What is a federation?
A federation is a special trusted network for the users of IT and telecomunication systems, which creates a secure structure for the communication between organisations, with the aim of improving the cooperation between its members.
Within the frame of this structure, every organization, for example, a company, defines on one hand the quality of the information which it would like to reveal and on the other hand, decides which services and systems for the exchange of information may be used.
This definition originates from technical literature, in particular on ECMA (European association for standardizing information and communication systems – former European Computer Manufacturers' Association) documents which talk about federation, federated solutions and federated services. A German notation hasn't been established yet, which is why this document generally uses English terms. Typical communication services which can be used today within the frame of a federation are a presence management and Instant Messaging (Chat). Other services are also imaginable in the future. Audio services and video services could also be provided in future within the framework of a federation.
The presence management within a federation enables the exchange of presence information between organisations and also beyond organisational borders. The technology provides information regarding a person's accessibility so that a suitable means of communication can be chosen depending on the person's status. The user receives information about a person's status or makes this information available to others.
If somebody is online and available then one can get in touch ad hoc via the phone, send a text message and can expect an immediate answer (Instant Messaging, Chat). These functions belong to the group of synchronous media. If the call partner is currently unavailable, an e-mail is usually chosen as the means of (asynchronous) communication. Therefore presence management promotes the user's agility. Moreover, such systems generally offer enhanced functionality, for example, there is often the opportunity to learn about the presence status change of a particular person (tagging). This is an extremely helpful function if you are waiting for a person to return to their workplace because you need information urgently.
To emphasize the long-term potential of the use of federation-based communication, it makes sense to look into presence management and instant messaging services more closely.
What is presence management?
In the world of classical Computer Telephony Integrations (CTI) concepts, which is the forerunner of a lot of Unified Communications (UC, standardised communication) solutions, the user's telephone lines and the events taking place there were the center of attention but the user himself was less important ("line-centered architecture“). Before it was "Line 177 – Franz Mueller – engaged“. In the world of modern SIP-based Unified Communications applications, a new form of "person centered architecture“ becomes possible:"Of course" the person comes first with regard to communication! Therefore what's said now is: "Franz Mueller – busy – in a call“ or "Franz Mueller – busy – in an appointment till 12:00“. In consideration that new services and media can be integrated into the communication network, numerous new questions arise from this context: Is the person with whom I would like to communicate available? With which media can I get in touch? A presence management system answers these crucial questions.
With every person (user, identity) a system links a defined state, the so-called presence information. This is composed in real-time according to defined rules from the status of several services. Examples of this are telephone status (telephony service), calendar status (calendar service) and a logged in/off status (system service). The presence information gives dynamic information about the availability of a communication partner, according to the current state of the different services.
What is instant messaging?
In today's typical office work environment, two forms of media dominate: the telephone - to communicate in real-time, a synchronous medium, and e-mail - as the predominant form of correspondence, a asynchronous medium for a less urgent form of communication. Other asynchronous media, for example, the fax, is less important now due to the rise of e-mail commuinication.
Because of continuous optimization of networks and the rising acceptance from users, another relatively new method for written correspondence has been established: the instant messaging (IM, Chat). With this method two or several users communicate via text messages.
Messages are exchanged on a real-time basis via a push method. Users work with a special client application, e.g., estos ProCall or Microsoft® Office Communicator. The clients are connected via a server or service with each other. The usage is as uncomplicated as e-mail, with the advantage that it allows to react spontaneously and a immediate response can be expected. Exactly the right thing for short inquiries.
Both presence management and Instant Messaging services complement the telephone and e-mail very well. They allow the user to address the contact in a way appropriate to the situation.
Who benefits from the federation?
People working together in organizations or in a regular business connection profit from a federation. This includes colleagues as well as business partners, suppliers and customers. Simliar to how the standardized electronic data interchange (EDIFact) channels and structures trade between the involved partners, a federation allows structured communication between organizations. Technical directives and accepted general conditions form the base which can be defined on an administrative level. In the end, it is up to the user to decide whether and how he wants to use the technological possibilities.