Video Conferencing To Get Smarter, Bigger In 2016

by CXOtoday News Desk    Apr 26, 2016

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Video Conferencing (VC) users are familiar with the two dimensional nature of the technology, and they expect the interaction with their virtual peers to be characterized by high quality audio and grainy video. However, the next two years will force them to revise their opinion of what is possible with VC and embrace some concepts that will definitely stretch their thinking, predicts Compare Business Products (CBP), an online platform that provides comprehensive and objective business product information to buyers at small, medium and large enterprises.

According to a report by CBP based on expert research of leading brand products and prevalent technologies, this shift is inevitable because by definition Video Conferencing is not limited to video screens or static VC equipment. There is plenty of room for innovation, and these breakthroughs will start making waves come 2016. 

The analysis firm Ovum has reported that the Video Conferencing market’s revenue has grown exponentially in the past 4 years, at a compounded annual rate of 5.79%. In 2016, VC will live up to the highest expectations – it will be a platform that completely eliminates geographical boundaries and renders meetings and conversations with virtual team members astonishingly real. 

2015 - A landmark year for VC 

The report notes that 2015 was a year of improvements and widespread adoption. For the very first time, even small companies viewed VC as an integral part of their communication strategy. Moreover, it says, enterprises woke up to the possibility of using Video Conferencing to facilitate training sessions.

Well established retail stores and upscale franchises adopted Video Conferencing systems and set up virtual product displays that allowed their star customers and buyers to receive personalized attention from sales attendants and enjoy the newest product demonstrations without leaving the comfort of their homes. 

Obviously, VC solutions have been paired with Unified Communication (UC) systems to offer the convenience of participant availability checks before the initiation of decent quality video calls from almost any smart device, without prior planning.

In short, Video Conferencing was accepted as an essential part of business’ efforts to bridge the gap between dispersed teams and put remote workers and in-office peers on the same page, and not just as a fad for Fortune 500 companies. 

The paper observes that many experts have hailed 2015 as a tipping point; VC has ‘crossed the chasm’. It has gathered enough momentum to compete with more conventional means of communication and is now focused on adding the bells and whistles that can make video calls a truly immersive experience. 

Popularity and productivity

According to Video Conferencing statistics compiled by Polycom based on a survey that included 1,205 businesses in 17 countries convey some eye-opening and insightful revelations about the growing popularity of Video Conferencing and its impact on the way people work and communicate with each other. 

While even in 2013, email was the most preferred channel of communication for businesses, followed closely by the telephone, this year onwards, the nascent trend of Video Conferencing. 2016 will change this scenario drastically emerging as the most frequently used medium of collaboration and conversation, said Polycom.

Considering that 56% of the executives interviewed by Polycom admitted to participating in at least one video conference of appreciable duration every week, the picture becomes clear – VC will not be trumped by static email or inadequate voice calls. 

Likewise, a whopping 96% of survey participants agreed that Video Conferencing improves productivity. In fact, through the strategic use of VC, the average attention span of conference attendees is lengthened from 23 minutes (on regular calls) to 35 minutes. Additionally, 76% of decision makers use Video Conferencing and recommend it without reservations to their line managers and direct reports.

2016: Time for innovation 

According to CBP research, 2016 will start off on the solid foundation laid by the year of 2015. It is expected that the Video Conferencing market will thrive, driving the greater use of SaaS (Software-as-a-Solution) alternatives and giving many progressive vendors a chance to entice buyers with their features and functionalities. 

If a keyword were to define the VC trends of the coming twelve months, it would be ‘experimentation,’ says the report, as companies will look beyond the standard usage of Video Conferencing solutions for board meetings, and will seek out new and exciting ways to employ its advantages and improve processes. 

Here are some trends listed in the research report.

1. Telepresence 

Telepresence is fascinating. With the growing popularity of VC, technologies offering top notch Telepresence services will find more takers. It should be understood that Video Conferencing will continue to penetrate more and more market segment, but this doesn’t mean that investment in it will reduce all across the board. It just means that the range of options available will broaden. 

