Universal unified communication, hmm, you might be wondering what's this about. What's he trying to predict? Well, let me explain. And in no way am I an oracle of the future so don't ask me for the lottery numbers. I'm just trying to image the future of communications technology and identify some of the current hurdles.
Communication is essential for any business, whether it's with customers, partners, suppliers or employees. However, communication can also be challenging, especially when there are multiple channels, devices and platforms involved. How can businesses ensure that they communicate effectively and efficiently across different modes and mediums?
This is where unified communication (UC) comes in. UC is an umbrella term for the integration of various enterprise communication tools -- such as voice calling, video conferencing, instant messaging (IM), presence, content sharing, etc. -- into a single, streamlined interface, with the goal of improving user experience (UX) and productivity.
UC supports a user's ability to switch seamlessly from one mode of communication to another within a single session, whether on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. For example, someone might initiate a conversation via chat before escalating the interaction to a video conference with a single click, without having to open a separate application.
Many UC systems also integrate with third-party business applications, such as project management software or customer relationship management (CRM) systems, to enable the centralization of information and resources, as well as more efficient workflows. UC technology facilitates the integration of software that supports both real-time communications (RTC), such as voice over IP (VoIP), and asynchronous communication, such as email.
What is unified communication?
Unified Communication (UC) is a term used to describe how different communication systems are connected for the digital workforce, as well as collaboration tools. UC, which stands for Unified Communications, is a phrase that is often used to describe this. UC ensures a higher level of interaction throughout the globally-dispersed workforce, breaking down the silos between enterprise teams, and ensuring that no matter where you work, you can still access the same secure system equipped with messaging (persistent chat), voice and video calling, meetings, team collaboration (channels), file sharing, integrated apps, and much more.
The Benefits of UC
Unified Communication (UC) offers many benefits for businesses of all sizes and industries. Some of these benefits include:
Enhanced collaboration: UC enables teams to work together more effectively by providing them with easy access to all relevant tools and information in one place. Teams can share files, documents and screens; co-edit documents; annotate content; brainstorm ideas; conduct polls; assign tasks; track progress; etc., all within the same platform. UUC also supports cross-functional collaboration by allowing users to communicate with people outside their organization using different platforms or devices.
Improved productivity: UC reduces the time and effort required to communicate by eliminating the need to switch between multiple applications or devices. Users can communicate faster and more conveniently by choosing the most appropriate mode for each situation. UC also reduces communication errors and misunderstandings by providing clear context and history for each conversation.
Increased mobility: UC enables users to communicate from anywhere using any device. Users can access their contacts, messages, conversations and files from their desktops or mobile devices without losing any functionality or quality. UC also supports remote work by allowing users to join meetings or collaborate with colleagues regardless of their physical location.
Reduced costs: UC lowers communication costs by leveraging cloud-based services that offer scalability, flexibility and security. Users can make use of VoIP calls instead of traditional phone lines; use video conferencing instead of traveling for meetings; use IM instead of SMS messages; etc., all while paying only for what they use. UCC also reduces maintenance costs by simplifying management and administration through centralized control panels.
Let's now look at the history of unified communications or in other words the unified knowledge sharing.
History of unified knowledge sharing
Universal global communication is in a way knowledge sharing between humans anywhere. We love communicating thoughts through speech. Do you remember the telegraph, or the written letter or the telephone? Or maybe you have seen pigeons in medieval times TV series that transport pieces of paper from castle to castle. All of these are humanities efforts to connect between distances great and small. This allows humanity to connect on an emotional and intellectual level with one another to exchange knowledge, wisdom or feelings. We are inherently a connected species, so we seek connection in any way we can. We then seek to connect globally to reach any human on earth. That is not to say that we should but that we can is our basic human need. Not everyone of course wants to be contacted and that's great. We are focusing on the technology enabling universal communication, not whether someone wants to be contacted.
Also don't forget some of the ancient failed experiments in communication such as the Library of Alexandria which didn't have any backups and burned down sadly losing a lot of ancient worlds knowledge with it - although if that library had backup sites it would have survived. Or the game of Chinese whispers where you would pass on some information to the next parsons ear and so on till you went around the table and you ended up with incorrect information communicated. Global communication system must be universal and easily useable by anyone on the planet.
