UC Advanced Issue # 1

Reporting, analysis and insights on UC&C

Issue #1


News, analysis, insights and more

See page 38 #StrongerTogether


AD MB Technology



A Warm Welcome Get ready for a brand new look at Unified Communications and Collaborations

is affecting the communications industry on page 21. We’ve all seen the interest ChatGPT has drawn from the business world, especially as Google and Microsoft have launched their own version of the word generator. But what struck me was how the focus for AI is still well and truly on support; although I think that’s going to change rapidly. I think the best demonstration of just how communications and collaborations is changing is the big interview we have with Dion Smith, Zoom’s Channel boss for EMEA on page 12. Listening to him talk about how Zoom has grown from just a video conferencing solution to a multi-faceted platform, it’s really a metaphor for the way the industry as a whole has grown from individual technologies, to an overarching platform. It’s these stories that we’ll be bringing you every month. Rather than just letting you know what Microsoft, RingCentral, and Cisco are up to, you can expect an in depth analysis of the markets that they are operating in. Personally, my goal is to start to move the narrative away from the pandemic and a shift in working conditions. Unfortunately I don’t

Hello and welcome to this

first edition of UC Advanced. I’m very excited to be at the helm of this

publication at the start of what I hope will grow into a very successful outlet. The Unified Communication and Collaboration market is fascinating right now, and we’re going to be covering all of it over the coming months and years. From the overarching platforms, to the specialists who integrate into them, we’ll be diving into industry vertices and department horizontals to provide you with the content you’ll, hopefully, want to read. Throughout the next 50 pages, you’ll see how we intend to bring colour to the UC industry. Artistically I think we’ve certainly achieved that, our designer has done a great job bringing these pages to life, and is certainly unlike anything else on the market. Editorially our goal is not just to talk about VoIP integrations, call centre features, or collaboration room designs, but instead, report from the coalface the trends that are playing out in front of us. In this issue alone we look into how the definition and use of collaboration technology is changing throughout education (p16), and how years of classroom teaching is influencing the way we collaborate today, on page 32. There are lots to take away from those pieces but one thing that was clear to me is that growing up around technology is a real benefit for children, and continuing to interact and play with solutions, no matter what age you are, is only improving the standard of teaching in classrooms and technology in meeting rooms. We also look into how Artificial Intelligence

Elliot Mulley-Goodbarne Editor

think we’ll ever get away from such a seismic shift, even in this issue the pandemic is regularly referenced, but after three years of writing headlines about working from home, I think it’s time to look forward. If you have any thoughts, announcements, or feedback for us please give us an email press@ucadvanced.com. I look forward


hearing from you.


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Three years on from the original lockdown, the ‘trend’ of working from home has become a staple of the modern business.

News You should know p6 New in the Channel Hot products p10 Interview Zoom p12 Education Collaboration A learning opportunity p15 Ai Path to Productivity p21 Future of Comms The new normal p29 AV Collaboration Learning from the education space p32 VoiP Boom What are the risks? p35 Cover Story #StrongerTogether p38 MWC Barcelona Viewing the trends p42 Q&A Planet Computers p44 Midwich Magnet vs Mandate p48 Thought Leadership Sangoma on resellers p50



It’s not often a brand becomes synonymous with a technology type. Yet, Zoom has experienced the highs and the lows of such an accolade.



The rise of Artificial Intelligence has provided plenty of advantages for employees. But how much can we trust them?

Q&A with Janko Mrsic-Flogel, CEO and founder of Planet Computers.


With entrants to the workforce now expecting this kind of technology, what can we learn from the education space?

Editorial Elliot Mulley- Goodbarne 07910 441 024 elliot@ucadvanced.com Dan Parton 07941 979 845 dan@ucadvanced.com Head of Sales Martin Jenner-Hall 07824 552 116 martin@ucadvanced.com Online Content Manager Harry Hendrie 07813 585 212 harry@ucadvanced.com Publishing Director Justin Penn 07816 573 186 justin@ucadvanced.com Written permission from the publisher is required before any part of UC Advanced can be reproduced. © 2023 In the Channel Media Ltd.



VoIP solutions hit a boom. But as more businesses are enticed by ‘Phone’ offerings, they may not understand the risks that come with it.

Students have returned to classrooms, right? So is there any advantage to learning about education for the UC&C industry?


Published by: In the Channel Media Ltd Company registration number: 14363401 Registered office address 14-18 Heddon Street,


2023 marks four years since the launch of the first 5G airwaves in the UK, so how does the market view the technology?