Just as small enterprises will be grateful for Video Conferencing apps, giants like HSBC and GlaxoSmithKline will welcome the opportunity to communicate with employees and colleagues in state of the art VC rooms that boast padded walls, surround sound, life-sized HD television screens and the ability to switch focus from one speaker to another or transfer content from the computer of the presenter to the screen with the flick of a finger. 

Most importantly, Telepresence is expected to cut down travel expense by over 90%. Such consistent savings will quickly compensate for the initial financial outlay for such as system. 

2. Proliferation of VC Managers 

It has already been discussed that the number of Video Conferencing vendors is increasing almost every year. But in 2016 and beyond, VC Managers will become just as important. These will be professionals who are trained in the art and science of handling and maintaining the Video Conferencing set-up of a company. They will be responsible for supervising the use of the equipment, checking when parts (and software) may become obsolete, and tracking the latest breakthroughs in the field.

VC Managers will be accountable to the highest decision makers as they help individual teams understand their project goals, and they will customize the Video Conferencing set up to serve company objectives in the best way possible. 

It is expected that this managed service will be offered either by vendors or by independent third party providers who will relieve in-house IT teams from the burden of grappling with the relatively alien hassles of Video Conferencing equipment and the multitude of conference calls during peak hours. 

3. Expected Growth of Mobile Alternatives 

If immersive Video Conferencing is going to be increasingly sought after, the mobile segment will definitely not lag behind. By 2016, VC will be serving two different user types. 

 The decision makers and large firms that will want to work with Telepresence in its best form 

 The representatives and field employees on the go or the startups eager for the convenience of Video Conferencing will most definitely be content with ever improving mobile VC applications. 

Thus, a mobile first strategy will rule the policies and decisions of the second user group, which is defined by a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) savvy workforce that will need to pay attention to the safety of data contained on its smart devices and shared or accessed during video calls with partners and prospects. 

4. SaaS Video Conferencing & Heightened Security 

There is nothing novel about SaaS Video Conferencing, but the trend deserves mention simply because it will continue strengthening for the foreseeable future. In 2015, SaaS Video Conferencing investment rose to 3,579 million dollars, up from 367 million dollars in 2009. 2016 may well see it touch the 4000 million mark. 

Another significant development will be the introduction of better encryption for video streams and password protection for the ‘Shared Files’ section of VC consoles, especially in online account based systems. SaaS has always had the reputation of being more vulnerable than ‘on-premise’ installations, so the ‘cyber security consciousness’ for Video Conferencing will start with cloud based platforms. 

5. 3D Video Conferencing 

It seems to be the stuff of science fiction stories, but three-dimensional Video Conferencing is no longer a distant probability. According to the pioneers of this technology, National Institute of Optics of the National Research Council (INO-CNR) and Quintetto of Pont-Saint-Martin, the means to package and sell holographic Telepresence for a reasonable price is already in the works and may hit the market by the middle of next year. This means that users will be able to converse and collaborate with their peers and colleagues in a setting that will finally blur the line between reality and VR (virtual reality).

Experts believe, tn terms of ROI, 3D VC will bring a sense of urgency to meetings because individuals will actually ‘sit’ around a table and take important decisions. It will bring clarity to conversations. 90% of our communications are non-verbal, picked up from gestures and tone inflections and make Video Conferencing completely ‘immersive’ and render travel for work obsolete.

6. Tighter Coupling with Unified Communication 

It is common knowledge that most Video Conferencing platforms already come equipped with chat boxes and data sharing facilities. What this tighter coupling with UC will make possible is one click access to all essential features with the convenience of VC. So users will be able to check their enterprise’s Presence Directory and based on their role in the hierarchy or the command chain, they will have the option of directly calling peers who have their status set to ‘Available’. They can engage in an impromptu Videoconference, without the need to send out invites and co-ordinate times.

Video Conferencing is a great stand-alone tool, but with Unified Communication it can elevate how businesses go about their daily activities and co-ordinate with dispersed and itinerant workers, it says. 

According to the report, exciting opportunities await businesses that have been using Video Conferencing or are contemplating taking their association with VC a step further. The enterprises that haven’t yet introduced Video Conferencing to their employees will find 2016 to be a challenging year, perhaps the last that they can use emails and phone calls as substitutes without affecting their bottom-line, concludes the report.