Like a fine bottle of wine, it gets better with time. This analogy holds true for many things, especially technology. Videoconferencing, for example, has been available since the 1960’s. Early solutions were marketed and targeted at large enterprise users who had the deep pockets to invest in and help fund manufacturer R&D. Steadily over the years, however, videoconferencing solutions have evolved on all sides of the size, price, and feature spectrum. From proprietary and non-proprietary solutions to room-based, desktop and mobile applications, the marketplace has largely loomed from higher-end systems to support hundreds, even thousands, of conference attendees to free, single user desktop and mobile solutions like Skype (News - Alert).
What’s missing in the videoconferencing landscape? There’s an unfulfilled market gap and need for more vendors pushing the envelope with mid-tier SMB-focused solutions. In the U.S., with approximately 80 percent of U.S. businesses considered small, there’s still a lack of competitive open platform, room-based systems to support a growing number of attendees while having abundant feature availability at an investable price point. As more manufacturers introduce these SIP-based, lower price, mid-market solutions with platform flexibility, prices will be driven down to encourage increased adoption. Sound familiar of the HDTV marketplace?
Obstacles to Adoption
SMBs have shied away or delayed the decision to implement videoconferencing largely because of cost, difficulty of installation, lack of system flexibility/compatibility, and complexity of use – all of which traditionally overshadowed the possible business benefits of videoconferencing.
The challenges that businesses grapple with are the capital investment in large systems. (Will the solution lock them into something for a long period of time?) They may also be concerned about system compatibility and lack of flexibility with different platforms. (Will my system be compatible with my clients system?) Businesses may also wonder if they do invest, will the complexity of use and cost of installation be too daunting?
However, businesses are used to embracing technology to achieve business benefits. With dispersed business work environments, the ability to introduce solutions to support a more collaborative work approach with simple to install and use solutions will help to advance the marketplace and business productivity – and therefore, also advance the global economy.
Open Platform Solutions of the Future
Although videoconferencing has been around for many decades, it’s still an establishing marketplace. System manufacturers built systems to support large enterprise that could afford those solutions to support hundreds, even thousands of users. However, most of these systems were based on single, proprietary networks and platforms.
For an SMB, cost, complexity of use, difficulty of installation, and use of closed platforms that only support proprietary hardware is not an option. The market for more affordable, open standard platforms (vs. proprietary H.323) is ripe and largely non-existent. Building applications on open platforms like videoconferencing is critical to ensure that whatever platform (any SIP or Android (News - Alert) or other) businesses invest in, or interface with, on the network will be compatible with whatever equipment other businesses are using.
Room-Based Solutions Offer Enterprise Features
Single user desktop videoconferencing platforms popular among users are somewhat effective in solving the need for visual communications, however leave a lot to be desired. They’re effective for one-on-one video communication, but not for collaborative meetings.
Moving to a room-based system from the desktop accommodates more attendees (for example, both employees and clients) in multiple locations, while offering more productive and collaborative meetings using multiple large screens. Many room-based systems offer the same ease of use as the desktop applications, so SMBs should not shy away from the migration because of anticipated complications. Instead, businesses can embrace the added benefits from the many new features they’ll encounter, which will allow for more productive and collaborative meetings.
These features include:
• Full HD 1080p video resolution;
• PTZ cameras with powerful optical zooms that are easily and quickly adjustable so that everyone can be easily seen;
• robust audio features that support external speaker/microphones placed centrally on a conference table, including Bluetooth speakers/microphones so that everyone can hear and be easily heard from their seat at the table;
• support for multiple HDTV monitors, which makes meetings highly productive and visual while adding an extra communication element to the video conference
• the ability to share computer screens with all participants – which makes the multiple screen support even more powerful;
• seamless and intuitive user interfaces that can be easily controlled through Bluetooth remotes and mobile devices;
• videoconferencing schedule apps to remind attendees about any meeting before it starts while automatically making a call out to increase attendance and productivity; and
• the ability to combine multiple platforms in one videoconference i.e. SIP and Android, to easily accommodate all participants.
There is a hole in the marketplace for cross platform/open platform systems where SMBs have access to the feature content of the large systems, support a more collaborative work approach, but have the price and ease of use of lower end systems. The easier that manufacturers make all aspects of videoconferencing, from cost to installation to use and compatibility, the easier it will be for businesses to decide that videoconferencing can help their businesses grow and prosper.
Phil Bowers is the global marketing manager for Grandstream Networks.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino