Introduction to video conference:
People are running out of time. Forget about the relaxed
restaurant lunches of the past scheduled days in advanced. Today’s lunch
consists of a rushed brown bag meal in front of the computer desk. The
ever-changing technology constantly runs ahead of the business world, and
professionals are trying to catch their breath. They attempt to create more time
by turning to electronic devices. First, it was the telephone, then the fax, now
e-mail, and twenty-four hours in a day is still not enough. However, given the
rapid advances in computer technology, electronic meetings have emerged.
Electronic meetings or video conference is the combination of audio, video, and
communications networking technology (1). video conference includes desktop,
laptop, palmtop, TV-based video conference, and real-time video (2). video conference
allows one person to use his office or home to communicate via
computer with another computer. (the use of video conference is getting momentum
all around the globe.) It also allows a group of people (located in a conference
room) to communicate with other people. Group video conference systems use
television sets as monitors. Generally, video conference enhances
communication, because the recipient can now analyze body language. Moreover, video conference
has been a success, because it saves the business world some
time. Professionals no longer have to travel long distances for a meeting; they
just have to log-in to their computers or walk to the video conference room.
Experts predict that as companies expand their operations and technology
improves, up to 40% of future meetings will be electronic (3).
This paper explains video conference by covering the
history, technology, applications, products, and user experiences. In addition,
this paper will discuss the strengths and weaknesses and future prospects of video conference.
was not always this prevalent. The
concept was visualized over forty years ago, when researchers in the 1920s
wanted to develop a telephone that could see. However, technology was not
advanced enough to link voice to video. The first real videoconference took
place in New York City in 1930. This videoconference used photocells instead of
television and the participants spoke through microphones mounted in sound and
light proof booths (4). Upon the advent of television, the idea of a
"video-phone" began to actually develop. In 1964, AT&T
demonstrated the world’s first digital video telephone called the Picturephone
at the World’s Fair (5). AT&T’s inability to develop a comprehensive and
communications network was a major reason why the technology did not spread.
Digital bandwidth was still a new concept and Picturephone required 1MHz,
so the product was practically impossible to use (6). Fred Haisch, one of the
300 engineers on the Picturephone team, believes human factors such as comfort
level on camera also contributed to the halt of the picturephone (7). In the
1960s, a network capable of transmitting computer data, accessing remote systems
and connecting people so they could communicate and exchange information had not
yet been developed.
Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s foreign companies
began to develop and offer video-telephone products. A Swedish company, L M
Ericsson, created a product, LME, which offered better resolution than the
blurry Picturephone picture. In 1971, Ericsson used the LME for the first
transatlantic video telephone demonstration (8). Three French companies
demonstrated the Vistaphone. In Japan, Hitachi, Toshiba, and Fujitsu
developed video phones of their own. However, despite international
developments, it was not until the early 1990s that desktop video communication
products were available.
In the early 1990s, AT&T introduced five product lines
advancing the desktop video conference system, and PictureTel had already
developed technology improving the picture quality at reduced costs. In 1994,
AT&T announced the WorldWorx service, AT&T’s video network service
offering. By early 1995, AT&T formed alliances with Intel, Apple, IBM, and
Sun Microsystem to provide compatible products complimenting AT&T’s
network services. So, it was not a surprise when AT&T announced, in July of
1995, the world’s first service to make real-time voice, video, and data
communications possible for multiple participants on one call (9).
By the mid 90s, the dropping prices of PCs and their
increasing processing power spurred the development of many PC-based video conference
systems. For example, Intel became involved in the desktop video conference world by late 1995 primarily to create a demand for more
powerful microprocessors. CLI, a major player in room video conference, also
developed a desktop strategy. In 1990, it formed an alliance with AT&T and
PaineWebber eventually lead to the introduction of AT&T’s videophone on
the market. In 1995, Apple Computer developed its own desktop conferencing
system called QuickTime Conferencing. In the same year, Sprint introduced
personal conferencing service.