Mayfair, London, United Kingdom, W1B 4DA In conjunction with:




Microsoft launches Copilot

Microsoft has announced that it will be integrating next-generation AI technology into its suite of productivity tools through Microsoft 365 Copilot. Copilot combines large language models with business data and Microsoft 365 applications in order to boost productivity. The new tool offers an entirely new way of working, rather than just improving existing methods. Microsoft 365 Copilot will work alongside

users in two ways. Firstly, it will be embedded within the Microsoft 365 applications that people use every day such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams. Secondly, Microsoft has announced a new experience called Business Chat, which will allow customers to generate status updates based on morning meetings, emails, and chat threads using natural language prompts like “tell my team how we updated the product strategy.” Microsoft 365 Copilot is integrated into the apps people use every day, enabling them to stay in the flow of work and focus on the task at hand. Copilot in Word writes, edits, summarises, and creates alongside users, while Copilot in PowerPoint turns ideas into designed presentations through natural language commands. Copilot in Excel helps unlock insights, identify trends, or create professional-looking data visualisations, Copilot in Outlook can help manage the inbox and streamline communication, and Copilot in Teams makes meetings more productive with real-time summaries and action items.

Microsoft 365 Copilot


Google launches Bard

Google has launched its own AI-powered conversational service called Bard, a chat bot that draws on large language models and the information on the web to simplify complex topics. Initially released with a lightweight version of Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), Bard is currently available to trusted testers ahead of a wider release to the public. Google says the introduction of Bard builds on its long history of using AI to improve Search for billions of people. The newest AI technologies, including LaMDA, PaLM, Imagen, and MusicLM, are creating entirely new ways to engage with information, from language and images to video and audio. Google plans to roll out AI-powered features in Search that distil complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats so users can quickly understand the big picture and learn more from the web.

Beyond its own products, Google will also onboard individual

developers, creators, and enterprises to try its Generative Language API, initially powered by LaMDA with a range of models to follow. Google says it will continue to be bold with innovation and responsible in its approach, developing AI responsibly through partnerships with governments and external organisations to develop standards and best practices.




Zoom has announced the expansion of Zoom IQ, a smart companion that enhances collaboration by summarising chat threads, organising ideas, drafting content, creating meeting agendas, and more. The new capabilities will be released soon, meaning that businesses can use the platform to compose chat and emails, and summarise meetings. These features use Generative AI to provide suggestions and help users manage their workday priorities better. Zoom is also using OpenAI to bolster its unique federated approach to AI which incorporates its proprietary AI models, leading AI companies’ models, and select customers’ models. This approach aims to Zoom expands its IQ

Connect, such as Zoom Huddles, a video- enabled virtual coworking space designed to foster ad-hoc discussions and relationship building, Intelligent Director, which uses multiple cameras in a Zoom Room to provide the best angle for remote participants, and Zoom Scheduler, which makes scheduling meetings easier for hosts by sharing their availability and placing a meeting on their calendar with a Zoom Meetings link already included. “Zoom has long built AI solutions into our products to empower customers to be more productive,” said Smita Hashim, chief product officer at Zoom. “We are excited to bring many more capabilities with new

Smita Hashim chief product officer


provide the most value to customers by customising models to perform better based on their requirements. The collaboration platform showcased some other innovations at Enterprise

large language models. Our unique approach to AI will give customers the flexibility they want and help significantly improve collaboration and

customer relations.”

Webex received AI boost

Cisco has announced new artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities for its Webex platform aimed at delivering an enhanced hybrid work experience. With more and more employees working from home or in hybrid work environments, organisations are under pressure to meet their needs while also delivering value to customers. The new capabilities are designed to provide exceptional, personalised work experiences that meet both employee and customer demands. Webex’s innovations span three categories: reimagining workspaces, optimising collaboration, and maximising customer experience. The platform’s video intelligence capabilities have been expanded to automatically provide the most optimal views in any meeting, at any moment, in any space. Cinematic meetings on Cisco Collaboration devices utilise voice and facial recognition to follow individuals and capture the best angle of the active speaker, ensuring hybrid workers

Webex’s innovations span three categories: reimagining workspaces, optimising

not physically in the room feel included. Meeting zones enable IT admins to set virtual boundaries for any collaboration space in the office, turning it into a meeting zone. Cisco is introducing new AI capabilities in the Webex Suite. Super Resolution ensures crystal clear video in Webex meetings, Smart re-lighting improves poor lighting automatically, and the automatic “be right back” update puts up a message, blurs the background, and mutes audio when a user steps away from a Webex meeting. In addition to these features, Cisco is also introducing new AI capabilities for its customer experience solutions, including actionable insights for improved CX, agent answers as a real-time agent coach, automated chat summaries for agents, and automated code for rapid customisation of customer journeys.

collaboration, and maximising customer experience.





