Unified Communications vs. Internet of Things: What’s the difference?

Network computer questions difference between Unified Communications and Internet of Things

Earlier this week, I was browsing VoIP phones when a thought occurred to me: If a voicemail message from an IP phone is sent to an e-mail address or a cell phone, is that considered Internet of Things in action?

The confusion began because both use the Internet so that devices can, essentially, talk to each other; the Internet highway with device destinations, if you will. From there stemmed the question, “What’s the difference?” I can’t possibly be the only one who has wondered this (or so I hope…)

The Definition

The first step is to define both terms. After reading the definition of Internet of Things from the International Telecommunications Union and McKinsley & Company, I decided to search for more direct interpretations.

Unified Communications — communications being integrated in order to optimize business processes. abbr: UC (Digium)

Internet of Things — a network of everyday devices, appliances, and other objects equipped with computer chips and sensors that can collect and transmit data through the Internet. abbr: IoT (Dictionary.com, which uses the Random House Unabridged Dictionary)

Network computer questions difference between Unified Communications and Internet of Things


The Purpose

The next step is to consider the practices that each engage in.

UC can manage “current status” availability from one source and update to all devices and media. IoT can view the inside of a refrigerator from a smartphone while at the grocery store.

From these two examples, you could pinpoint “hey, the smartphone is using a different connection than the refrigerator while the office uses only one!” However, that isn’t the case because cellular phones can be part of a UC solution.

That said, more helpful is to focus on the products instead. UC includes IP phones, gateways, video conferencing systems, and integration software. IoT includes all smart, connected products; wearable technology, smarthomes, and intelligent transportation.

UC is business-oriented whereas IoT is anything, which is important to point out because businesses with UC solutions likely have employees and possibly multiple locations – different needs than a non-business.

The Distinction

Let’s look at an auto-parking car, for example. The exterior sensors communicate how close an object (curb or another car) is to the interior control without the use of the Internet – yet it is considered to fall under IoT.

In the November 2014 Harvard Business Review, the article “How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition” explains perfectly:

“The internet, whether involving people or things, is simply a mechanism for transmitting information. What makes smart, connected products fundamentally different is not the internet, but the changing nature of the ‘things.’”

It further breaks down the three elements that make up smart, connected products: physical, smart, connectivity. A smart car doesn’t need the Internet to park but with that connectivity, the features are enhanced. Physical is boosted by smart and smart is boosted by connectivity.

Map connecting Unified Communications to Internet of Things


The Answer

Internet of Things is an umbrella of smart, collected things and unified communications is a collection of smart, connected business things grouped underneath. So, to answer my initial question: yes, unified communications is Internet of Things in action.

The growth of the Internet of Things concept is inevitable and multiple research papers, reports, surveys, and statistics attest to it. It’s important that businesses don’t reject the concept or resist the change. TriTech helps businesses plan their unified solutions in Wisconsin and has been a leading information technology company in Milwaukee for more than two decades.