in computer technology such as faster processors and better
data compression algorithms enabled the integration of audio
and video data into the computing environment. Today videoconferencing
can be achieved by adding software and relatively inexpensive
hardware to standard desktop computers. Such systems, also,
have the ability to easily incorporate data from other desktop
computer applications into the conference.
technology of video conferencing has advanced rapidly in
recent years. Picture and sound quality of large room-based
systems are reasonable and the costs of installing and running
them have dropped so that they are now becoming a realistic
option for institutions teaching or planning to teach across
more than one site.
growth of network technology and in particular the Internet
has led to a greater awareness of the potential of conferencing
systems for teaching, collaborative work, assessment and
student support. Video conferencing is one example of a
synchronous conferencing system, that is one that takes
place in real time between individuals or groups who are
usually separated geographically. Asynchronous conferencing
systems, such as bulletin boards, do not require participants
to be connected at the same time.
conferencing systems can be broadly grouped into three categories:
Room based or 'studio' systems designed for
use by from perhaps five participants up to a lecture theatre
or even a large conference;
Roll about systems, designed to enable the
system to be portable. Typically these systems are designed
for small group use;
Desktop based systems designed for individual
or small group use.
can further distinguish between point to point systems where
two sites are linked and multi-point systems where one main
site is linked to a number of sites simultaneously.
Uses of Video Conferencing:
conferencing is used for a variety of purposes, including:
Personal communication. Informal communication
would normally use desk top systems. More formal meetings
with several participants at each site would probably use
dedicated studio settings.
Collaborative work between researchers using
Education. Teaching usually involves one to
many connections. The student sites may receive audio and
video but only send audio.
Conferencing is very useful whenever there is a clear communication
need, and the benefits described by those using video conferencing
reduced travel costs
face to face rather than telephone meetings
better quality teaching
easier collaborative working
started as a plaything of big business houses. Its importance
as a value add-on is now being realised by medium sized
Indian businesses and export houses. Some of the heavy users
include ICICI Bank, ISRO, Birla Management, SPIC, Essar
ICI, VSNL and the Reliance Group. As T.N. Sundar, country
manager (India), PictureTel, says: "The Indian user
community has started responding to videoconferencing, and
more importantly to visual collaboration as a value enhancing
proposition that saves executive time, enhances decision
making speed and customer satisfaction."
than corporate awakening, price reductions and technological
improvements are helping disseminate the technology. What
standards have been agreed to which enable videoconferencing
systems to "talk to each other." Add to that user-friendliness
and segmentation of the systems. Most organisations benefit
from a mix of desktop, group and compact systems. Key people
get desktop systems in their offices; conference rooms get
group systems for shared use; and compact systems fill in
wherever they are needed. The earlier inconvenience of using
a dedicated videoconferencing studios is thus removed.
ISDN has become more widely available. ISDN is the only
pay-as-you-use-it network that has enough bandwidth to carry
a videoconferencing channel. Pushing growth concomitantly
is the decrease in leased line tarriff. MTNL and DOT have
already implemented ISDN service in 12 cities; Mumbai has
1,200 subscribers. "In India too, around 30 percent
of ISDN subscribers are going in for videoconferencing,"
factor: videoconferencing technologies have managed to compress
the amount of bandwidth required for video and enable acceptable
quality bandwidth at lower bandwidths. Most importantly,
the steep fall in prices is bringing quality PC systems
to less than Rs 2.5 lakh range; compact systems which work
with an ordinary TV within Rs 5 lakh; and even small group
systems with monitors to well under Rs 7 lakh. But high
import duties on videoconferencing products are still a
major hindrance to growth.
its current size of Rs 25 to 30 crore, the Indian videoconferencing
market is projected to go up by over 50 percent by the end
of this year. About 70 percent of the equipment sold last
year went towards group and compact systems; the remaining
towards desktops and LAN-based systems. With 250 videoconferencing
systems working throughout the country, PictureTel claims
to have cornered over 85 percent of the videoconferencing
market with its SwiftSite II and LiveLan-VO1-EB suites.
Other players include Intel with its ProShare Video System
150 and 200, Philips' MatchView 330 and 430.
conferencing is finding acceptance with State governments
too. The Andhra Pradesh government has started using videoconferencing
in a limited way. Beginning June, the AP State Wise Area
Networks is slated to go on stream. "With 23 districts
connected to the State capital, the technology will have
a salutary effect on the functioning of the government,"
Sundar says. Soon Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments
will follow suit. While rising corporate use could open
the market, State level acceptance could launch the quantum
cuts costs and raises productivity. But it has other applications.
Managing the Global Company-Videoconferencing helps large multinationals
operate in truly worldwide environments, facilitate communications
between individual sites, groups and divisions.
Facilitating New Working Practices-Video- and data-conferencing enables
virtual teamworking. Geographically dispersed peer groups,
such as engineers or product designers can be brought together
at short notice.
Access to Remote Expertise-Faults in manufacturing facilities can
be quickly identified and fixed.
Increased Competitive Advantage-Helps achieve faster time to market
and "steal a march" on the competition.
