Killer apps won’t drive IP telephony: Cisco exec

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. – Observers of the IP telephony market should not expect to see a single application drive the future growth of the burgeoning technology; instead, a series of smaller, intensely popular apps will be the true growth catalyst.

That was one point driven home by Don Proctor, vice-president and general manager of Cisco Systems Inc.’s Voice Technology Group, at the company’s second annual Innovation Through Convergence (ITC) Expo held here last month. Delivering the event’s keynote speech, Proctor said the IP telephony market will not see something like Lotus’s popular 1-2-3 program rocket it to ubiquity in the enterprise. It will instead take a series of smaller apps that are primarily used by specific vertical industries to get the platform to that point.

“Don’t expect a killer app for IP telephony, but several very lethal ones, usually centred around vertical markets where rapid innovation, customization and competitive differentiation are becoming increasingly important,” Proctor told an audience of about 300 attendees.

The point of Cisco’s conference here is to showcase some of those applications. The company has attracted approximately 70 developers that have taken the Cisco AVVID (Architecture for Voice Video and Integrated Data) platform and tailored it to a specific need.

One exhibitor not present was the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, with which Cisco this week finalized a deal. The company will deliver IP telephony offerings to the newest terminal at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport early next year.

According to Christian Bazinet, Cisco Systems Canada Co.’s manager, product marketing, the airport deployment will focus on two primary areas: check-in gates and self-service kiosks distributed throughout the terminal.

With Cisco’s phones deployed at check-in desks, airline personnel will be able to tap into their specific airline’s phone system. This is especially convenient, Bazinet said, because such counters are used by multiple airlines and direct links via IP eliminate the need to share a private branch exchange (PBX) line with competing carriers. Representatives will also enjoy the convenience of four-digit dialing, as opposed to using regular seven-digit numbers and extensions.

At user kiosks, passengers will be able to use IP phones to order wheelchairs, request medical assistance and a variety of other features.

“The phones display visual logos, such as a red cross for medical help, which makes it easier to overcome language barriers,” said Bazinet. Because the terminal will be a hub primarily for international traffic, this ability was especially important, he said.

Bazinet also divulged that a new air traffic control tower set to open in the near future at Pearson, Canada’s busiest airport, will also utilize Cisco IP phones. No other Canadian airports are yet in line to deploy the technology. Bazinet told NetworkWorld Canada that further details about the Pearson deployments will be forthcoming shortly.

One type of phone to be used at Pearson will be the Cisco color IP Telephone 7970G, announced here during the ITC Expo. The new headset features greater resolution on the display screen and the first availability of touch-screen technology on a Cisco phone.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company says the phones will make interacting with multimedia services a faster and easier process, thus improving customer and employee satisfaction. The new model also supports applications for mobility and collaboration, and should especially benefit the retail, hospitality, education and government markets, Cisco said.

The 7970G won’t be generally available until the first quarter of 2004. Its list price is US$995.