Avaya reduces debt by over 75%

Avaya has successfully completed a major financial restructuring, reducing its total debt by more than 75%. The company’s prepackaged plan of reorganisation, which includes “slashing some $2.6 billion of debt,” was confirmed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. This is a significant milestone for the company, which has been in a precarious financial position for some time. The approval of Avaya’s restructuring plan means that the company can move forward with its plans to emerge from bankruptcy and become a private company. The plan has the backing of a majority of the company’s financial stakeholders, including investment firms Apollo Global Management and Brigade Capital Management, who have each invested significant incremental capital as part of the process. Avaya’s CEO, Alan Masarek, has said that the restructuring will provide the financial flexibility needed to accelerate investment in the company’s cloud-based communications portfolio, including its customer experience offerings. He added that he is pleased with the progress made during the restructuring process and grateful for the support

of customers, partners, team members, and investors. Despite the financial difficulties that led to its bankruptcy filing in February, Avaya has continued to serve its customers and partners without interruption. The company has a competitive industry position and a strong partner ecosystem, and its long-range product roadmaps are expected to bring significant value to the market. Overall, the completion of this financial restructuring is a positive development for Avaya, its customers, and its partners. With its debt significantly reduced and a renewed focus on cloud-based communications, the company is well-positioned to deliver exceptional experiences to its customers and partners and remain a leading provider in the industry.

Alan Masarek CEO


RingCentral see (Ring)Sense

RingCentral has announced the launch of RingSense, a new AI platform that brings conversation intelligence to business communications and collaboration. RingSense leverages generative AI to enable organisations to turn their conversation data into valuable insights, unlocking productivity and driving business outcomes. The platform uses AI models to deliver conversational speech analysis, emotional sentiment recognition, and it enables users to catch up on missed meetings or take automated notes. RingSense for Sales, the first offering in the RingSense AI portfolio, is designed to help salespeople and sales managers surface key insights and performance measures, increasing their sales efficiency. It provides sales leaders with insights to help them

better train, mentor, and drive their teams to greater levels of success. Key capabilities of RingSense for Sales include automated follow-ups, AI-generated summary scoring, integrations with 3rd party apps, and the ability to track keywords and phrases. RingCentral has also introduced AI APIs that give developers and customers access to their own data from RingCentral, enabling them to extract transcriptions, summarisations, sentiment analysis, and interaction analysis for voice, video, and chat. This will allow users to leverage their data to gain deeper insights into all of their customer interactions, regardless of platform. The platform is built with an open approach to AI, which enables developers and customers to build public or private applications or integrations using RingCentral APIs.




Bandwidth launches Maestro

Bandwidth has announced a new cloud communications platform called Bandwidth Maestro at the Enterprise Connect Conference & Expo. Maestro is designed to integrate real-time voice apps across unified communications, cloud contact centre, and AI platforms, streamlining operations and reducing costs. The new platform is expected to be fully available in Q3 2023 and will add conversational AI, machine-learning-based

platform runs on Bandwidth Communications Cloud, which reaches over 60 countries and more than 90% of global GDP. Bandwidth Maestro is engineered to address the top challenges faced by CIOs today, based on insights from Bandwidth customers and the company’s experience powering all the leaders in unified communications and cloud contact centres. Among the many capabilities of Bandwidth Maestro, enterprises can reduce fraud using industry-leading machine learning capabilities to deliver call verification, and customise call flows to incorporate multiple best-in-class vendor platforms, with automation managed by a no-code visual workflow builder. Pre-integrations for Maestro available at launch will include: full PSTN replacement in 38 countries and territories via the Bandwidth Communications Cloud, Microsoft Teams Direct Routing, Operator Connect for Microsoft Teams, RingCentral MVP, Cisco Webex Calling, Genesys Cloud CX, Zoom Phone, Cognigy, Google Dialogflow, Pindrop, Bandwidth Call Verification, Speech-to-text and Text-to-speech platforms from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft – with more to be added soon.

fraud detection, and text-to- speech and speech-to-text tools to Bandwidth’s existing capabilities. Enterprises will be able to customise global communications workflows with automation managed by a no- code visual workflow builder. With Maestro, Bandwidth aims to be the universal platform for Global

2000 enterprise cloud communications. Maestro is easily configurable with visual builder software and will pre-integrate with customer-selected, best-in-class unified communications as a service (UCaaS), contact centre as a service (CCaaS) and AI apps. The


