the Future of SIP: Moving from Phone Numbers to Unique Identifiers
Today, if you want to stay in touch with someone, you don't need their phone number—you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. You can sign up for new services simply with your email or social media accounts.
You can use VoIP applications like Hangouts or FaceTime to video call family for free, and no phone numbers are required. You might even use a messaging app like WhatsApp or Messenger more than you call or text your contacts.
The common thread? None of these contact methods require using a phone number directly, if at all. So, what if the growing popularity of social media and internet communications continued their path, ultimately eliminating the need for a phone number completely?
We spoke with LightBound's local experts in the field of Hosted PBX, Larry Glass and Brady Rau, who predict that in the not-so-distant future, phone numbers will become obsolete in favor of a more user-friendly option: a unique identifier, or username.
SIP Killed the Landline and Phone Numbers are Next
The move away from phone numbers has roots in SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). SIP allows communication via the Internet using computers or cell phones, reducing costs because calls, apps, and SIP addresses are free.
Many businesses use SIP because of its efficiency, capabilities, and cost-savings. Because of this, landline use is decreasing as VoIP is literally taking over in most areas of the country. You don't need a landline, a phone, or even a phone number to make phone calls anymore—you only need the internet and a unique identifier such as a username.
Some SIP applications require a phone number to sign up for security and identification purposes, but it’s not a necessity. They might also assign you a vanity number, like Google Voice does, that isn't what's actually used to connect the call. That number is only given because it's what people expect and know how to use.
Phone numbers clearly aren't a necessity anymore, even though they're widely accepted as such. What will likely drive the nail in the coffin is the increasing popularity and acceptance of online identities.
Our Online Presence is Becoming Our Primary Identification
You can already use your Facebook ID to log in to almost anything. With the rise of social media apps like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, your identity on these accounts gives you access to other applications on the web or your phone.
For instance, you might have used Facebook to sign up for a new web service, or used LinkedIn to log in to a video conferencing app. Many platforms offer this as a convenience, and even most phones will allow you to sync your contact book with Facebook or your email contact book.
In fact, with some VoIP apps already in existence today, your username is all you need to make a call, proving that phone numbers are already non-essential. Usernames are more user-friendly than phone numbers, easier to remember, and if you're worried about the security of a username, then consider that it could function similarly to cryptocurrency security.
For cryptocurrency, you have a "public key" that grants access for people to pay you, which is connected to your "private key", a sequence that only you know and use to pay other people. A similar security set-up could be used for your unique identifier, where "johnsmithdoe" is public, but your private identifier connected to that username is known only by you.
A Glimpse into the Future
Imagine you're at a networking event and you connect well with “Michael Miller.” Let's say you forgot to ask his unique identifier, but you know you can find his contact information, or he can find yours, by searching for a name much like you'd search for someone on Facebook or LinkedIn.
The most-likely options would appear first, and once you find his unique identifier, "mvmiller01," he can respond to your request to connect according to his preference. He can ignore you, block you, and set what information he shares with you while you can likewise set your own information-sharing limits on the connection.
After you've connected, you don't have to guess if "now is a good time to call," because his information will share his status as "busy," "available," or otherwise. This is called "presence", and it's a major reason companies are adopting the latest PBX and Call Center technology. You also won't have to ask for his email address because you can click a button to email him without even knowing that it's "email@example.com," unless of course he sets his options as such.
Your identifier will act as a unified communications system, combining texting, video, calls, and social media functions all into one, easy-to-use identity. It will be an online, informative, useful presence rather than a stale, unhelpful, and limiting phone number.
Regardless of what identity service or merchant you choose to connect with, and what specific features they offer, you'll still be connecting to people in a way that makes more sense than ever. And meanwhile, your great-grandchild will ask the question, "What's a phone number?", inevitably chuckling at how silly the past seems in retrospect.
Are You Ready for the Future?
What do you think? Will phone numbers soon be a part of the past? While this might not be the exact way the future will unfold, it gives an idea of what we can look forward to with SIP and the likelihood that your future contacts won't ever ask for a number to reach you.
Advancements in technology that make communications easier, more affordable, and user-friendly are certainly something to get excited about, and it's the future we're looking forward to with the doors that SIP opens.
For now, we want to ask about the future of your business—are you ready for a better phone solution? One that saves your business money, time, and frustration? LightBound can help you find a solution to do exactly that. Sign up today for a FREE one-hour consultation and we’ll help you find the phone system or voice solution that is best for your business.