I must admit I neglected the Video Networker blog over the past 3 years. I started a new job in 2013 and the scope was and still is much broader than video. I had many interesting topics to write about but they did not fit the Video Networker label, so I did not post. Over time I assumed that Video Network had faded away, so imagine my surprise when I checked the blog activity earlier today and realized that a lot of people still go to Video Networker for information. Most visitors come from Germany, Austria, and Saudi Arabia.
I thought about it again and expanding the scope of the blog would actually be very natural. Over the past 3 years video was absorbed in all sorts of collaboration tools while Unified Communications gradually became part of the broader Digital Workplace.
The virtual meeting experience has improved a lot. Most meetings today require some kind of content sharing, and web conferencing has become the default way for starting a meeting. Today, I rarely get a meeting invitation without a link to a virtual meeting room.
Conferencing rooms however have not kept up. Many have only a speaker phone in the middle of the table; selected few have video conferencing systems. Bridging between video conferencing and web conferencing is still not easy. Vendors that have both types of solutions are gradually converging web conferencing rooms with video conferencing rooms but there is still work to be done on the user interface and the affordability of such solutions.
Web conferencing vendors have tried addressing collaboration rooms by offering endpoints or rather kits to build endpoints that seamlessly connect to the web conferencing solution. But we all know that a room is very different from a screen of a desktop or a mobile device. It has multiple walls, and there are usually multiple people involved. Acoustics and view angles play a major role in a great collaboration room experience. In addition, while web conferencing and video conferencing do a good job sharing content (screens or applications), they have not been successful in enabling true collaborative work on documents, images, video clips, etc.
The industry is therefore working on alternative next-generation collaboration solutions. True collaboration in a room requires a lot of space (surface) and new ways to manipulate content. Larger monitors at affordable prices deliver the additional space (surface), and content and live video can be distributed over multiple monitors hanging on different walls, thus fully leveraging the room. Touch technology allows interacting with large screens in the same way we interact with mobile devices. So the key remaining problem is how to bring the ocean of data that we have today into the collaboration room. It is not about PowerPoint presentations and spreadsheets anymore but rather about live web pages, video feeds, and real-time analytics. Once the data is available in the room, new collaboration room technology allows for creation of new assets, white boarding, brainstorming, and for storing the results from the collaboration session, so that the next meetings can continue from where the previous meeting ended.
In the meantime, the virtual meeting camp has moved one step further and targets now continuous collaboration in and between meetings. A new generation of team collaboration tools allows for persistent collaboration via group chat and document collaboration that can start long before the first meeting and continue uninterrupted between meetings.
And then, there are considerations about cost and investment protection. Making virtual meetings available to let’s say 100,000 enterprise users means getting 100k subscriptions from the vendor / service provider. As the technology evolves, the service changes but the cost for the enterprise remains predictable. By contrast, upgrading several thousands of conference rooms in a large enterprise is a big capital expense. There is also uncertainly about the lifespan of new technologies.
There are good reasons to think hard before making a decision on collaboration room investments, and I will continue tracking this topic.