From Faxing to Mobile Device: The Evolution of the Total Communications Tool

FaxingToday, businesses across the globe can communicate instantly using very large documents faxed directly from a mobile device using a cloud-based online fax service. It's easy to forget that not more than a single generation ago, most people sent business correspondence through the mail and the fax machine was the cutting edge of communications technology.

Not long ago, faxing was the fastest method of moving written material in the world. Instead of mail that took days or weeks, a fax machine shortened the communications cycle to a matter of minutes. The concept behind faxing actually is much older than phone service itself, going back to at least 1843 and shortly after the introduction of the telegraph. Alexander Bain and Frederick Bakewell developed a machine that employed two pendulums for line-by-line scanning of images. The data was then sent over telegraph wires and the image was reconstructed on the other end using chemically treated paper. The first “image telegraph” was in service between Paris and Lyon over a decade before the first working telephone.

In World War II, faxing played a vital role in the fields of intelligence and logistics. Military leaders faxed maps, weather charts and classified information to units far afield. Fax machines were too bulky, messy and difficult to use for most business purposes, though until the 1970's. That's when the International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee (CCITT) created a global standard for communication by fax, called Group 1 fax. Fax machines that used Group 1 protocols could send a one page document (text not images) in a little over 6 minutes and used an analog signal.

By the middle of the 1980's, businesses around the globe had adopted the fax as a necessary communication tool. By that time, Group 4 protocols over digital networks allowed data transmission speeds of more than 28,000 bits per second. Even today, Group 3 and Group 4 fax machines are common in many parts of the world.

The introduction of faxing into the business world allowed a far greater level of detail for all types of communication. Businesses gained the ability to report back to the home office with detailed reports and same day information. Working with customers was considerably simplified by faxing invoices and accepting Request for Quotes (RFQs) with the precise specifications required.

Faxing and Business Computing

The use of computers in business has followed a similar time line as the proliferation of fax machines. At first they were enormous and required a great deal of training to operate. Just as fax machines were becoming business machines in the 1980's, computers changed from giant number crunchers to desktop publishers. The role of the computer in business is changing again. Computers have slowly added capabilities, going from basic data entry to being the lifeblood of organizations. A single computer can now even take the place of many office machines, such as:

  • Teleconference center – Web-based solutions like or allow face-to-face meetings with business partners in different cities or even different countries.
  • Storage room – Document control software allows collaboration and sharing of documents without creating many different versions.
  • Office network – Software hosted within the cloud allows everyone with a log in to access the reports, inventory and customer files from anywhere.
  • Project planner – Deadlines, dependencies, responsibilities and deliverables can all be independently tracked and available to anyone to check the progress of a project.
  • Fax service – send and receive multiple faxes at the same time, even on the road or at home as long as there is an internet connection.

The average office worker now has the technical capability to turn a single computer into a powerful data center using software that runs in the cloud. Remote workers and frequent travelers are now able to keep in touch efficiently from home or the road with a total communications tool.

As computers have shrunk in size and battery life has expanded, laptop computers are becoming more of a mobile office with access to vast resource capacity through software running in the cloud. As computers got lighter and more mobile, fax machines went a different route. Fax machines became heavier and more stationary as they merged with printers and copiers. Today, the typical office fax is likely to be the size of a kitchen stove and require much more training to operate.

Faxing and Email

Fortunately, a cloud-based alternative has arisen to traditional fax machines. Along with rapid developments of software delivered over the web, faxing has begun to merge with the second most important business communication tool: Email.

Email, texting and instant messengers are on the cutting edge of communication tools that operate with lightning speed. Actually, all forms of electronic communication travel at the speed of light – 300,000 km/s – so a message could go all the way around the Earth in a tenth of a second. In practice, messages are delayed by email servers that process large files last or experience network congestion. Still, an email can be dashed off in seconds, as too many of us have realized in hitting the Send button too soon. Laptops, Ultrabooks and mobile devices are the new tools of successful businesses.

The technological developments and adoption rates of email and mobile phones have converged over recent years. With high speed Wi-Fi and cellular data packages, the new mobile worker is able to go anywhere and still send attachments or even set meeting times with instant confirmations.

Faxing and Mobile Communications

Until recently, both email and faxing were office-bound technologies. Both had to be sent out from stationary machines in a traditional office, tied to permanent landlines. Mobile devices and advanced web technology have changed the rules. Fortunately, today's smart phones have more computing power than desktops did just a few years ago, thanks to advanced apps, faster processors, and more flexible operating systems.

Mobile phone usage, particularly smart phone usage, has dramatically increased in just the past few years, radically changing the landscape of Australian business. According to the Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index (AMPLI) survey, conducted by the Digital Industry Association of Australia (DIAA), three out of every four mobile phone users had a smart phone in 2012, which represented a ten percent increase over the previous year. By the middle of this year, the DIAA estimates that 84 percent of mobile phone users will be connecting to the web using their phones.

Using email alone to communicate with prospects has its limitations. For many mobile workers today, the solution is to add a cloud-based fax app onto their mobile device. Frequently, when you make a connection with a prospective customer or supplier, that contact will require additional information or request that certain documents be faxed to them. Arranging the time to return to the office to send a fax can be a real challenge. Coordinating the delivery of an important fax is much easier and more reliable when you have mobile faxing ability. You can use the mobile fax app or send a fax using the traditional email on your phone. Even very large faxes can be sent quickly and efficiently from anywhere thanks to the mBox mobile app. In short, mobile devices need the ability to handle enterprise software, email and faxing in order to operate as a total communications tool.

Specifically, faxing is able to reach traditional industries and smaller markets where email simply cannot. Faxes also are able to capture the attention of busy executives who screen their calls and don't read emails. Sending a fax over email through mBox also allows users to send out very large faxes that could be too big to be handled by the average email server.

Faxing technology that operates through email also automatically handles a host of administrative problems. As faxes arrive, they can be routed to a specific email folder instead of waiting in a fax tray in the office for someone else to pick up or file. Email alerts can be set up to notify you when a particularly important fax arrives. Finding older faxes when you need them is much simpler when you can search right on your computer based on keywords that you have assigned. Lost and misfiled faxes are no longer even a consideration.

As computing power and mobile technology continue to converge, advancements in faxing technology will certainly remain an integral part of the mobile office. The future of the mobile office is a realm of exciting speculation. Quantum computing, for example, is just around the corner, although the question remains what businesses will do with all this excess processing capacity. No matter what comes next, the power of our computers lies with the ability of total communication tools to connect with business partners more efficiently and in greater detail.