The surge of smart mobile devices has accelerated the adoption of personal assistants for business users. Below, Tom Minifie, Chief Technology Officer for AVST, answers questions about the growing trend of virtual personal assistants in the workplace.tom_minifie

Firstly, how do you define a “virtual personal assistant” for the business user?

Simply put, virtual personal assistants help workers to be more efficient and productive. Easily accessed through a phone call or a smart phone application, these assistants support a business user with day-to-day activities from the simple to the complex: taking calls, taking messages, checking calendars, scheduling appointments, locating information, sharing status, delivering requested data, anticipating the needs of a user, and making decisions – these are just some examples. They use a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations and perform actions. 

What’s the reason behind the surge of interest in virtual personal assistants?

There are several factors. Certainly, the worldwide adoption of smart mobile devices and the associated apps, coupled with a growing mobile workforce that includes an increasing number of tech-savvy people, is accelerating the need for personal assistants in the business landscape. Think about the mobile workforce’s varying degrees of remote access to enterprise data, communications, status indicators, etc. The ability to access that information and make use of it via a virtual personal assistant – on the fly – is a game changer. It’s a hands-free, voice-activated technology that does the work for you. 

What about security concerns?

Security is always a concern. When looking for ways to make data more accessible and usable, companies must also look for ways to do so in a safe and secure manner. A virtual personal assistant is intended to be integrated into your business life with access to your preferences, contact information, and status. In addition, efficient and effective virtual personal assistants for business users successfully leverage telephony, instant messaging/presence, conferencing, calendar, enterprise data, mobile devices, email – but they must do so in a secure and compliant manner using standard IT network security techniques.

AVST’s Atom is a virtual personal assistant. Can you talk about that product?

Atom™ brings location-based services, federated presence and a multi-lingual speech interface to the workplace. For example, Atom knows when a user has arrived at the office, at home or anywhere in-between, and can deliver calls to a preferred device. The product is built with mobile features including unified messaging, hands-free speech access, single number reach, mobile number protection, location-based services and a native mobile client for iPhone® and AndroidIt lets users manage business calls, messages, contacts and presence status. Atom’s built with the world's leading speech recognition engine from Nuance®, which uses voice commands to manage business activities, such as "Call John Smith," "Get new messages" and "Get my calendar for today." Atom is in sync with business calendars, and notifies callers about events, such as "I’m in a meeting and will be back at 10 a.m."  Atom also keeps an eye on instant messaging presence and will not send calls to a device when set to “Do not disturb.” Atom connects to the cloud, delivering unified messaging to multiple email systems (premise-based and public cloud) including Microsoft® Exchange and Office 365, Lotus® Notes®, Google Gmail, Novell® GroupWise® and any IMAP4 compliant e-mail system. 

Why did AVST enter the virtual personal assistant market?

At the time of Atom’s formal launch, personal assistants for business users were basically non-existent. Through personal assistant applications like Apple's Siri, consumers were already familiar with voice automated assistance. At AVST, we drew on our 15+ years of experience in delivering speech-enabled personal assistant applications for the enterprise and added location, context and presence.

Where is Atom being utilized?

In addition to enterprise, healthcare, education and government are key markets. [READ: City of Baltimore implements Atom.]

What are the takeaways on the subject of virtual personal assistants?

First, the new era of “contextually aware” personal assistants is dawning. “Who, what, where, when and why” will be known to personal assistants and the technology is helping users leverage the information instead of drowning in it. Second, the technology is already being used — think Apple’s Siri, Google Now or Microsoft’s Cortana. Your workforce is using it — and they expect it on the job, too.

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hardy_myersHardy Myers, AVST President & CEO, discusses why unified communications (UC) companies delivering on the promise of interoperability have a role to play in helping government become more efficient.

By its own account, the U.S. government admits that it has made some very costly IT mistakes. Instead of the remarkable technology advancements witnessed in the private sector, the U.S. Government’s Office of Management and Budget declares on its own website that it “largely has missed out on that transformation due to poor management of technology investments, with IT projects too often costing hundreds of millions of dollars more than they should, taking years longer than necessary to deploy, and delivering technologies that are obsolete by the time they are completed.”

According to the U.S. government, federal officials are working to reverse the poor track record, with the goal being to “make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with government, while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars.”