As you look back at the past the history of unifying knowledge sharing in information technology and telecommunications has been a long and winding road. The internet, for example, was not that popular or widely used in the beginning because there were self-enclosed networks and we didn’t really have a truly interoperable and interconnected web. This of course changed and today we have one global knowledge system called The Internet allowing us to visit any page anywhere either for free or for a fee. This is thanks to IP and other internet protocols that allowed computers across the world to share information safely.
Much the same way email was like that but eventually universal protocols were established allowing you to send an email to anyone in the world as long as you knew their email address. Boom 💥 you have another universal transfer and sharing of knowledge.
As for unified communication for such things as video meetings or chat, it is important to first work out the flaws in the current UC (Unified communication) industry as a whole. Let's discuss the flaws in the current unified communication offerings from major providers.
Why we need a universal video conferencing & live chat protocol?
There are a number of very annoying flaws with "unified" communications today. Mind you we are not saying that the top unified communications platforms are flawed. They work wonderfully. I'm referring to the whole industry flaws with how its been designed. What am I ranting about? Lets dig deeper.
Unified communications platforms have been a game-changer in the way that businesses communicate, allowing teams to work together seamlessly regardless of location or time zone. However, despite the significant improvements in communication, there are still flaws in the industry that need to be addressed. One of the major flaws is the lack of a unified protocol to connect different video conferencing platforms. Currently, each platform uses its own unique protocol, making it difficult for users to connect and collaborate across different platforms.
The solution to this issue is to create a unified protocol that can connect all video conferencing platforms. This would be similar to how email and the World Wide Web (WWW) work, where users can communicate and access information regardless of the platform they use.
By developing a unified protocols for video conferencing and chat, these platforms can be linked together during chat and video sessions among people, enabling users to easily communicate with others regardless of the platform they are using.
In addition to solving the issue of platform interoperability, a unified video conferencing and chat protocols could also improve security and privacy concerns. With a unified video an chat protocols, security measures can be standardized, making it easier to ensure that all video conferences and chats would be more secure and private. By addressing these flaws, businesses can benefit from improved communication, increased productivity, and enhanced collaboration, ultimately leading to greater success in the digital age. It would mean a decentralised model similar to how the internet and email was created.
My predictions for the future of communication
I propose for all major video conferencing and chat vendors to come together and design universal video conferencing and chat protocols into their products so that for example a single meeting generated on Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet or RingCentral or FaceTime is able to be attended by attendees from all the above apps and others.
Customer loyalty to the brand of their choice remains but a greater collaboration would be created and it would usher a new era of universal communication much like phone, email or text messages. They were all useable worldwide because everyone agreed on a standard.
If new levels of staff and company productivity is to be achieved I believe the video conferencing and chat industry needs to come together to define universal video conferencing and chat protocols. Another benefit of this goal would be a huge increase and cementing of the use of video conferencing and chat and a slow decline in the use of emails, phone and text messages in society. Why? Because every form of communication including written word defined universal ways of using that medium. Evn in written language English was defined as a universal language in international interaction. The provincial or protectionist attitudes of the major video conferencing and chat apps is the big hurdle for this to advance to the next level: Universal Unified Communication (UUC). Let's see how this could look like.
The Universal Unified Communication Model
This model goes beyond Unified Communication and makes these apps able to connect to each other (provided Administrator has granted those permissions) regardless what brand they use.
Here is a breakdown of what I'm proposing:
Establish universal video conferencing protocols in the industry: Video conferencing apps: Zoom, Teams, Meet, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Viber, Signal, Skyepe, Facebook Video Calls, Instagram Video Calls, LinkedIn Video Calling establish a unified video conferencing protocols for 1:1 video chats and group andr larger chats. If it can be done with phone, email or text messages it can be done with video conferencing. These protocols would need to be the best in the industry and everyone would need to agree to them and a international body formed to manage it.
Establish universal chat protocols in all chat apps in the industry: WhatsApp, Viber, Apple iMessage, Android Messages, Facebook Messenger would have unified agile open source and decentralised protocols. If it can be done with SMS or Emails it can be done with live chat apps. Likewise the live chat protocols would need to be the best in the industry and everyone would need to agree on it and an international body would need to be formed to manage it.