Poly Launches Voyager Free 60 Series

Poly has announced a partnership with NuCurrent to power the next generation of devices delivering virtual meeting equity for remote, hybrid, and on-site office workers alike. One of the biggest challenges of hybrid work is staying connected to people and devices while working in various locations throughout the day, from home, the office, and everywhere in between. Remote and hybrid workers need reliable technology to efficiently transition between environments. Optimal tech setups empower employees to do their best work, and NuCurrent’s wireless charging solutions help expedite device charging to address the needs of today’s hybrid workers, ensuring a more seamless and connected experience wherever they work. The Voyager Free 60 Series, certified to the latest Qi standards, has the fastest wireless charging Qi-certified1 case available on the

market, charging in less than half the time than the next leading provider of wireless earbuds. This device provides a reliable pro- grade audio experience, making it ideal for connecting to virtual meetings, taking calls on mobile phones, or listening to music. Poly’s research and development team sources transformative technologies to help make its pro-grade solutions more flexible, future-ready, and scalable. The team partnered with NuCurrent to implement innovative wireless charging technology and take mobile technology designed for hybrid workers to the next level. According to Chris Moss, Head of Product and Portfolio Management, Hybrid Work Solutions, at HP | Poly, “The new era of hybrid work is about people working from their home, the office, and everywhere in between, which means the future of work will be powered by reliable, flexible, pro-grade solutions.”

Chris Moss Head of Product and Portfolio Management





Interactive features added to BlueJeans

Business has announced new interactive feature updates across the BlueJeans collaboration and live streaming platform to boost video engagement, aiming to better support cohesiveness in how organisations work today. To make it easier for customers to unlock the power of video and deliver game-changing experiences, BlueJeans Events now offers a variety of new and exciting capabilities. For presenters, the new Presenter Dashboard view gives them a clear line of sight into what the audience sees for a more cohesive experience, and the Presentation Upload feature enables access to presentations via Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive in a seamless and secure way. For attendees, an expanded set of reactions provides presenters with more tangible feedback, and the attendee view has been updated with better colour contrast, clearer iconography, and improved usability. For producers, Smart Producer automatically recognizes the active speaker and shifts layout options to accommodate the best

possible view for attendees. These new Events features will be available to preview in Q2, with GA anticipated for Q3.

To help companies execute on their customer-first video strategy, the new BlueJeans Developer

Platform provides a developer-friendly set of SDKs & APIs to power interactive video experiences for nearly any kind of application. Lastly, to improve overall meeting quality and provide in-room meeting attendees with

better insight, updates have been made to the BlueJeans Gateway for Microsoft Teams, including the ability to automatically resize incoming attendee streams and advanced controls for Large

Gallery View to enable in-room users to switch over to this mode directly from the supported endpoint.


Datametica hatch Pelican

Datametica has announced the launch of Pelican, its SaaS-based technology on the Google Cloud Marketplace. Pelican is designed to provide enterprise- grade data validation and reconciliation services across two heterogeneous data stores, enabling table and column comparison, cell-level validation, selective column mapping, and even mapping columns with different data types or names. The technology offers a range of benefits, including production parallel running of legacy and new solutions, reduced unit testing, and de-risking migration, among others. Customers migrating to Google BigQuery can leverage Datametica’s SaaS-based technologies, such as Eagle, Raven, and Pelican, for an accelerated and safer cloud migration experience. Dr. Phil Shelley, Co-Founder and President of Datametica, expressed pride in offering customers technologies that accelerate and de-risk migration to the Google Cloud. Pelican is now available on the Google Cloud Marketplace, providing organisations with a

scalable, flexible, and efficient way to validate and reconcile data.

Dai Vu, Managing Director, Marketplace at Google Cloud, stated that data validation and transparency are critical to successful business operations. With Datametica’s Pelican technology now available on Google Cloud Marketplace, businesses can access modernised technology that simplifies the authentication of datasets, ultimately driving certainty around key information. Overall, Pelican is expected to provide

Dr. Phil Shelley Co-Founder and President


organisations with an improved data reconciliation process,

leading to greater accuracy, reduced risk, and enhanced operational efficiency.



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Pivoting to Success It’s not often a brand becomes synonymous with a technology type. Yet, Zoom has experienced the highs and the lows of such an accolade. Speaking to Elliot Mulley-Goodbarne, Head of Channel for EMEA Dion Smith set out Zoom’s plan for the next three years.