Progressively, more corporations are using
video conference as a means to communicate with other corporations. Yesterday, secretaries were
typing memos that required days to send. Today, professionals are instantly
communicating messages with a click of one button. Typewriters replaced
handwritten notes, and now, electronic meetings are replacing typewriters.
Today’s technology is allowing professionals to finally catch up their breath.
video conference saves time. This saved time can now be spent achieving more at
work or visiting families. Therefore, video conference has managed to bridge
the gap of not only business relationships but familial relationships, as well.
Technology, Applications and Products
Today’s technology makes video conference
three levels; desktop, or personal computer to personal computer, two site
conference room "cybermeetings" and multiple site conference room
"cybermeetings". The basic methods of gathering, transmitting, and
receiving audio-video information are well established technologies. However, video conference
requires the real-time transfer of large amounts of audio,
video and information data on directed and secure transmission media. Therein
lies the biggest technological obstacle to video conference--the gap between
the communication requirements and the limitations of available communication
infrastructure. "To paraphrase the real estate cliché, the three most
important considerations in video conference are connections, connections,
connections (10)." Most of the technological research and development in
the past years has been dedicated to solving this problem.
The problem arises from the fact that we wish to meet
electronically over long distances. The original telephone network was intended
for the transmission of analog audio signals in the range of 3500 Hz, adequate
for the sound range of the human voice. Since then, long distance telephone
transmission has been digitized, although most of the local phone system still
operates on an analog basis. The telephone system was adapted for the
transmission of digital information through the use of modems
(Modulator/Demodulator). These devices convert analog signals to digital signals
and back again enabling computers, and other devices outputting digital signals,
to communicate over the existing phone network. Modem technology has pushed
bandwidth, or speed of transmission, to about 34,000 bits/sec. Such transmission
speeds impose limitations upon video conference.
The first limitation involves the audio portion of the signal
to be sent. According to "Mainstream video conference, (11)"
digitized sounds use numbers called samples to represent the loudness of a
sound. The range of numbers in a sample primarily determines the signal to noise
ratio. Speech normally uses a 7 bit sample while high fidelity music would use a
16 bit sample. To get a sufficiently good representation of a sound, two samples
per bit are taken. This results in speech requiring 8,000 7 bit samples and
music 44,000 16 bit samples. Digital phone systems are designed to handle the
connection and transmission of many channels of 56,000 (8000 x 7) bits/sec., or
64,000 (8000 x 8) bits/ sec. The former is called "restricted
channels" and is the US standard while the latter is the foreign standard
and is called a B channel bearer. A typical urban phone line can transmit two
channels. At first glance, it would seem that one channel is barely adequate for
voice transmissions and not capable of high fidelity music at all. This
limitation worsens when combined with the video signal requirements.
The second limitation involves video images. Video images are
composed of pixels (picture elements). The North American broadcast system uses
360 to 400 pixels in 480 rows. For video conference, the monitors have a
standard picture consisting of 352 pixels (horizontal resolution) and 288 pixels
(vertical resolution). This results in 101,376 pixels per frame of image. Each
pixel requires 24 bits, 8 each for the three primary colors, red, green and
blue. So, one frame needs 2,433,024 bits (101,376 x 24). To transmit motion, 15
to 30 frames per sec. are needed. Full color motion video could require 73
million bits/sec. or well over 1,000 B channels at 64,000 bits/sec. Full color
motion video appears impossible, if limited to just these numbers.
