Voice versus Data: where’s it all heading?

    With the rise of new communications channels, mostly online, and the shift to more and more mobile devices, you’d be forgiven for asking if telephones, particularly desktop ones, will soon be consigned to history?

    The short answer is that ‘voice’ still has its place. While a 2018 report by communications regulator Ofcom revealed that mobile calls have fallen for the first time, along with traditional text messaging, a survey from tech firm Spiceworks shows most companies remain committed to their desk phones, with 93 per cent still using them. What’s more, most employees use these as their primary communications device, more so than their smartphones or Skype.


    The power of voice

    It’s fair to say that voice is still a uniquely powerful way to communicate. It is often the perfect choice for a decision or answer, fast. How often do we say, “I was going to write but decided it’d be quicker to call instead?” Think too, of how many times people arrive on a video call but speak and don’t use the video. It’s also great for clarity, because it’s instantaneously two-way.


    Mind the generation gap

    As Generation Z enters the workforce and millennials make up half of it, employers are happily obliging their preference for collaborative apps and platforms. Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Slack and Flock are regularly used where teams work closely, communicating frequently. Design agency Onespacemedia says its use of Slack has cut down on time wasted reviewing long trails of emails and sitting in long meetings. A dedicated channel to post links to websites or upload files is helping the team to be more collaborative and timely developing designs.


    Growth of unified communications

    The trend towards increased use of a range of communications channels is set to continue and not just in the enterprise sector. The growth of unified communications – the integration of all forms of communication, from voice, to data, to video and more – is testament to this. IDC predicts the value of the worldwide market will reach more than 22 billion USD by 2021.

    According to Business Chat Apps in 2018: Top Players and Adoption Plans (Spiceworks) 70 percent of large businesses now use collaborative chat apps, up from 53 percent in 2016. Technology providers in this space are keen to provide choice for customer, so they can collaborate to get the job done, per work situation, per workers’ roles.


    The growing role of artificial intelligence

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to play an important role in how we use voice.

    Already, headway is being made for it to translate and transcribe voice. Google’s latest prototype voice translator translates the words, as well as the tone and cadence of your speech. Obviously, before this becomes commercially available there’s work to be done.


    Where does this leave telephony?

    The global telecoms managed service market is forecast to reach revenues of 26.03 billion USD by 2024. The future is still bright for telephony platforms, IP phones in particular as they’re cheaper and more versatile than analogue phones. Plus, enterprises get the flexibility to utilise their communications infrastructure wherever they’re based in the world, provided there’s sufficient internet connectivity.

    Cloud-based unified communications and collaboration (UCC) is a particularly bright spot in the market with predicted growth of over 10 percent to 2025, as increasing numbers of companies adopt cloud, particularly hybrid cloud.


    Looking ahead

    Unified communications is certainly an apt term, given that, the joined forces of communications technologies are leading us to collaborate and communicate more.

    It will be interesting to see how communications preferences and workforce performance will evolve. It’s a case of ‘watch this space’ or maybe, listen?

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