Having begun to look at the over arching benefits that video conferencing can offer to business and why these will propel it to greater success in 2012, the second part of this article will consider how the technology is likely to develop in the year ahead.
Video Conferencing as Part of Unified Communications
Where video conferencing is likely to make its biggest impact in 2012 is as an integrated component of unified communications strategies. As such, the potential of the technology can be fully realised because unified communications offers the flexibility to combine video conferencing with other communication channels such as emails, instant messaging and collaborative file sharing. Collaborators can therefore easily switch between channels as the situation demands, for example, working together on documentation whilst taking part in video conference meetings.
Unified communications as a whole is forecast to grow at a rate of 18% a year until 2015 according to research by IDC, leading to a market worth $44bn in comparison with the $19bn market seen in 2010, and video conferencing should play a significant role in this success.
Who Will Be Using It?
With the aforementioned benefits and the demands of the current financial climate, many businesses both large and small will be turning to video conferencing as a communications strategy.
Research by Ovum anticipates that there will be a 20% increase in large scale deployments by 2016, suggesting the technology will be adopted by big business organisations in 2012. With the public spending cuts in the UK particularly, Video Conferencing is likely to make an impact in the public sector organisations who are trying to operate within smaller budgets. However, as a scale-able technology it will also remain popular with smaller nimble organisations too who may be less dependent on static office locations and are perhaps unlikely to have the budgets that easily afford long distance travel.
Furthermore, there is a growing market in firms that offer centralised conference locations, such as hotels, providing video conferencing facilities which companies can hire as when the need arises. Although this may still require an element of travel to a nearby facility it can still cut longer distance travel costs whilst not requiring the initial outlay of installing facilities on site.
The technology is also set to continue its growth as a personal communication tool and it is this market which may ultimately end up driving the technology's uptake in the business sector as employees, who are familiar with it from their personal lives, look to how it benefit them in their work lives too.
Advances in Tech
The biggest challenge facing video conferencing in 2012, and most likely the reason behind its anticipated jump in adoption rates in the near future, is that of interoperability. Currently many installations use proprietary protocols and are not cross compatible with other installations. In other words a business may implement video conferencing facilities on two of their sites which can communicate effectively with each other but are then unable to link up with those of their clients, for example, who have employed a different provider and configuration. This has been a historical stumbling block since the technology began to take hold but companies are now beginning to look more seriously at how this can be overcome.
One factor in improving interoperability could well be the move from hardware reliant solutions to more software based ones. Traditionally, video conferencing installations in businesses have tended to involve static conference rooms with the hardware required to conduct meetings over video streams in situ. However, it is believed that the longer term trend is to move first to software based solutions and then ultimately the cloud, which as well as being far cheaper and scale-able than static conference rooms, also allows attendees to join a single meeting from a variety of devices - from their own PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones for example - and therefore from any location, be it their desks or on the move.
A key to this trend, in turn, is the growth in mobile video conferencing with the popularity of services such as Apple’s FaceTime. Indeed, 2012 is set to see the first smartphones released with 1080p video capability for video chat and mobile video calls are only going to become more prevalent as they become more accessible and of a higher quality.
In fact the trends in personal tech are, in broader terms likely to be fundamental to advances in the workplace. High tech devices are now widespread and staff in their personal lives are becoming more and more tech-savvy, particularly around mobile technologies. The solutions they see and use in their home lives can often be applied to improve their business communications and workers are now more likely to understand this potential and recommend solutions themselves.
Furthermore, many workers are looking to utilise their own technology and their own devices in the work place as they often exceed the devices that are made available to them by their employer. This ‘hot’ trend of bring your own device (BYOD) will only further drive advances in cross compatible software based solutions that overcome the hurdles of interoperability mentioned above.
2012 therefore is likely to be a year in which video conferencing really takes a significant step forward as it demonstrates its worth in every area of society, from its familiar business territory to education, public services and social networking. And the more popular it becomes, the greater its flexibility and potential.