When I first came into journalism, the deskphone was the best tool I could use to generate stories, strike up relationships and, on occasion, avoid a scolding from the editor! It was also the main way I would conduct interviews, hooking up a dictaphone to the phone line and discussing the impacts of the iPhone on the mobile industry, how 5G could revolutionise connectivity, and why everyone is moving into a service-led business model. Those mysteries have long been solved, but in the intervening time the deskphone, a once staple of the office, seems to be on the way out, especially when ‘setting up a call’ often means staring into a screen rather than picking up the phone. One of the brands responsible for the shift is Zoom, the video conferencing solution barely a decade old and dominating the B2B communications space, catering for 350 meeting participants a day at the last count in 2020. As we all know, after experiencing steady growth up to Q4 2019, Zoom quarterly revenues burst through the $200m and $300m marks in the first quarter of 2020 as video collaborations became more important. Since then, Zoom Video Communications annual revenue has grown to $4.393B in 2023, a 7.15% increase from 2022 and a 13x increase compared to five years ago. Growing up fast It’s not just the revenue that has grown either. When Zoom was first presented to the market, it was, at its core, a video chat solution. Now that video chat platform has grown into a fully functional video conferencing solution, catering to 1-on-1 meetings, to thousand-member all hands for the biggest conglomerates. That growth has also been seen in the new technologies Zoom has embraced, and as

such, what started as a video chat programme has evolved into a platform that transcends business communications. “If you go through the journey of Zoom, we only really had one product for the first several years of the company,” said Dion Smith, Head of EMEA Channels at Zoom. “So the depth of enablement that’s required around that particular item wasn’t necessarily there. “As we reflect all of the different products that make up our platform, from phone to contact centre, events to meetings, chat to Zoom IQ, that requires a heightened level of skill sets and insights to be able to position and sell now, and part of that is utilising the channel. “There are partners that are specialists in a particular area and we cater to lots of different needs. From our perspective, we’ve gone on a journey of maturing our ecosystem and understanding different types of enablement that accompany different partner types. We’ve seen that be hugely effective based on the level of engagement that we’ve been gaining with the partners.” Reselling the Wheel As the Zoom portfolio has expanded from a video conferencing solution to a wheel of

Dion Smith Head of EMEA Channels



What we have started to do now is take Powered By Zoom offerings out into the market for those partners that want to build their own offerings around the Zoom platform.”

Utilising the Channel That battle for the collaborations market has been dominated by two providers since the pandemic-induced explosion; Microsoft Teams and Zoom. While that battle continues to play out, one of the key advantages Microsoft has is a network of channel partners that have been selling their services for decades; not to mention the fact the platform is rolled into an overall package. Nevertheless, Smith’s ambition has been emboldened by an increasingly addressable market, as the partner programme Zoom builds becomes more appealing. “We’ve had to build this channel programme from a foundational level to improve our coverage in EMEA. Over the last 12 months, we’ve with signed agreements with three large scale distribution partners that have given us that footprint, so as of today, we now have 100% reach across EMEA. “The second piece was actually building out a properly structured partner programme that allowed us to be able to tier our partners in a way that reflected how invested they are in Zoom. Maturing our ecosystem into tiers gives us the ability to reciprocate the investment different partners give to us back into their businesses. “On top of that we are addressing the periphery businesses, such as ISVs and OEMs, who can take either parts of the Zoom product or the Zoom platform, and incorporate it into their own offerings. What

fortune for those seeking to improve their communications, the necessity to embrace the channel has become obvious. The appointment of Smith 13 months ago is a key part of the “maturing” that Zoom has gone through. Smith himself says that his focus has been on building a partner ecosystem that can cater to all manner of requirements. “My perspective when I was coming into the company was to ask ‘how do we actually pivot Zoom to being channel-led?” said Smith. “Building on my background in companies such as Dell and Hewlett Packard, I wanted to understand the ecosystem that we had up until a year ago and, more specifically, the ecosystem we needed for the future. “It’s important to remember that for the first six or seven years, Zoom was a meetings- only product. You look at it today, we have an all encompassing, market leading unified communications platform. That requires different partners with different skill sets, and different capabilities to be able to position, sell and support that platform. “When I joined, just over a year ago, we only had access to about 20% of the EMEA market, because we had not invested in our partners. We weren’t supporting partners whether in technical enablement, sales, accreditation. These are the things that give partners the skill sets and the experiences they need in order to be able to represent Zoom.”





