Instant messaging and presence

IBM Corp. support for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) in its Sametime instant messaging product doesn't just give Lotus Notes users a way to communicate with other IM users. It also provides a key element lacking in most IM products: a sense of presence.

SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), which the new version of Sametime includes, moves IM beyond text-based chats. It integrates IM with telephone calls, voice mail and Web conferencing.

"IM at the level of messaging is a convenient thing to have," said Simon Hayward, a vice president and research director at Gartner Inc. "But when you add the presence element, you get the feel of knowing when other people are around in the virtual space. It creates a sense of community and closeness that collaboration products otherwise can't provide."

Alan Stensland, regional program manager for environment and safety for the Federal Aviation Administration's southern region, uses both Sametime and the Lotus QuickPlace collaboration product to help manage threats to air travel safety, such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and man-made disasters.

Knowing who is logged on to the collaboration system and available for consultation about problems means a faster response time and less stress on local resources, he said. If something happens at 4 a.m. local time in one area, a responder doesn't have to search for help locally if he or she knows that help is immediately available in another time zone.

"The fact that, through presence, I can look and see who is logged on at any given time is wonderful," Stensland said. "Because of the instant response this provides, we don't have to staff as many people [for any particular event] which puts less stress on the crew and saves dollars."

For Jeremy Dies, senior offerings manager for the Lotus Advanced Collaboration Group, presence is what will turn instant messaging into a real tool for collaboration.

"It will make IM as fundamental to communication in the future as e-mail has been in the past," he said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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