Video Communication For The New
BY RUXANDRA ALDEA
In addition to e-mail, ICQ and other instant messaging services are now
widely used in business communication. So looking ahead of the curve for
Internet communication -- what's next? Next generation video communication
solutions over the Internet will complement e-mail and instant messaging,
while being used in applications far beyond the reach of today's ISDN
In comparison to traditional videoconferencing, next generation video
communication technologies mimic instant messaging in that they are
simple, quick, and provide instant and ubiquitous access to communication,
often through a Web browser. In addition, they provide an
enhanced communication experience through face-to-face contact.
The design of these new technologies was inspired by the social
dynamics of how we work. Traditional videoconferencing
systems primarily assumed the need for virtual meetings in a country-to-country or city-to-city
context. These next generation video
communication systems, because of their flexibility, can further expand
into desk-to-desk, floor-to-floor, and building-to-building virtual
communication, just like e-mail or instant messaging.
Making Video As Ubiquitous As Office E-mail
Years ago, early adopters hesitantly
tried e-mail by allocating one terminal per office for electronic
messaging. Later, they found that for e-mail to be effective and make
workers productive, each employee had to have access at their desks. And
e-mail has now expanded beyond the desktop to laptops and wireless
Similarly, for employees to embrace face-to-face video communication,
the application must be moved to the desktop to empower each employee to
use it as part of their daily communication. Next generation Internet
video communication solutions will enable every employee to access it and
use it as easily as they do their phone, e-mail, and instant messaging
Because video communication goes beyond e-mail, text, or voice chat, it
enables easier and more effective communication with customers, simple
demonstration of products through video, and fosters heightened trust and
increased customer faith. The end result is more satisfied customers who
make repeat purchases and feel comfortable recommending your products or services. In conjunction with today's powerful CRM software
solutions, live video help as an advanced customer support solution can
benefit both B-to-B and B-to-C Web sites.
According to Cyber
Dialogue, only 48 percent of small online
businesses are satisfied with customer support offerings. This dissatisfaction directly
results in fewer online purchases. Moreover, Cyber Dialogue's report
found that "formats such as voice support over the Internet and online
meetings or chat rooms appear to be associated with the greatest overall
satisfaction on the part of small business employees." With interactive video, customers gain more trust in the company, while
representatives can answer questions, provide guidance throughout the online
sales cycle, and suggest additional or complementary products.
In addition to customer support and CRM applications, video
communication will benefit the existing user base of online, PC, and
console games where online communications and interactivity are already
established consumer behaviors. The opportunities with the convergence of
video streaming technologies and interactive gaming markets are expanding
as a result of the rapid growth of last mile broadband infrastructure and
mainstream consumer purchases of high-performance computers. In addition,
video game consoles connected to the Internet empower living room game
players to communicate using the same console while engaged in
To the game developer, the potential that exists with next generation video
communication technologies directly translates into greater stickiness and
loyalty for the label, as well as improved competitive positioning through
engaging game applications with integrated face-to-face communication.
Evaluating Next-Gen Video Communication Solutions
When assessing next generation video communication solutions, there are
four criteria that must be met in order to achieve enterprise-wide access:
technical access, economic access, physical access, and cognitive access.
If any of these criteria is missing, the services provided by the solution
are inaccessible, and the success of the deployment is compromised.
In addition, attention must be paid to the reduction of network congestion at the backbone link level through
IP multicast protocols. In order to economize on network bandwidth, IT
managers should select video communication solutions that utilize IP
multicast protocols that provide efficient video communication to a
large numbers of users. In multi-party communication scenarios,
multicast technologies are preferred over unicast technologies because
they conserve network bandwidth through the transmission of individual
packets of digital information to a group of recipients
simultaneously, rather than sending a packet to each user
Technical access criteria are of particular concern at the IT management
level. There must be support for heterogeneous hardware, Internet connectivity, and
devices. IT managers must ensure that the video communication solution
can effectively deal with a wide range of processors and network
connections, from corporate office LAN users, to home
office dial-up users, to mobile wireless users.
