There are colliding forces creating pressure on real time communications platforms, applications, and services, which make our industry more exciting – and scary – than ever.
Exciting because those companies who embrace innovation and practice disruption can develop and launch messaging apps, for example, that can grow virally from zero to several billion subscribers in a year or two.
Exciting because enterprises can replace expensive, clunky, premise-based “phone systems” with communications and collaboration apps that work as well on a smartphone or tablet as they do on a desktop, with exponentially more functionality and flexibility and less cost. Exciting because the service providers who have invested billions into building and supporting both business and consumer networks, including transforming primarily physical networks into virtualized as-a-service platforms, are now able to monetize on their investments, while winding down their legacy infrastructures and write off their related “technical debt.”
Well, scary for all the above reasons for the service providers and enterprises who don’t step up and leverage software, platforms and new applications to compete.
But even more scary, the fast-growing risk of attack, given the expansion of the “attack surface” as we move into a more “IT-like” world with real-time communications as a high-end “data application.”
EVP of Business Development,
While it’s been my annual tradition to celebrate the innovations in an industry I’ve been honored to be a part of for more decades than I wish to highlight, for 2018 I’m going to share the trends I am seeing while traveling most of my time to five continents, honored to be meeting with the top thinkers in real-time communications.
Let’s start with the creativity, innovation and upside, with five happy trends:
#1. People will communicate more, not less. We are addicted to our smartphones and even they are the tip of the iceberg.
#2. People will communicate increasingly inside their own digital worlds. By this I mean, opportunities to talk, screen share, video conference, message, and collaborate are going to be embedded inside experiences, whether gaming, shopping or watching sports.
#3. People at work will work faster and more efficiently with much more intuitive and powerful communications tools, and people at work will be more virtual than physical as more and more learn to excel while working remotely.
#4. Contact centers will completely change, becoming customer engagement hubs, connected way beyond 800 numbers (which are becoming extinct) and phones, with service initiated more and more on social networks, on the web, through self-service guided experiences, and more. And the interactions will be measured and manipulated through Artificial Intelligence engines, like IBM Watson.
#5. People will communicate as naturally with their things as they will with other people, and through their things to other people. The Internet of Things will soar after years of proof-of-concepts, with our customers budgets moving rapidly towards IoT opportunities. The big news that has not received enough attention is the intersection of RTC and IoT. This has already started with voice recognition and personal assistants on the consumer electronics front – but it has only just begun to appear in industrial and “commercial strength” settings where offices and factories yield more when people and machines work in harmony.
It’s a rosy picture, right?
But once again, with this massive growth in communications sessions – whether those are VoIP sessions – CLI sessions – other data sessions – the more we all communicate the greater the opportunity for malicious players to tunnel in and wreak havoc on not only our communications per se, but the applications connected to communications through a tsunami of APIs – and more.
Listen as we now take the five positive trends above and relate them to what in 2018 may be the greatest keyword of all: SECURITY.
#1. The more people communicate, the more transactions there are, and the more people store on their mobile devices including banking info and personal data, the more valuable those devices and that data is. Securing mobile devices will become even more top-of-mind (instead of an afterthought) for consumers and particularly for businesses. Separating private and personal business will be an adjunct trend.
#2. Cyber criminals are extremely sophisticated and developing ways to “listen in” now, not just to grab credit card numbers shown in text files. Software already exists that can “tap” a voice call and understand it has heard a credit card number, expiration date, and special code, transpose that data, store and sell it within seconds. With active listening in the gaming space, for example, a cybercriminal could target young people who are completely unaware that what they are saying can be turned into valuable information, not just to steal identities or money, but to find future human trafficking victims.
#3. With more and more people outside the “prem” of an office, stronger measures via security software need to be taken wherever those employees are. This is where a new “software defined perimeter” comes in, and where software that secures the conversations and collaborations being conducted at work are monitoring and measuring continually, using network automation because doing so manually is an impossible task. Look for a lot more investment in Privileged Access Management as well, as enterprise networks are being made vulnerable by more and more contractors, sub-contractors, and even partners who can intentionally or unintentionally bring down whole networks.
#4. Customer engagement hubs will become increasingly popular and friendly and to serve customers better, mistakes will happen, and attacks will become commonplace. Look for more and more automation in what we used to refer to as “call centers” then “contact centers” including the continued growth of bots, who are likely more reliable and secure than humans, especially when deep machine learning is applied, and the bots get smarter and more systematically “reprogrammed.” Still, talented evil players will find ways to “hack the bots” so once again – securing the entire network stack? Mission critical, from SIP to stern.
#5. Finally, the IoT has been hamstrung for years, in large part because of the fear that the machines will start to control us, and that a connected thing can become the “gateway” into entire systems. This is happening at scale now, when bot nets hack into a smart home security system or even temperature management system, which is connected to the Internet through a home router. Automated bot nets can get in, crack a factory-set password the consumer never bothered to change, then travel through the network, infecting and even permanently destroying other devices and applications. Multiply this by the grave dangers possible when Industrial IoT networks are not secured? Chemical spills, dam breaches, public transportation take downs – and even the destruction of our energy grid, which itself is one big interconnected network.
We can ring in the New Year with enthusiasm – there has never been a more exciting time than this.
The key? Fully understanding the risks that go with the rewards, and working together, as an industry, to foresee and ameliorate those risks using our same gifts for developing software for good to keep our good software out of the hands of evil forces.
We’ve been doing this to some degree with our network security historically (including Ribbon Communications session border controllers).
It’s urgent, now, to evolve the risk management alongside all future digital investments. Let's do our best so it's all good news in 2018, with as little bad as possible.
About The Author:
Patrick Joggerst is the Executive Vice President of Business Development for Ribbon Communications, a secure real-time communications company. Previously, Patrick was EVP of Global Sales & Marketing for GENBAND. He has an accomplished career in communications spanning three decades, having managed sales and marketing organizations for both telecommunications service providers and technology suppliers. Prior to GENBAND, Patrick served as Vice President of Global Sales for BroadSoft, a leading provider of software and services that enable service providers to offer Unified Communications over their IP networks. Patrick also served as the Executive Vice President & General Manager for the Carrier Services & Solutions business unit at Aricent Group, a systems integration and software solutions provider owned by KKR. Earlier positions held by Patrick included: Senior VP of World-Wide Sales at NextPoint Networks (formerly NexTone), EVP of Global Sales and Marketing at Telcordia Technologies, President of PrimeCo PCS, President of Carrier Service at Global Crossing, as well as several executive positions at AT&T. Patrick is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.