Bell, Terry Mathews team up to bring IP apps to SMBs

With broadband becoming pervasive, applications need to be developed to harness all that bandwidth. The Bell Advanced Solution Innovation Centre opened in Ottawa Thursday to help Canadian small and medium businesses capitalize on the opportunity.

The centre is a partnership between Bell Canada and one of Ottawa’s technology titans, Terry Matthews, founder of companies like Mitel Networks and Newbridge Networks. Its aim is to enable rapid development of Internet Protocol (IP)-based business applications for specific SMB verticals that would enable businesses to get their offerings to market faster.

Participating with Bell will be employees from four Matthews-owned companies. Mitel focuses on voice over IP, March Networks on video security over IP, NewHeights on converged voice, video and data products that add value to IP PBXs, and Ubiquity on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based communications software for service providers.

“It’s not about brick and mortar,” said Karen Sheriff, president of Bell Canada’s small and medium business group, at a news conference. “It’s about a partnership between two terrific companies that really believe we have a long way to go to bring the Internet to life for our customers.”

Sheriff said the Internet has been around for a while, but especially in the SMB space it hasn’t come close to hitting its side. Just two years ago, she said, many of her SMB customers didn’t see how broadband access could help their business. Now, the business case is clear.

“There’s so much out there, and the applications have not been developed,” said Sheriff.

That’s where the innovation centre comes in, and that’s where Matthews told the news conference he has placed his bets.

By 2000, Matthews said he divested himself of all his holdings in networking, investing solely in products and applications that run on top of IP broadband.

“There’s an astounding opportunity here that hasn’t been around for a hundred years, and as far as I’m concerned I’m going to participate and pig-out in it,” said Matthews. “Now that the last mile is lit, you can sell things you couldn’t sell before.”

He said broadband is enabling more then just fast downloads from the Internet. Multimedia environments and applications can be created for specific verticals, driving collaboration and business efficiency.

“There’s some great applications coming along for retail, some very good applications for hospitality, for senior citizens homes, and some great applications for transport,” said Matthews.

He added the benefits are so much more then just voice over IP, and a vendor needs to go to a business with more then just VoIP to be successful.

“You go in with tangible business benefits, meaningful things that business gets,” said Matthews. “In particular, the small business market because there’s so many of them…You get that one right and you rule the world.”

And according to Michael Binder, an assistant deputy minister, Industry Canada, getting that one right is crucial to the future competitiveness of Canada’s economy. Binder told the news conference that we live in the network economy, and to succeed you must continue to be creative and innovative.

“It’s a very competitive world, and we must not be left behind,” said Binder. “The IT sector, and its enabling effect, is the biggest single input into our productivity growth.”

Despite our success, Binder said the US has been more productive and more innovative, and we need to change this if we want to keep up with the US, and maintain our high standard of living.

“We need to see more centres like this across the country,” said Binder. “It is not enough to do research, we have to get better at commercializing our research, developing new products and services and creating new, innovative companies.”

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