April 2020 Newsletter: Phony Baloney

As we all learn to cope with the stay-at-home orders, many of us have been working from home daily; video telephony (i.e. video teleconferencing or video chat) is one technology we all have learned to use more often. Whether sharing drinks during a happy hour chat, meeting with clients, or discussing a project with coworkers, video telephony has helped us to communicate, share laughs with friends, and keep our businesses thriving.  Read on to learn more about this now-essential technology.

The notion of transmitting images and audio over a cable was independently conceptualized in the late 1870s by multiple people including Alexander Graham Bell, inventor George Carey, and French writer and cartoonist George du Maurier. It took decades for the concept to develop into a useable system and in 1927, Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover spoke from a Washington, DC video booth to a Bell Labs videophone in New York. In 1964, AT&T debuted the Mod 1 Picturephone at the World’s Fair in New York City and made the first transcontinental videocall to Disneyland in California.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that video telephony was made available to the public in the form of “videophones” that transmitted video between units at a low frame rate. Advances in data processing capabilities allowed the development of audio and video encoding schemes to compress data into smaller packets. As high-bandwidth internet telecommunication services were deployed in the late 1990s, video telephony became more practical and widely available, with hardware devices like AT&T VideoPhone 2500 transitioning to software like Skype by the early 2000s. Recent development of smart devices has expanded the availability and capability of video telephony even further to include text chat, screensharing, streaming live video, and increased numbers of users.

Data security has become increasingly important with widespread use. While a bad actor stands to gain very little by snooping through the cat videos you’ve shared with friends, there is real concern with keeping encryption keys secure, keeping private accounts private, and preventing “video-bombing” of in-progress meetings. Data mining is another key concern, which is tied into the use of cookies to obtain data such as browsing history, passwords, addresses, bank account information, and more. In response to heightened privacy concerns, many providers have stepped up their security features.

Video telephony is useful for a range of applications: telecommunication for the hearing-impaired, education, telemedicine, meetings and conferences, and news media broadcasts. In social settings, video telephony is used in place of audio-only calls, to play video or board games, and in recent days to host gatherings of people who are unable to meet in person. Businesses which have transitioned their employees to working remotely are able to continue operating and to help keep our economic engines turning, the importance of which cannot be understated.

As you sit down to chat with your coworkers, friends, and family over the upcoming weeks and months, be thankful that video telephony can help keep us connected and the world turning
March 2020 Newsletter: 100 Proof Advice