By QUINCEY HOBBS
I have written articles in the past about innovations that were on the verge of enhancing the way that we live. Some have caught on, for example, portable thumb drives, and some have not, such as video e-mail. I still haven’t given up on video e-mail, but one that seems poised to reach its potential is VoIP.
VoIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol is a process that allows users to digitize analog signals and transmit them over the Internet.
You may be thinking big deal. Well, it is looking like it might be just that, a big deal.
Being able to digitize analog signals and transmit them means that, among other things, you can use your computer like a telephone and make phone calls. Oh, did I mention that you could do this for free?
You can download VoIP or IP telephony software from many freeware sites or you can go to skype.com. Web sites such as Skype have had over 32 million downloads because VoIP offers a way to make long distance phone calls while circumventing the costs of making a traditional call through a phone company or long-distance carrier.
VoIP has many traditional phone carriers worried. Many have launched their own or plan to offer their own VoIP services.
VoIP has been around for years, but in the last few years, it has progressed immensely. The transmissions or phone calls a few years ago were choppy and inconsistent, but today it is much better. This is due in part to the diversity in options of employing VoIP.
Instead of being limited to using a computer microphone, sound card, and computer speakers to make a call, users can use traditional looking telephone sets. Although the VoIP telephones look like normal phones, the internal components are different.
These IP phones have the IP telephony hardware and software preinstalled. You need a router and an Ethernet card to connect the IP phone with your computer, and you’re in business. Another method to use VoIP is to buy an analog telephone adapter. This allows you to connect a regular telephone to your computer so that you can use it with VoIP technology.
I can virtually assure you that you will hear progressively more about VoIP in the coming months and years. It will slip into the mainstream in much the same manner as the Internet did.
I will take this time to give you a heads-up on the technology that VoIP will spawn. It is called Wi-Fi IP phones. These phones will allow users to make calls over the Internet using hot spots or locations that broadcast wireless Internet access. I think that the Wi-Fi infrastructure needs to mature before these phones will have an impact, but once it does, watch out cell phones.
Quincey Hobbs has more than 10 years’ experience in information technology including time working with signal routers (hubs) as a switch communications team member, team member of the University of Arizona’s Center for Computing and Information Technology and as an instructor at Pima Community College. E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a fax to Business Editor, 573-4569.