Supply Chain Management-Fosters effective working relationships
among partner companies, suppliers and customers.
Deploying new technology
has its own problems. The biggest being how long is the
payback period. Specially, if the sites are very few or
of recent origin. However, if your company intends to deploy
VC across its sites, here is a brief checklist of the cost
and benefit components to give you a broad idea about the
This can be broadly divided into four major heads.
COST: This will include construction of new rooms as
well as modifying existing rooms.
COST: This will include the cost of codec, moni- tors,
document stands, white boards, extra monitors or broadcast
media, audio, cabling, lighting, furnishings, WAN/ LAN equipment,
COST: Installation cost will include ISDN or leased
line for WAN, NICs or hub/switch, ports cost for LAN, other
equipment and software installation costs, training cost
for end users and IS staff maintenance.
COST: This will include monthly charges for WAN connectivity,
ongoing training costs, personnel hours specific to VG,
service contracts and software upgrades and finally the
fees and cost associated with failed conferences.
The biggest saving which can be easily quantified is
the travel-related saving. While savings from airline tickets
are usually the easiest to calculate for any organization
others are more elusive. For example, hotel expenditure
may vary greatly, often depending on the job function of
the person. Another aspect though not easily quantified
is the value of time saved as a result of reduced travel.
But do your own analysis
and check with vendors like PictureTel and Philips before
embarking on the VC journey.
In Depth of VC Technology:
conferencing actually encompasses a range of technologies
used in a wide range of situations, often it is not just
video and audio that is transmitted, but also data, allowing
collaborative working though shared applications. Video
conferencing may be:-
One-to-one meetings, also known as point to
point communications, usually involving full two-way audio
One-to-many involving full audio and video
broadcast from the main site, where other sites may be able
to send audio. For example in a lecture situation, students
could ask questions.
Many-to-many, known as multi-point communication,
provides audio and video between more than two sites. With
most multi-point systems only one site in a conference can
be seen at time, with switching between sites either controlled
manually or voice activated (i.e., the loudest site is on
the most common scenarios of video conferencing are:
video conferencing - usually a small camera is located
on top of the PC or workstation monitor. The actual video
is usually displayed in a small window, and shared applications,
such as a shared whiteboard are often used.
Systems - a studio is specially equipped for video conferencing.
This will normally include one or more cameras, microphones,
one or more large monitors, and possibly other equipment
such as an overhead camera for document viewing. Usually
used for more formal meetings In practice a 'studio' may
not be a dedicated room, but a standard seminar room with
portable equipment that can be set up when required.
role of sound is critical in the success of video conferencing.
Poor sound quality can limit or even ruin the effectiveness
of a video conferencing session far more than can a poor
picture. With some systems, if you talk over a speaker you
cut that speaker off. In these cases it is important that
all participants understand and follow the etiquette of
"taking it in turns". Whispers or what are intended
to be private comments or remarks can also be picked up
Bandwidth and Video Compression: For
system administrators, the basic dilemma in adding manageable
video-conferencing to an intranet is balancing the speed
and quality of video and sound with taxing bandwidth requirements.
Although it is extremely difficult to measure the bandwidth
needed to transmit audio and video on the Internet, the
amount is recognized as being high. To alleviate bandwidth
constraints, network administrators can increase bandwidth
or improve compression methods.
higher bandwidth communications channels, such as ISDN (Integrated
Switched Digital Network), Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, or ATM
(Asynchronous Transfer Mode) are ideal for supporting video-conferencing.
The most important consideration is selecting a circuit
switch setup, which will accommodate the continuous stream
of data necessary for video-conferencing applications.
bandwidth, or baud rate, is the amount of information, which
can be transmitted every second. The higher the bandwidth,
the better quality the signal that can be transmitted. For
a video conference audio and video signals must be transmitted
in real time, i.e., a lot of information has to be sent
every second, requiring a very high bandwidth. For example
a 'true colour' image will need 24 bits (3 bytes) per pixel.
A full screen image might be 640x480 pixels, over 7 million
bits. For full motion video, the image is refreshed 25 times
per second. This adds to over 184 million bits per second.
It is not realistically possible to transmit this amount
of information, and your PC certainly could not receive
it at this rate. Therefore for digital video some form of
compression is required. The type and degree of compression
used varies from system to system. It is interesting to
note that for most uses, we are more tolerant of poor video
than poor audio, and so some systems concentrate on providing
consistently good audio.
Standards: Most major vendors now support the H.320 suite of ITU recommendations
that define videoconferencing mechanisms over switched digital
services such as ISDN. Similar recommendations have also
been defined for high-speed wide area networks (H.321),
isochronous networks (H.322), packet-switched local area
networks (H.323) and POTS phone lines (H.324).
Integrated Services Digital Network
(ISDN) is offered by many telephone companies that provides
fast, high-capacity digital transmission of voice, data,
still images and full-motion video over the worldwide telephone
the UK service providers such as British Telecom and Cable
and Wireless offer basic and primary rate ISDN services.
rate services provide 2 65kbit/s data channels or B channels,
and one control or D channel. This can provide reasonable
quality video conferencing, delivering about 10 frames per
second (fps) for a small window (160x120).
rate access can carry 30 B channels, and one or D channel.