To overcome the bandwidth or speed limitations of the current
telephone systems, science has turned to two areas: (1)the development of
software-based mathematical computations that can reduce the amount of data
needed to transmit an acceptable audio-video signal and (2)the development of
new transmission media with high bandwidths enabling more data to be carried. In
the first area, the analog signal is filtered, converted to a digital signal and
then passed through a series of coding routines. The coding routines compress
the signal by reducing the samples required and transmitting only the new part
of the previous signal. With the use of several different coding functions, the
normal audio bandwidth for speech (3,300Hz.) can be reduced to a digital signal
requiring only 48,000 to 64,000 bits/sec. Video signals are also filtered and
then converted to a signal that is scaled down so that the resolution
requirements are reduced to 176 x 144 pixels (one quarter of the common
interchange format of 352 x 288) and the sample bit size is reduced from 24 to
16 bits. Temporal filtering reduces the number of frames per sec. from 30 to 15,
just sufficient to maintain fair quality motion. Coding of the video signal
allows less data to be transmitted by only sending that part of the image that
is different from the previous image. All of this compression results in a 50:1
reduction in data requirements, but roughly 23 B-channels would still be needed
for transmission. Further coding arbitrarily reduces the signal requirements to
fit a 2 B- channel system with 15 frames/sec (12). Technology enables us to
actually transmit audio and video signals over the present phone system, but at
the result is a fair to poor quality picture. Future refinements may allow more
compression, yet this is not the best solution to the problem.
The second area science has turned to in order to overcome
bandwidth/speed limitations is the development of new transmission media. New
technology has created media that is capable of much higher transmission speeds
which improve the quality of video conference. Local area networks (LAN) can be
directly connected using digital transmission media and by-passing the ordinary
phone system. This allows the use of much higher speed transmission media such
as coaxial cable or fiber optic cable. These ‘Ethernets" are rated at
10MM bits/sec but usually operate at 5 MM bits/sec. These speeds are reduced
when the distance between PC’s lengthens with connection speeds slowing from
1.544MM bits/sec to only 56k bits/sec (13). This makes LAN practical only over
relatively short distances of 1 to 2 kilometers. Over greater distances, PC’s
are usually connected over the Internet and are once again dependent on the
speed of the phone system media. A common problem arises when traffic is heavy
over packet switched connections such as the Internet or Ethernets. Packets of
data must share the same transmission medium and are often slowed or arrive out
of sequence when traffic is heavy. This results in audio/video presentations
that appear jerky or interrupted (14).
In an effort to avoid the mixed transmission path of
conventional telephone systems which include analog phones, analog circuits and
digital circuits, a new type of telephone circuit is being used that is digital
from point to point. This type of digital connection is called a Basic Rate ISDN
(BRI). ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network and operates on a
circuit switched basis where the connection--once established--is solely
dedicated to that transmission (15). BRI circuits contain two 64,000 bits/sec B
channels and one 16,000 bits/sec D-channel that is used for dialing and other
signaling. The benefits of BRI lines include the complete digital operation, the
availability of a second audio channel, and the advantages offered by the
separate D-channel for signaling (16). Other advanced telephone circuits used in
video conference are the Switched 56, T1 and PRI. A Switched 56 circuit is a
56,000 bits/sec second circuit that can be used in tandem to get comparable
bandwidth to a BRI line A T1 is a high speed circuit rated at 1,544,000 bits/sec
and uses two pairs of telephone wires and are often used to connect distant LAN
segments in the US. PRI stands for Primary Rated ISDN, a circuit that is used in
Europe and Asia and is rated at 1,536,000 bits/sec or the equivalent of 23
B-channels and a 64,000 bits/sec D-channel (17).
has managed to overcome the many
limitations of earlier technologies. With increased demand for video conference, the industry is growing. However, the market is place is
still new, and potential customers need to be informed about the various
products and price structures. With this information, potential users can better
determine the product that best suits them. The paragraphs below describe all
three video conference variations and inform potential users about each
variation’s corresponding video conference products and price. The
information is provided by "Mainstream video conference."
Desktop video conference
For this form of video conferencing, an average modern PC would need the
- Hardware and software to enable connections to other systems in the video
2. Input/Output devices, hardware and software to provide telephone-like,
or better, audio capabilities.
3 Cameras, hardware and software for video capture and coding - decoding.
4. Software to enable collaborative use of the ‘normal" computer
For audio input, a microphone is used. For output, speakers
or headphones are sufficient. In addition to the software which converts the
audio signal to digital, compresses, and encodes the signal, echo cancellation
processing is necessary. (One’s microphone will pick up the other’s voice on
the speaker in the course of a simultaneous conversation.) Most PCs are set up
for only one direction communication and playback; Therefore, they need to be
upgraded to allow full bi-directional capability.