Protectionism will not advance humanities communication to the live chat and video level without unified protocols in those areas. I think it is possible. The only company I think might have a lot of problems coming together in unifying mankind's video calls and live chat is Apple. I'm not against Apple and they have approved text messages, emails and the internet which all have unified protocols that govern them. Why can't Apple and other companies embrace that same view for video and live chat? If communication is to advance to that level and start shedding email, phone and text messages as old tech then the companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Zoom, Meta, Viber and others need to come together on the protocols side.
I think it would also bring greater security and combined efforts on functionality of the protocols to allow apps a wide range of features they can choose from. So if one company doesn't support this feature and supports this one that's ok, the sender would see that that or that is not available. But all companies need to settle on the basics: if they offer live chat then they need to support the universal protocols for live chat and if they offer video conferencing meetings then they must support the universal video conferencing protocols. This is how the world wide web and the internet works.
The Challenges of Universal Unified Communication (UUC)
Despite its many advantages, UUC also faces some challenges that need to be addressed before it can become widely adopted. Some of these challenges include:
Challenge 1: Interoperability
One of the main challenges of UUC is ensuring interoperability among different platforms, devices and vendors that provide communication services or solutions. While some standards and protocols exist to facilitate compatibility and integration, such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) or Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), Rich Communication Services (RCS) they are not universally supported or implemented by all providers or products ad may not even be ideal for a mass global use in products. This means that users may encounter difficulties when trying to communicate across different systems or applications, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams for video conferencing or Viber and WhatsApp for live chat. To overcome this challenge, UUC protocols will need to be agreed on by all companies and they will need to work together to establish common standards and best practices that ensure seamless interoperability and user satisfaction.
Challenge 2: Security
Another challenge of UUC is ensuring security and privacy of communication data and content across different channels and platforms/brands. As users share sensitive information such as personal details, financial transactions, business plans, etc. they need to be confident that their data is protected from unauthorized access. Point to point encryption and in-transit encryption will be important. Universal security standards of high calibre will ensure the system is safe and much better than email, text or phone. Phone, email and text message services are now flooded with spam. So universal video conferencing and live chat protocols will need the best security.
Challenge 3: Business interests
This is another challenge to uptake of universal video conferencing and live chat protocols. Historically until this point video conferencing and live chat app developers have been in a war to compete with subscribers. This in my opinion will not change with the establishment of universal video conferencing and live chat protocols. Why? As with internet, phone, email or the old text messages there is always app providers coming up with extra features that others don't have. So competition will remain high. But one thing will need to be clear is: basic video and live chat services will need to work across all apps part of the global communication system.
Distant future of Universal Unified Communication
Some of you might be enjoying watching one of the Star Trek TV series or movies or you have in the past. Lot of my ideas on communication that I have outlined in this blog is found in Star Trek. Would it be easy for Jean Luc Picard to communicate between other Earth ships if they didn't have interplanetary unified video conferencing and live chat services? The star fleets "LCARS" database probably used interplanetary agreed-upon video conference and live chat protocols. I believe one of the founding fathers of internet Vint Cerf is working towards a solar system level internet protocols and all its added problems communicating between moving heavenly bodies.
I think if humanity is to setup permanent bases on Moon, Mars and beyond they need to perfect universal video conferencing and live chat protocols that allow anyone in the world to join in on a video meeting or engage in a live chat without trying to download another branded app just to connect.
As we venture into the universe we will need universal video conferencing and universal live chat protocols that are in the video and live chat apps so we can work here on earth more efficiently and work anywhere in our solar system and beyond.
Just imagine how the world could be with universal unified communication both in business and in personal lives! Who will we talk to with these universal unified communication apps in the future?
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All the ideas and concepts in this blog are my own and my own research and are coming out of my mind. To help me formulate some of the more difficult sentences I asked Bing Chat & ChatGPT to enhance the paragraphs and give me with some extra research. So I acknowledge my editor in some parts is a generative ai bot. With my neurodiverse difficulties, generative ai has helped me iron this blog out to completion.