Videoconferencing and telepresence have been kicking around for ages, first as stand-alone concepts and then later wrapped into the universal umbrella of unified communications. A number of pieces have recently clicked into place for a surge in videoconferencing usage. It's not going to dump your desktop phone, but more people will start trying videoconferencing and using it when they can.
First, the enabling piece of technology for videoconferencing is the tablet. You can buy an Apple iPad or Android (News - Alert) tablet off-the-shelf, no fuss, no muss, go to the appropriate App store, and with about 5 minutes of work you can conduct videoconferencing via the office Wi-Fi or on the road with a 3G/4G connection. Sure, you've been able to do this with an appropriately-equipped laptop just the same, but the tablet makes the hardware setup lighter, more portable.
I know people love to boast about being able to conduct videoconferencing on a smartphone, but frankly it's an annoying user experience to me. I want something bigger than a small phone and the tablet provides enough real estate for holding a multi-party videoconference with all the players visible on the screen.
App selections for videoconferencing have matured and proliferated. Users can choose from fully closed ecosystems that supply both the client and the conference server/bridge for multiple participants, to selecting a more a la carte open standards approach using SIP and H.323 as a baseline for connecting parties. I lean towards the open standards approach since it allows everyone from a SOHO/mobile user to a full-blown telepresence suite to find ways to connect together.
Finally, you have companies actively promoting interoperability outside of a rigid single-enterprise model. Polycom (News - Alert) has made its RealPresence architecture available as a cloud offering, so service providers will soon offer videoconference bridges on a flexible per use or per-month IP-based offering. CounterPath (News - Alert) and Vidtel have announced an interop agreement, so Bria video clients can now use Vidtel's MeetMe style cloud service to connect via SIP and H.323, either on a flat rate or a per-minute basis starting at around 15 cents per minute.
The Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC) has sort of slide under the radar in its efforts to promote standards for interoperability, but I suspect you'll start to hear more about them soon enough in a few months as they bring larger carriers together to provide seamless interoperability for all those expensive corporate telepresence suites deployed around the globe.
What this boils down to is that anyone with a tablet can download an app, get a config email, and be participating in a useful videoconference within 5 minutes. Hopefully, Polycom will start to use their RealPresence technology more proactively to start conducting media and customer briefings via tablet/desktop so everyone can gain more experience with videoconferencing.
To find out more about Polycom, visit the company at ITEXPO East 2012. To be held Jan. 31- Feb. 3 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Fla., ITEXPO (News - Alert) is the world’s premier IP communications event. Visit Polycom in booth # 806A. Jeff Rodman, Co-Founder and CTO of Polycom, is speaking during “HD Voice: Improving Voice Quality to Meet Demands of U.S. Customers.” Stefan Karapetkov (News - Alert), Emerging Technologies Director at Polycom, is speaking during “Beyond travel avoidance – the real value of HD videoconferencing and collaboration.” For more information on ITEXPO registration, click here.
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Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TMCnet and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell