Remember The Jetsons, the 1960s (and 1980s) cartoon sitcom showing an all-American style family living a futuristic lifestyle in the far off time of 2062? The show depicted a world populated with wishful technologies such as labour-saving robots, flying-saucer cars, jetpacks for personal flight and in almost every episode, you'd see George and Jane Jetson talking on their video phones.
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since The Jetsons first aired and in that time many of the show's technologies have come to limited fruition but perhaps none are as close to being fully realised as those involving video communications.
In the past few years there have been some major advances in the world of video communications. Bandwidth of course is the big enabler. This has improved dramatically, not just to the office but also within the home and to the mobile device. The improvements have facilitated the rise of high definition video and audio, making video conferences far more natural, engaging and enjoyable.
Vendor technologies have developed to the point where there are scalable, secure solutions to suit every need – from room-based video conferencing systems to workgroup, personal and mobile solutions. The number and type of devices that can be used for calls have also grown. No longer are people required to congregate in a dedicated boardroom to engage in a video conference. They can use their tablets, smartphones, laptops and desktop PCs from anywhere at any time.
Following the natural cycle of any technology, the systems have become increasingly easy to use while costs have come down, all of which has further increased the accessibility of video conferencing.
Most importantly, corporate and individual interest in video conferencing is growing. In an increasingly collaborative but geographically dispersed workplace, people are looking for ways to improve communications with team members, partners and customers. Video conferencing offers the chance to engage more fully, to see the visual cues such as facial expressions and body language that an audio-only conversation can't deliver.
With all of this going on, is it any wonder that six months ago IDC Australia announced the video conferencing market in Australia and New Zealand was growing at a rate of 20 percent year-on-year?
It's with the latest generation of video conferencing technologies however, that we are about to take the leap into Jetsons' territory. The industry's development focus has turned towards universal conferencing. Rather than being viewed as a separate, specialist tool, the goal is to take video out of the boardroom and to make it the natural choice for spoken digital business communications.
The user desire for universal video is evident. Look at the adoption of video among Skype and smartphone users. What has been lacking until now is a way of making video easier for business to adopt, deploy and manage.
The solution lies in two areas: integration and virtualisation. An integrated platform involves bringing together the capabilities of multiple single-purpose infrastructure products and making them instantly available from the one interface with one login account. By incorporating virtualisation technologies, the platform removes the problems associated with the rigid systems of old such as lengthy deployment periods and fixed-capacity purchasing, and gives administrators new flexibility to stage their purchasing according to business and budgetary need.
The introduction of integration and virtualisation mark a major advancement in the video conferencing market. Together they bring customisation and scalability while removing the risk and complexity of large-scale deployments. Combined with the improvements in technology and bandwidth of recent years, widespread video collaboration is becoming a realistic, cost effective solution for enhancing business communications.