It is well accepted that nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and posture are important elements of interpersonal communication. That’s why video conferencing is such a powerful tool for connecting with colleagues and partners over distance. However, there has always been a bit of gap between the technology’s promise and its actual execution.
While business and IT leaders overwhelmingly agree about the collaborative value of video conferencing, enthusiasm has been dampened by persistent cost, complexity and technical barriers. In a Highfive survey of 175 IT professionals across 40 industries, only 17 percent said they are satisfied with their video conferencing solutions.
A common complaint is that it isn’t easy enough. On average, nearly a third of a 30-minute meeting is eaten up just getting the technology to work. Technical glitches and bandwidth constraints can lead to dropped connections, garbled audio and frozen video. Organizations expect better when they pay $10,000 or more for a full-room solution.
All signs point to video conferencing reaching a performance tipping point in 2017, however. Emerging trends are eliminating common technical barriers and leading to solutions that are easy, effective and affordable for businesses of all sizes. These developments include:
Web Real-Time Communication is an open-source application programming interface (API) that enables real-time voice, video and data communications through a web browser. This dramatically simplifies cross-platform communications.
Platform interoperability has always been an issue with video conferencing. Participants are often on disparate systems that use of variety of video coding and decoding (codec) formats. Typically, these various media streams must be translated and converted to a common language through the use of a gateway. However, this is a resource-intensive process that can affect video and audio quality.
WebRTC eliminates all that because the browser contains all the underlying codecs as well as all the required encryption, bandwidth management and NAT/firewall traversal tools.
Hardware codecs are dedicated chips that encode and decode a digital media stream. For a long time, it was really the only way to ensure a quality video session. However, these chips vary from vendor to vendor — there can even be variables between chipsets from the same vendor. That limits customization and creates platform compatibility issues.
Software codecs run on the CPU and were long considered to be too slow for heavy-duty video. However, dramatic improvements in graphics and CPU processing power over the past few years have altered the dynamic. Software codecs now offer more flexibility and more customization at a better price point with no discernible performance penalty.
A growing number of cloud-based solutions offer robust and flexible ways to utilize video conferencing. Video-Conferencing-as-a-Service (VCaaS) solutions allow you to access a feature-rich platform without investing in equipment or the technical resources to maintain and support that equipment.
For companies with existing investments, cloud-based integrations can connect your solution with unified communications and collaboration platforms. For example, integrating Microsoft Skype for Business with a cloud-based video service widens communication to mobile devices, room-based conferencing systems, chat clients and third-party video clients, and even allows audio-bridging for mobile and landlines.
Video conferencing may still be a work in progress, but it is clear that mainstream usage is inevitable. As solutions become more interoperable, reliable and cost-effective, organizations will reap the benefits of a more collaborative environment.