Few days ago, I run onto an interesting interview to Lee Dryburg, the founder of the Emerging Communications Conference, published on the Skype Journal:
Even though one has to take into account that the “pro Skype” statements may result from the context where the interview took place, there remains several interesting points being made that, I am afraid, I resonate with.
“First you’ve got the telephony application itself. Because of the exceptional widespread deployment of the telephone, it’s century long cultural embedment, extreme ease of use and very low barriers to usage, it’s not going away in a big way, at any time least soon. It’s far too big and you’ve got far too much inertia in and around it. However because it’s substantial list of deficiencies grows, what we are seeing emerging and what will gain ever further traction is software based voice-enabled, communication technologies. Interestingly voice may not be the “substrate” of these clients, “relationships” will be, both between people and things.”
Software is going to be the basic infrastructure enabling communications. Clearly, physical transportation of bits is required but all processing is no longer part of the “wiring infrastructure”, it lays at the edges, in terminal and in data centres. Furthermore communications is not focussing on people only but on any combination of people and things.”
“Six years ago, the Skype software client was released. It was the harbinger of change to come. It called into question the need for very expensive dedicated underlying transport networks by pushing edge intelligence into the Codec layer to deal with less than ideal networks. It called into question the need for dedicated telecom hardware in the core network, by using the edge-clients to perform the work in a decentralised fashion. It called into question the inherent limited geographical structuring of telecom operators themselves; software does not face such physical and regulatory boundaries; distribution is relatively zero-cost; and worse still for the operator model, by it’s global footprint, it achieves unprecedented scale.”
I found this statement interesting because it moves the focus from “cheap communications” enabled by Skype to the issue of what is needed to enable communciations, sealing the fate of the switching and control points that have played a central role in telecommunication evolution. Skype, according to Lee, represents just the first tiny step. What’s next is more related to user behaviour and economic models than to technology. Again, there is no downplaying the importance of technology, its continuous evolution is making the shift possible. The point is that the importance moves from technology to its impact.
“Phase two is built around an economic model that puts human time and attention at a premium as opposed to dedicated circuits, specialist hardware and personnel. It’s the opposite of what we experience today with telephony, where human time and attention is wasted; ringing, call queues, voice mail boxes, IVR trees, repetitious verbal transfer of static information such as credit card numbers, call transfers and such like. And that’s just a quick C2B example. C2C has similar lunacy, for example needing to place a telephone call to request a single piece of discrete information or the other person’s location. The economic crisis experienced worldwide is likely to highlight such sources of great inefficiency. Here is another angle to get you thinking, more and more calls originate from a number noted on a Website and yet when the call is placed, no information is passed with the call about what the context of the call. It’s lost, so each end has to orally work more at the beginning that would otherwise be necessary. Billions of minutes are needlessly wasted on a every day globally.”
I am less in synch with this view of human communications efficiency as being the main driver for the change, since to me humans have an extrardinary capability to morph their communications into what is available and make an habit out of that. Voice communication is going to remain the “main communications” medium because we are so used to it. True, by looking at youngster, we see how they communicate more in terms of messages than voice so a generation shift may be happening. I still think that as they grow older, voice communcations will become their main medium. I know I might be very wrong here.
“Phase two is about intention-based economics. It’s focused on fulfilling intentions and desires. Another way of putting it is we no longer need to care about network availability (i.e. “dial tone”), and reaching an endpoint (i.e. A telephone). Network availability and endpoint reachability is assumed. What we care about with intention based economics is human psychology and behavour, both individual and in aggregate. I’m not saying we need to become psychologists and anthropologists. But what we need to build for is access to ever more personal information, i.e. about the human behind the endpoint. Privacy does not exist looking long-term. Ever more personal information is the new currency, which underlies intention-based economics, and people will increasingly trade it for free access to services.”
These concepts of personalization and use of our own information, with a sort of trading between privacy and convenience/service are interesting. They are our motivation at the Future Centre to study issues created by our Digital Life. Let me close this blog by inviting you to read the full interview and come up with your comments. I wish to close with the last statement Lee made in his interview:
“You’re probably wondering what phase two looks like from the point of view of applications? This is where things get very abstract and potentially the prose could get long-winded. But this is not to be unexpected since the foundation is in the abstract with the word “intention.” To try and get a flavour of the phase two application direction, imagine for a start that the demarcation lines between content, information access, entertainment, ecommerce unravel ever further and the result is intrinsically tied to an ever smarter fusion of increasing communication modalities. Now underpin that attention and intention based economics. Now dream a little”.