Disruptive technology example: Voice over Internet Protocol, VoIP, business phone service

VoIP=voice over internet. Disruptive technology/innovation=new, ground-breaking product/service on a large scale.

Examples of disruptive innovations are the personal computer, the laptop, mobile phones, emails, online courses and massive open online courses, MOOC. They all interfered with a product/service so that something new became accessible, through a disruptive process.

Sometimes you will experience disruptive technologies or innovations, and VoIP has been such an experience for me and for many others. VoIP was really introduced during the 1990s and available to the masses in the first decade of the 21th century, at least where I live in Sweden. In 2014, when my employer decided to change the business phone solution, and it was time to toss out my old work phone, I decided to capture the moment, as a memento of an era gone by.

The old way of communicating via telephone was known as the public switched telephone network, PSTN, also called plain old telephone service, POTS. The calls were switched back and forth between electrical circuits, and, in a sense, there was always a nonstop, physical electronic connection between the caller and the person that answered the telephone call. You can picture it as an uninterrupted copper wire, with signals going back and forth in a continuous flow. The difference is that internet telephony, from a technical point of view, is not a continuous electronic connection and signals are not sent and received in a continuous flow. Rather they, our voices, are cut into pieces of digital data and are sent as packets over the internet.

A business firm, a university, or any other organisation can run its telephone system over their standard internet connection, even a simple broadband connection. In our daily lives, we use internet broadband for e-mail and for web surfing. VoIP is just another service running over the internet broadband.
There are many benefits of VoIP. There are usually no costs for calls between two VoIP phones, which makes long distance calls less of a budget burden. It is easy to move a VoIP phone to another room or a new geographical location. Simply unplug and move it, as long as you have access to the internet.
With the old technology, you had to pay extra for moving or adding a phone, if it was at all possible to do it. VoIP calls can also be made in different ways, which makes it even more flexible.

You can keep and use your old, traditional phone, together with adapters to hook into the internet and the VoIP systems. Or you can use special VoIP-phones that are made for using the VoIP systems. You can use software on an ordinary computer, to make your calls via your PC or Mac. You can even have a VoIP app on you mobile phone. You are not limited by the number of copper wires that run into your business office. You just need one internet connection and you are only limited by its capacity, i.e. the bandwidth. You do not need to pay for and install a new copper wire each time you add a phone to your office, as long as your internet connection can handle the calls. Another benefit is the fact that VoIP is fully compatible with how the internet is set up and operates, and this is great for business phone systems.
VoIP works with existing applications such as e-mail, web surfing and customer databases. Your VoIP server can take messages, and you can also send instant messages via your VoIP server. This is the big benefit of VoIP: telephones and computers used to be more or less separated, but they now live in the same world, and it results in tons of benefits for firms, authorities, organisations and individuals.

In my example, the hardware is my computer and my headphones, and the software is Microsofts Lync, which is a fairly common programme for business phone solutions. It is not the only way of using IP telephony, but this type of softphone is the business solution that my employer has chosen at the moment. A softphone is software that you install on your PC or Mac to enable your computer to act as a telephone.

Suggested reading
Clayton Christensen’s book and his web site.
Dennis Viehland articles on disruptive innovations in the educational field.

Thank you very much for watching this video.

Copyright: Text and video (including audio) © Kent Löfgren, Sweden.

Photos by the following flickr.com members have been used with permission under CC BY-SA: zigazou76 (00:50), olpc (00:56), waagsociety (00:57), mwichary (01:06), kruemi (01:09), dvanzuijlekom (01:13), fsse-info (02:47), glenbledsoe (03:14), and kim_carpenter_nj (03:40).