A small camera provides video input, and the PC’s CRT
serves as output display. As both parties are usually seated directly in front
of their respective PCs, there is no need for interactive controls of the audio
and video input. Current software makes multiple site desktop video conference possible and often utilizes a split screen display so all participants can be
Additional products allow participants to share documents and
programming. In document sharing, all parties can view and manipulate the same
document at the same time although some protocol must be observed, so two or
more people do not simultaneously try to edit. In program sharing, all parties
can share the same program to work on the shared document.
Available products include Cu-SeeMe, Connextix’s VideoPhone,
and Intel. Cu-SeeMe was developed for TCP/IP networks and the Internet and is
designed to use algorithms. The product runs on Windows, Windows 95, and
Macintosh computers and allows no more than eight participant windows. The basic
package is offered at approximately $100 per workstation. Connextix supports
video and the QuickCam. Because of the products digital capabilities, the signal
does not need to be converted from analog to digital. It can be used with a
28.8k modem, LAN, or ISDN connections. The package costs approximately $60 per
workstation or $160 when packaged with the QuickCam. Intel’s Proshare VS2000
is both ISDN and LAN-based. The system uses Proshare software to access
windows-based applications and is priced at $1499.
Two Site Room video conference
In this form of video conferencing the area of interest has
expanded from a window to a room perspective, from individuals to groups, from
one position presentation to freedom of movement. Here, the technology is the
same, but more equipment is required. The camera needs to be able to give a room
wide view, have the ability to zoom, and be capable of auto exposure and auto
focus. To facilitate the positioning of the camera’s point of view, the camera
should be motorized and controllable by remote control. Video displays can be
27" diagonal CRT’s with 352 x 288 resolution. A higher resolution is
needed if good images of transmitted documents or computer generated images are
to be obtained. If computer images are used, a scan converter is necessary to
adjust the computer output to the proper proportions on regular TV video.
The audio portion also requires more equipment for room
video conference. Microphones should be directional to focus on what you want
to hear. Microphone input is automatically mixed and extraneous noise is removed
through the use of a noise gate that only opens the microphone when a
sufficiently loud sound is detected. Volume is also automatically controlled to
allow for movement around the microphone. Connections are provided for
additional audio input from telephones, PCs or VCRs. Loud speakers of sufficient
number should be placed around the room to ensure coverage and avoid feedback
problems from microphones.
Additional presentation devices can be integrated into this
form of video conference. Shared overhead projects utilizing fixed overhead
cameras can be used, although the room image is lost when the document viewer is
in use. To avoid this, use a display window on the monitor or multiple display
screens. Specialized projectors can capture documents at very high resolutions
and provide displays at that resolution. Fax machines can be linked to provide
handouts and special converters are available to transmit 35mm slide images.
An updated version of the white erasable presentation board,
called the "whiteboard", allows participants to write on the
whiteboard which automatically saves the notation on the PC for future reference
or editing. Current technology does not allow direct notation on the whiteboard
from one’s PC, although one can project an image onto the whiteboard and work
on that image.
Multiple Site Room video conference
It is very expensive to connect multiple site systems in the
same manner as two site systems over long distances. The difficulties line in
the two way direct connections between each site participating in the
videoconference. An alternative approach is to use a Multipoint Control Unit
that serves as a network focal point. This star type architecture is configured
so that all data, audio, video, and control data is coded and decoded from all
sites and sent to each site in data streams appropriate to that site. To start a
videoconference using a MCU, each site must be instructed to dial the numbers
corresponding to the assigned ports of the MCU at the designated time (19).