What happens to the existing technology that government has already implemented? Rip it all out and replace it? At what cost?

“Rip and replace” is a difficult proposition for federal, state and local government agencies. Public scrutiny and political chasms over expenditures dictate that technology investments must be judicious and carefully planned according to budget cycles.

Companies delivering IT-centric unified communications solutions to government that bridge legacy infrastructure to an IP-enabled future are well positioned. AVST is the only unified communications company in the world that delivers a software platform that allows hundreds of disparate technologies to all work together. With AVST’s CX-E unified communication platform, existing call control solutions, email systems, mobile devices, presence engines/instant messaging, business applications and data infrastructure can all work in harmony to deliver maximum productivity to a rapidly mobilizing workforce. Simply stated, no other unified communications platform delivers a higher level of interoperability.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), as well as CMAS in California, Ohio State Schedule, NY OGS, COSTARS and PEPPM in Pennsylvania already have contracts in place with AVST to ensure streamlined purchasing of AVST’s best of breed UC solutions for government and educational institutions. Such contracts can take months to procure and they require strict adherence to guidelines set forth under federal and state laws.

Government turns to AVST because its unified communications solutions allow agencies to maximize  their existing and future communications infrastructure investments. Over the course of the last 30 years, more than 15 million users – including major government agencies, top hospitals, leading universities and multinational companies worldwide – have been leveraging AVST’s CX-E platform to help advance their business communications, improve their productivity and maximize their customer satisfaction.

In the government sector alone, AVST has more than 1,400 federal, state and local entities using its CX-E solution; more than 1,100 educational institutions are also using the platform. And those numbers are increasing on a weekly basis.

Read about why AVST's CX-E has helped make Baltimore one the most innovative cities in the nation.

During the last week of May, AVST will be in Austin for the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) Connect Technology Expo. Texas DIR is one of the many strategic government and educational contracts AVST has in place. As we meet with IT and purchasing staff from the various Texas state and local agencies here, we are looking forward to sharing our case studies and best practices for rolling out AVST’s world-class UC solutions; and, as importantly, educating these agencies on how they can optimize their current infrastructure while delivering advanced UC capabilities to their workforce by partnering with AVST like so many other government agencies worldwide have already done.


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Meet Atom from AVSTWe are excited to announce today the debut of the next generation of our best of breed UC platform – CX-Series  8.5.  This is the most comprehensive UC offering to date and directly answers the call for greater mobility, faster communications and support for cloud-based applications. 

A key component of CX-Series 8.5 is AVST's new individual UC productivity tool, Atom™, which delivers what Dave Michels, President of consulting firm Verge1, calls "A truly significant leap in enterprise communications.  Atom picks up where consumer-class services like Siri leave off." Atom's powerful, multilingual speech interface enables users to safely and efficiently complete tasks, while mobile or stationary, through simple speech commands such as: "Call John Smith," "Get new messages" or "Get my calendar for today."  

AVST has packed CX-Series 8.5 with the following new features: 

  • Multilingual Speech Recognition:  Multiple speech recognition languages are now supported to deliver speech-enabled Automated Attendant and Personal Assistant capabilities;
  • Federated Presence:  Integration with Microsoft® Lync®, Exchange and Office 365™ and Google® Apps to announce to callers a user's availability and expected return time;
  • Google Apps:  Enhanced support for Google Apps including integration to contacts, calendaring and unified messaging;
  • Location-Based Services:  The AVST mobile client can send a user's location to the CX server to automate changes in personal availability based on location;
  • Mobile System Administration:  A new web-based system administration application enables CX system administrators to perform key administrative functions from their mobile phones and tablets;
  • Federated Identity:  CX Web PhoneManager now supports single sign-on with Microsoft Active Directory®.

For more information about AVST's products, please visit the company website at

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Speech, Speech and more Speech. You don't want to miss this ALL NEW, 30-minute webinar. It's the 411 on Speech Automated Attendant and Speech-enabled Personal Assistant – both of which are native on the AVST platform. Save money by automating calls. Create more satisfying, self-service interactions. Deliver a natural language, human-like Personal Assistant to your mobile workforce.

Powered by Nuance, AVST's 15+ years of experience developing speech-enabled applications has led to a new twist on a Personal Assistant – meet Atom™, the Next Generation Total Office Manager. Plus, Atom is multi-lingual and speaks and understands your language.

