The adoption of secure, instant communications networks (so-called Presence Networking), will be a major factor in helping to reduce transport costs, congestion and pollution over the next five years.
According to new research carried out by technology and telecoms consultancy BWCS, within three years, the increasing popularity of instant collaboration networks could save UK industry over £4.3 billion, annually in transport costs alone.
"The key to reducing traffic is clearly to get cars off the road and with UK commuters driving an average of 96 miles a week, encouraging home working through the provision of secure instant collaboration networks is a trump card in this game, especially as new road charging schemes could cost motorists up to £24.57 a day" argues BWCS CEO Graham Wilde.
"While we have seen a trend towards teleworking in the past, these so-called Presence Networks tie white-collar workers much more closely to their colleagues, making it largely irrelevant where they are physically based."
According to BWCS's figures, 25% of office-based companies in Britain are expected to start using Presence Networking as their primary means of communications within three years.
As commuters face increased train fares - due to rise by an average of 4.3% from January 2nd - and the looming possibility pay-as-you-drive charges of up to £1.50 a mile, the potential savings of being able to collaborate online are huge, both in terms of direct costs and time saved.
Symon Blomfield, CEO of UK secure Instant Messaging company Presence Networks, explains "Business people in the UK face a stark choice over the next few years; they can pay more and more to travel to the office and to meetings or adopt smart ways of working such as Instant Collaboration networks.
These networks allow you to see immediately which of your colleagues is available and enable you to contact them directly and immediately, on the network, securely and for free, via messaging, IP phone links or by sending text from their pcs to mobiles."
Blomfield continues, "Figures from the RAC have shown that ordinary teleworking can reduce business travel by up to 25%. We believe that the instant, secure connections offered by Presence Networks will help make this a reality. The alternative, in terms of increasing congestion, choking pollution and ever-more expensive journeys is, frankly a nightmare for British industry."
Despite security concerns over public IM, recent surveys have shown that 81% of corporations believe that their employees work more productively with such systems. However, BWCS and many other technology consultants are warning companies against simply allowing the take-up of public IM at the work place.
As recent attacks have shown, such programmes can be very dangerous, providing a wide-open entry-point for IM Viruses, Trojans and Worms. It comes as no surprise that For example, anti-virus firm Symantec reported a 400% increase in IM and peer-to-peer (P2P) networking viruses, worms and Trojans over the last twelve months.
Blomfield again "The trick is to harness this increased speed of communications offered by IM without leaving a gaping hole in network security, which is where Presence Networks shows its mettle. Ordinary public IM is not really a service; it carries little security and offers no service level agreements.
Presence Networks' system for example, which uses 128bit SSL encryption on all traffic, records, dates and time-stamps all messages enabling an audit trail to be established and making it compliant with FSA, SEC, Sarbanes-Oxley, Basel II, HIPAA rules.
BWCS believes that this level of security is vital in order that the market can take these services seriously and to drive the take-up of systems such as that developed by Presence Networks.