Harnessing the Power of Real-Time Communications in a Fast-Paced World
In the last few decades alone, the world has changed so significantly that, there are people alive today that don’t entirely understand how to exist in what the world has evolved into. Our lives have become faster-paced than ever before, making us all the more impatient with each advance in technology.
Communication is something that people now expect to be an instant process. Who has time to wait these days? We all want instant gratification, and so we’ve invented gadgets, business models, and additional technology to help us survive in this fast-paced world. From fast food to instant money to virtual reality and beyond, there is more technology available today than we could begin to grasp, at least not fully.
While the telephone will always be a popular way of getting in touch with someone, even that has evolved significantly over the years. No one likes getting sent to voicemail and (gasp!) having to wait for a return call. And, traditional means of written communication such as typed or written letters don’t even come close to satisfying our insatiable need for instant communication. Instead of paper, pens, and envelopes, we use emails, smartphones, and additional technology to connect with each other in real-time.
What is Real-Time Communication?
Simply put, real-time communication allows two or more parties to exchange information at the same time, without any latency. The more technical definition describes the term as “the simultaneous exchange of information using any telecommunications service involving a sender and a receiver with negligible latency.”
Today, there are several means of telecommunications that are in real-time, some of which include:
- Mobile phones
- Instant Messaging
- Live Chat (Audio and Video)
While email is considered to be a convenient form of communication, it is not real-time technology, because there is a delay between when information is sent vs. when it is received. In real-time technology, information is not stored anywhere to be read later. The communication is entirely live, with the receiver getting the message as soon as it's sent.
Origin of Real-time Communication
Real-time communication has been a work in progress for a long, long time. Even before the internet came into existence, there was the ARPANET, the predecessor of the internet. The ARPANET came into existence in the year 1969, and since then there has been a constant effort to make the internet faster and faster.
While it may be hard to imagine, when the internet first came into existence, it was significantly slower than it is today. This led scientists to strive to create better technologies to enable even faster communication. However, the first several efforts were incompatible and led nowhere.
Finally, in 2011, the first real-time communications came about, thanks to a combined effort between the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). They created support for API requirements and protocols, making advancements to VoIP technology and the whole communications infrastructure.
Microsoft was the first company to introduce real-time communication features in Windows XP, which included MSN Messenger, Microsoft Office Communicator, Windows Messenger, real-time voice, video chat, and instant messaging.
Today the real-time communications market is very ripe, with several technologies enabling parties to send and receive information instantly. From live chat to video calling to instant messaging services like WeChat and WhatsApp, real-time communications have taken over the world. In fact, real-time communication is more popular today than any other form of communication, proven by the mass use of instant messaging and live chat.
Real-time Communications Applications
Real-time communication can be used in various ways and facilitated by a wide range of technologies. Some common applications of real-time communications are:
WebRTC is one of the first uses of the technology and stands for web real-time communication. Before WebRTC came into existence, several external plugins were needed to enable real-time communication on a web browser. Since its inception, WebRTC been used in numerous applications, some of which include video calling, file sharing, and text chat. Google Hangouts is also an example of WebRTC, as is video chat and any browser to browser communication, for that matter.
OpenTalk is a mobile application that represents a prime example of real-time communications. Not many apps come with a feature where you can talk to new people across the world in real time, without any wait. OpenTalk is one such app where you not only get to connect with several new people anywhere in the world, but you can also have conversations with them in real-time. OpenTalk has grown very popular all over the world and is regularly used by hundreds of people to connect with new people from anywhere and at any time.
Another application which utilizes real-time communications is screen sharing. Screen sharing applications allow people to view someone else's computer screen in real-time. For instance, when you share your computer screen with someone in a different location, that person can view exactly what is happening on your computer in real-time. The technology allows users to show presentations, websites, documents, videos, and anything else on your computer screen, including when you click on links, move files around, type into a text field, and more.
Forums and chat rooms have been around for a long time, and continue to be a popular form of real-time communication. Also referred to as real-time chat, these platforms can be used to make friends or to have a discussion with strangers on any given topic. Most forum and chat room platforms are free and attract hundreds of users every day. Whether you download a chat software program or post in an online forum, these are both examples of real-time communication.
The Future of Real-Time Communication
Experts predict that there will be over 20 billion connected devices, such as phones, PCs, tablets, routers, etc., by the year 2020. Therefore many professionals in the communications sector agree that the internet of things needs to become a real-time communications network. This application can already be seen in some apps like Uber, where a driver and a rider can connect in real-time.
Although real-time communication is still an emerging technology for many consumers, businesses have been using this system for a long time, such as through platforms like Skype, and through use of cloud communication. In the years to come, the demand for real-time communications is only going to grow.
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