Be Ready For The Newest Technology That Is Able To Recognize Who’s Home

Be Ready For The Newest Technology That Is Able To Recognize Who’s Home

Hamptontel Of Monmouth County Explain The Next Step With High Resolution Security Cameras

If you are apart of the high-tech group of individuals, it’s likely you’ve heard of the latest trends regarding at home security cameras. HamptonTel of Monmouth County gives insight to technology’s next turn, and it’s taking high resolution security cameras to an whole new level.

Nest Labs is adding Google’s facial recognition technology to a high-resolution home-security camera, offering a glimpse of a future in which increasingly intelligent, internet-connected computers can see and understand what’s going on in people’s homes.

The Nest Cam IQ, unveiled Wednesday, will be Nest’s first device to draw upon the same human-like skills that Google has been programming into its computers — for instance, to identify people in images via its widely used photo app. Facebook deploys similar technology to automatically recognize and recommend tags of people in photos posted on its social network.

Nest can tap into Google’s expertise in artificial intelligence because both companies are owned by the same parent company, Alphabet Inc.

With the new feature, you could program the camera to recognize a child, friend or neighbor, after which it will send you notifications about that person being in the home.

Nest isn’t saying much about other potential uses down the road, though one can imagine the camera recognizing when grandparents are visiting and notifying Nest’s internet-connected thermostat to adjust the temperature to what they prefer. Or it might be trained to keep a close eye on the kids when they are home after school to monitor their activities and send alerts when they’re doing something besides a list of approved activities.

THE COST OF FACIAL RECOGNITION

The new camera will begin shipping in late June for almost $300. You’ll also have to pay $10 a month for a plan that includes facial recognition technology. The same plan will also include other features, such as alerts generated by particular sounds — barking dogs, say — that occur out of the camera’s visual range.

The camera will only identify people you select through Nest’s app for iPhones and Android devices. It won’t try to recognize anyone that an owner hasn’t tagged. Even if a Nest Cam IQ video spies a burglar in a home, law enforcement officials will have to identify the suspect through their own investigation and analysis, according to Nest.

PRIVACY CONCERNS

Facial recognition is becoming more common on home-security cameras. Netatmo , for instance, introduced a security camera touting a similar facial recognition system in 2015. That camera sells for about $200, or $100 less than the Nest Cam IQ.

The way that the Nest and Netatmo cameras are being used doesn’t raise serious privacy concerns because they are only verifying familiar faces, not those of complete strangers, said Jennifer Lynch, who specializes in biometrics as a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital advocacy group.

But Lynch believes privacy issues are bound to crop up as the resolution and zoom capabilities of home security cameras improve, and as engineers develop more sophisticated ways of identifying people even when an image is moving or only a part of a face is visible. Storing home-security videos in remote data centers also raises security concerns about the imagery being stolen by computer hackers. “It definitely could become a slippery slope,” Lynch said.

The privacy issues already are thorny enough that Nest decided against offering the facial recognition technology in Illinois, where state law forbids the collection and retention of an individual’s biometric information without prior notification and written permission.

FURTHER DETAILS

Nest’s $10-a-month subscription includes video storage for 10 days. Video can be stored up to 30 days with an upgrade to a subscription plan costing $30 per month

The high-end camera supplements lower-resolution indoor and outdoor cameras that Nest will continue to sell for almost $200. Neither of the lower-end cameras is equipped for facial recognition.

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LAN vs. WAN – Which One Better Fits Your Needs?

LAN vs. WAN – Which One Better Fits Your Needs?

Hampton Tel of Monmouth County describes differences between LAN and WAN

The difference between security in a LAN and WAN might be unfamiliar jargon, but knowing the primary difference between a Local Area Network (LAN) and a Wide Area Network (WAN) can be helpful. Besides the technology used for each system generally you have control of all the resources for a LAN, but not for a WAN. Generally, for a single company, LAN, independent of another LAN or to the Internet, that company can provide physical security for the entire LAN and all the connected computers. Once the LAN is connected to another LAN or the Internet and becomes a WAN.

The primary difference between a Local Area Network (LAN) and a Wide Area Network (WAN), besides the technology used, is that generally you have control of all the resources for a LAN, but not for a WAN.

