Since the first email was sent just under 50 years ago, the internet has continued to transform the way people communicate. Far-flung science fiction dreams of things like video calls in The Jetsons or 2001: A Space Odyssey aren’t just reality — they’re carried out anywhere, anytime between smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Personal communication has never been more ubiquitous, and the possibilities for future innovations are endless.
What’s Happening Now in Personal Communication
Technologies like WebRTC are empowering the personal communication revolution. Enabling real-time communication through simple APIs, web browsers, mobile applications, and connected devices lets them speak to one another without the need to download additional software or plugins. WebRTC allows everything from one-way communication devices like Amazon Alexa to VR-enabled video chat to communicate seamlessly, anywhere in the world.
Market Size: Gartner Perspective on Personal Communication
Personal communications are at an all-time high and show no signs of slowing down. In 2017, nearly one billion WhatsApp users have sent over 55 billion messages — a day. That’s peanuts compared to SMS text messaging, logging upwards of 8 trillion messages a year. However, as Gartner has noted, traditional SMS text messaging may have hit its peak as users flock to mobile messaging platforms like iMessage and Skype. In 2017, Messenger, Facebook’s WebRTC-based text, image, and video messaging platform, logged over 17 billion video chats. Messaging apps are even starting to become more popular than social media itself, positioning themselves as the de-facto place to stay in touch with friends and family.
What Personal Communication is Used For
Personal communication technology typically connects users through text, audio, and video messaging. Thanks to interoperability and open standards, users across any number of platforms can seamlessly send messages between smartphones, tablets, computers, game consoles, one-way communication devices, and even smart internet of things (IoT) devices. Developers also continue to find new ways to enhance modern messaging. For instance, online collaboration tools that enable video conferencing also offer tools like interactive whiteboards to bring users new levels of interactivity.
Thanks to WebRTC, users in virtual reality and augmented reality environments can even experience real-time, 360° video. For businesses, chatbots are offering a powerful way to automate personal communication – and saving incredible amounts of money. In 2016, chatbots powered by technologies like WebRTC were responsible for saving $174 billion in revenue.
Main Concerns with Personal Communication
Some of the most powerful personal communication features WebRTC enables, like encrypted and anonymous messaging, also raise security-related concerns. Private, encrypted conversations may enable users to keep communications to themselves —or, in the case of Uber, may help users skirt legal precedents. Conversations users consider private may not always be so, with bad actors exploiting security flaws to gain access to private conversations in apps like WhatsApp. And, in the most dangerous and well-known examples, terrorists are known to communicate through encrypted messaging platforms, spurring some lawmakers to suggest cracking down on encryption altogether. While the benefits of secure messaging platforms strongly outweigh methods that lack security altogether, developers and governments will need to remain vigilant to ensure personal communication software operates in the public interest.
Where Personal Communication is Headed
The next wave of the revolution in personal communication is predicted to be led by chatbots. In B2B applications, Gartner anticipates that chatbots and virtual assistants will power between 25% and 50%of customer service operations. Because users expect to have personal interactions with businesses for customer service issues, chatbots that offer similar functionality to a live representative offer faster communication without the need to hire additional employees.
Across computers and mobile devices, chatbots are also predicted to replace apps as the top method of interaction. Users are already experiencing app fatigue from having a surplus of app choices whose functionality can be replicated by an automated bot or website. As chatbots become more sophisticated, entering lucrative and technical fields like healthcare and medicine, WebRTC-based chatbots that make real-time communication possible make individual apps that book flights or check your balance seem obsolete.
This post is a continuation on our series on real-time communications and WebRTC verticals. To see previous posts in this series, please check out our first post WebRTC Verticals Series - A Sweeping Introduction.