Room-based system products include both two-site and
multiple-site room conferencing. The equipment involved in these systems allow
the system to broadcast from a PC, VCR, or CD player. The Rollabout systems
allow video conference to be used throughout the organization wherever there is
access to a transmission line of sufficient bandwidth. VTEL offers the Smart
Video Conferencing Room System (LC5000) which features a dual monitor
configuration. It allows the user to add on tracking cameras and multipoint
chair control; the cost is approximately $54,000. Intel’s Proshare
Conferencing Teamstation is a group-based conferencing product. The system
includes a high-resolution monitorand a motorized camera. The broadcast system
allows for two individuals to speak without echoing. The system runs
approximately $18,000. MBONE is a virtual network implemented as a subset of the
Internet. It provides multicast video, audio, and shared whiteboard facilities
across the Internet. MBONE provides multi-point connection while preserving
Internet bandwidth through the use of multicasting. MBONE programs run on UNIX
workstations and are freely available on the internet (20).
Much of the same equipment used in two site room
video conference is required for multiple site meetings, as well. However,
additional video displays may be needed depending on the approach used to
conduct a multiple site videoconference; the continuous presence of the object
demands the use of multiple displays. With a voice activated switching approach,
the video is automatically displayed from the site with the strongest audio
signal. A conducted or "chaired" approach allows one site to be the
designated conference conductor who selects the video image seen at the other
sites. This approach could be used with a single or multiple video display. The
technologies applicable to video conference and their availability and future
development is further discussed in appendix I.
User Experiences with Video Conferencing
Millions of Americans alone are taking advantage of the
developments of video conference. Schools, universities, medical professionals,
businesses, and the government are just a few of millions who are utilizing
video conferencing for their long distance communication needs. In order to
improve the quality of videoconferencing, user feedback is important. Through
users’ experiences, technological enhancements are made possible. Industry
players can further develop the convenience and benefits offered by their
products through user experiences. Furthermore, companies have the opportunity
to answer their own questions about their products through the opinions of
Mr. Paul Stockton is a consultant for video conferencing for
Allstar Systems located in Houston, TX. His experience with videoconferencing
has enhanced his professional career and believes the new technology is
benefical. Mr. Stockton states the technology of video conferencing will be the
greatest productivity tool with in the next 10 years. (10)" Video
conferencing is beneficial to corporations as well as to small businesses.
Smaller businesses can take on a leading advantage of competing or communicating
with larger businesses through video conferencing. Businesses can have that
important contract virtually signed on the spot. Mr. Stockton believes video
conferencing allows businesses to be visually seen and heard in "real
time" to locations around the world; this cuts travelling expenses and time
wasted waiting for a plane or a cab. According to Mr. Stockton, one major point
of video conferencing holds true whether your business is small or large:
"If your business purchases a low quality type of delivery system, your
participants at remote sites will end up focusing on the messenger and not on
the message." Mr. Stockton has used Sony’s TriniCom systems and advocates
that model as producing the highest quality of delivery featured in video
conferencing: "Sony’s TriniCom video conferencing systems are targeted to
meet any business need." This wide selection ranges from a personal one to
one communications system (TriniCom 500)--which can turn your desktop PC into a
interactive platform--to a supersite (TriniCom 5100) capable of producing four
remote sites simultaneously, by using its Quartet build in Multipoint
capabilities. The Quartet option on the 5100 model links four sites together in
a single videoconference giving the user the option to view all of the sites at
once on a split screen. To learn more about Sony’s TriniCom video conferencing
models visit Http://www.el.sony.com/SEL/bpg/matrix.bpg.
Mr. Stockton mentioned other big players in video
conferencing besides Sony that he has found "quite useful;" they
include Picture Tel, VTel, CLI, and NEC. He explained the essential basics
needed for videoconferencing to work, regardless of the system used. First, a
camera with video signals of NTSC color and EIA standards is needed. Second, a
monitor with excellent resolution is necessary. Third, a CODEC
(Compression/Depression) device should be used in order to shrink/expand data.
He emphasized the importance of the last item: "Since monitors send out
analog signals, the CODEC device converts the analog signals into a digital
signal and then once its received by a site, the CODEC device converts the
signal back from a digital signal into an analog signal." Additionally, Mr.
