Today's blog / blurb / column / commentary is a little less serious than usual. But it’s Friday, so we can loosen the collar a little bit. So we’re keeping it light in the following discourse / essay / feature / item / piece / story / theme / think-piece / treatise / write-up.
As you might have guessed, I have been staring at a thesaurus today (an online one, of course). I have been trying to figure out what word we will use in the future to describe this Unified Communications identifier that will most certainly make phone numbers obsolete in the next 50 years. Someday a domain name will be to an IP address what a "blank" is to a phone number. I don’t see people in 2060 memorizing or typing 24-digit phone numbers into a DTMF keypad when they implement North American Dialing Plan 2.0. (Disclaimer: There really is no NADP 2.0, but if we're moving from IPv4 to IPv6, won’t we eventually run out of 10-digit NADP phone numbers too?).
My point is that "single number reach," whereby one phone number rings or can ring all of your phones (desk, cell, home) is an interim step to the day when we will no longer have to know anyone’s "phone number" or try to keep track of the phone numbers of our friends, family, or business contacts. If I got a new "single number reach" phone number tomorrow, I would probably have to blast out an email to hundreds of people (if I could remember all the people I should email and actually had everyone's email address) and then each of those people would have to program my new number into their cell phones (or, if Don Draper is reading this, your Rolodex.). This is impractical, but fortunately, help is on the way.
In the future, the device I am using, such as a phone, fax, PC, iPad, cell phone, or refrigerator, will contact a "social authority" (think LinkedIn or Facebook). There I grant this site the authority to share certain information about me with certain other people or groups based on my confirmed affiliation with them. This will then help me "connect" with a person via any number of different communication methods -- calling, emailing, texting, IM'ing, web-camming, poking, tweeting, squaking, squixing, waxing, wimping, or waning. By the way, those last five aren't even real ways to communicate – at least not yet. But it’s certain that there will be many more ways to communicate 50 years from now than there are today.
Just as the domain name system allowed us to type example.com into our browser instead of 192.168.1.254, there will be something that allows us to quickly connect with other people by simply recalling a single piece of social information, be it the name of a person, a group or some other affinity. We will have to keep the "social authority" up to date about all the different ways to reach us and which social affiliations are required to discover each different way. Since our email addresses and phone numbers do change for various reasons (job change, physical relocation, etc.), I don't think this "blank" UC identifier is going to be an actual phone number or an email address. Those things are too one-dimensional. This "blank" will be multi-dimensional and dynamic based on one's presence.
There's one of my favorite words: presence. It's a noun currently used in UC to describe one's ability to communicate at any given moment via any given number of technologies. Would that work? "Good to meet you, I'll shoot you my presence," or "What's your presence?" or "Do you know John's presence?"
See what Matt Brunk from Telecomworx says about the Single Number concept on his No Jitter Blog.