For example, for a single company LAN (not connected to another LAN or to the Internet), that company can provide physical security for the entire LAN and all the connected computers. They can provide background checks for all the people that have access to all of the equipment. They can establish security policies and procedures that can be enforced on all the equipment. All of the threats to the system come from within (assuming adequate physical security).

As soon as the LAN is connected to another LAN or the Internet and becomes a WAN, all of that changes. The company does not know what physical protections have been made to the rest of the WAN, only its small portion. In the case of an Internet connection, they have no idea who might try to access their LAN. The entire threat model changes. Not that any of the threats from the LAN-only environment have gone away, but many more have been added. One can think of the threat profile for a LAN as being a subset of the threat profile for a WAN.

This threat profile is what helps to decide what security measures are appropriate. In terms of network management, within a self contained LAN, there probably is no need to have network management protocols encrypted, or special authentication done for those protocols (unless you are worried that insiders may attempt to “manage” your network for you). On the other hand, you probably do not want your network management protocols to traverse the Internet without protection. Nor do you want your computers on a remote segment to respond to network management requests that are not authenticated.

So, as with any computer system or network, the first steps are to identify what the threats to your system or network are and what needs to be protected. Then you can go about devising ways to provide the required protection.

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Unified Communications: What You Need to Know

Unified Communications: What You Need to Know

Functioning as the premier Telecommunications Specialists throughout Monmouth County and New Jersey, our number one goal with each and every customer is their total satisfaction. Our experts are fully trained and will work with you to ensure that your new system meets your functional and operational requirements now and in the future. To expand on our passion for IT and Telecommunications systems we have provided the article below for your enjoyment. 

Unified Communications

A business term describing the integration of enterprise communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence information, voice (including IP telephony), mobility features (including extension mobility and single number reach), audio, web & video conferencing, fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), desktop sharing, data sharing (including web connected electronic interactive whiteboards), call control and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax).

UC is not necessarily a single product, but a set of products that provides a consistent
unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types.

In its broadest sense, UC can encompass all forms of communications that are exchanged via a network to include other forms of communications such as Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and digital signage Communications as they become an integrated part of the network communications deployment and may be directed as one-to-one communications or broadcast communications from one to many.

UC allows an individual to send a message on one medium and receive the same communication on another medium. For example, one can receive a voicemail message and choose to access it through e-mail or a cell phone. If the sender is online according to the presence information and currently accepts calls, the response can be sent immediately through text chat or a video call. Otherwise, it may be sent as a non-real-time message that can be accessed through a variety of media.

Presence

knowing where intended recipients are, and if they are available, in real time—is a key component of unified communications. Unified communications integrates all systems a user might already use, and helps those systems work together in real time. For example, unified communications technology could allow a user to seamlessly collaborate with another person on a project, even if the two users are in separate locations. The user could quickly locate the necessary person by accessing an interactive directory, engage in a text messaging session, and then escalate the session to a voice call, or even a video call.

In another example, an employee receives a call from a customer who wants answers. Unified communications enables that employee to call an expert colleague from a real-time list. This way, the employee can answer the customer faster by eliminating rounds of back-and-forth e-mails and phone-tag.

The examples in the previous paragraph primarily describe “personal productivity” enhancements that tend to benefit the individual user. While such benefits can be important, enterprises are finding that they can achieve even greater impact by using unified communications capabilities to transform business processes. This is achieved by integrating UC functionality directly into the business applications using development tools provided by many of the suppliers. Instead of the individual user invoking the UC functionality to, say, find an appropriate resource, the workflow or process application automatically identifies the resource at the point in the business activity where one is needed.

When used in this manner, the concept of presence often changes. Most people associate presence with instant messaging (IM “buddy lists”) the status of individuals is identified. But, in many business process applications, what is important is finding someone with a certain skill. In these environments, presence identifies available skills or capabilities.

This “business process” approach to integrating UC functionality can result in bottom line benefits that are an order of magnitude greater than those achievable by personal productivity methods alone.

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Checking Out the Latest Surveillance Technologies

Checking Out the Latest Surveillance Technologies

Demand for video surveillance is poised to intensify with cloud services, Ultra HD, edge devices, wider dynamic ranges and superior compression.

Video surveillance has quickly risen to the top of a preferred list of security technologies available. Overt cameras act to deter would-be criminals while detecting the presence of people and forensically documenting what they do.

Let’s take a look at some of great innovations currently in play, as well as those yet to come. We’ll discuss the new 4K and 8K Ultra HD standards and look at advances in imaging technology that are creating discernible image resolutions in low to zero lighting. In addition, we’ll cover the placement of intelligence and data storage at the network’s edge and look at some of the incentives for using “cloud” storage and its long-term implications.

Functioning as the premier Telecommunications Specialists throughout Monmouth County and New Jersey, our number one goal with each and every customer is their total satisfaction. Our experts are fully trained and will work with you to ensure that your new system meets your functional and operational requirements now and in the future. To expand on our passion for IT and Telecommunications systems we have provided the article below for your enjoyment. 

Clearing Up Cloud Conceptions

Of all the advancements in IP video to discuss, probably the most exciting is the cloud, yet it’s still one of the biggest mysteries to most professionals in the security industry.

For the video surveillance client, it allows access to stored images offsite anywhere in the world through the Internet. It also reduces the upfront costs associated with the procurement of DVRs, NVRs, NAS (network-attached storage) devices and other means of data storage.

“Cloud video management is a natural progression for CCTV,” says Mike Davis, president of eLine Technology of Westminster, Colo. “Advancements in technology have made smaller and faster processors; pair this with edge storage devices and you have created a system that is powerful and easy to manage. Build the system to fit your needs. View and manage video through the web. These are the advantages that cloud surveillance offers our customers.”

Today, the consensus among savvy security professionals, like Davis, is that IP video, combined with cloud-based data retention, is where it’s at. The term “cloud” came into use many years ago as a means of identifying an “unknown.” It usually, if not always, pointed to a third-party infrastructure of some kind, the details of which were largely unknown to security professionals. An intimate knowledge of this third-party offering wasn’t always needed. In blueprints and schematic diagrams, a “cloud” is drawn wherever third-party responsibility begins and that of the contractor ends ― usually at the point of demarcation.

There are several types of cloud-based services available and it’s important to understand them. It will assure that the right cloud-based service is selected, thus assuring the best results while minimizing monthly fees.

According to CDW’s 2013 reference guide on cloud computing: “A cloud can be public, whereby many different organizations share computing resources. A cloud can also be private, in which cloud resources are dedicated to a single organization and run either in its datacenter or that of a service provider. A final option is a hybrid cloud, which is a combination of shared and dedicated cloud resources. Increasingly, organizations are exploring hybrid cloud options to enjoy the best of both worlds.”

Progression of Image Compression

Video compression and the standards that go with them are important to campus security professionals for several reasons. First, the development of video compression standards assures interoperability where video data is recorded and later displayed on dissimilar systems. Secondly, an effective, tighter compression algorithm, such as H.264, including the recently-developed H.265, reduces redundant data, thus assuring uniform and rapid transmission over a network connection. And thirdly, better compression ensures that more video data can be stored on hard drives and storage discs than has previously been available.

Since 2003, the industry has experienced great success with the H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) compression algorithm and as the new H.265 looms largely in our future the older H.264 continues to see widespread use among video surveillance equipment manufacturers.

“A very mature technology, AVC [H.264] has been saving bandwidth and storage through the valued integration with software solution providers and their provided video management systems,” says Steve Surfaro, Axis Communications industry liaison. He adds that H.265, also referred to as HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), “offers variable blocks that can handle up to 64 x 64 pixels, changing the size according to texture, while the previous generation H.264 standard relied on a macro-block size of a maximum of 16 x 16 pixels. This larger block size allows HEVC to achieve higher compression or higher resolution and improve parallel processing efficiency compared to H.264.”

H.265, which was instituted by the Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG – ITU-T SG16 Q.6), offers a 30-40% reduction in bit rate at the same image resolution as H.264. And yet, as previously mentioned, H.264 continues to receive widespread use.