Stockton mentioned the need to use a modem with at least with 64 kbps to be able
to receive a picture without any freezing and an ISDN line to be able to send
voice, video, and data simultaneously. For further information about video
conferencing from Mr. Paul Stockton, contact him at Allstar Systems either by
phone at (713) 795-2000 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Another user interviewed was Dr. John Hansen, a professor in
the College of Technology at the University of Houston’s main campus. The
College of Technology’s video conferencing room is equipped with the same
requirements as Mr. Stockton mentioned--cameras, a CODEC device, monitors, and a
64 -384 kbps modem over an ISDN leased line. Dr. Hansen states that the College
of Technology’s video conferencing system can interact with 3 to 4 remote
sites simultaneously and has access to six remote sites at different colleges
across Texas. Dr. Hansen has been teaching distance-learning technology courses
via videoconferencing approximately two years and is also satisfied with its
convenience and benefits but explains that there are some drawbacks. Below is an
excerpt from the brief interview with Dr. Hansen exemplifying his beliefs and
Q: At the beginning before using the equipment, do you remember what
your expectations were from video conferencing?
A: I hoped that I could continue with my normal ways of teaching, being
able to walk around the classroom and interact with my students. I wanted it to
be transparent, as if I was present in the remote site with my students.
Q: Have these expectations been met?
A: No, but I have learned to adapt to the new ways of teaching. With
video conferencing, I have to stand behind the operating platform/podium and
I’m limited to being able to move around the classroom.
Q: How much do you spend in preparation prior to a learning session?
A: For a new course, I’ll spend about four hours in preparation for
every hour that is taught. And if it is a course that I’m currently teaching,
then I will probably spend about two hours in preparation for every hour that is
Q: What are key factors for a successful video conferencing session?
A: Successful key factors are to have a well-organized course outline, be
familiar with the equipment, have the ability to be creative, and last to have
students who are not afraid.
Q: What negative experiences have you had with video conferencing? If
A: The disadvantages that I have experienced with video conferencing is
not being able to connect to a site. Sometimes a connection to a site isn’t
made due to bad weather or mechanical/technical problems with the equipment. We
had one remote site in which we never could get connected to and eventually we
had to drop off-line.
Q: Is there any certain course material you think that shouldn’t be
taught via video conferencing?
A: Yes, I think that any course that requires computers shouldn’t be
taught via video conferencing.
Q: Do you feel that the future of University of Houston’s
instruction is moving towards videoconferencing?
A: Yes, if it is an instruction course containing a lot of communication
and is taught to a small group of people. With distance learning via video
conferencing, students are being able to enroll in courses that may not be
offered at their local area institutions.
Generally, Dr. Hansen’s experience is positive. He feels
videoconferencing will enlarge students’ selection of classes and make
attending class more convenient. The disadvantage of preparing twice as long for
a new course seems to be quite laborious but standard when working with high
technology. And, his negative experience is prevalent among other users, as
well. With videoconferencing technology constantly progressing, these negative
aspects will soon be rectified. Currently, however, the overall experiences of
both professionals is positive and their use videoconferencing technology has
only enriched their careers and the University of Houston.
The University of Houston is not the only higher education
institution turning towards video conferencing for long distance educational
needs. In this February’s issue of "Current Technology" a survey is
conducted by the United States Department of Education titled "Survey on
Distance Education Courses Offered by Higher Education Institutions" (22).
A 20-question survey was given to a representative panel of 1,274 schools to
gather information about the type of classes, technology, and students that are
involved in distance education programs. The list below provides a sample of the
- A third of the schools offer distance education; another quarter plan to
offer it within the next three years.
- Public schools offer distance education courses with much greater
frequency than private schools.
- Two way interactive video and other computer-based technology were the
favored technologies that schools would choose to start or increase in the
next 3 years.
Like most technology, there will be flaws in
videoconferencing operations until the user completely understands how this
technology works. For this reason, potential user education and user feedback is
important. But, the industry will not continue to grow if there is nothing to
encourage development. Therefore, user experience is the gateway to higher-based
technology. The future of videoconferencing will lead to only greater
user-benefits, and the above interviews have demonstrated that even the current
advancements of videoconferencing greatly benefit any user.
Benefits of video-conferencing for business
Videoconferencing combines the computer industry, the
communications industry, and the consumer electronic industry. This combination
connects users to all aspects of the outside world through their home, office,
or on the road. The convenience of this connection has contributed to the growth
of the consumer market for PCs and telecommunication products, which establishes
a market for videoconferencing. As long as users across the globe continue to
"surf the net" and show an interest in these new forms of
communication, the demand for videoconferencing will expand. As
videoconferencing advances, the benefits will better serve businesses. Even
though airplanes will not become a thing of the past, videoconferencing is
becoming a treasured business device. The benefits affect both the business
world and the academic world. The paragraphs below describe the benefits of
Executives no longer have to travel as often across the
country for presentations. The frequency of travelling decreases with
videoconferencing. Therefore, travel and accommodation expenses lessen. The
saved money can be channeled into other areas of the business that can enhance
competition. Most staff can be included in the meetings reducing the cost of
sending messages. Additionally, collaboration on documents through conferencing
reduces the needs and costs for printing, faxing and mailing documents.
Professionals are no longer tied up traveling across the
country repeating the same presentation to different audiences. Long flights and
delays are a foreign concept with videoconferencing, and this timed saved leaves
more time for businesses and its staff to be more productive. Videoconferencing
allows for the simultaneous input of a number of people; this reduces the time
needed for communicating messages. For companies, videoconferencing can improve
the remote job interview process. Staff members can remain in the office while
interviewing various potential employees, and potential employees can remain
where they live while interviewing in different cities. This allots both staff
and potential worker more time to interview with others.
Companies today conduct frequent training sessions on
everything from teaching employees how to use new corporate software to updating
managers on the latest human resource policy. Using videoconferencing systems,
companies can connect their locations via PC in order to share teaching
resources and bring remote sites together. This benefit enhances each training
session nationwide. Additionally, on or off-site video links can keep businesses
in constant contact with their customers and give them a strategic advantage
over their competition.
A delivery medium for distance education programs
The video interactivity enables both teachers and students to
respond to visual cues during the learning interaction. It reduces the isolation
of students studying at a distance. The technology enables the conventional
teaching of lecturing to be delivered at a distance. Furthermore, it provides
instantaneous communication and feedback from afar. Professors can use distance
programming to complement other instructional forms. If televisions are not
available, distance education can also be performed using radio or telephone
Weaknesses of videoconferencing
Videoconferencing improves the way people work and
communicate. However, videoconferencing creates new conditions for preparing for
presentations, because meeting leaders must rehearse longer and get acquainted
with the equipment. This increase in in-depth structure results in a longer
set-up times for conferences and a greater degree of advanced notice and
scheduling for all participants. Video Conferencing also requires that meetings
and training sessions maintain a more disciplined nature (23). With most video
conferencing systems, conferences can loose their focus if participants fail to
follow the structure of the event; this can create problems for the businesses
during later analysis of the presentation. Another disadvantage to
videoconferencing is the self-conscious feeling participants may get as a result
of being on camera; this can affect the natural flow of the presentation.
Additionally, background noise is one of the leading disruptions to most video
conferences. The compressed video images are not high quality images and can
limit the full advantage to be gained from visual cues (24). Site establishment
must take into consideration the availability of ISDN lines to the planned
sites. Therefore, businesses must consider that it may not be possible to
install videoconferencing at a chosen site due to the lack of an ISDN line.
As a medium for delivering education
The capital expenditure needed to establish videoconferencing
sites is very high. Full motion video is relatively expensive to transmit
requiring access to broad bandwidth communications lines. Delivering education
is best used for tutorial type lessons rather than lectures or information
dissemination (25). If the education program is teaching by means of a
teleconference and is over 20 minutes, the hand-held phone can become tedious
and uncomfortable. Although this discomfort is removed when a hands-free phone
is used, it can still be difficult to describe or explain information without
Future of Video Conferencing
Not all companies use videoconferencing technology. However,
the number of companies engaging in electronic meetings is steadily increasing.
