Remember when you first starting using the telephone as a kid? Remember how you had to memorize all of those phone numbers or refer to a physical address book to look up someone you hadn’t spoken to in a while? Better yet, remember when you had to use the Yellow Pages to find a local business number or a school directory to find your friends’ numbers? What about those long, spiral phone cords? “Zach Morris” cell phones? Rotary dials before touch screens? Busy signals before call forwarding? Answering machines with cassette tapes before voicemail? My, how things have changed.
Fast-forward to the invention of cell phones and even now, smartphones. (I think I had one of these). Now, we see a phone number once and save it to our digital address book. We can search the web on our phones, copy/paste a number or dial it directly from the webpage. We can even check Facebook for a friend’s number rather than hauling out a clunky phone book. Phones are lighter, faster and smaller than ever before. They serve as our cameras, our media players, our alarm clocks, our dictionaries and encyclopedias, our calculators, our maps and our newspapers. In today’s modern technological age, it is hard to imagine a world without them.
The experience of using a telephone has become simpler and simpler over the years and that is by no means an accident. It is the result of meticulous engineering and design by some of the biggest companies on the planet. Our phones are not only one of the most important tools we use in a day, they are our appendages, our companions. It is not uncommon for someone who left their smartphone at home to say, “I feel incomplete without it.”
I can admit that video conferencing is not there…yet. Making a video call on my iPhone still takes some effort. Network access, firewall traversal, IP addresses, gatekeepers, servers and bandwidth issues are still barriers to adoption that we face every day. But things are changing and it’s getting easier. Those of you who are “video veterans” will know what I’m talking about.
Now translate this to the video conferencing industry. Will an IP become our new “phone number”? Will memorizing IP addresses be as natural to us as memorizing phone numbers? Will video calls truly replace phone calls indefinitely? Now, with the invention of cloud-based directory dialing, we can take numbers out of the equation all together and dial-by-name (imagine the possibilities of never having to memorize another IP address). Likewise, technology like “single number reach” bypasses that step and can ring all of your video-enabled devices simultaneously. Infrastructure is now virtualized and video systems are now integrated (not to mention affordable). The barriers are dropping and video is catching on.
I’d like to think that video conferencing is now going through a similar transitional phase as its sister, the telephone, did 20 years ago. We are working hard to make the video experience as seamless, natural and ubiquitous as a telephone call. Are we there yet? No. But we are getting closer everyday.
Now back to my iPhone – what did I miss while writing this blog post?