Place Push to Talk on Your Internal Communications Menu | Page 2

Since, as mentioned earlier, PTT services use the cell phone network data channel to send messages and maintain presence information, it's a simple task to integrate a PTT service with PCs running PTT client software. "This is ideal for managers or co-ordinators who can sit behind a PC with a microphone and see the presence information from people out in the field," says Murray. "That could be a dispatcher in an office, or a crowd controller at a large event sitting in a camera van."

Once integrated with a computer, the PTT service can then interface with many other types of systems, Murray adds. For example, imagine a facilities management and monitoring system that detects an open exterior door, or, discovers that the temperature sensor in a particular area is sending a warning signal. It could use PTT to send an automated voice alert from a PC to maintenance or security staff who can then respond.

Simple PTT services can now be enhanced with the integration of GPS data to enable controllers to track the exact location of PTT users with GPS-enabled phones.

"The controller can access a Web page that displays the location of any or all PTT users overlaid on Google Maps," says Murray. "They can see each person's presence status, their location, and a track showing where they have been in the last 10 minutes or the last hour."

This information can be used to help controllers manage large groups of employees in the field and ensure, for example, that security staff are evenly distributed around a facility. It can also be used to help ensure employee safety, allowing controllers to know where someone is or was last known to be if it becomes impossible to contact him or her, or in the case of responding to a worker requesting help when his or her location is constantly changing.

One company that has recently switched to a PTT service is Barcelo UK, part of a Spain-based hospitality company operating more than 180 luxury hotels around the world. The company first used PTT at its Cardiff Angel hotel in Wales, replacing a cordless (DECT) phone system with 10 Nokia handsets. These were supplied to staff in a number of groups including housekeeping, maintenance, leisure, concierge, duty managers and night staff. PTT PC clients were also installed at the main reception desk and the duty manager's office to act as control desks.

Using the system, the duty manager can find out very quickly where staff on any given team are at a particular time, and direct the most appropriate staff members to carry out jobs as they arise. For example, receptionists can send housekeeping staff to rooms as soon as guests check out so the rooms can be made up for the next clients. And guests can request help from any member of the staff, who can relay the request back to the duty manager or contact someone from the appropriate group directly so action can be taken immediately.

The main benefit of the PTT service is vastly reduced costs, according to Perry Thomas, Barcelo UK's IT director. A DECT system for a hotel costs about £25,000 ($35,000), plus about £2500 ($3,500) per year in maintenance charges. Replacing lost or broken handsets (at about £350, or $490, each) adds another £3000 ,$4,200, to £4000 ,$5,600, to the annual operational costs.

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