Dynamic Frontline Communications: The Next Generation of Push-to-Talk
Conventional push-to-talk is in the midst of a new era of innovation and strategic value for the enterprise. Natural resources, utilities, transportation, sports/events, logistics, manufacturing, retail, military/defense – whatever the operation, decision-makers are empowering their frontline teams with a new wave of “dynamic frontline communications” that combines the best of traditional push-to-talk with new automated capabilities. Forrest Claypool, CEO of Instant Connect, recently sat down to discuss the evolution of push-to-talk and its upside for organizations worldwide.
Why so much buzz about these new dynamic push-to-talk capabilities?
Forrest Claypool: It’s about the new level of collaboration and teamwork now available. Frontline workers tend to work in teams sharing common tasks, missions, and deliverables, whether it’s to execute a scheduled task or respond to an emergency. Dynamic frontline communications software intuitively understands this and automatically creates talk groups connecting only the workers who are essential to the mission. Conventional push-to-talk is congested with chatter as people vie for attention and communications are blasted to everyone. Dynamic frontline communications, on the other hand, tailors talk channels to specific teams based on their roles and tasks, excluding anyone who isn’t needed. No clutter or distraction. The leap forward in productivity is quantifiable. And these dynamic talk groups can connect teams across any device or network – radio, mobile, IP, and even telephony – so workers can freely share voice and data without technology or terrain getting in the way.
So how do you define a dynamic talk group?
A dynamic talk group is a team of frontline workers transparently assembled in a communications channel pursuant to the business rules set by the enterprise. The software automatically assembles these dynamic talk groups oriented around the people and workflows required to complete the mission, then disassembles them when the job is done. To assemble this group, the software self-discovers and authenticates users, transparently adding them to the talk group based on roles, tasks, missions, workflows, and other business rules that you set. There’s no need to manually configure teams or worry someone is left out. Conversely, there’s no worry that non-essential workers are needlessly tied up on the same channel, creating unnecessary distraction.
The system does it transparently?
Yes. Think about it as intelligent software that takes the guesswork out of managing push-to-talk. The software orchestrates talk groups for teams that include everything needed to complete their objective. And it integrates with IoT and data-based workflows. Why? Because it has to. Frontline communications are increasingly data-driven, with automated workflows often triggered by IoT systems and sensors. We’re talking about the connection of people, data, and systems in connected frontline workflows. These workflows provide a constant flow of data that must be acted upon, ideally without the need for manual intervention.
IoT – can you give an example?
Here’s one: an IoT sensor in a warehouse identifies a possible security breach and automatically triggers the creation of a dynamic talk group linking key security and operations personnel, giving them the information and location they need to instantly address the situation. Team members are instantly connected in a dedicated voice channel with supporting data and even instructions as to next steps. The issue is resolved rapidly with everyone working on the same page and with the same level of information. And they don’t have to get off their existing channels to respond to the incoming call, a limitation of conventional push-to-talk. Instead, they can collaborate in the new talk group while staying on multiple existing channels at the same time. This multi-channel support is the natural evolution of frontline communications, adaptable to virtually any industry, any use case.
How does geofencing fit into this?
A geofence is a virtual boundary that can be configured to trigger communications between personnel entering or leaving the virtual geo-boundary. It can be a seaport, a sports stadium, a mining operation, a warehouse, or any mission-critical geographical area with defined boundaries set by the enterprise. Dynamic frontline communications can automatically trigger dynamic talk groups based on users entering or exiting the virtual geo-boundary. Airline turnarounds are a good example. As an arriving airplane approaches a gate, a dynamic talk group is instantly triggered connecting maintenance, fuel, cleaning, and other ground crews working in concert to service the aircraft. Doesn’t matter if these are different vendors or legal entities – everyone is connected to execute the common mission. Aircraft turnaround is accelerated. When the aircraft pulls away from the gate, the team is disconnected and the ground crews are free to continue their individual routines. This assumes the dynamic frontline communications software is integrated into the airline’s scheduling system. Other examples might be using geofences to automate the assembly of warehouse teams responsible for unloading trucks that arrive at distribution centers. Or using geofences to automate the inclusion of third-party vendors hired to scrub a plant or refinery. This is push-to-talk elevated by workflow automation.
Everyone can be connected regardless of device?
Virtually any and all handheld devices and computers can be connected within the push-to-talk environment – smart phones, tablets, radios, laptops, desktop systems, IP phones, office phones, handheld computers with barcode readers, etc. All traffic is flowed onto the IP network, allowing any subscriber to use any device he/she wants. Whether a device is company-owned or BYOD, it doesn’t matter. The software can scale to support thousands of users without disrupting the way they like to work. LTE, radio Wi-Fi, IP, MANET, PSTN, and 5G are all supported. Next-gen push-to-talk helps modernize and extend radio infrastructure – protecting and enhancing the enterprise’s radio investment.
So what stage of adoption are we in? What are you seeing?
Enterprises worldwide are actively embracing dynamic talk groups, workflow automation, geofencing, and other interoperable communications capabilities. Executives are putting resources into dynamic frontline communications because it’s a nice balance between the proven benefits of push-to-talk and the inevitable need to embrace the future. Gartner Research predicts that up to 70% of mobile investments in the next five years will be for frontline workers. We agree.
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Instant Connect is a 2021 Gartner Cool Vendor in Frontline Worker Technologies and a leading global provider of interoperable communications. www.instantconnectnow.com