IP Phones: Intuitive Devices for Voice, Video and Data Applications


By Jeff Erlichman, 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media

IP Phones are becoming single intuitive devices combining voice, video and data applications.


Staying ahead of the curve in the world of IP Phones is a never ending task.


Why? Because beyond just a regular phone, “one of the things that you need to realize in the IP space is that your phone actually is a computer,” said Sprint's Joel Whitaker in a recent interview with 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media.


“Things like Unified Communications, things like wireless integration are key components to what IP lets you do moving forward.  That’s when it really starts to get cool, when I can integrate my phone with my IM and my Outlook and then I can also integrate my PCs phone to the whole thing and make them all part of the same whole; then I’ve got some cool stuff going on.”


More Features, Higher Initial Costs, But Longer ROI
One of the sticking points in implementing VoIP in government is the upfront higher cost of the IP Phone, which some find hard to justify.

One of the things that you need to realize in the IP space is that your phone actually is a computer.

“This is a networking appliance now,” Pete Tseronis, Deputy Associate CIO at DOE told 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media in a recent interview.  “It's not just giving you dial tone any more, it's mature. Why does an iPhone cost more than a cell phone? Why does a laptop cost more than a desktop? It's more mobile. It can do more things, so they cost more.”


To overcome the cost objection, Tseronis advocates getting the proper planning put in place and make the case that you are investing in your IT infrastructure and whether it's this year or next I'm going to have the capability to put voice on it.


“That resonated with the CIOs; that resonated with the assistant secretaries when they were able to distinguish that even if I don't put voice on it now, I still need to upgrade this equipment because we need faster bandwidth to the desktop,” explained Tseronis. “Voice is just something you add on.”

Growing Capabilities
At the high end IP Phones become a single intuitive interface that truly integrates voice, video and data and gives you presence to view the real-time availability of colleagues. You can get HD voice, a personal video system with an integrated camera that delivers business-grade video using touch screen technology. You can get a microbrowser that delivers web content and integrates with key business applications.


That's on the high end. Here are the typical services you can expect to get with any IP Phone system:

*Call hold with music on hold and rollover to voicemail, reminder voice messages and the ability to move and transfer calls on hold.

*Conference calling – from simple three-way conference calls to heavy duty hundred person conference calls.

* Click to call – the ability to initiate calls from a PC. More advanced versions integrate with Outlook or other Office applications

*Call queuing – calls answered in turn

* Call center functions – incoming and outgoing telemarketing, sales and service.

* Attendant console – manages individual calls and the functions of its telephony system from a simple interface.

* Call grouping – grouping incoming calls, into functional units that can send, receive and manage calls as a single unit.

*Find/follow features – automatically reroute calls to employees wherever they are located – including mobile numbers, telecommuting options, etc.

* Remote office features - features to support satellite offices

*Scheduling features - change time or schedule of operations

*Fax support


In addition, basic services that all systems will support include providing extensions, call waiting, caller ID, three-way calling, voicemail, speed dial and caller-ID-based blocking.


Sources: Sources: Sprint, Smart-VoIP, VoIP News, Cisco Systems, Polycom Systems, Avaya, Linksys, Greenspring Partners