Space age video conferencing inspires a natural way of working

Star Trek-style technology is helping businesses across the country gain a competitive market advantage by embracing the latest video conferencing innovations.

Despite a rise in mobile and desktop devices Ian Carter from supply specialist Videonations says only room-based systems can deliver a genuine natural meeting room experience – just like being there.

Immersive Telepresence Videonations

Telepresence Video Conferencing

“If you watched Star Trek 20 years ago they were delivering video in the same way we do today,” he explained. “Video Conferencing (VC) in the past did not always keep its promise, particularly around the ease of use, set-up and overall user experience. But that’s not the case now.”

He is predicting almost every company in the country will be using VC in the next five years, following similar trends to the popularity of fax machines in the past.

“If a customer comes to me today I don’t mention specific technology, it’s about delivering a natural meeting room experience. That’s based on five components I need to deliver for it to be considered a serious alternative to always having to travel. VC isn’t going to stop travel; it’s a viable alternative to having to travel. It can improve communication, reduce security challenges (including terrorism) and even get you home in time for tea or the football, instead of being stuck in hours of motorway congestion or airport delays. Businesses can save much more than just significant time and money.”

[separator top=”40″]Ian’s blueprint for success comprises:

1 – I must be able to see you and your body language as clearly as if being in the same room. The reason I can do that is because I’m delivering up to a 1080p high definition picture at 60 frames per second, as good as our eyes can see. In the past bandwidth constraints have been a problem as part of a cold and harsh user experience.

2 – This is the most important… the audio experience. Desktop audio conferencing devices are fairly popular but they have limited capacity. We need to be able to interact and see each other in a natural way. Full duplex two-way conversations are vital. You also need automatic gain control which means if people are quiet they don’t have to shout to be heard. Automatic noise suppression is another factor, helping drown out background white noise such as air conditioning. Wideband audio allows you to hear things clearly; different accents and languages. If you have great audio and a slightly crackly picture then you can still communicate but if it’s a great picture and distorted audio, forget it!

3 – Presentations and PC information can be shared as if in the same room from a laptop, room PC or mobile device, with full interaction.

4 – Ease of use and reliability. Meetings need to start on time. Many existing conferencing units in boardrooms have a dust cover over them because they never get used. They are too complex, things go missing and they never work on time. People need to come in, everything is on and the meeting starts. This can be managed centrally. People don’t care about the technology, they just want to sit down and commence the meeting.

5 – Cost, price and return on investment. Is it going to deliver a value for money solution that’s a true alternative to catching a plane, train or automobile?  When I first started a single system with a big TV used to be £45,000 and take two days to set up. Now you can have a simple system for less than £2,000. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t consider an alternative to always having to travel, based on this criteria.”

[separator top=”40″]Videonations is a complete video conferencing and audio visual specialist spanning supply, installation and management.  It’s now part of the Manchester-based Nycomm Group of companies that includes comms supply specialist Nimans – and works in partnership with resellers. Videonations has identical offices in Altrincham and London that showcase the latest hi-tech innovations such as an ‘immersive telepresence suite’. It’s a space age facility that has a Starship Enterprise feel.

Ian says just one in every 10 meeting room had a video conferencing device but that’s now risen to two in every 10. In the last 18 months sales of room systems have dropped by 20% across the industry at the expense of desktop and mobile devices.

“Why has there been a slump in room sales over the last few years? For me I think it’s because the market has demanded desktop conferencing. Too many people have thought: Why spend £10,000 on a room system when I can buy a webcam for £40 and do it that way? The problem is that it doesn’t deliver the natural meeting experience as described above.”

However it’s the emergence of HD picture quality that has elevated VC to a new level and holds the key to a renaissance for room based solutions, according to Ian.

“HD video conferencing was first introduced about six years ago and it was like going from a black and white to a colour TV wow factor experience. There are hundreds of thousands of systems out there today still using standard definition. It would be nice to think you could easily get them to upgrade but you need to persuade them it will be a better experience. The key is not to sell video conferencing but a natural meeting room experience because that’s the ultimate objective.

“In the past companies didn’t have the bandwidth available but now they do There’s a perfect storm brewing.  Processing is getting faster, bandwidth is cheaper and user interfaces are getting simpler.”

He concluded: “VC shouldn’t just be used to communicate with staff, but customers, suppliers and other third parties.  Any company that doesn’t have it, I suspect in the next five years will. If they don’t they will be out of line with everyone else, and lose out competitively, a bit like the emergence of fax machines 20 years ago.

“VC is a delivery mechanism to allow collaboration rather than just data sharing – smarter technology for smarter ways of working.”