Less than a decade ago, face-to-face via video was restricted to the imagination of science fiction writers and movie buffs. Trekkies and wannabe Jedi Knights salivated at the prospect. But now the ability to communicate via video links is a cornerstone in unified communications architecture.
Video is allowing enterprise to cut carbon emissions, costs and travel time while still enabling personal communications.
"The biggest benefit I have seen ...is to build that personal network and get that intimacy between users because you suddenly realise what the person looks like," Nortel unified communications solutions marketing Asia, Mitch Radomir, said. "You can see their reactions, gestures and expressions. It makes long distance communication far more personal."
In recent years, UC vendors have begun providing video conferencing and telepresence solutions from a predominantly data and voice product base. Video communications technology - and its price tag - has improved to the point where it is a viable option for businesses and not just a lowquality choice for private communication through consumer offerings like Skype, MSN Messenger or Yahoo Chat.
"Unified communications started with data services enriched with voice and now it's actually being enriched with video conferencing because with the new protocols and new infrastructure there can be seamless deployment," Radomir said.
Through Session Initiation Protocol [SIP] the integration of video into the various clients companies may be using has become easier. As a result Radomir believed more tailored solutions will emerge.
"I think what we are going to see is a lot of virtualisation or industry-specific solutions; specific for the airlines, specific for finance, health, education or hospitality," he said.
"We're going to say, 'now this thing is great, I'm going to integrate it with a patient retrieving system so when I am actually having a telemedicine with somebody it is going to automatically going to link into my patient records'."
However, despite the appeal of video the channel has to move beyond its novelty factor and look at how it can achieve business benefits.
"The value is going to be the ability to do vertical solutions, integrate it into telepresence or video conferencing," Radomir said. Juniper Networks enterprise systems engineering manager, Matt Miller, said the uptake in video will also need high-quality plumbing; good broadband, multicasting capabilities and increased security.
"It's okay to send this traffic throughout the network but with these types of protocols and applications it really is the next frontier for security vulnerability," Miller said. "You want to ensure that if you are having a business critical video conference or you have 5000 of your staff members watching a video broadcast that it's not delayed, it's not interrupted or compromised. It's quite important and is only going to get more important as uptake increases."