VoIP, Pivotal For National Security And Energy Independence
December, 2004 Commentary in Internet Telephony magazine
By Neal Shact
November, 2006 - World wide oil markets were roiling and governments were in a panic today as oil spiked to $140 per barrel following the devastating attack on the Saudi Arabian off-shore loading platform...
This hypothetical incident is certainly within the realm of possibility. As the price of oil surges to $55 per barrel, there is already speculation on the possibility of an oil induced recession.
A national policy of supporting and endorsing VoIP is a simple way to respond to the call for increased energy independence and, at the same time, help conserve energy. VoIP in conjunction with a high-quality, affordable broadband infrastructure, is a key element to the energy conservation program. Its in the national interest, and therefore a key element of national security. Broadband supplies the infrastructure, VoIP supplies the means.
VoIP and broadband technologies facilitate employees working from home while fully integrating them into their offices. For the first time, employees can be present at work without the need to drive for hours. This means taking full economic advantage of their employers investments into productivity tools and software resulting in lower cost phone services. Having widely deployed, high-speed data connection supports not just VoIP (Voice), but a full integration with other MIS systems in the office. This is the infrastructure necessary to support teleworkers so that they can be fully supported and integrated into the workplace.
Now that broadband is becoming increasingly available, significant percentages of the work force are able to seamlessly work from home. If 20 percent of employees work remotely one day a week, it could engender a significant reduction in automobile traffic. The stakes for us as a nation are clear.
The national discussion is bogged down with issues such as taxation and wire tapping, yet it would be far better to have a national discussion about how we can reduce energy needs by widely deploying VoIP.
Though the recent glut of bandwidth seemed to disprove George Gilder's prediction that we would use as much bandwidth as became available, the glut of bandwidth on the market is being absorbed at a rapid rate. New emerging applications and the long-awaited arrival of cost-effective video communications will start gulping bandwidth. But will enough bandwidth to the home be available?
VoIP is critical because of its unique and revolutionary ability to direct or redirect a voice, video, or data call or transmission to any broadband equipped location.
Remote access has emerged as one of the true "Killer Apps" of VoIP. This gives businesses the capability to extend phone service now provided to employees within their facility outward to remote employees or staff working from home or traveling. This is an important step towards extending enterprise communications beyond the walls of the enterprise.
Extending enterprise communications is accomplished by giving remote employees an IP phone or a Softphone. (Softphones are software put onto a PC that allows it to operate as an IP telephone). Add a USB phone or a PC headset, and you have the equivalent of an easily transportable IP phone.
VoIP gives businesses the ability to easily modify the workplace to allow more people to work from home. The socioeconomic changes are profound. There is also ample evidence that workers are more productive and happier by eliminating workplace distractions, eliminating lengthy commute time, and increased flexibility of work hours.
When we as a nation finally get serious about energy independence and reduction of energy consumption, the highest priority will be to reduce the number of people traveling on the road. What better way to reduce energy independence than to get more people off the road and enable them to work from home? Having employees telecommute for a portion of their work week is one of the quickest ways to get there.
Other National Security Interests Of VoIP
Reliability: The reliability of the Internet - a durable and reliable network architecture was vividly demonstrated in lower Manhattan after September 11, 2001. The telephone network, with its dedicated connections and fixed paths took months to restore. The VoIP networks, with their self-healing abilities, quickly routed around failure points practically with no interruption in services.
Media Convergence: Our armed forces and domestic emergency services often find that they have multiple, incompatible communications systems. In an emergency, an Army unit may be coordinating with the Marines or a police unit may be working with a fire department. It is not unusual to find that similar organization have adopted different wireless technologies that operate on different frequencies. These groups often find themselves in an electronic tower of Babel. Worse, these incompatibilities lead to the type of confusion that costs lives. VoIP has inherent media convergence capabilities in this environment mean that if armed forces and domestic emergency workers were all IP enabled these diverse organizations could all communicate using different wireless and wireline systems. Wouldnï¿½t we all be safer if the police radios, PCs, pagers, and phone systems could all be integrated to provide the best possible information to those on the front lines?
New Capabilities: Multiple parties on traditional radio or voice emergency systems also create enormous confusion. It is almost impossible to tell who is talking and what their rank is. Here too, there are VoIP solutions that aid in distinguishing various parties in these large, multiple party environments. DiamondWare, a provider of VoIP audio technologies has been building SIP-based, VoIP battlefield control systems for the U.S. Special Forces. Their battlefield system has two distinguishing characteristics. The first is the ability for each user to place all of the parties in three-dimensional space. Based on their years of developing audio capabilities for PC game simulations, they are experienced at providing users with easy-to-manage capabilities. Each user can use a binaural headset and has desktop tools to position the other members of a conference call into user definable locations in space.
International Competition: There are already a number of countries that are ahead of us in being able to provide their citizenry with faster and cheaper broadband. Countries like Korea and Japan are starting with the advantage of highly concentrated population where it is far easier to wire up and cable condominiums and apartments. Other countries benefit from generous government policies and investment. I just returned from visiting Umea, Sweden; a university town with a population of 100,000, 430 miles North of Stockholm. Despite that remote location, citizens already have access to fiber run directly to the home.
By contrast, in the U.S., we have much slower and more expensive broadband connections. Two key results of these factors is the price of high-speed, fixed-rate connectivity and what capabilities this conduit can be used for. While perhaps adequate for todayï¿½s needs of data and telephony, it remains to be seen whether the services of the future which may include rich media, video and collaboration technologies, will have adequate bandwidth, especially if there are multiple simultaneous users. VoIP deployments are moving faster in developing countries than here. With decades of high-quality TDM infrastructure, we have had less motivation to upgrade our infrastructure to support packetized communications than countries that are installing infrastructure for the first time. It is easy to visualize that in five to 10 years, the U.S. will be one of the last countries to remain on a TDM network.
If the government looked at VoIP in the broader context of global competitiveness and productivity benefits, there might be a stronger rationale and connection between having policies to support broadband adoption and a stronger security infrastructure, as well as reducing the need for people to be on the road driving to work.