One of the nice things about living in London is having a good broadband Internet connection at home. After several years with BT I defected to Be. I now get a nominal 24Mb for less than I used to pay for 2Mb. In practice, I get about 17Mb (performance varies with distance from the local BT exchange). This makes it easy to
- Download new Linux distributions and other very large files.
- Use non-proprietary (i.e., SIP not Skype) Voice over Internet telephony: the router from Be has a couple of analog phone jacks. I’ve set up another dedicated London number (with SIPgate, free of charge), and an account with Voxalot (also free) to manage my SIP telephony services. I can still use Skype, but someday all phones will go over the Internet.
- Stream video from the Internet. Very soon I expect to be able to watch and record BBC programs (will the UK have to redefine legally what it means to have a TV for the BBC to go on collecting TV licence fees?).
Today I watched a seminar at Google by Van Jacobson (right), a research fellow at PARC and former chief scientist at Cisco. His basic idea is that the next iteration of the Internet must involve authenticated content being available everywhere. So, the New York Times content, e.g., will not just on the web site of the New York Times, but more diffusely available on the net.
I have seen a lot of poor quality video on the web, including Computer Science classes at Dartmouth where you see the professor but never the screen he refers to all the time. Jacobson’s talk was interesting not only because of the content, but because the packaging was so good. Not just were the camerawork and sound excellent–the audience had two screens and even a person doing sign language. It was even subtitled, with only a few errors (net for NAT e.g.) I have seen some interesting packaging of seminars at Cornell, with the lecturer as a talking head in the corner of a Powerpoint slide. This was just better. Best of all: for content like this to be available to anyone, anyhwere, at any time on the Internet, is a fabulous outcome of the whole continuing communications revolution, both in terms of equal opportunity access to education, but in further bootstrapping this revolution. How long before Google University?
You won’t need to go there, just to have a phone with a screen at least the size of a video iPod and an Internet connection at least some of the time.
The service from SIPgate can be configured to record voice messages and send them as emails, and/or, send you an SMS that you have a voice message (optional, @ 9p/each). You can then dial-in via London and national (0845) numbers to listen to your voice mail, if you wish. Or you can access it for free via the web, of course.
The advantage of a SIP number like this is that, unlike Skype, it can be dialed from any phone, as well as via any SIP client. And, given an Internet link, it can ring anywhere, using any of
- a regular analog phone with an IP adapter (see www.sipura.com e.g., or this)
- a SIP-compatible software client, or
- a fancy digital IP phone, including a wi-fi phone (selection here)
Thus, a SIP number can ring on your desk at home, or your laptop in an airport, or wherever–giving much of the convenience of a mobile, without the cost.
I registered with ENUM. This means that anyone calling my regular London number from a SIP phone will have the call automatically redirected via Voxalot to my new London phone number using Enum routing. All this will happen on the Internet and the call will be completely free. If I’m not at home I can tell Voxalot to redirect to my mobile or voicemail and to do different things according to the time of day of the week.
So, put it all together
You can see where this is heading. Your “phone” will ring but it may not be a call, instead it might be a videostream from a class or an event you’ve signed up for. You can decide to
- watch, if you are at home or on a no-cost wireless connection, e.g., at work. The traffic will go over the wired Internet at no cost, and then to your “phone” via wi-fi
- skip the event and stream it from home storage later, or
- watch it if your wireless data plan makes it affordable to do so
Of course, it may just be a video advertisement from a restaurant you are passing. Geolocation is coming to cellphones, we know. Perhaps we will have BadgerMe / Don’t BadgerMe buttons on our “phones” depending on whether we care to know what special offers are available nearby.