If you’ve ever wondered for a moment what might be the most successful new technology of the past decade, you will have guessed incorrectly if your answer is anything other than Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) telephony. While that might be a little surprising, given the fact that so many new and exciting kinds of technology have recently emerged, there isn’t much doubt that VoIP has revolutionized telephony and long-distance calling.
Because it can provide high quality calling over the Internet at little or no cost, it has simply exploded on to the scene with a service that is seemingly impossible to improve upon. For individuals, anyone with a computer, a microphone, and speakers can communicate with friends around the world for free, and for businesses, all the added functionality and features of a VoIP telephone system have lowered costs while providing much more excellent service. How could you go about beating that capability?
Super Long-Distance Calls
The beauty of VoIP technology is that it does not rely on any telephone carrier to make it work, and there are no dedicated phone lines which are necessary to connect any two parties talking to each other from different points. That’s true whether the call is being made across the street or the country – traditional phone lines just aren’t part of the system, and that allows for long-distance calling. This might be stretching the point a bit, but VoIP technology can even be used by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) to make earthbound calls to family and friends.
Of course, there are a couple of slight differences involved with the kinds of long-distance calls made by astronauts on the ISS back to earth. The ISS laptops are connected to the dedicated ISS local area network, and that has the capability of sending and receiving data over the Ku-band antenna installed on the station, whose primary purpose is to exchange payload and video data. The space station laptops have an app loaded on them which permits them to mirror a desktop computer that’s located back on earth, in the control center at Houston.
The mirroring configuration is a requirement because it is absolutely necessary for any Internet content viewed to be seen in a safe environment, and so that no kind of malware or spyware ever has the chance to infiltrate the ISS itself. If any kind of malicious software were ever to be imported on to the ISS, it could create a hazardous situation for anyone on board, since there would be a potential for any and all computer systems to be compromised.
This being the case, the ISS laptops are not directly connected to the Internet but are instead connected to a Houston-based computer which is connected to the Internet. When the ISS is within range of a satellite that can provide coverage, it becomes possible to send and receive computer-based long-distance telephone calls and video exchanges between astronauts and any other town or city on Earth. In fact, such audio and video calls are routinely scheduled for space station members, so that relationships with those back on Earth can be maintained, even while astronauts are in outer space.
It is also very common for space station astronauts to call flight directors and other personnel on their cellphones when there is a reason for doing so. The whole point to enabling this kind of two-way communication is to allow the astronauts to feel as close to a standard setting as possible, so they are not overwhelmed every minute of the day with the realization that they are orbiting the Earth, rather than sitting in a business office somewhere.
What About Land-based Callers?
If you aren’t an astronaut orbiting Earth in the International Space Station, VoIP can still be a tremendous boon to you in your private calls or your business calls. Of course, VoIP isn’t 100% free, because it does cost you whatever your monthly Internet provider bill amounts to, and in a business setting, you’ll end up paying for all the feature-rich services provided by a digital phone service company. Even when there is some expense associated with VoIP technology, it’s far less expensive than using old traditional phone service.
In the future, there seems little doubt that VoIP will become at least one of the dominant technologies used for phone calls and video exchanges, especially given the fact that even now, developers are working on ways to enhance the process and make it even better. As usage around the globe increases, VoIP seems poised to become the leader in digital age communications technology – but there are just a couple issues which are acting to slow down the runaway success of the technology.
VoIP has become so widespread, so inexpensive, and so successful that some concerns about security and regulation have arisen. While these will undoubtedly be addressed, that examination is likely to be painstakingly slow, given the fact that its popularity almost guarantees that VoIP will become a high priority target for the criminal-minded among us, who seemingly enjoy nothing better than taking pot shots at Internet success stories.