“The new H.265 is a stronger encoding algorithm that produces less bandwidth for the same video images using H.264. At the same time there are good reasons why H.265 has been slow to take off,” says Erick Ceresato, product marketing manager with Genetec.

The concern is that camera and VMS vendors have not completely adopted H.265 throughout their product lines, so there will be limitations. While the use of H.265 will reduce bandwidth utilization, it also leads to more complex decoding requiring greater CPU/GPU power, which can cause additional expense to update computing hardware, Ceresato says.

“Since most H.264 compression and decompression routines use hardware chips in order to keep up with the high resolutions, it’s very expensive to jump to a new technology,” says Digital Watchdog CTO Ian Johnston. “The expression that comes to mind is, ‘Where there’s a wallet there’s a way.’ Right now there’s just no [financial] incentive for the consumer industry to make the jump to H.265. Cable modems and Internet service providers can keep up using H.264, especially with the content providers literally using trucks to get the mammoth amount of data to the edge.”

As is true in most cases for the video market, advancements often come on the heels of major innovations at the consumer electronics level, such as bigger, faster PCs. The use of H.265 is a given, but the camera industry is probably a year or two away from full implementation.

Taking Surveillance to the Edge

Living on the edge takes on a new meaning in terms of network technology. In traditional camera systems, video processing, storage, display and distribution are handled from a central point, commonly called the head-end. In a video surveillance system, using modern network technology, that is not always the case. In today’s video surveillance systems, those that make use of IP technology now commonly place camera intelligence, data storage, display and other capabilities at the edges of the network, not always at the head-end.

Moving intelligence to the edge allows the system to better determine priorities based on need while moving video data and event information when and where needed in a more cost-effective manner, as from a bandwidth point of view. A good example is the need to move specific images and data after an event has taken place.

“Popular targets or destinations would be a conventional PC server, Oracle NoSQL database, NAS box, Amazon EC3 cloud storage, etc. Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter what or where it is, but what does matter is how big is the data you’re trying to move around, and to make smart choices about bandwidth management,” says Johnston. “The key is that it shouldn’t be constrained to a single repository or a single function and all the devices need to work together to ensure that everything is taken care of, and no single entity fails or is a point of failure.”

The network administrator can program the system to move important images/data to the head-end or specific workstations later in the day when demand for bandwidth is at a minimum. These video images and event data also can be stored and maintained at the network’s edge for review at a later time while enabling the download of important video data to the cloud for long-term storage and on-demand utilization. Such a download can occur at off-peak times when the network is largely idle.

Placing devices at the edge also produces greater operating reliability and redundancy because it uses a distributed architecture. Using this format, the failure of a single device will not affect the entire video surveillance system. The failure of the hard drive or flash media contained in an edge camera, for example, only affects one camera, not all of the cameras in the system. Compare that to a network-connected DVR or NAS where such a failure would likely affect storage across the entire system.

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Ten IT Trends through 2017 and how to Prepare

Ten IT Trends through 2017 and how to Prepare

Functioning as the premier Telecommunications Specialists throughout Monmouth County and New Jersey, our number one goal with each and every customer is their total satisfaction. Our experts are fully trained and will work with you to ensure that your new system meets your functional and operational requirements now and in the future. To expand on our passion for IT and communication systems we have provided the article below for your enjoyment. 

The only thing constant is change, and these 10 IT trends coming to data centers through 2017, including open standards, require preparation.

People on the business side expect the company’s internal data center infrastructure to have the same scalability and cost of Amazon Web Services’ cloud, according to an attendee at the Gartner Infrastructure Operations & Management Summit 2014 here this week.

That intersection of leading-edge IT and enterprise expectations underscores the theme of these 10 trends expected to hit data centers, as curated by Milind Govekar, managing VP at Gartner.

1. Open philosophies

Open development breaks the data center down into its lowest-level components, which fit together by open standards. Still, with less than 2% of enterprise applications designed for horizontal scaling, enterprise IT should avoid lifting legacy apps onto open infrastructure.Instead, put new workloads on building-block infrastructure, and renegotiate your hardware contracts to get ready for more open-standard hardware and software.

2. Automation

This trend is nothing new, but the next five years will be transformative for IT automation, from opportunistic to systemic implementation.

The problem, however, is IT administrators love scripts. They love creating the best scripts, fiddling with scripts that come from colleagues, and leaving little documentation when they move on to another job. IT automation must evolve from scripting to deterministic (defined workloads for tasks) then to heuristic design (automation based on data fed in operations). There are banks today that use heuristic automation because they have all the hardware that you could want, Govekar said. But they lack the ability to automatically place workloads that best at any given moment.

Start down the heuristic path by appointing an automation leader in IT, automating script discovery and rewarding administrators for building resilient, structured scripts.

3. Software-defined everything

Software-defined means the control plane is abstracted from the hardware, and it’s going on with every piece of equipment a data center can buy. Software-defined servers are established, software-defined networking is maturing and software-defined storage won’t have much impact until at least 2017, Govekar said.

Don’t approach software-defined everything as a cost saving venture, because the real point is agility. Avoid vendor lock-in in this turbulent vendor space, and look for interoperable application programming interfaces that enable data-center-wide abstraction. Also, keep in mind that the legacy data center won’t die without a fight.

4. Big data

Big data analysis is used in a number of ways to solve problems today. For example, police departments reduce crime without blanketing the city with patrol cars, by pinpointing likely crime hot spots at a given point in time based on real-time and historical data.

Build new data architectures to handle unstructured data and real-time input, which are disruptive changes today. The biggest inhibitor to enterprise IT adoption of big data analytics, however, isn’t the data architecture; it’s a lack of big data skills.

5. Internet of Everything 

Is IT in charge of the coffee pot? If it has an IP address and connects to the network, it might be.

Internet-connected device proliferation combined with big data analytics means that businesses can automate and refine their operations. It also means security takes on a whole new range of end points. In data center capacity management, Internet of Everything means demand shaping and customer priority tiering, rather than simply buying more hardware.

Build a data center that can change, don’t build to last, Govekar said.

6. Webscale IT

For better or worse, business leaders want to know why you can’t do what Google, Facebook and Amazon do.

Conventional hardware and software are not built for webscale IT, which means this trend relies on software-defined everything and open philosophies like the Open Compute Project. It also relies on a major attitude adjustment in IT where experimentation and failure are allowed.

7. Mobility

Your workforce is mobile. Your company’s customers are mobile. Bring your own device has morphed into bring your own toys. The IT service desk can’t fall behind this trend and risk giving IT a reputation of being out of touch.

Bring data segregation — personal and business data and applications isolated from each other on the same device — onto your technology roadmap now.

8. Bimodal IT

No one’s congratulating IT on keeping the lights on and the servers humming, no matter how difficult it can be. Bimodal IT means maintaining traditional IT practices while simultaneously introducing innovative new processes — safely.

Take the pace layering concept from application development and apply it to IT’s roadmap, and find ways to get close to customers. Bimodal IT will make your team more diverse.

9. Business value dashboards

By 2017, the majority of infrastructure and operations teams will use dashboards to communicate with the outside world. Govekar made the analogy of the business-value dashboard vs. IT metrics to cruise ship reviews vs. cruise ship boiler calibration reports. They serve different purposes.

Evaluate business-value dashboards and complement them with IT staffers that speak the same language as your business stakeholders.

10. Organizational disruption

All the trends above feed shadow IT, where the business units steer around IT to gain agility.

Some IT teams are trying a new approach; rather than quash all shadow IT operations they find, these companies allow business users to set up shadow IT for projects and track the performance like a proof-of-concept trial. If the deployment succeeds, IT formally folds shadow IT into the organization.

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Preparing for the Future

Preparing for the Future

Utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure our infrastructure is more resilient – to more quickly recover from significant weather and other hazard events – and sustainable – improving the “triple bottom line” with clear economic, social, and environmental benefits.

1. Develop active community resilience programs for severe weather and seismic events to establish communications systems and recovery plans to reduce impacts on the local economy, quality of life, and environment.

2. Consider emerging technologies and shifting social and economic trends – such as autonomous vehicles, distributed power generation and storage, and larger ships – when building new infrastructure, to assure long-term utility.

