Current Trends in VoIP and How They Affect Your Business
VOIP services are now a mature technology and a widespread staple of many businesses, popular for their quality, rich functionality, versatility, scalability and cost-effectiveness. Below is a description of trends, some well-established and some growing, in VoIP and related technologies. If you have a VoIP business solution or are considering acquiring one, this overview may help you take advantage of the latest opportunities and avoid a couple of risks.
Unified Communications as a Service
Business communications used to involve an array of physical formats and media: paper print sent by snail mail, Xerox and fax machines, photos and videos stored on film, audio transmitted over telephone lines. Nowadays, all that information at its most basic level is encoded in bits, transmitted over networks (more often than not, the Internet), and stored mostly on magnetic storage devices. This convergence of media enables business applications to become a one-stop shop for multiple business communication needs (a.k.a. Unified Communications). For example, conferencing applications such as Skype or Webex simultaneously support audio and video conferencing, text chat, and real-time screen sharing.
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) refers to migrating your communications infrastructure to a private data center or to the cloud, often managed by a third party. This trend is growing in popularity, as it removes the burden of maintenance from the in-house IT team, and allows employees to access applications and data through any internet-connected device.
Integration with Other Business Tools
Today's business management tools can usually integrate with other applications, thanks to cloud-based platforms and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Integrability is one more feature to consider when choosing any business solution. The best VoIP applications can be integrated with other tools such as accounting systems, help desk programs, contact centers and CRM software. This makes for a seamless experience for your support personnel and other users, and speeds up response times you’re your customers.
Artificial Intelligence Applications
The infiltration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into our daily lives is accelerating, affecting a wide range of consumer products, from smart home devices to self-driving cars to the ads we see in a web browser. AI is affecting many software products, and VoIP applications are no exception.
In the near future, AI systems will proactively detect poor quality calls and strive to automatically correct or work around issues such as low bandwidth, high latency and faulty network configuration. AI-powered communication programs will analyze conversations, email and speech patterns to gain valuable insights into customer behavior.
One of the most prominent AI-enabled features of voice systems is automated voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana. Thanks to AI improvements, voice assistants are becoming fully capable of performing information lookup, answering frequently asked questions and directing calls correctly. This frees up human agents to attend to more complex issues.
But the use of voice assistants doesn’t have to be restricted to the customer-facing context. For example, a business voice assistant could facilitate conference calls by responding to voice commands to call or mute participants, retrieve and display documents, and share a participant’s screen. Business voice assistants are expected to become widely adopted by enterprises within the next few years.
Security for VoIP Applications
As with all software applications, security is a concern for VoIP application, and perhaps even more so. As VoIP products continue to gain popularity, the number of attacks on VoIP networks has also continued to rise. Network security is more important than ever as organizations expand their use of VoIP and wireless networks.
If not properly protected, VoIP solution can be subject to malicious attacks such as eavesdropping on unencrypted calls, “toll hacking” (directing international calls through your VoIP server), and SIP trunk hacking (hacking an internal password and making calls by impersonating a user of the company’s SIP trunk). Security officers must ensure that their security products and procedures provide adequate protection for their VoIP and SIP trunking platforms.
Internet of Things
According to research by Siemens, about 26 billion things will be connected to the internet by 2020. We already talk to our phones and computers, and in a few years, you’ll be more likely to talk to your lamps, TVs and coffee pots than push their buttons. In other words, voice commands with be the new medium for controlling most home and business devices, and VoIP software will be the enabling infrastructure.
Phasing Out of POTS
And speaking of “out with the old, in with the new”, we’ll probably be saying goodbye to Plain Old Telephone Systems (POTS) within a decade. Switches for the POTS aren't being made anymore, and the engineers that know how to install and maintain them are reaching retirement. When faced with the aging infrastructure of traditional copper landlines, many telecom companies choose to either replace them with fiber cabling or simply abandon them to invest more in wireless and VoIP networks.
Most businesses have already embraced the versatile, richly-featured VoIP technology. In 2018, an estimated 31% of businesses used VoIP services, and those that don’t soon will, whether by choice or necessity.
As with any rapidly-developing technology, deploying and maintaining a VoIP platform requires at least basic levels of understanding and planning. While there are a few issues that require attention (such as security requirements, phasing out POTS and phasing in 5G), VoIP services promise an exciting horizon of business functionality that, fifty years ago, would have sounded like science fiction!