Video conferencing is on a path to re-invention. No longer limited to dedicated conference room systems, visual collaboration is finding its way onto desktops, phones and tablets, playing an important role in the day to day collaboration between distant workers. So while high-end telepresence systems have plateaued in sales, more companies are using video and more often.
“Companies are constantly trying to expand their geographic horizons in order to get the most out of the regionally diverse market opportunities,” argues Transparence Marketing. “These expansion projects come with several price tags, including operations costs, something that the companies need to reduce to maintain a feasible business structure. At the moment, video conferencing offers one of the best solutions for that.”
Transparency Marketing forecasts video conferencing market to be worth $4.5 billion in 2016, growing to $7.85 billion by the end of 2023. Cloud-based teleconferencing services are driving this by opening up the market to new users who previously did not want the cost or headache of managing conferencing bridges. In the report, on-premise video conferencing systems are forecast to drop to 54% of the market.
The new adopters of visual collaboration are looking beyond the boardroom, and using video for training, customer service and conducting interviews. And it’s not just enterprises: with video-as-a-service available, smaller companies, healthcare providers and the public sector are embracing video.
Video critical to business collaboration
Enterprises by their very nature are geographically dispersed and in our 24/7 connected world users need to communicate as and when. Video has now become better quality, more accessible and integrated into standard business tools such as Skype for Business, increasing visual collaboration. In a 2014 survey, Gigaom found that cloud-based collaborative video conferencing increased employee engagement and productivity. A staggering 87 per cent of remote users said they felt more connected to their team and business processes when using video conferencing.
The Hilti Group, a global provider of systems and services to the construction industry, for example, has adopted video conferencing as part of its digital workspace. It utilizes a fully-managed video system solution from Orange Business Services to connect its highly distributed global team, dramatically cutting travel costs and increasing collaboration and productivity. Hilti employees connect to video conferences with their Microsoft Lync Online clients, which have been globally deployed as part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite. Users can initiate video conferencing sessions from their desktops or mobile devices anywhere in the world via a single client.
Today, users demand an integrated video, audio and content experience, perfect quality, high reliability and personalization, according to Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research. At the same time, IT support wants centralized monitoring and management, easy deployment and integration with other management systems. “Today’s expectations simply cannot be met by a siloed approach where video is treated as a separate island,” he explained. “This is a business tool, not a technology curiosity”.
Putting the user first
For pervasive video deployment as part of the collaboration process, the user must come first, according to Weinstein. Easy access is key to enabling users to connect from any network, on any device and from any location without adding any complexity for the user. “These solutions should put the users first in the discussion, giving presence, IM, video and content with a consistent workflow no matter where they are or no matter how they are accessing the solution,” explained Weinstein. Users should also be able to personalize their video conferencing solution, such as changing settings in the virtual meeting room to match their requirements as part of a truly integrated digital workspace.
What is next
Combining video with other webcast presentation elements, such as PowerPoint slides or other screen sharing applications, has started to make enterprises with a widely dispersed workforce sit up and take notice. The arrival of multi-location video webcasting represents the next step in leveraging online video, according to Wainhouse Research. Two-thirds (66%) of top executives surveyed said that their organization either uses multi-location webcasting today or that they are “very interested” in its implementation.
Integrating technology such as Microsoft HoloLens will set a new bar in video conferencing. HoloLens will, via a built-in headset, let users interact with holograms in the digital workspace. 3D video conferencing is also waiting in the wings.
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Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.