Back in 1964, Marshall McLuhan had the crazy idea that the technology we use to communicate is just as important as the message itself; that the way we receive our information affects our fundamental understanding of it.  Over the years, as communication technology has advanced, we’ve found more and more of McLuhan’s assertions to be accurate.

 

Now, the field of Unified Communications is working to minimize the conflict between the “medium” and the “message”, by funneling all of our information exchange through one device: the computer.  Texting, mail, instant messaging, video chat, and even voice calling will all come to us through a single medium.  The question now stands: what kind of hardware and software will be necessary to make that medium as efficient as possible?

 

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We had the opportunity to catch up with Craig Borowski, VOIP and Telecom Researcher at Software Advice .  In this article, we share some of Craig’s views regarding the future of Unified Communications.  “It’s fair to say that 10 years down the road, we won’t think of VoIP as a separate thing [from Unified Communications]” he explained.  Borowski goes on to predict that “the desktop PC is going to be the all in one communications device.”

 

Voice-over Internet Protocol

 

Since the wider implementation of fiber optics and broadband access, the grounds for dismissing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology are losing traction.  For the better part of the 90’s and even into the early part of the 21st century, businesses dismissed internet-based telephony as a scheme for saving money on phone bills.  The connection, they claimed, wasn’t stable enough to justify abandoning their PSTN (not to disregard PSTN’s long list of problems, but we all cling to the devil we know).

 

We could argue the validity of their hesitation when VoIP first hit the consumer market in 2004, but with the latest advances in digital technology and ever-increasing bandwidth capacities, the naysayers are losing their talking points.  In fact, VoIP is becoming such an efficient method for sending voice over long distances, some would say it’s on the fast-track to becoming the foundation protocol for all IT communications.

 

Web Real-Time Communication

 

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is even hedging their bets with UC platforms.  Google got the ball rolling in 2011, with the release of WebRTC or Web Real-Time Communication.  It’s an open source API designed for B2B (that’s browser-to-browser) applications for voice calling, file sharing, and video chat.  What makes this so exciting is that it’s all executed without the usual cavalcade of obscure plug-ins that need to be installed to their computer by users.

 

Borowski states it plain and clear: “One of the main goals of WebRTC is to make it as easy as possible for the user.”

 

WebRTC is still coming to full fruition, but since it’s initial launch, the W3C has thrown its support behind the project.  The internet powers that be have put forth a mandate: UC is the way of the future.

 

But even then, is the implication that the desktop computer the be all and end all of communications technology?  Of course not.

 

Mobile Takeover

 

Just as we’re consolidating our messages, our media is shrinking to our convenience as well.  This grand hub of in-coming and out-going information doesn’t have to be wired to the wall of an office anymore.  If anything, VoIP and WebRTC are helping us to ditch the ball and chain.

 

By digitizing and packetizing voice data, we can send that data anywhere it needs to go, not just to the nearest landline, but to any mobile device.  With telecom companies offering hosted PBX in the cloud, your Android or iPhone can operate with all the intricacies of an advanced call center.

 

By circumventing the plug-in and compatibility requirements, browser protocols can work just as efficiently on your smartphone as they could on your desktop at home.

 

“It’s silly to call them a phone,” Borowski says.  “So much time people are using phones online…they have phone functionality, but it’s not the primary function of the device.”

 

And it’s true.  In McLuhan’s day, the computing capacity we now carry in our pockets would’ve barely fit inside a room.  These mobile devices we regard with second nature have the potential to be the ultimate venue for unified communications.  It’s just a matter of embracing the technology, as many businesses already have,

 

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In the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) workplace, businesses simply host software and protocols from an intranet or cloud storage system and employees access the information using their own smartphones, tablets, or laptops.  Not only does this save money for the company, it’s easier on the employees.  It’s just another example of bringing everything to one place.  In this case, it’s the home and work life managed through one all-purpose device.

 

With all of this open-source sharing taking place, the biggest concern that remains is the issue of security.

 

Securing your Communications

 

With any new frontier, comes the struggle to find a balance of freedom and security.  Our drive to test boundaries and find new ways to earn our fortunes will always expand quicker than our drive to regulate and control those opportunities.  Naturally, a whole new Wild West is taking form in the cloud.

 

Businesses want to open their IT environments to employees and their own UC devices, but in doing so, they expose themselves to a number of risks.  How secure are those devices?  Who did the employees buy them from?  Is that high-tech OS on your new assistant’s tablet secretly sharing his or her information with a whole market of competitors?  These are issues that UC companies will have to address as we move forward into this new era of technology.

 

But once again, routing your services through a reliable voip provider could be the answer to this problem.  Save your business for a company that will host your call traffic on a secure server, one that can assure you that all precautions are being taken to keep your valuable information secure.

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The days of differentiating the medium from the message are slipping away, faster with every new breakthrough in communication technology.  As more new apps and software hit the market, our need for new hardware becomes less and less.  One device, be it a desktop PC or the latest iPhone, grants us access across the board.  It’s this kind of technology that are turning Marshall McLuhan’s dreams (or perhaps his nightmares) into a tangible reality.