The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is an economic access criterion that
should be evaluated at both the IT management level and the executive
Traditionally, enterprises had to make investments not only in
acquiring a videoconferencing system, but they also had to pay premium
prices for maintaining and operating such systems. The high operating
costs were primarily due to requirements for specialized hardware and
network infrastructure, such as private ISDN lines. Lowering the TCO can be achieved through IP-based solutions. IP-based video communication systems are gaining momentum in conjunction with
the gradual upgrades by organizations of their network backbones.
However, many IP-based systems continue to maintain high network
connectivity requirements (such as a T3 line), and therefore remain prohibitive
to many organizations from an economic perspective. For IT managers
looking to lower the operation costs of such systems, the next generation
of video communication technologies will provide for a lower TCO as they
will operate on networks with minimal connectivity requirements, keeping bandwidth costs to a minimum.
Because of the lower TCO associated with next generation solutions,
video communication will also be accessible to smaller businesses with
lower IT budgets and smaller numbers of users.
Just as using Hotmail or other Web-based e-mail systems make an e-mail
account available from anywhere on the Internet, next generation of video
communication technologies will be accessible from anywhere.
Today, this means any desktop computer. But as Internet appliances, game
consoles, PDAs, and palmtops become more connected, they too will be able to
provide instant access to face-to-face communication.
Ubiquitous physical access translates into improved productivity and
satisfaction of mobile workers and telecommuters, encourages more
effective and quicker problem solving, and improves the outcome of tasks
which involve an emotional component or a need for social interaction.
Cognitive access is of particular importance to the end user, as it
largely has to do with how easy and effective it becomes to operate the
system. Video communication solutions that are intuitive, simple to
operate, and that can provide user-friendly interfaces will see higher
Many employees that should be using their company's enterprise
videoconferencing systems don't, because the systems are intimidating. In
employees' minds, the use of these systems is too much of
a disturbance from their regular workflow because they have to reserve the
special room, confirm attendance with all parties, leave their desk, and
take time to set up the equipment. Because of this lack of cognitive
access, these systems often end up going to waste. The next generation of
video communication breaks this barrier, because people
are able to access systems and use them as easily as they send e-mail from their
When looking further into new Internet video communication solutions,
companies should look at a couple of factors that impact ease of use.
One of them is the unique identifier that a user needs to know to locate
and connect with other users within the system. Another one is the amount
of control over system parameters such as video quality, audio fidelity, and
Systems that use large combinations of digits (such as Personal
Identification Numbers, or PINs) as
unique identifiers generally pose challenges to the end user, as these
numbers are almost impossible to remember. A new trend for next generation video
communication systems is to have users identified by a name, which can be
directly managed by the end user. Similarly, just as many people wouldn't
know their ICQ numbers, it is easier for them to remember their ICQ
nickname or their AOL screen name.
Finally, the amount of end user control on parameters such video
quality, audio fidelity, and picture size is important, since users tend to
relate their ability to adjust the system and observe results of those
adjustments with their self-efficacy in operating the system ("Marketing
in Hypermedia Computer-Mediated Environments: Conceptual Foundations,"
by Hoffman and Novak). The higher the amount of end user control, the higher the
user's confidence in their ability to effectively operate the system,
which results in higher usage by the end user and greater return on
investment for the company.
Next generation video communication systems have clearly begun to emulate
and extend the functions of the systems they replace and/or complement,
such as traditional videoconferencing and instant messaging.
The growth in next generation video communication is primarily
attributable to ease of use at affordable prices. This class of Internet
communication products will finally enable penetration of video
communication into the mainstream, while witnessing the long-predicted
revolution in the field of communication.
Ruxandra Aldea is the director of marketing for Eyeball Networks.
Eyeball helps companies advance their online applications and Internet
presence with its interactive video communication solutions for
narrowband, broadband, and wireless networks. The core technology behind
Eyeball's products is the Eyeball Media Delivery Technology, a dynamically
adaptive media delivery technology, giving Internet users optimum video
quality based on available network bandwidth and processor power. For more
information about Eyeball Networks, please visit www.eyeball.com.