Videoconferencing has been used since the end of last millenium. In the early days it was an expensive technology that could be only used over ISDN and in a business environment.
The first wave in growth and usage and adoption has been since the usage op IP technology, making video flexible and raising the quality.
We are now in the midst of the second wave. Better processing power build into codecs, pc, and mobile devices is leading to HD 720p/1080p quality and running these technologies over wifi, internet and making it very flexible to use. The codecs are better resistant to jitter, latency and packetloss giving a better experience anytime, anywhere, any place and now even on any device. Since march this year when apple released the iPad2 (with camera’s) and Samsung the Galaxy tab, video is really taking off and adoption is really imminent.
People can now join conferences from remote locations like via wifi:
- meeting rooms (even when the unit is unavailable)
with technologies like 3G and the upcoming LTE (4G), users can really communicate everywhere as long as there is some kind of network connection. An Extension on voice and video is presence so someone can indicate if they want to be reached, since you cannot and want to be disturbed 24 hours a day, or only for certain people.
Are all the technologies the same? No definitely not, videoconferencing is far from being a standard in the marketplace although several standards do exist. Adhering to standards promises to provide interoperability against the lowest amount of cost and gives flexibility in vendor choice and does not lead to limitations that the other end needs to have the same device or client.
Call Control and Signaling
Standards used in the videoconferencing are H.323 (proven, gets outdated) and SIP for signaling. Note that SIP is actually not a real standard, it provides interoperability between old kinds of vendors but only very a very small subset of features and true interoperability between different platforms must be vendors must be tested and supported on both ends.
Media in video are devices in audio and video. Common audio codecs used are for example G.711 and G.722. Video codecs commonly seen are H.263, H.264.
Standards for presentation sharing in the video world are H.239 for H.323 communications and BFCP for SIP
These codecs are now supported as well already on mobile devices and tablets, through the use of applications like Dinsk, Vippie video as written on in last december 2010 post on Djeek.com. Recent additions the Mirial Clearsea (acquired by Lifesize/Logitech), Polycom, Radvision Scopia and other business vendors are expected to follow on short notice. Cisco has even developed a specific table device called the Cius to support, similar to the Apple methodology having full control over both hardware and software.
This market is rapidly evolving and new technologies are developed on a daily based and new endpoints, software solutions and tablets are brought out on a day by day basis. One standard to follow is the H.265 codec, a follow up standard of the H.264 which will offer estimated 25-50% reduction in bandwidth, this is expected to become official in September 2012. Very important for the adoption of video, since wide spread usage will increase the bandwidth appetite of a global deployment. This is not so much a problem for consumers and home usage, but it is a bottleneck for wide spread corporate usage. Many companies are afraid to let video go and be used widespread, since they cannot support full usage and are late in adapting the network infrastructure and bandwidth requirements.
On the consumer side introduction of new technologies has gone at an even greater pace, where we seen Apple, Google, FaceTime, Skype, MSN, Yahoo and many more getting a great amount of users in a tremendous short timeframe. All these solution have generally one thing in common, they are closed user group with their own proprietary technologies that cannot interoperate with other solutions. A thing they have been doing is created access to their own technologies across different platforms (Mac OS, Windows and Android to name the most important pc and mobile platforms, Blackberry is loosing ground and Nokia has chosen for Windows Mobile).
Apple has developed their own protocol FaceTime, which runs only on Apple devices but across all type of devices ranging from iPod, iPhone 4(S) and Mac OS (MacBooks and iMac). Apple is having a massive success with their devices and they have made FaceTime incredible simple to use, connect it logically to someones phone number or email address (or both) and if you have multiple devices you can even choice on what device you want to pick up the call. A big drawback of Apple is that you cannot communicate with other PC platforms or mobile devices. They do market FaceTime actively and are a large promoter of using video. It is so easy I even you use it with my 71 year old father and we use it when goes on vacation and shows where he is. Our kids love it as well and always join the videoconference with grandpa does FaceTime. A previous blogpost has been dedicated to this topic before.
The Android platform is open to any solution and other vendors can run their video applications on this platform. Android has been created by Google and Google recent leased their Google+ application and also their multi party Hangout functionality. Google is big promoter of the VP8 codec. Even though VP8 is an open, free to use codec, it is not yet supported by a wide audience outside Google.
Skype has a vast amount of users and has used a peer to peer technology, initially dedicated for free voice calls, video has been added to this platform. It has one the widest amount of registered users and also a large amount of active users. Some small Skype gateways are available that can transcode to standards based H.323 or SIP endpoints, but currently these gateways are not widely market proven or reliable. Skype has had big recent developments, since FaceBook started using their technology to enable video for Facebook users and Microsoft has bought the company.
By buying Skype, Microsoft can start combining and integrating their consumer (Skype) and business Lync 2010 video products. They will have to combine two proprietary technologies, the peer to peer model of Skype and encrypted codecs and the RtVideo and RtAudio codecs used within Lync 2010. Lync has a massive adoption rate and integrates very well other popular business tools like Exchange/Outlook and Sharepoint. A couple of blogpost are dedicated to Lync previous to this one. Microsoft has big dominance in the corporate marketing place with windows, office, exchange, sharepoint, ocs/lync. Even though they have closed model and it is expensive to include 3rd parties on other technologies, it is possible to transcode different protocols (i.e. Polycom, Cisco/Tandberg, Lifesize and Radvision) and make third party calls with standards based technologies .
One thing is certain and that video is rising on a massive scale. Companies trying to avoid video, will be behind on the market and will create a competitive disadvantage for themselves if they don’t follow the trend and enable the use of video, adoption and adapt their business processes and use of video within their corporate culture. School leavers these days expect these technologies to be present at there working space and concepts like the new way of working. Please get in contact with the right partners to join you in the journey and help you create a proper roadmap.