A view on video conferencing and its use; a wonder in the world of IT and Communications.

A videoconference (also known as a videoteleconference) is a set of interactive telecommunication technologies which allow two or more locations to interact via two-way video and audio transmissions simultaneously. It has also been called visual collaboration and is a type of groupware. It differs from videophone in that it is designed to serve a conference rather than individuals.
High speed Internet connectivity has become more widely available at a reasonable cost and the cost of video capture and display technology has decreased. Consequently personal video teleconference systems based on a webcam, personal computer system, software compression and broadband Internet connectivity have become affordable for the general public. Also, the hardware used for this technology has continued to improve in quality, and prices have dropped dramatically. The availability of freeware (often as part of chat programs) has made software based videoconferencing accessible to many.
Deaf and hard of hearing individuals have a particular interest in the development of affordable high-quality videoconferencing as a means of communicating with each other in sign language. Unlike Video Relay Service , which is intended to support communication between a caller using sign language and another party using spoken language, videoconferencing can be used between two signers.
Mass adoption and use of video conferencing is still relatively low, with the following often claimed as causes:

  • Complexity of systems. Most users are not technical and want a simple interface. In hardware systems an unplugged cord or a flat battery in a remote control is seen as failure, contributing to perceived unreliability which drives users back to traditional meetings. Successful systems are backed by support teams who can pro-actively support and provide fast assistance when required.
  • Perceived lack of interoperability: not all systems can readily interconnect, for example ISDN and IP systems require a bridge. Popular software solutions cannot easily connect to hardware systems. Some systems use different standards, features and qualities which can require additional configuration when connecting to dis-similar systems.
  • Bandwidth and quality of service: In some countries it is difficult or expensive to get a high quality connection that is fast enough for good-quality video conferencing. Technologies such as ADSL have limited upload speeds and cannot upload and download simultaneously at full speed. As Internet speeds increase higher quality and high definition video conferencing will become more readily available.
  • Expense of commercial systems - a well designed system requires a specially designed room and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fit out the room with codecs, integration equipment and furniture

For these reasons many hardware systems are often used for internal corporate use only, as they are less likely to run into problems and lose a sale. An alternative is companies that hire out video conferencing equipped meeting rooms in cities around the world. Customers simply book the rooms and turn up for the meeting - everything else is arranged and support is readily available if anything should go wrong.

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