As technology advances bandwidth and compression techniques, companies stand to
gain from this growing market. The videoconferencing industry will focus on all
market segments, in order to meet the diverse needs of potential buyers and
expand their market growth. Therefore, both desktop and room-based conference
systems will improve as technology advances. Smaller companies will likely begin
to specialize in targeting specific segments of the market place (26).
As the prices of PC drop, the number of desktop units will
increase in businesses and at homes. This trend will cause videoconferencing to
advance further into the Web generation. As electronic gadgets become more
favorable and convenient, the costs for the technology and communication will
continue to drop. The proliferation in the desktop videoconferencing market and
the globalization of ISDN has also helped popularize this technology (27).
Moreover, videoconferencing equipment in the future will be more and more
common. Although the technology does have its limitations, there are numerous
advantages which more than compensate for this. In this modern world where
business is becoming a global phenomenon, videoconferencing has become the only
efficient alternative to conducting serious business meetings.
Dr. Stephen Shao, Director, Project DIANE Video Network/TSU
OBER explains the future trend of videoconferencing for the 1997 Govenor’s
Economic Summit. This list below summarizes his presentation on the next step of
the videoconferencing industry.
- Expected rapid growth in the business use of desktop video
- Desktop video forecast
- Ongoing quality concerns with Internet and modem-based video solutions
- Large existing installed base of H.320 video
- Internet "pull"
Compressed video using digital telephone services
- Many equipment options and vendor from which to select
- Not quite as good as TV but best quality alternative at present
Future Direction of the Desktop VTC Industry
Inexpensive desktop videoconferencing gives further impetus
for expansion of the Internet community and the growth of Internet traffic (28).
Videoconferencing’s need for high-bandwidth connectivity, such as ISDN lines,
creates a short-term impediment for home use. Nevertheless, the industry moves
full speed ahead and videoconferencing is being used by rapidly increasing
number of people. As ISDN gains popularity, big players are rushing in. For
example, Microsoft has released a Windows 95 ISDN driver to allow use of ISDN on
the Windows 95 desktop. Ths far, the driver has been working well. Meanwhile,
Pacific Telesis and GTE are preparing to lower their monthly ISDN subscription
During the past year alone the major players in the desktop
videoconferencing market have changed. For example, AT&T is dropping out of
business and Sun Microsystem (ShowMe)and SGI(InPerson) find their profit margins
have decreased, thus, lowering the prices (30). On the other hand, new players
are emerging. The common characteristics of these new players include cross
platform capability, open standards, and smaller, better, and faster products.
For example, Netscape communications released CoolTalk and LiveMedia that works
on all major platforms that can run Netscape’s Navigator software. Microsoft
put out the corresponding NetMeeting and ActiveX for free in hopes of grabbing
the leadership of the desktop media standard.
For the High-end VTC units, PictureTel still has good market
share. However, their market share is shrinking and is no longer in a position
to set the VTC standard alone. In fact, Intel is aggressively working to set the
standard by making sure their software is H.320 and T.120 compliant (31). For
serious desktop videoconferencing and application sharing in the PC market,
Intel leads, for the moment. Because Intel refused to consider porting their
Proshare Video System to other platforms, it is not sure how long their
leadership can last. Netscape and Microsoft are catching up. In the new world of
a new release every other month, it is not surprising to see that Intel will
lose its leadership to either Netscape or Microsoft very soon. Future research
will focus on how to integrate the entire range of communication and operations
tools in order to mesh the virtual and physical work environments into a
Progressive companies today are exploring how
videoconferencing can be implemented into their business environments. As with
all new technologies, history has shown that initially these new tools are best
introduced as a shared resource. By encouraging inter-departmental use of
strategically located videoconferencing equipment, companies will be able to
gradually introduce employees to a powerful and cost effective method of
collaboration between remote location. Inevitably, employees will be finding
ways to move the strategy forward by using this resource to become more
productive in their daily work. The videoconferencing industry objective is to
integrate the resources required to become each company’s solution provider.
By the beginning of the new millenium, over half of the business world will
replace old-time organizational culture with the videoconferencing concept.