver a WiFi phone that he can carry around. Algo Solutions has some nifty SIP-based door phones, loud ringers, and altering lights that I quickly put in to a couple of manufacturing plants that just could not hear the anemic ring of their Polycom phones. Tired of getting analog lines for those door or gate phones? Try some of the new SIP-based ones – as long as you can pull a data line to the location or if you can’t use the Phybrige solution to provide data with POE up to 2500 feet over two CAT3 wires. Since all solutions support POE, you don’t even need power to run most of these devices, meaning you can position where you need with just a data cable instead of an electrical outlet.

3. Applications Galore

One of the real powers of SIP comes with applications that work supposedly seamlessly on the SIP standard.  Need a SIP phone for your iPad, there is an app for that.  Want to deploy a cost-effective conference bridge in your organization – load Quorum from  NCH Software.  Want a nearly free  jukebox for your music on hold, try the MOH player also from NCH.    How about a video soft phone for your laptop?   Eyebeam has one.  The best thing about all these applications is that most are inexpensive and nearly all offer trial versions that allow you to test in your environment before making the insubstantial investment.  With standards that are easy to follow and almost guaranteed compatibility, SIP software is the natural platform for creative developers.  These plug-in applications extend the capabilities of any SIP-based phone system to include things like Unified Messaging, Voicemail Transcription, Unified Communications, Collaboration, White Pages lookup, and other features that usually costs a lot on legacy systems.  Companies like Interactive Intelligence Next time you have a communications need, consider the world of SIP developers first. 

Using SIP goes well beyond basic all control and voicemail.  For the investments in a SIP-based system, the return is only going to be apparent when taking advantage of SIP equipment and software that will enhance the communications of your company.  The overhead management and implementation costs of soft PBX will probably never beat the legacy key systems, but for expandability, flexibility, and future possibilities, SIP is the way to go, no matter what your size – 10 users to 10,000 users. 

Robert Wakefield-Carl, QoS Telesys

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