The Evolution of Technology

I think it’s safe to say that even someone not involved in technology today will agree that voice, and the way that we communicate, has radically changed. One of the most common questions I get asked, is “When do you think that Next Generation 911 will become a reality?”

Although many people will say five years, 10 years, or even more I think it’s important to sit back and look at the evolution of technology that has occurred, over the past decade alone, that certainly changes that answer to be something that is very different. For example, I think it’s fair to say that Twitter is a big part of everyone’s life, regardless of the fact if they actually tweet or not. It is become part of our daily lives, and our culture. So much, in fact, that many people today wonder why you can’t send a text message, or tweet, to 911.

So at the same time people are saying that Next Generation 911 is 5 to 10 years out, they are forgetting that Twitter is barely 6 years old with its humble start back in March of 2006 by Jack Dorsey. Just this past February, it was reported that Twitter surpassed 500 million registered users. Were there naysayers back in March of 2006 saying “that tweeter thing is never going to fly!”? I’m sure that there were. But millions saw value, and it became one of the icons of modern pop culture. For many of us, it was our first introduction to Social Media.

Twitter Users
Twitter_Users.png

I can also remember, just after Y2K, we started to play with IP telephony in a serious way. Although voice over IP transport existed at the network level for quite some time, and by that I mean “packetized voice” over an Internet protocol-based transport, VoIP to the desktop was still a rarity and very much a lab project for many companies.

The network folks thought that VoIP was the next best thing since sliced bread, and easily managed as just another application of the network layer. If you ask them their opinion, they would tell you that IP telephony would completely replace the legacy TDM voice architecture in a matter of “5 to 10 years”. If you asked a typical legacy TDM person the same question, they would argue that the requirements of voice on IP network were too challenging for many applications, and that traditional voice would be around “forever”.

As in most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. True, in most applications, mission-critical voice needs to be carefully engineered with the appropriate resiliency, redundancy, and quality of service characteristics before you just toss it into “the cloud”. However, there are so many advantages to IP-based telephony that, even with the additional costs to ensure mission-critical service, there was tremendous savings potential as networks were able to flatten, consolidate and extend their reach.

At the residential level, VoIP is common today in most metropolitan areas. So common, in fact, that there is no perceivable difference to the end-user. Once that paradigm shift took place, VoIP became commoditized. With the commoditization of voice over IP, all of the hype and drama when away.

I think it’s safe to say that today, the device that is revolutionized the way we communicate is the tablet. Your fingers became your mouse, and even the tactile keyboards ultimately gave way to smooth glass. From the size perspective, the iPhone is probably one of the leading examples of a tablet device. On the back end of that device is wireless access in either a public or Wi-Fi environment. In either case, the devices on the network, and has access to network resources, such as VoIP. When size becomes a factor, what have become “normal sized tablets” such as the iPad and iPad2 made their way onto the scene with more desktop real estate. Once again, and ethernet-based device connected to the network running applications for voice over IP.

Avaya saw this trend, and came out with the Flare experience. Whether you’re on a device you hold in your palm, a tablet in front of you, or even your Windows desktop environment, voice has not only become application on the network, but an application on your device. Once the general population starts to accept this paradigm shift in communications, I believe you’ll see communications becoming a part of any device that has conductivity to any network.

How does this all tie into E911?

If you have a device, and you can communicate with others on that device, especially others in the general public, somewhere, someone will need to make an emergency call on that device. For example, see this article on Skype Video calling from your SmartTV. Applications like this on devices we use everyday are going to change the way we communicate with each other. This is where the NG enabled emergency services network is not only going to be desired, is going to be required by the consumer, as more and more people communicate over new and emerging modalities of technology.

Six years ago, none of us knew what a tweet even was. In about 5 minutes, this article will reach thousands of people in an instant using this exact same technology. Based on the speed of adoption of that technology, when do I think that Next Generation 911 will be here? It just might be sooner than you think.

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About Vic Levinson
Telecommunications and IT professional with over 20 years experience in Business Telecommunications. Specializing in voice over IP (VoIP) for business: hosted VoIP, business VoIP phone systems, SIP providers, carriers, T1's - the works. Founded Prime Telecommunications in 1993 and providing business communications solutions. Cloud Applications- everything from hosted network security, hosted Disaster Recovery, hosted printer management, data centers and colocation solutions for businesses.

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