  • Hear Atom's Real Voice; Live Demonstrations
  • Discover Speech Automated Attendant and Outside Caller Experience
  • Benefits of Integrating AVST's Speech Automated Attendant over other Solutions 

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IMG_1697Question: Why did UMass Amherst, the largest public university in New England, select AVST as their UC vendor of choice?

Answer: Resiliency!

With over 200 departments, 20,000 students and 5,000 faculty and staff spread over a 1,450-acre campus, AVST brought the greatest level of high availability and disaster recovery to support their uptime goal of 99.999 percent.

Centralizing your mission critical voice infrastructure into a Private Cloud UC deployment is a hot trend today, as it yields much these benefits – cost reduction, asset utilization and rapid deployment of new services – with some added benefits of security, resiliency and control. Watch this webinar to learn:

  • What Private Cloud means today and how it will evolve;
  • Resiliency: High Availability, Disaster Recovery & Virtualization options; and
  • Getting the cloud right – Private, Public or Hybrid cloud? 

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IMG_1704Looking to enhance corporate productivity and cut costs? Increasing business process efficiency by integrating communications with information is arguably the most powerful result that IT can deliver to any organization.

Customers will discover how to unlock the full power of the CX-E platform.  If you're considering AVST, you'll learn how CX-E can dramatically improve your enterprise's productivity by communication-enabling business processes today.

In this webinar attendees will hear real-life examples of: 

  • A major hospital chain reduced human latency through automation of information;
  • A university implemented outbound appointment reminders; and 
  • A large county enabled automatic information access and delivery to its customers. 


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IMG_1706The University of Toronto was established in 1827 and is a recognized global leader in research and teaching. The university expands across three campuses with nearly 11,000 faculty and staff members, as well as, 72,000 students. The University of Toronto needed a resilient platform that provided collaboration and UC solutions to meet their needs and objectives.

AVST’s CX-E was able to provide the university with the following solutions:

  • Consolidation into Private Cloud for Infrastructure Optimization
  • Improved Caller Experience with Call Processing
  • Minimized Training of Faculty and Staff
  • Provided UM to Keep Staff and Faculty Connected

For more details, check out our case study.

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Looking to make the most out of you Lync implementation, while leveraging your existing PBX? Watch our webinar, "Making Lync Your Softphone."  By utilizing AVST's Intelligent Gateway, you can:

  • Unlock the VoIP capabilities of Lync without upgrading or replacing your existing PBX;
  • Route incoming calls to user's Lync client;
  • Allow outbound calls from Lync to the PSTN;
  • Offer intelligent call routing based on your presence; and 
  • Learn the benefits of AVST's Intelligent Gateway over other solutions. 


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IMG_1695Receive "Investment Protection" with AVST! Protect your current TDM and IP-PBX telephony infrastructure all while upgrading your legacy voicemail system to a next generation unified communications solution. With 30 years of innovation and over 15 million customers worldwide, AVST is ranked as the #1 voicemail system most used, according to Voice Report's national PBX survey.

Don't miss this all new webinar to discover how to:

  • Economically transition your legacy voicemail and call processing solutions with minimal retraining;
  • Meet your mission critical centralized private cloud initiatives through its survivability, disaster recovery, scalability and virtualization options; and
  • Deploy advanced UC applications today regardless of your current or future IT infrastructure including:
    • Best-of-breed unified messaging
    • Advanced personal assistant, speech and mobile client to address the mobility requirements of your workforce
    • Rapidly integrate communications with information to optimize your business processes 

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IMG_1699Unified Messaging (UM) is a top consideration when selecting a UC vendor. AVST's experience designing UM solutions for thousands of customers globally over 20 years has led us to develop a short list of critical considerations.  When evaluating UM solutions, consider the pros and cons of the various UM deployment options and functionality. Plus, attend the live session and receive a free copy of the "Get Started: Unified Messaging Checklist."

In this webinar, AVST will discuss:

  • How to deploy UM in an evolving IT landscape from premise to cloud: Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Google Gmail, IBM Lotus Notes or any IMAP 4 compliant email system;
  • Understanding different storage model approaches: single store vs. dual store to meet an organization's security, compliance and confidentiality needs.
  • Discover why AVST's UM solution has consistently been rated as best-of-breed in the industry
  • Enterprise mobility trends for 2013 and beyond


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