3. Improve land use planning at the local level to consider the function of existing and new infrastructure, the balance between the built and natural environments, and population trends in communities of all sizes, now and into the future.

4. Support research and development into innovative new materials, technologies, and processes to modernize and extend the life of infrastructure, expedite repairs or replacement, and promote cost savings.

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Workplace Cameras and Surveillance: Rules for Employers

Workplace Cameras and Surveillance

Many employers use cameras and video surveillance in the workplace, often to prevent theft or to monitor what employees are actually doing while on the clock. As long as the company has a legitimate need to film, the areas under surveillance are public, and employees know about the filming, these practices are likely to be upheld by a court. Because filming can implicate privacy rights, however, employers must be very careful not to cross the line.

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Getting the Most From Your Phone System

Getting the Most From Your Phone System

It doesn’t take long for a business to outgrow its telephone system. An inadequate phone system tells customers that your business is overloaded and doesn’t have time for them. Your callers judge their customer experience in large part by how easy it is to contact you. A bad phone experience can color a customer’s perception of your business. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Have you ever called your office, pretending to be a patient, to see how easy or difficult it is to schedule an appointment or get a prescription refilled? If you haven’t, you should. What you learn may surprise you.

It doesn’t take long for a practice to outgrow its telephone system. An inadequate phone system tells patients your practice is overloaded and doesn’t have time for them. Patients judge their physicians in part by how easy it is to contact them. A bad phone experience can color a patient’s perception of the whole practice. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Evaluating your current phone system

What can you do? As I suggested above, call your office. Be sure to call during busy times, such as Monday morning and around the lunch hour. If you find it difficult to get through, so do your patients.

Don’t stop there. Ask your patients about their experience calling your office. Your invitation may uncover complaints about your phone system that patients had been too intimidated to bring to your attention. You also may want to have your staff give patients a short survey to fill out while they sit in the waiting room.

Next, call your local phone company and request a busy-signal report. The phone company will monitor your incoming calls and report back to you the number of times callers received a busy signal. The report breaks out the peak busy-signal times for each day of the week. Expect to pay anywhere between $20 and $40 per phone number for this service.

If the report comes back with a high number of busy signals, such as 10 out of every 20 calls, you need to consider adding more incoming phone lines. Even if the ratio is one busy signal per five calls overall, you may have a problem –although you probably don’t have to worry if the report shows that ratio in an occasional 30-minute period.

Key Points

• The need to replace or upgrade your practice phone system can sneak up on you if you don’t evaluate it periodically.
• Today’s phone systems offer many features that may not have been available when you installed your current one.
• If your current system is inadequate, you need to decide what features you want, whether you need a whole new system and whether to buy or lease.

Adding phone lines

Based on the busy-signal report, your phone company can tell you the number of incoming phone lines you need. But before you decide to add phone lines, consider whether your receptionist will be able to handle all of the calls. Most receptionists can handle 10 lines without having to place callers on hold for more than a minute. However, this number largely depends on your receptionist’s capabilities. If your receptionist can’t handle all the calls, you may want to add a second person during peak hours. Or you may want to consider automating the phone system.

Of course adding phones lines means adding cost. You want to make sure you’re not paying for lines that aren’t necessary. One way to avoid this pitfall is to add new lines in batches. So, for example, if the phone company suggests that you add six lines, start with four at first. After they’re installed, ask the phone company to provide another busy-signal report. And ask your patients again if they have had any trouble getting in touch with your office. Use this information to decide if you really need the other two lines.

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Comparing IVR Systems

IVR Systems

As businesses compete for customers in an increasingly globalized market, efficient customer service is becoming essential. Interactive voice response, or IVR, systems allow contact centers to automate their customer service, letting callers access information and services without ever speaking to a service rep. IVR systems can lower business costs and increase customer satisfaction, but only if you choose one suited to your business. Nowadays, most call center software providers will include powerful IVR features and systems. If IVR systems are crucial to your inbound call handling and overall business operations, make sure to ask your provider these questions before you buy:

 
1. Is this an open standards IVR system?
Open standards IVR systems can be connected to a wide range of other software and hardware, making it easier to integrate them into other systems/services that your business already has. This minimizes business cost, makes it easier to respond to customer data, and helps you adapt quickly to technological changes. Never buy an IVR system that is only compatible with a limited range of services, as this will raise your operating costs, reduce your flexibility, and increase your workload.

