Will a new “big picture” change videoconferencing?
Mar 24, 2005 8:00 AM
Michael Clark, a partner in Avidex, Redmond, Wash., points to the high end of the videoconferencing marketplace as an arena in which several trends are coming together to create a significant opportunity for integrators.
Mainly, Clark sees a need for a level of conferencing quality in both video and audio that most mainstream applications just don’t provide. A growing number of corporate users want to “eliminate the technology and just have the feeling that you’re standing there talking to someone.”
Nuance, body language, and a real sense of immediacy are the goals, Clark feels, and today’s emerging combination of high-quality video and ample bandwidth are providing a solution. Avidex is among the AV integrators who have allied with San Diego-based Telanetix to deliver systems for high-end conferencing.
“The whole look and feel of video conferencing is in transition,” says Alan C. Brawn, the AV industry veteran who joined Telanetix as president recently. Part of this transition, he adds, is toward a more realistic “face-to-face” quality in the conference connection. “So much of communication is nonverbal. In an upper-level meeting, I want to see the nuances,” he adds. “I want to see you full size, and you want me full size.”
The level of image and sound delivered by many mainstream conferencing systems–desktop or cart mounted–just doesn’t meet this need, Brawn says.
Telanetix is marketing a system that relies on a virtual private routed network, delivering 5Mbs of data capacity at an approximate cost of $3,000 per month. Because of this flat monthly cost, Brawn says, “you can leave the system on 24/7.”
Brawn terms this network connection “quality of service” bandwidth, and says it eliminates latency, image jitter, and other difficulties associated with desktop and other low-bandwidth connections.
Telanetix and its channel partners will couple this bandwidth with MPEG-4 encoding and big-screen video displays, Brawn says. “A 50-inch plasma pretty much works,” he notes, adding that the system itself is “display-agnostic.”
The display dimension of these systems is also part of the integrator’s opportunity, says Clark. “The integrator world is challenged in hardware margins,” he explains. “We’re always looking for innovative new technologies.” Coupling plasmas, LCD panels, or projection displays with the conferencing system presents a chance to offer a turnkey package that many competitors can’t equal.
Clark believes medical users will be among the early adopters of the new option because to them “quality is very significant and low-res just doesn’t cut it.” Other potential customers include entertainment industry players, who may find the system an ideal way to conduct remote auditions or view daily footage from film locations.
The broader corporate environment, though, is probably where the big payoffs lie, Brawn says. “In our research we have found that a considerable portion, over 50 percent, of the so-called high-end systems [installed at users’ facilities] today are not being used regularly,” he comments. Why not? They’re hard to use, the technology is “in-your-face” and intimidating, hourly costs can be high, and the systems fail to approximate the environment of a personal meeting.
“Our niche is to provide an environment-to-environment experience with full-sized images of the participants, full eye contact and body language, and to do so in a manner that takes the technology out of your face.”