As 2020 ends, let’s take a moment to reflect on the stars of the technology realm that shone brightly during a tumultuous year.
With schools, restaurants, shops, businesses, etc. coping with shutdowns because of the pandemic, we witnessed the markedly increased growth of VoIP telephony, the explosion of video conferencing popularity for business, educational, and social use, and the resulting necessity for tighter cybersecurity protocols. All of these brought to light how our technology (and the acceleration of its mainstream adoption) can bring us closer together while shedding light on the need for better safeguards.
Let’s start with video conferencing: In 1927, Bell Labs pioneered video calling by pairing a telephone connection with a simultaneous one-way video monitor. Almost 100 years later (and largely out of necessity), video calls have migrated from the novel to the mainstream. While there are many, many video platforms available, Zoom is the tool that has become a household name (much like adhesive bandages, facial tissue, and cotton swabs to which we consumers refer primarily by brand name, even if in reference to an off-brand product). What’s interesting about this phenomenon is, and I use our own experience as an example, I have sent video invites out to people and the response almost always is “where’s the Zoom link?” It seems that while Microsoft, Google, Go To Meeting, and others all have their own video platforms, Zoom has prevailed as the leader. Zoom also seems to be the video conferencing platform with which average users are most universally comfortable, despite several security breaches early in 2020.
Building upon early video conferencing, remote (interactive online) education began approximately 60 years ago. In 1960 (and before the advent of the Internet and its predecessor ARPANET), the University of Illinois developed its own intranet, which evolved into a global remote learning environment. The concepts from this initial system are still used today—including message boards, chats, and screen sharing. Some quarter-century later (and still prior to the advent of the World Wide Web), the Electronic University Network was developed in 1984, and by 1986, multiple universities offered online higher education courses.
Flash forward to the year 2020: some form of remote/online learning has been available for 60 years, yet the concept feels brand new, shocking, almost revolutionary. Schools of every kind from elementary through university levels were forced either to shut down or to implement partial or full remote education curricula. With this year’s introduction of remote learning into the mainstream, children and young adults have been catapulted into getting more hands-on experience in navigating the future of technology. As humanity expands to explore the life-sustaining possibilities of the Moon, Mars and other far-reaching corners of our Universe, remote learning will become more and more commonplace.
Now for the newest technology and the one driving the others previously discussed here. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) was developed in 1995 and has exploded from a basic voice phone call to pandemic and disaster-resistant (if not disaster proof) virtual offices. At its core, the concept is simple internet-based calling-- but it’s so much more. With an increased prevalence of fast, reliable, and more stable Internet connections, organizations of all sizes have had the ability to utilize and support remote workers for over two decades. This has created both the rise in and resistance to virtual offices. Any organization, whether it has 20 employees or 20,000, can leverage VoIP functionality and those key Telecom features that give businesses a robust presence and feel (such as a branded greeting, call routing to employee extensions, ring groups, voicemail-to-email for quick retrieval and response, etc. no matter WHERE each of those employees is physically located. This enables employers to choose from the best talent pools on a national level, should they so choose, and to unify geographically diverse teams of remote and onsite employees.
This year, businesses with established Hosted VoIP systems were able to adapt easily to the new “work from home” environment. On the flipside, companies that did not have a hosted solution prior to the pandemic and shutdown orders scrambled to switch to a hosted solutions provider or to rely solely on call forwarding. For any business large or small, the benefits of a hosted VoIP solution cannot be understated or undervalued. In addition to being more cost effective than a landline, the mobility functionality (not to mention disaster resistance) is priceless in today’s work environment.
Can you guess how all these technologies are related? If you said the Internet ties them together, you’re only part right:
WebRTC ties them all together. Developed by Google and first used by Ericsson in 2011, this technology allows for audio and video calls from a web browser. This protocol is commonly used in conjunction with SIP, the primary protocol surrounding VoIP. (We will delve deeper into the many VoIP and telephony acronyms at a later date, for those who may be inclined to venture down that rabbit hole.)
This was the year of Cyberattacks, given the shift in workforce technology usage and the distractions of the pandemic and political upheaval in the United States. Several of these attacks were targeted at communications systems, serving as a glaring reminder of network security best practices. Communications technology (systems and hardware) should be part of every organizations robust cybersecurity plan. A little-known (and even quaint-seeming, though it has echoes of some Zoom-bombing incidents reported in the first waves of the 2020 pandemic) fact about the first-ever successful hacking attempt on record happens to have impacted a communications system: In 1903, an inventor and magician hacked a wireless telegraph during a live demonstration and sent insulting messages through an auditorium projector.
What this year has taught us is that there is nothing humanity cannot achieve and that we probably have already developed the technology to withstand whatever comes our way.
Our co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Michael A. Barson, brings 17 years of VoIP Telecommunications expertise to VoIP Doctors clients and partners every day. The VoIP Doctors platform guards against security threats and service interruptions to keep your business moving forward.
Contact us for a VoIP Telecom consultation via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin the conversation.
With warm wishes for your continued wellbeing in 2021 and beyond,
Mike & Hala
Sources & Additional Reading:
The 150 Year History of Video Conferencing: https://www.lifesize.com/en/video-conferencing-blog/history-of-video-conferencing#:~:text=The%20History%20of%20Video%20Conferencing%20from%201870%20to%20Today&text=The%20first%20video%20conference%20technology,modern%20video%20conference%20of%20today.
The History of Online Education: https://www.petersons.com/blog/the-history-of-online-education/
List of Security Hacking Incidents: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_security_hacking_incidents
The History of VoIP and Business Phone Systems: https://www.westuc.com/en-us/blog/hosted-voice-networks/history-voip-and-business-phone-systems#:~:text=VoIP%20was%20developed%20around%201995,Internet%20phone%20for%20the%20masses.
VoIP Technology Trends To Look Out for in 2021: https://www.cbsit.co.uk/2020/11/29/voip-technology-trends-to-look-out-for-in-2021/