The first trend is the rediscovery of just how ‘useful’ and important voice is an application. It’s interesting to hear viewpoints from companies who initially dismissed the need for voice in their communications platform yet, on integrating voice, have been surprised at the response from customers – it improves the customer experience.
Today there is certainly a myriad of different ways to connect/communicate. Some of them could be considered to be fundamentally different to using ‘POTS’. On-line self-service via the Web, for example, has rendered a lot of tedious contact centre activity (calling by phone) redundant, which has been a good thing. I’d say that’s a fundamental change. The whole gamut of social media activity, from texting to gaming and from Facebook to tweeting, has altered everyone’s perspective. The important point to consider is that each of these communication methods has its place in terms of when and when to use them to best effect.
But when it comes to ‘talking’ – to someone else – then I think we’ll still be doing that for some time to come. How we do it – physically – is another matter and, already, we’re doing it differently; it’s just that a lot of folks don’t even realise it. Broadband (or more exactly, bandwidth) is the key enabler and signposts the road to disruption (via perdition). Ubiquitous broadband should mean we can connect/communicate any way we can, from anywhere we happen to be, but part of that will still involve talking to another human being. Some of those methods will involve ‘voice’ as an application as we will still wish to talk to customers, colleagues and contacts.
This brings us to the second interesting trend. Many telecommunications (using the word in its absolute broadest sense) applications will be delivered via cloud-based platforms, Twilio,Aculab Cloud, for example. By cloud-based I mean based in the public cloud, not a privately owned data-centre – that’s just hosting dressed up as cloud and will mean a number of the key benefits, such as scalability and redundancy are lost or diluted.
The interesting part is the underlying technology and the falling cost of developing or integrating a telephony system. From an end users perspective, to run an IVR system in the past you would have needed expensive TDM lines (now far less expensive, admittedly; due to competition from e.g., SIP trunks), expensive telephony servers, with specialist telephony cards inside, etc, etc. These days, there is a switch from CAPEX to OPEX, from hardware to software and increasingly, cloud-based platforms (with high-level APIs) are being seen as viable alternatives. It’s easier to get started (from a development perspective) and it’s easier and cheaper to deploy solutions (from a customer perspective). Cloud-based platforms will also help reduce the costs of deploying technology such as TTS as it allows resources to be pooled and shared.
WebRTC is here to disrupt
November also saw the first GA version of WebRTC, available within Chrome and Yahoo, with a number of WebRTC apps announced such as Twelephone
. WebRTC should not be confused with click-to-call plugins (which are essentially requests for a call), nor should it be confused with web-based telephony clients, which allows for internet telephony but necessitates the download and installation of software. WebRTC instead presents the ability for people to talk, simply because they are using a particular browser. Why is WebRTC an important trend to consider? Well in many ways WebRTC is to VoIP that Voip was to TDM. It will be disruptive, as the barrier to entry for companies with new services is reduced. In addition it opens up what you can do with voice (and indeed video conferencing). Developers don’t have to be mindful of ‘telephony’ issues such as signalling. They can just get creative…and a number are already.
Hypervoice is something to watch
Finally we have the concept of Hypervoice, which I touched upon in a previous blog. It’s all about providing the ability to connect ‘what we say with what we do’. It is a real-time means of seeing, hearing and checking what has been said. It is also a means to tag any important points raised during a conference say, so that you can refer back to them once the call is completed (instead of having to play back an entire message). It also allows other parties, who may not have been present on the call to still participate. They can do this by listening back to the call/conference/webinar and then actually provide input, which the other parties can then go back and listen to. In this era of global operations, this poses quite a nice solution to trying to schedule calls when everyone can participate across multiple timezones.
One thing for sure, as a new wave of developers are able to enter the market and build-in voice or telephony to their applications, so new life is being breathed into the telephony market. Voice is a killer app once again.