we have started to do now is take Powered By Zoom offerings out into the market for those partners that want to build their own offerings around the Zoom platform.” Growing pains I’m sure you’ll have picked up that the theme of my conversation with Dion was around how Zoom is maturing. In the short lifetime of the video conferencing provider, they managed to break the $1 billion revenue mark within a decade of inception, and have continued to grow from there. But, as with all teenagers, there have been growing pains along the way. A simple example of that is, although the brand was synonymous with parties and quizzes throughout 2020, a year later the brand was fighting fatigue; in more ways than one. With the appointment of Smith, there is a recognition that the channel represents the best path to growth over the next decade, something they might have done well to pick up on when the businesses first told them that in 2014! “I’ve been in the industry now just shy of 30 years,” said Smith, “I started back with Hewlett Packard in the mid 90s and, to be candid, my focus over the last 30 years has been around building channels, building ecosystems. “During that time, I’ve been involved in every specialism on those partner journeys. I’ve been involved in partner ecosystems for some of the world’s largest technology companies, whether that’s building distribution, reseller, GSI, or specialist channels, on a country, regional, or worldwide scale” Getting to 100 Applying that experience to Zoom, the tiered partner programme in place is being used as a foundation for the future growth of the company. Addressing the future, Smith pointed to Zoom IQ as a clear indicator as to where the next wave of innovation in the industry is coming from. Adding functionality like speech analytics into the platform has naturally opened up markets in customer service, and has made Zoom Phone a more appealing solution. “Zoom IQ is where we are really now moving completely into AI around the platform,” said Smith. “Analysing speech, analysing content, analysing calls, providing readouts,


and coaching to individuals based on the content of what that call was. “Now were knitting that together so, as a salesperson, I could be doing a sales call and at the end of that call I would get an automated feedback from the platform dictating what was said, pointing out where there were buying signals, and the next steps to progress to the next stage of the sale.” As for Zoom, the target is simple: grow the channel. “I came into the company with a very clear mandate: to pivot the organisation to be channel first,” said Smith, “and a lot of what we’ve been doing over these last 12 months is building the foundations of what we need to be able to achieve that mandate. “If I reflect on the last 12 months, I’m excited that we have doubled the channel contribution that we were making in one year. When I joined, only around 18% of total sales in EMEA were contributed by our channel, as we just exited our last financial year, we’re now at 40%. “There are some countries within EMEA where we’re already greater than 80% channel contribution. Those are countries that we’ve already placed bets in, if you like, that we want to be channel-led only from a futures perspective. “The goal is very clear. Inside the next three years, Zoom’s total sales from EMEA will have a greater than 80% channel contribution. But in order for us to achieve that, we need to continue on the path we’ve started, continue to mature that ecosystem, continue to build out that capability, and to make sure these products are all available for our channel to be able to sell.”

Zoom IQ is where we are really now moving completely into AI around the platform



A learning opportunity? Students have returned to classrooms, right? So is there any advantage to learning about education for the UC&C industry?

education specialist, Martin McDermott. “The pandemic kicking in really started to open up lots of communication issues that schools had. Obviously they needed to put something in place for the students to be taught remotely and it really did become very evident that they were not ready for the pandemic. “As a result, the Department for Education realised a lot of schools didn’t have the good strong WiFi networks to facilitate this type of distance learning and collaboration, and put in place another programme called Connect the Classroom which offers £150 million of funding for specific schools within deprived areas across the UK. “What we are doing is we’re working with those schools that have a need for upgrading their WiFi solutions, and therefore produce more collaborative learning and educational needs for the students. We still see the need for a really good strong WiFi network across schools, so that the teachers can deliver engaging lessons and be collaborative with their peers.” Role of trust While the usage of collaboration platforms may have taken a dive in the classroom, it hasn’t gone away completely. As more schools become incorporated into Academic Trusts, video conferencing enables communication between those schools for both teachers and pupils to learn and better the education experience. “With schools coming together under Multi Academy Trusts (MATS) there’s potentially lots of teachers that could be roaming between different schools delivering lessons,” said McDermott. “As more schools join these trusts, teachers are realising they can teach a class remotely in another school as well as in person. Therefore they want seamless connectivity between schools.” Chris Southern, General Sales Manager of Enterprise solutions at Midwich built on McDermott’s point, adding that the introduction

Jed Macosko Professor of Physics

After years of half terms and summer holidays where parents trudged off to work whilst the children stayed at home, the shoe is on the other foot! While the kids are putting on uniforms and commuting everyday, the grown ups have the option to stay at home for the majority of the week; in what can only be described as the smallest of victories! Of course it was inevitable that pupils would return to the classroom. But that doesn’t mean that collaboration platforms have become obsolete overnight, as Jed Macosko, Professor of Physics at Wake Forest University, points out, Teams and Zoom are great for enabling “virtual office hours, virtual internships, and virtual classes on snow days. “All three of those areas are perfect use cases for collaboration tools. Now that the world has seen how easy it is to have a virtual summer intern as compared to someone in- person, or how easy it is to hold online office hours instead of actually being in one’s office, it’s hard to go back to the old ways.” Those “old ways” are unlikely to return too, as the importance of connectivity within schools was one of the “wake up calls” that educational institutions across the country felt according to TP-Link Business Development Manager and


