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Vive la video revolution!

Robert Lattuca | March 21, 2011
If the technology works, why is video not an everyday part of working life?

The ‘age of video’ has been predicted many times before. In the past, hardware and equipment was far too cumbersome for people to have in their homes or offices, and the streaming rate – the 1956 version operated at a rate of one frame every two seconds – was too slow. The quality never caught up to that of television – and that’s the stumbling block. The early video phones were very similar to small television sets, which immediately sparked comparison with the technically superior TV shows that consumers were becoming used to.

However, the quick take-up of Skype suggests that the quality is now sufficient to enable a smooth experience that customers enjoy. This standard of video quality that is acceptable to the consumer can be exceeded for enterprise delivery.

Accessibility an issue in the enterprise
As the push from the consumer sphere begins to affect the enterprise, it is important to identify why even the most technologically advanced corporations in the world haven’t yet sparked a massive take-up in the new technology.

In part, the answer is that there was never a driving need. While companies were prosperous, money spent on travel and international mobile communications didn’t represent an unbearable cost – and it was far outweighed by the fact that they could meet face-to-face with important clients, partners or prospects. In addition, costly ISDN lines not only made a prohibitive barrier but also limited the bandwidth that enterprises could assign for their video calls – thus limiting the frames-per-second and the real-life feel that it was supposed to replace. However, the quality has been significantly enhanced for more than five years now, so what other problems is video facing?

Video has never been integrated into the business as part of its overall communications infrastructure. Partly as a result of its ISDN history and partly because of the culture for video conferencing, the channel has been – and continues to be – very siloed. Both physically and virtually, video communication is very separated from everyday life within most enterprises. IP has helped to integrate many channels of communication, but video never quite tagged along.

Many companies do have the capability to hold a video conference. However, the equipment to enable it all sits in one boardroom, on one floor of the building. This makes it very inaccessible for the vast majority of employees within the enterprise. Therefore, despite broadband requirements being lower, costs dropping and quality rising significantly, video conferencing did not see a significant take-up.

Video at the touch of a button

For video conferencing to be widely taken up, it needs to be easily available at the desktops of every employee. Video communication is now as easy as clicking the name of the person you want to speak to – as we’re used to doing on telephones, e-mail and Skype – and is available wherever and whenever you need it.

Not only this, but the availability and choice of end-points for the user means that video-communications applications can be personalised to the user and their job role. This means that employees who need individual one-to-one video can achieve this with an in-built webcam. Groups of users can set up conference calls through video – and have webcams that capture a wider area. Finally, the traditional boardroom-style calls are more inclusive, and can be conducted to suit every member of the call – from top executives down.

There is no want for technology and recent world events – geological, meteorological and political – have highlighted the need for more effective international communications. Everything is in place for this to be the start of a bell-curve leading to mainstream take-up. And there are already some ‘early adopters’ starting to establish a culture for video conferencing across the enterprise and are seeing the benefits: travel cost reductions of 70 per cent; €750,000 (about US$1.2 million) savings in international mobile communication costs and €2.9 million (about US$4.6 million) in productivity gains (Based on an enterprise with 5,000 employees – 29.2 per cent of whom, on average are out the office at any one time; Taken from “Business Continuity during a Traffic Crisis” – an Alcatel-Lucent paper, 2010.  Exchange rate (GBP to USD) of 1.6004 as at 17 Mar, 2011).

On top of that, face-to-face remote communication helps enhance relationship management and increase business opportunities. Some major implementers have made more than 50,000 meetings virtual in the first six months of deploying a pervasive video strategy. This can all be obtained through effective unified communications that integrate video as a day-to-day part of their communications strategy.

We have the technology – do we have the mindset?


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