Hectic schedules, limited budgets and environmental concerns are increasing the popularity of videoconferencing and telepresence, writes Jeff Prestel, general manager of BT Conferencing's Video Business Unit.
Since its inception in the 1980s, videoconferencing adoption has been steady. However, uptake has been hampered by a perception that it is expensive and of poor quality, but continuously improving technology is changing this.
According to Gartner's 2008 Hype Cycle, video telepresence is one of eight emerging technologies that will "have a transformational business impact and should be strongly considered for adoption by technology planners in the next 10 years".
Gartner found that videoconferencing systems that use high-definition (HD) displays to show life-size images of participants have proven more effective than earlier generations. HD displays can make participants feel like they are actually in the same room as their fellow meeting attendees.
Large-scale adoption of videoconferencing technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in businesses across the globe. There is a model that illustrates the TIME for videoconferencing:
T - Technology refresh
I - Immersive rooms
M - Managed services
E - Environmental focus
Technology refresh refers to the shift in videoconferencing hardware from standard definition to HD, alongside the move from ISDN to IP. This has allowed the quality of video telepresence to improve dramatically. Users can see life-sized versions of their colleagues or clients wherever they are in the world. Real-time interactions and high quality images allow users to read expressions and make decisions, without being in the same room.
What recent adopters have found is that once they have purchased the videoconferencing equipment they require they are using it over and over again. In comparison to the travel and accommodation costs associated with face-to-face meetings, it is a very cost effective option.
Immersive solutions are seeing a massive surge in popularity, since they provide an experience that allows all users to see the same background and meeting scenario, thus feeling like all the meeting attendees are sitting in the same room. This sense of in-room presence makes it easier to connect with others across the globe - without needing to spend thousands on airfares. It also means that interactive services like a 'Question and Answer' session can be managed seamlessly and professionally.
Further growth of managed IT services has been predicted by a number of analyst houses, despite the slowdown in the global economy. The increase in distributed videoconferencing that companies have been experiencing in turn drives the growth of managed services.
The environment has never been of greater concern than it is today. The combination of this desire to protect the environment, alongside the ability of videoconferencing technology to reduce the need for travel and thus drive down CO2 emissions, are one of the main drivers of the technology's adoption.
The time is now for videoconferencing. Businesses across the world are feeling pressure to maintain or increase revenue, while keeping a close eye on costs. Globalisation has meant that there is more need than ever for people to collaborate. With face-to-face meetings proving both expensive and impractical, businesses are looking to videoconferencing to keep their business running in a cost effective manner.