What Cisco Spark for iOS Means to IT

Cisco recently took a dramatic step in the ongoing effort to keep its product suite at the top of the business solutions market. The firm announced a partnership with Apple in August of 2015. Making good on those promises at the recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the two tech giants announced tight integrations between iOS device, Cisco networking gear and workstream communications software. The new features are targeted squarely at business use.

Some of the new features are visible to the end user, while others are intended to make life easier for the corporate IT department or managed service provider. Although the features will not actually deploy until later this year, the WWDC keynote and subsequent announcements contained a good amount of detail. IT personnel can and should take the time now to familiarize themselves.

Here is a brief executive summary of the new features, and how they will impact day-to-day operations of the IT department.

OS-Level Integration with Cisco Spark and iOS

By far the most far-reaching change to the way Cisco Spark operates on Apple devices, the updated version of the app will have deep access to the phone or tablet’s built-in telephony features.

Essentially, the device can treat Cisco Spark calls the same as it does standard voice calls. Incoming calls will ring the phone and display on the lock screen, without needing to keep the app open. Conversely, Cisco Spark will have access to the device’s OS-level contact list, without needing to import or export contacts from a separate Spark list.

Features previously limited to the cell calls, such as Siri dialing, mute and call waiting, will also work with Cisco Spark calls once the new version of the app is deployed.

Advanced Call Routing and Compliance

Going forward, iOS devices will recognize when they are connected to a Cisco network, and can systematically route calls over the cell network or WiFi as appropriate.

This means that when an employee makes a call at work, the phone will check if the recipient is a Cisco Spark (i.e. business) or personal contact. If business, the phone can automatically place the call via Spark. This serves the dual purposes of keeping cell usage to a minimum, and allowing IT to log and/or record the call as needed for regulatory compliance or security practices.

Quality of Service Controls

IOS device awareness of the corporate LAN also means IT can assume finer control of app usage. For example, if one device is being used to stream videos while another is attempting to set up a video conference, the network can now be configured to give priority to the video conference. All iOS devices on the network can report their app usage to the network monitor, allowing them to be prioritized or denied on a case-by-case basis.

Cisco-provided expertise will also allow iOS devices to intelligently optimize their performance when presented with multiple available wireless access points. Cisco promises that this will greatly improve the performance of all apps, particularly bandwidth-intensive software like VoIP and video calls.

Blurring the Lines

Overall, the new integrations are set to make business use of iOS devices less obtrusive and more like the smooth consumer experience Apple users expect. Cisco Spark effectively becomes as much a part of the OS as the Phone, Calendar, or Contacts apps. By eliminating the inconvenience of opening an app to place or receive a call, the updates should do wonders to improve adoption and consistent usage of Spark.

From the IT perspective, the new QoS and monitoring features should make life easier, as well. We won’t know the precise implementation of the features until both iOS 10 and the updated Cisco Spark app are deployed later this year. However, the information released so far is very promising, as is the easy willingness with which Apple and Cisco have provided it.

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