2013 had been an exciting year when it comes to Video Conferencing. The continual growing acceptance of the technology in all corporate verticals coupled with the constant innovation in technology had led to the increasing adoption and deployment of Video Conferencing in many companies.
During the span of time in the existence of Video Conferencing, the technology has mainly been predominantly hardware-based systems deployed over leased lines. With the increase of bandwidth availability with the proliferation of fibre-based internet connection, Video Conferencing is rapidly converging to be part of an expanding function within the scope of an ICT deployment.
On that note, the manufacturers of Video Conferencing equipment are constantly developing more and more powerful codecs that could transmit encode and decode incredibly high quality video and sound in a secured connection by adopting highly efficient protocols such as H.323, H.264 and SIP. The technological improvements to desktop clients and mobile devices (mainly smartphones and tablets) further promote the use of multipoint video conferencing. In fact with its increased processing powers, VoIP and content sharing are now all made possible.
I am no fortune teller, nor do I own any telepathic gifts, but for 2014, based on a technical and professional (as a specialised ICT integrator) point of view, I would predict the 2014 direction and outlook of Video Conferencing in the following area to be as such…
End Points and Codecs
The constant need of new hardware will diminish pretty much from now on. As the trend of the recent developments by the Video Conferencing manufacturers and developers had emphasised their focus developing efforts mainly on software and interfaces that would enhance collaboration and interoperability. This efforts will lead to a scenario whereby hardware, software and technologies, both existing and yet to come, are brought together to work seamlessly and cohesively. The area of improving the overall end user experience shall also be part of their key focus and direction.
Perhaps this year more than any other the need for new hardware and technology is far less prominent. The key emerging technologies, it appears, will not be centred on hardware but around tools that focus on end user experience, collaboration and interoperability. The focus for many VC providers in 2014 will be to bring all of the new and existing technologies, hardware and software, together.
Already now, more and more video conferencing manufacturers and developers are rolling out MCUs and end points with software that can be freely distributed to desktop and mobile clients, allowing every individual user to have HD video conferencing experience. Many such features are easily also made to integrate with other existing UC solutions like Microsoft Lync or softphones, moving closer to total UC&C. With this as a direction, we can expect many legacy and interoperability to be a thing of the past very soon.
Mobility and BYOD
One cannot deny the impact of the advent of Smartphones and tablets in the recent years had actually reshaped the working environment landscape for all organisations. The ease of use, functionality, connectivity and affordability of such devices had contributed to the exponential proliferation of such devices to the point that many now regard such devices as an extension of their own self, much like Filofaxes and digital diaries in the 80s era.
Banking on the already existing and growing users of mobile devices, (laptops, notebooks and ultrabooks included), video conferencing manufacturers and developers are generally acknowledging the importance of getting their software and services to work with their video conferencing solutions. We had already witnessed many such manufacturers and developers scramble to develop and update clients and applications to address interoperability issues, on that note, video conferencing adoption rate will surely be brought to new heights reaching out to yet-to-be adopters and even penetrating verticals.
The buzzword for the past couple of years, “CLOUD”, is still setting off reasonable buzz in the ICT world.
Hosted video conferencing solutions are also gaining traction. Appealing to especially SMEs and organisations who are looking for fuss free, easy to deploy solutions. The reduction in initial capital outlay has been proven to be a deciding factor for many organisations that are turned off by the hassle and need of infrastructure and hardware purchases previously.
Security and the need to project professionalism has also contributed to the shift to Cloud hosted solutions for organisations that previously swear by Skype and Google Hangouts which are touted to be free.
The development of WebRTC also would spur the increase adoption (this applies even to non cloud hosted solutions). The video conferencing solutions developers could just easily develop APIs based on the open sourced based web embedded technology.