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Convergence of Voice and Data.

When AT&T Chairman Charles Brown keynoted the World Telecommunwcations Forum in Geneva, Switzerland last fall, the convergence of voice and data was very much on his mind. "Innovations in telecommunications technology," declared Brown, "is proceeding at a dizzying pace, creating a dazzling array of new products, services and capabilities. The driving force of this revolution, of course, is the convergence of communications and computer technology, which is literall redefining the telecommunications industry."

For 20 years Communications News has been telling readers about "all that is new in voice, video and data communications" brought together in one "total communications system." Today all there . . . voice, video and data . . . are together in a single workstation like Northern Telecom's "Displayphone" which has all of its essential physical components, including display screen, telephone keyboards and data modem, packaged in a compact desktop unit.

This drawing together of voice and data is certainly one of the momentous happenings of the decade!

Warming to his theme of "convergence," Brown amplified if for Forum 83 delegates, saying: "As information processing systems are linked with information delivery systems, fundamental changes are starting to occur in our concepts of telecommunications.

"No longer is a telephone simply an instrument for voice communications but rather an information terminal, a means of accessing and exchanging information in a variety of ways, to and from a variety of sources.

"No longer is a television simply a passive instrument for receiving news and entertainment but rather an interactive communications device, visually displaying transactions that are taking place electronically.

"No longer is a PABX simply an instrument for routing telephone calls in and out of offices but rather a multipurpose office management system, supporting a variety of operations, from inventory control to energy management.

"No longer is a telephone line simply a telephone line but rather a multipurpose information pipeline, linking people to people, people to machines, or machines to machines.

"communications networks originally designed to provide simple voice-grade connections are rapidly evolving into systems that permit users to transmit information in a variety of electronic forms, volumes and speeds."

David Vice, president of Northern Telecom Canada, sees this "convergence" as being very important. He says: The advances in communications technology now make it likely that there will be a major shift in the relative importance of the key infrastructures; communications will be the central infrastructure tying together a society. This is evident in the information marketplace of the '80s which consists of the converging elements of data, voice, and office. The industry that one sees today spans traditional telegraph/telephone, computers and office equipment. Simply stated: telecommunications is not only the highway to the future, it is the highway of the Information Age."

Strategic, the San Jose, California research firm, recently conducted an in-depth survey of 50 sophisticated telecommunications sites and it revealed that their users preferred integrated voice/data systems as their communications growth path. Plans to accomplish integration are high on the priority list at virtually every site, and numerous companies are currently experimenting with different techniques to reach this objective. Gateways were planned or installed at 56 percent of the sites interviewed. Integrated voice/data systems are installed at six sites and planned for 20 more. Voice/data coordination among user departments exists or is planned at 50 percent of the sites.

Venture Development, a Wellesley, Massachusetts research organization, says that workstations combining voice and data are the most popular with executives. Summarizing a recent study on "Executive Workstation Markets: 1983 to 1990," Venture's report states: "Executive productivity is becoming the new grail sought by more and more companies. Office automation suppliers are providing a variety of products with different capabilities to stretch an executive's effective work time. In the coming years we expect both the voice communication and data handling capabilities of workstations to improve greatly. As a result, the popularity of voice/data workstations will help drive industry shipments to new levels. By 1990 more than two-thirds of all executive workstations will be voice/data units."

Dataquest, another San Jose, California research firm and a subsidiary of A.C. Nielsen, says: "Products introduced to integrate voice and data communications may be as significant as spreadsheets and personal computers."

A recent research report published for clients of Dataquest's Telecommunications Industry Service recommends that minicomputer, mainframe, and PBX vendors study these new products carefully to evaluate their impact on future product plans. Thomas Bredt, author of the report, observes, "We do not believe that the computer industry fully realizes the significance of products integrating voice and data to their industry. New approaches to voice and data communication technologies will fundamentally change the way information processing and communications requirements are met in the future. We encourage all companies to examine these developments carefully and make appropriate adjustment to their strategies to assure their continued success in the marketplace."

A new study from Cleveland-based Predicasts shows that sales of voice data communications equipment, which stood at $3.2 billion in 1972, reached $14.2 billion in 1982 . . . rising an average of 16 percent per year. With its crystal ball in hand, the research firm sees total sales of voice and data equipment topping $48 billion by the mid-1990s.

Futurists used to say that "the executive workstation will be as common on the executive's desk as the telephone." Now it is apparent that the executive workstation will be the executive's telephone!

The "convergence of voice and data" means much more than a single terminal or workstation. It means an entire system, a complete network, a new table of organization, and a new way of top management thinking!

Equipment manufacturers are already bringing voice and data capabilities together in the products they are bringing to the marketplace.

GTE recently introduced its "Omni-Action" office system, an advanced, integrated voice/data workstation especially designed for executives, managers and professionals. Combining a telephone, office applications and personal computing functions in one compact, state-of-the-art package, the the "Omni-Action" office system addresses the multi-functional capability needs of office workers today and provides substantial capacity for future growth.

Tymshare offers "Scanset" as its product in the merger of voice and data communications. It combines a telephone handset, autodialer, CRT and keyboard into a compact package that takes up only a square foot of a desktop. It is designed for quick, easy access to information for the business professional. The Scanset can access more than 1,200 commercial data bases, including Dow Jones News/Retrieval and the Official Airlines Guide. It also can be used for electronic mail and internal information reports. "Scanset" terminals feature simultaneous voice/data communication, an integral 300 or 1,200 baud modem, automatic log-on, downline loading and 3270 emulation capability, using "Tymnet," Tymshare's data communications network.

The new AmbiSet is an integrated voice/data executive workstation that combines advanced telephone features with personal processing capability that can be upgraded to include compatibility with IBM and MS-DOS microcomputers. Externally, it appears to be a business phone with the addition of a full-travel standard typewriter keyboard and an eight-line by 80-character LCD screen. Internally, AmbiSet uses a 16-bit Intel 8088 microprocessor and has software architecture that is compatible with the IBM PC.

The Cygnet "Communications Cosystem" is a computer-phone that works in tandem with the IBM Personal Computer and compatibles to create an integrated voice and data workstation. Incorporating a Z-80(R) microcomputer, modem, 92K bytes of memory and advanced electronic mail software, it is used to link PCs in local and wide area networks over standard telephone lines.

Rolm recently introduced its "Cypress" personal communications terminal which combines fast information retrieval via a "smart" data terminal with time-saving features of a digital telephone. It also provides a number of personal services, including a personal telephone list, an electronic reminder file, a display of "call-me" phone messages and a five-function calculator. Also included are a multi-feature telephone, a two-way speaker phone and intercom and a high-speed data interface with speeds up to 19.2 kb/s.

Commenting on the need for a terminal such as Cypress, Rolm's Dennis Haar explains, "Managers are decision makers. They base decisions on the 'best information available,' which is gathered through conversations with associates, reports, newspapers, magazines and reviews of the relative data. Although the manager leaves much of the information gathering, data organization and data analysis to assistants and research departments, he needs a means of quickly reviewing the organized data and any subsequent analysis for making a decision. Since this data often resides on corporate and even public data bases, a terminal and data connection is required to access this information."

The convergence of voice and data . . . both in equipment and in the minds of communications managers . . . is one of the most important developments of this dynamic decade. And the two will come closer and closer together in the years ahead.

Hear AT&T Chairman Charles Brown: "With the combination of advanced communications and computer technology, we have the technical capability to create a global information delivery system that would permit people in virtually every corner of the earth to have ready access to the world's most valuable resource . . . knowledge."
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1984
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