What follows is an un-researched flight of fancy
I’m totally over smartphones! I went back to a dumb phone 12 months ago and my old smartphone is now just used as the remote control for Netflix, Viber calls (see below) and occasionally as a map/gps when I go overseas, it doesn’t even have a SIM in it. I’m not the only person either, it seems while the world wants to communicate it is totally over the privacy, complexity and costs involved in doing this. So wouldn’t it would be good to re-envision personal communications with some sort of basic open source text/voice comms.
I was going to go over how a Free Open Source cell like phone could be made as this is actually an incredibly easy technical challenge, all the ingredient technologies are mature and cheap… And lets face it hardware is not really the problem, the RF Spectrum required to do this is pretty well tied up and mobile operators have the communication world by the (proverbial) balls..
I am also tired of really bad call quality, it doesn’t seem to matter if I pay through the nose on a landline or cell phone or make a free call using VOIP the quality of the call is just a dice throw, most probably the cellular companies trying to squeeze as many calls as possible in the bandwidth available to make as much $$$ as possible… Seriously I made International calls in the 80’s that were clearer than most I get now.. Grrrrr!
WiFi is one way around getting rid of the current carrier system. Viber/Skype and a bunch of other IM services can do basic voice and text just using WiFi and VOIP (Voice Over IP) there are a lot (well 6 that I could find) of Open source alternatives such as JitSi/Vox/Signal etc, plus a full open source VOIP telephone Exchange (or more commonly known as a PBX which stands for Private Branch Exchange) system for VOIP communication called Asterix.
But to make a call to anyone in the world you also need a globally unique ID (A phone number if you like). All the above services require unique ID’s, and because of this you need a central service to ensure yours is unique in the world. Of course none is compatible with the other so Skype can only call Skype and Viber can only call Viber so again we are stuck with several standards!
Just a small segue on why you use a central service
The device at IP address A wants to communicate with the device at IP Address B, but both IP addresses keep changing so the two devices need someone in the middle (the PBX) to keep track of their IP addresses, So Device A creates an account on the PBX server called ID123 and device B creates another account on the same server called ID432. Say “ID123” now wants to talk to “ID432” then “ID123” places a call request or message flag in the PBX central server to the “inbox” of “ID432”. “ID432” will either poll the PBX service regularly or more likely wait for a push request from the PBX and once both are online either route the data messages through the central server or (if possible as more efficiently) make the device IP Address at “ID123” aware of the devices IP Address at “ID432” so they can talk direct without the PBX being involved/tied up. The tricky part in rolling your own comes because of security.
- Your unique ID “ID123” must only be accessible to you! You don’t want another person to be able to send a message or make a phone call as you or read your messages and get your phone calls or the system will fall apart
- Firewalls generally prohibit direct peer-to-peer connectivity and mask IP Addresses, ie my device “ID123” at address 22.214.171.124 could not connect directly to your device “ID432” at address 126.96.36.199 as most likely all the routers ports would be blocked.
- You must keep all this PBX contact information free from Hackers and eavesdroppers like the NSA (insert your baddie organisation of choice here) so everything must be encrypted and free of back-doors and vulnerabilities.
We can get around number #2 with some IP trickery, opening the port or using a central messaging router (a telephone exchange or PBX) or a decentralized PBX which would route packets locally and between exchanges so balancing the load. Asterix is open source PBX software which does just this and the technology is very mature so having an Asterix PBX in say NZ I could go through it to call my buddy down the road but if I wanted to talk to a friend in Australia say it would need to forward the data on to another PBX which my friend is on in that country (just like the old telephone exchanges)
I use Viber for no other reason than my daughter put it on my phone one day and it uses my phone number as its ID, the problem with Viber is nobody else has it and the quality is as good/bad as random can be, the problem with WiFi is you are restricted to where you have coverage, ie town, the office or the home.
So lets say we magically have all the infrastructure in place, and I am fully expecting someone already has. How could you make it all work properly, be cheap and have good quality and not just become failed open source standard number #58. Also who would pay for the security and the exchanges and the bandwidth and more importantly let you use their WiFi, after all there are millions of home routers out there?
So what about yet another crypto currency (lets call it BullS***Coin or BS$ because I’m being facetious) where you make BS$ by providing PBX infrastructure or WiFi Access and charging by the data throughput, and you get more BS$$ for better quality! And you pay out BS$ when you use it. BS$ Prices should never fall too low if the quality was good and prices would never get too high as you would go back to normal phones so no speculation or early adopters making $$$
Maybe someones tried this already, maybe its unworkable.. Who knows? (Who cares?)
My wife and Daughter don’t, they would die without their cell phones and the facebook App 🙁
Anyway.. Just a thought!… Back to Real-life 🙂