As more companies are realizing the value of upgrading IP networks, the videoconferencing industry is offering more high-tech collaboration solutions. With network speeds and information handling improving, high-quality video transmission is becoming a reality for more and more companies. We talked to industry insiders in manufacturing, installation and distribution to get a feel for the current state of videoconferencing and its future.
Contributing to this well-rounded discussion on the business side of things are: Jeffrey LeVant, vice president of marketing at ReView Video (distribution); Alita Moeller, marketing manager of videoconferencing at Sony Electronics (manufacturer); and Mike Savic, director of marketing at VBrick (manufacturer).
SCN: Over the past year or so, how has the scene changed in the videoconferencing market?
ReView Video's LeVant: I would say that there's been a steady migration to IP. The knowledge that LifeSize (see sidebar) is here has added competition to the marketplace. The competition continues to be very fierce. I wouldn't say that the industry is growing, but there's a lot of stealing customers from each other.
Sony's Moeller: We're seeing a significant shift away from the traditional scenario of several individuals gathering together in a room to communicate with others in different locations. The quality of IP-based communications technology has increased to the point where conferencing and collaborative communications can be conducted from an individual's desktop or laptop.
VBrick's Savic: We mainly deal with video distribution, and we're seeing a very high demand for non-interactive video. We see the market exploding as far as video goes. People are realizing that video is an important tool, and it makes a huge impact for remote interactions. IP networks are getting upgraded to fiber optic based networks and gigabit Ethernet networks. Networks are getting so robust that they can handle video. IT managers are realizing that they have available bandwidth for video. That's what the trend is-people are starting to realize the usefulness and accessibility of video.
SCN: How has VoIP impacted your company?
ReView Video's LeVant: Manufacturers are bringing more IP-centric products to the marketplace. For instance, we are starting to sell many more IP phones, where in the past we sold nary a few. I would say that the rise of IP has been a propagation of IP-focused stuff to sell. We've hired a person to help drive our IP business.
VBrick's Savic: We're starting to see that more traditional AV integration resellers are hiring IP specialists, because they understand the explosion of video over IP solutions. We're also starting to see resellers who deal mostly with IT stuff getting into video as the focus shifts away from data.
SCN: What's the latest in collaboration enhancement technology?
ReView Video's LeVant: Since we're in the business of moving endpoints, we see a lot of demand for basic set top units. The biggest change we've seen is the integration of new technology that is built into products.
Sony's Moeller: The latest trend is integrated data sharing capabilities between PCs and videoconferencing room systems supporting the H.239 standard. Sony's executive desktop models can display PC screen and camera images together as various display layouts.
SCN: Which clients are using what products?
Sony's Moeller: Executives, government officials and school administrators are using desktop videoconferencing systems. Doctors are using the systems to monitor operating and emergency rooms, as well as remote teaching. Some of our products are being used for broadcast applications as well.
VBrick's Savic: We have a lot of schools using our products for video on demand distribution solutions. Hospitals are using our products for patient monitoring, and state and local governments use them for highway traffic monitoring.