The Department for Education realised a lot of schools didn’t have the good strong Wi Fi networks to facilitate this type of distance

learning and collaboration




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of video since the turn of the decade has enabled these intra-school classes. “Before the pandemic, teachers wouldn’t consider putting a camera in a classroom; the fear of filling in forms would be enough of a deterrent,” said Southern. “But today the ability to say ‘let’s call our other school and bring some of the kids in from that class’ is seen as a positive by lots of teachers. “Lots of schools and units within the schools are paired with schools in different countries now, so they have the ability to bring in another school in Africa, for example, and share the lesson with kids from a different continent.” Innovative Teaching Although kids have always been more technologically savvy than teachers, that exposure to technology from a young age has meant that keeping the kids engaged can become a task. That challenge of engagement is something Southern says is getting better as younger teachers, who are open to using technology in different ways, join the workforce. “Teachers have finally started to understand that, if you want to collaborate with the students in the room, better experiences get better responses and higher retention levels. “We’ve also got to remember that these children have an iPhone, iPad, PS5 at home, and even the telly downstairs is a smart TV. Their world revolves around collaborative information around video, voice and imagery, so if you sit them down in a room, talk at them, and put a book in front of them, you’re going to have limited success because they’ve got the retention of a goldfish!” As we all learn in different ways, making lessons engaging and, on occasion,

entertaining can often make subjects easier for students to grapple with. McDermott added that those teachers who have adapted their approach are able to deliver much more engaging lessons. “Generally you get a couple of different teacher types, young teachers that are really engaging with technology, and the mature teachers that would be frightened of engaging in new technologies because they don’t know what to do if it goes wrong. “Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality platforms and tools need to be easy to use and work well the first time, because the content there is strong and engaging for the classroom. But if the person at the front of the class doesn’t feel comfortable using it, it’s useless. “If you’ve got a young, engaging person that’s not frightened of technology, they will look at new technologies, test out the experience, and want to work with it to see how it can improve their lessons. Mature teachers were reluctant to accept change but have started to adopt and accept that that change is here to stay now.” Surrounded by Tech As teachers continue to realise the engaging ways lessons can be taught throughout the curriculum, we may be tempted to credit this trend to the events of 2020. However Southern warned against this, adding that the new wave of teachers coming in who understand technology, and are using IT to create more engaging lessons, is the driving factor. “I used to spend hours of my time training teachers and I’d go back three months later and train the same people again on the same stuff, because they just weren’t going to use it.

Martin McDermott Business Development Manager


Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality platforms and tools need to be easy to use and work well the first time, because the content there is strong and engaging for the classroom


Teachers have got a lot better at using touch and inking tools. I think that’s because a lot of these teachers have iPads and they’re used to technology at home. “Programmes like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote all have inking tools built into them, so teachers can use the native tools on their laptop that they use every day, but take advantage of the inking tool. In the modern school and college, all the content is software so what they need in the room is a big version of their laptop so they can show it to the whole group and work on it with inking tools. “So, when we install a new interactive touchscreen in a classroom and give the teachers the opportunity to play around with it, they know exactly how to use it, how to connect their laptop, how to write on it, and we don’t have to repeat any training again.” This engagement goes beyond inking tools, as McDermott says, embracing VR and AR solutions can bring subjects to life; literally! “There’s one particular company called Class VR who have a very good platform that shows teaching and learning content for teachers across the world. “So if a teacher had a lesson about the pyramids in the Middle East, they could show the class what that looked like, how they could get inside the pyramid itself, all through VR headsets. That’s an engaging lesson that kids love, and they’ll take away a lot from that experience without even leaving the classroom.” Challenges for collaborations As we move forward, the likes of Teams and Zoom still have a hand in the education landscape. In the corporate world, being able to use these platforms and be comfortable in front

of a screen is imperative in the pursuit of success, so normalising them to students can be seen as a positive. Macosko added that this idea of introducing students to collaboration platforms early also plays into the vendor’s hands. “Collaborations such as Zoom and Teams were not necessarily destined to have a long-term role in education. If the pandemic hadn’t hit when it did, there could have been other collaboration tools that took their place and would have slowly captured the usage of people in education. “However, given how well-positioned these platforms were when the pandemic hit, it seems these tools have long-term staying power in education, and now they are pivoting to provide custom-use features. “For example, Zoom is making good use of the fact that students became comfortable with its platform in virtual classrooms, by attracting some of those same students, who are now in the workforce, to use its platform for business.” Despite the apparent opportunism from the vendors, Southern pointed out that the use of these platforms isn’t all bad, and does prepare students for the real world; one of the primary functions of education. “Since COVID, technology adoption has accelerated within the workplace. Before the pandemic we were talking about remote working but the problem was not the technology, it was getting people to learn and adapt to it. “If schools are going to prepare kids for the real world, they need to be able to use Teams and Zoom because we now have a complete industry, whether you’re in nursing, teaching, law or finance, who now are quite comfortable using a video call.”

