Despite the dramatic evolution of computer technology and telecommunications in recent years, the voice quality of the majority of conference calls today hasn’t greatly improved from what was standard in the 1980s. Virtual meetings are still plagued with echo, talk over and other sound quality issues.
In addition, the complex requirements of today’s mobile workforce are not being adequately addressed by conference-bridge technology, even though clear communication and seamless interaction is crucial for efficiency and productivity in 21st-century workplace. (A conference bridge is the software that makes possible the multiple connections between two or more callers linked by phone lines or Internet connections.)
Many business professionals believe that building team chemistry is hampered by technology shortcomings like walkie-talkie sound and frequent dropped calls.
As a result, mobile communications has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to keeping pace with the average knowledge worker who now uses more than three devices and the rising popularity of "bring your own device" policies.
Consumers who demand a better experience are fueling the rapid adoption of a whole new set of standards and platforms. Here are some predictions for how advances in telecommunications will modernize the way people work and interact in coming years.
1. Immersive communications will be the new norm.
A new surround-sound quality sound will be embedded in all kinds of collaboration apps, including virtual brainstorming, instant communication with co-workers and sharing documents in the cloud.
With the rise of cloud-based solutions that make it easy to transition from one device to the next, a new type of audio communications experience will make the high-definition revolution of today seem underwhelming by comparison -- and will usher in a whole new era of collaboration and innovation.
High-definition voice calling, rivaling sound in theaters, will create new opportunities.
According to a new MarketsandMarkets report, the high-definition voice market is expected to reach $2.2 billion in 2019. Skype, which first put high-definition voice on the map, now has competition from Google Voice and WhatsApp, which is expected to soon introduce high-definition voice calling.
Mobile carriers have jumped on the bandwagon as well. T-Mobile introduced high-definition voice at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show conference in Vegas and Sprint followed suit in June with a nationwide rollout of the same capability and a 30-day free trial.
After decades when sound quality was cast aside as a nice-to-have option rather than an expectation, new apps and old-guard mobile carriers are innovating.
2. Augmented reality will no longer be just for gamers.
Business apps will look and behave more like video games with richly layered audio experiences. Conference-calling technology will offer the clarity of high definition plus the context of three-dimensional immersive sound that feels like the experience of sitting at a conference table listening to people speaking in person. Someone to the left will sound like they’re really at the left.
Wainhouse Research conducted an online survey of audio and web conferencing users in April 2012 and found that 2 out of 3 people preferred this sort of rich, contextual sound.
3. BYOD policies will lead to a new conferencing standard.
As more companies embrace the bring your own device phenomenon, employees will increasingly use mobile devices with advanced audio functionality as their primary work devices. This prediction is not surprising when taking into account consumers' use of speakers that wirelessly bring music from mobile devices into homes, meeting the demand for easy access to high-quality audio.
This demand is now rapidly taking hold in the workplace and will likely soon be adopted for conference calls, webinars and other collaborative sessions. The next generation of digital headsets and headphones, even in the most basic form of white iPhone earbuds, will make it easy for employees to harness this functionality comfortably and on the go.
4. Globalization will force communications-tech developers to pivot.
While offshoring made globalization a reality, thanks to instant messaging and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the technology used to communicate and collaborate effectively across borders is still in its infancy.
Today’s highly mobile and distributed workforce will demand solutions that enable a higher level of connection and productivity. As a result, technology providers will need to build solutions that address common challenges such as ensuring clear, crisp sound from workers across borders if they want to stay competitive.
As the market for mobile conference calling and other communications technologies explodes, companies will choose solutions for sound quality and user experience first. Consideration of price will be secondary. This scenario will rapidly spark a new standard in telecom innovation.
See an infographic about some changes expected to come in the world of conferencing calls prepared by my company, Voxeet.