 
2. What speech recognition technology does the system use?
Voice-operated IVR systems use speech recognition technology to interpret customers words into meaningful commands. Though generally effective, these systems run the risk of alienating customers who have speech impediments, speak in accents, or for some other reason cannot be properly understood by the program. Make sure that the IVR system you purchase has been designed to interpret a wide range of different pronunciations and tones, and that it politely offers keypad options to customers when it cannot understand them.

 
3. Which customer inquiries can the IVR handle on its own?
An IVR system is most likely to improve customers’ experience if it saves them time, but it’s not going to do that if you only use it to direct callers to customer service agents. The more your customers are capable of doing through the IVR system itself, the less time they will spend waiting. The nature of your business will determine the type of IVR you need. If you work at a bank, for example, the majority of callers will likely be customers who want to check their account balances. You should thus purchase an IVR system that can authenticate bank customers and access their records.

 
4. Can I connect the system to other service features?
Every time your business adds a new option for customer service, you risk flooding your customer service network with too many inquiries, but you can minimize this risk if the IVR system you purchase can communicate with other customer service features. Say a customer is making an inquiry via your website but then decides to call customer service. If your IVR is linked to your website, it will determine that the caller is the same customer who was just using the website and immediately provide updates on his or her inquiry. This will minimize the length of the call and associated customer service costs.

 
5. Can the system keep track of callers?
To get the most out of your IVR system, you have to be able to make regular modifications in order to improve customer experience. You can only make these changes, however, if you use a system that keeps records of callers. The better you keep track of who is calling and what they do during their calls, the easier it is to identify requests that the IVR can’t handle on its own, and modify the system accordingly. Customer data also allows you to personalize the system to appeal to repeat callers, optimizing the experience for your best customers.

 
6. What is the authentication process like?
If your IVR needs to authenticate customers, it should be able to do this just as quickly as your customer service agents without sacrificing safety. If customer service agents only ask customers for two authenticating questions, the IVR should not ask for four. Otherwise, it will take customers too long to use your IVR system, causing them to choose agents instead.

 
7. How do customers navigate the system?
Navigating your IVR system should be as simple and intuitive as possible; the last thing you want is to cause customers to waste their time figuring out how to use it. The best IVR systems provide instructions at the beginning of a call, allow customers to select menu options by voice or by keypad, and let customers select options as soon as they hear them. It’s also good to provide consistent default items, such as a key that will return them to the main menu.

 
8. How does your system layer its menu?
The more sophisticated your IVR system, the more likely it is to confuse callers. To avoid flooding your customers with more information than they need or can remember, layer all the information in the system carefully. When the customer first calls, the primary menu should give them no more than 4 to 5 options; they can then access more options after choosing one of the first five.

 
ivr systems9. How well does the system follow up on calls?
The more you rely on an IVR systems, the more it will have to be able to mimic regular customer service agents. If your customers can make appointments via IVR, for example, the system should be capable of reminding them of their appointments, coordinating payment information, and sending out satisfaction surveys. Otherwise, your customer service agents will have to keep track of all the appointments the IVR system makes and perform all of these functions for it, increasing their labor costs and defeating the purpose of installing the system.

 
10. Can I try it out?
However effective the potential IVR system might look on paper, there’s no way to know how well it will work until you begin using it. To avoid making the wrong choice, ask if you can demo the system in real-time out at your business for a few weeks before purchasing it permanently. During the trial run, pay attention to how customers react to the system, and try making changes to improve those experiences. Only through practical experience can you tell if the IVR system is suited to your particular business.

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Surveillance Cameras Gain Ground in Schools

Surveillance Cameras Gain Ground in Schools

They’ve been watching the world from malls, gas stations, and other public places for decades, but now, surveillance cameras are becoming a standard, even expected, fixture in school hallways. And technological advances and violent incidents such as the recent Newtown, Conn., school shootings seem to be hastening their installation across the country, according to experts.

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