Chris Southern General Sales

Manager of Enterprise Solutions


Before the pandemic we were talking about remote working but the problem was not the technology, it was getting people to learn and adapt to it





Path to Productivity

Although cinema would tell you otherwise, the rise of Artificial Intelligence has provided plenty of advantages for employees. But how much can we trust them?

Artificial Intelligence is not a new phenomenon. Lumped in with Machine Learning, the term has become synonymous with progress and innovation for over a decade. That said, without doubt the role of AI has already made the lives of employees better. By automating

that automated customer service is a reality. Given the brand loyalty at stake, introducing artificial intelligence to customer service arms may be scary; however, as Bakker continues, the technology is sophisticated enough to handle it.

“Advances in AI-powered speech recognition have made it possible to

Anne Bakker Head of AI

functions that would normally need to be done manually, workers are freed from mundane responsibilities to be more productive in their primary role. One of the key areas of progress in this automation is Conversational AI. I myself am thankful that I no longer have to transcribe my own recordings after engrossing conversations with experts. But as Anne Bakker, Head of Enreach AI, points out, a better application of this technology is facing the customer; although I maintain that not having to do transcriptions is mint! “Artificial intelligence has significantly improved communications over the past five years by making interactions with systems more natural and convenient.” “Conversational AI has made it possible for businesses to automate customer service interactions and handle more queries without human intervention.” Automated Communications A decade ago the idea of trusting ‘robots’ to sort your customer service would have sounded like a great idea, then Vodafone tried it and everyone realised the importance of a human touch. As we move past the dark days of terrible customer service and exacerbated agents that are all too familiar with the tone of stressed out customers, improvements in microphones and conversational AI has meant

replace IVRs with more natural voice-based interactions, known as Smart IVRs, and the rise of large language models means that AI- powered solutions will become more capable and natural-sounding, making it easier for users to interact with them. “Another valuable innovation is the integration of different communication channels, such as social messaging, chat, voice and video conferencing, into a single platform. This allows users to switch seamlessly between channels and devices, making it easier to stay connected and collaborate with colleagues or customers.” Being able to understand customers and respond in kind with the use of artificial intelligence has also led to a more personalised experience for those in need of assistance.


Conversational AI has made it possible for businesses to automate customer service interactions and handle more queries without human intervention.




AD Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) enables enterprises to connect multiple offices together while also allowing an easy means to prioritize which applications are most important to the business and give them priority over the network. SD-WAN solutions also allow network admins to have insight into what types of traffic are traversing their networks, how much bandwidth individual applications are consuming and how their underlying ISPs are SD-WAN provides WAN simplification, lower costs, bandwidth efficiency and a seamless on-ramp to the cloud with significant application performance especially for critical applications without sacrificing security and data privacy.

performing. Additionally, many SD-WAN providers have their own cloud networks which incorporate peering arrangements with other cloud and SaaS providers. This improves access and performance, and can ultimately rival the quality of traditional private WAN solutions like MPLS and point-to-point circuits. SD-WAN is used for better security. The areas needing improvement are generally associated with proprietary backhaul connectivity services, poor network performance, and inconsistent security posture and policy management. All of which inhibit low risk adoption of cloud-based applications and other digital transformation initiatives.


Deliver superior quality of experience at any scale What are the benefits of SD-WAN?

The traditional WAN function was to connect users at the branch or campus to applications hosted on servers in the data centre. Typically, dedicated MPLS circuits were used to help ensure security and reliable connectivity. This has driven Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions to become increasingly popular


as organizations request fast, scalable, and flexible connectivity among different network environments. They also want to lower the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) while delivering enhanced application performance. But a subpar SD-WAN approach can significantly inhibit an organization’s ability to quickly adapt to changing business demands, especially if it does not offer integrated security.

Accelerate network and security convergence and simplify WAN architecture

Orchestrate consistent network and security policies

Achieve operational efficiencies through automation, deep analytics, and self-healing



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