Musk advocates simplicity. We agree. Here's why...
Reimagining things from a new perspective often leads to recognition that simplicity is best. While it’s easy to think this is a new idea, it’s actually centuries-old. And, this matters, because if we want to solve communications challenges, a simple answer is often the most effective – and this will remain true as we move to new kinds of communications services in 5G networks.
Simplicity is absolutely critical to reimagining communications services
A bit of fun this time, but with a serious point. Elon Musk has become a bit of a cult figure, whose utterings on social media have attracted significant (perhaps undue) attention, as was reported in The Economist recently. Rightly or wrongly, this creates a buzz and so Mr Musk has become a go-to poster child when the topic of disruptive thinking comes up.
We saw this recently in an interesting article in UK-based telecoms publication, UC Today. Titled “what if Elon rebuilt communications”. The article muses on what we might expect if someone – like Mr Musk, say – were to reimagine communications experiences and rebuild them from the ground up. This isn’t the place to review the relative merits of his initiatives (let’s just say that Norway is a market leader in the electric car transition J ) , but we can certainly comment on a couple of points raised in this insightful piece.
Integration – an old idea that has become commonplace
Take this for example:
“As many innovators in the comms landscape have already realised, AI can be a valuable tool for improving human communications. For instance, think back to the last time you met someone for the first time. How much better would the experience have been if you knew more about them before the conversation started? Real-time context from relevant sources of data and sentiment analysis could help you skip the small talk and get to what matters, or simply add a little extra value to the discussion.”
Well, that sounds suspiciously like an (augmented) form of what we used to call CTI. We’ve actually been doing this in the enterprise domain for years, connecting call handling systems to other platforms that provide information to enrich a call or to enable content from the call to feed other systems. It’s not new and it doesn’t take a guru to point this out.
While AI is not common – yet - integration via REST or SOAP APIs with CRM platforms is – increasingly so – so while the aspiration is cool, the fact is that it’s based on a long-established principle.
Remember, voice is the root of any communications session
And then there’s this:
“Consider the issue of channel hopping too. Right now, we’re still struggling to move seamlessly between channels of conversation. Wouldn’t it be better to move between video calls, meetings, and voice calls without the friction?”
Yes. We agree, wholeheartedly. We’ve written about this, frequently. This ‘channel hopping’ (a good term) has become a clear issue with users trying to access the same live session, but who struggle to use the same media with a uniform quality of service.
Today, we address this through voice integration across different channels, so that voice becomes the fallback – we’re making some interesting announcements via specific use cases in the coming months – but we’re also researching how this might develop in the context of 5G.
Service continuity is all about balancing simplicity with control and policies
What we’re really talking about here is session or service continuity, combined with universal access. Can I access a given session, given the media available to me? What happens to that session as I move from one domain to another? Is QoS maintained? Do I have priority over other users in the same domain (an issue with critical communications, for example – policy is key to this).
These are not new problems. The approach attributed to Mr Musk – of redefining problems based on “beautifully simple solutions” isn’t new either. In fact, Occam’s Razor has been a useful tool for centuries. It helps us to stand back and consider the simplest way to solve challenges. This really helps, because an immediate answer can often be, well, too complex. We’re working on solving these continuity challenges using the tools available and the different priorities of the service users.
Take a shared video call, for example, that can be perfect when conditions are ideal but what happens when a user delivering a critical healthcare service moves to a 3G network en route to an emergency? How do you balance service requirements against resource availability and variable network coverage?
We’ll solve such challenges by the application of simplicity. Mr Musk may have ideas – many of which have huge merit, but the practical realisation of these problems will require simplicity, as much as anything else, because solutions have to scale effectively and deliver across different domains.
So, one way of enabling better participation in collaborative systems is to give everyone the best connectivity – but that’s expensive and has too many variables to make manageable (‘where are you?’ being a key problem that determines the outcome – context, as we might say today).
Another approach is to identify the lowest common denominator (voice) and uses this as the basic option with incremental levels of new capabilities being added, depending on the connectivity available. In this way, the session would be managed to take account of changing conditions and necessary policies (must the service continue to use video? Or is voice a viable fallback?).
That’s far, far easier – and is the kind of thinking that helps give everyone, not just the few, a better overall experience. The next step is to make it dynamic, so users can move from one set of conditions to another, hopping between domains as permitted and as resources are available.
So, blue sky thinking is great, but let’s not forget that the answer to many problems is already within reach. There may be new gurus and thought-leaders but, as with so many challenges, it turns out that we may already have the tools to solve key issues – some of which may be as relevant today as they were in the 14th century. Worth remembering when trying to cut through hype and focus on what we can really deliver – and how we can make it useful to the intended audience.