This level of access will give very good quality video and
audio. B.T.'s primary rate service is now ISDN 30 I.421,
bringing it into line with the rest of Europe. Support is
still provided for ISDN 30 DASS, B.T.'s own British Standard,
and switching between the two is available. It should be
noted that primary rate services in non-European countries
such as the USA and Japan usually use 23 data channels and
one D channel, giving them a lower bandwidth.
is rapidly growing in popularity and is widely accepted
in industry as the way to access multimedia over a network.
Although it is still expensive when compared to a standard
line, particularly for primary rate access, it may be suitable
for inter-site conferencing.
Video conferencing systems based on IP rather than
ISDN offer several advantages, the main one being that many
people already have a connection to an existing IP infrastructure.
Codecs supporting the H.323 standard are widely available,
some of which are free, making an IP based system the cheapest
solution in many cases. The main disadvantage is bandwidth.
often not a problem on an internal Local Area Network (LAN),
IP videoconferencing across the Internet can be subject
to many delays, producing a poor frame rate (1 or 2 fps)
and often unacceptable quality audio.
Satellite broadcast : Satellite
transmission is usually used for one-to-many conferences,
as described for cable. Although it is expensive, cost is
not affected by distance, and therefore it may be of use
where very large distances or many sites are involved.
applications use the UDP (User Datagram Protocol) for sending
streams of information, rather than packets of information.
This protocol passes the responsibility of ensuring packet
reliability to the application.
the protocol is better able to manage the dynamic data feeds
required for video-conferencing. The UDP Protocol also ensures
that new information has precedence over confirming what
was already sent; instead of checking to see that every
packet has been received. The Protocol places a higher priority
on maintaining a steady flow of new information. This method
of operation is important because lost packets of video
will not interrupt the user's understanding of the information
being transmitted in the way that lost packets of text or
audio will. In the case of video, it is crucial to keep
new information flowing and less important to allocate resources
for error-checking applications.
the Mediums: Although
the mediums required to transmit VC are available in the
country yet the hiccups exist. For a make- do quality VC,
a 128Kbps link, will suffice but for a high quality VC,
it is better to have a 364Kbps link.
The question is whether such bandwidth resources are available
within organizations. Since VC systems can use LAN, WAN
or an intranet environment to exchange data, given the current
state of cabling structure the network can handle only a
low quality VC. However, to fully exploit all the features
of VC the network backbones need to increase in capacity,
perhaps with the help of fiber op- tic. This has been one
of the key reasons for the slow growth of VC solutions.
So if any organization thinks of the VC option, it needs
to take into account the pipe available with it.
V SAT is another alternative available for corporates. The
biggest advantage about VSATs especially given India's vast
terrain is remote connectivity. However in India, this may
take some time as the cost of VSATs is comparatively high
and is therefore a big deterrent. According to Subroto Mukerjee,
Marketing Man- ager, HCL Comnet, "VC based on VSATs
is viable to those companies who already have their V SAT
infra- structure in place. Else it is still a long way for
VC on VSATs to go." Adds Parikh, "We want to deploy
our VC solution on VSATs. We are waiting to resolve a few
issues before that."
Internet is an interesting medium to explore in deploying
VC. According to Peter Geier, President of the worldwide
ISDN association, who was recently in India to promote ISDN
technology, "Our research says the maximum speed on
the internet is less than 100Kbps." Such speed can
theoretically handle only low quality VC and is useless
for business-to- business applications. Moreover, internet
is a packet-based network rather than a circuit-based network
like the ISDN. Since packet networks were designed to carry
data traffic, which is bursty in nature, corporates are
hesitant to use it for VC. Since data is sent in chunks
(packets) across the network, it can be lost or retransmitted
and is subject to delay. Moreover the sequencing and timing
of packet delivery is not necessarily guaranteed. Traffic
levels fluctuate and there is no concept of fixed and constant
bandwidth. If these short- comings for transmitting time-sensi-
tive information can be overcome, packet-based networks
have the potential to offer more conferencing functionality
than circuit-switched networks. However as of now, internet
is a strict no-no.
Computer system requirements:
8 MB RAM
Connectix QuickCam with serial port digitizer
Microphone and Speaker
Sound card with 8-bit sound (SoundBlaster 16 recommended)
8-bit video with 640-480 resolution
the client software on each system, and test the software
configuration by using one of the public reflectors. When
connecting to a public reflector, keep in mind that most
reflectors do not allow connections at rates greater than
Top Video Conferencing
basic hardware components are:
usually attached to the top of the monitor
- even where speakers are built in to a workstation, external
ones will provide better quality audio. Alternatively headphones
may be useful, particularly in a shared office.
board - to capture the signal from the camera and convert
it to digital form
card - usually an Ethernet card for connection to the
LAN, or an ISDN card
is a very wide range of software available, some of which
is described in the SIMA reports 'A Study into Video Conferencing
Using the Apple Macintosh Platform' and 'The Dos and Don'ts
of Video conferencing in Higher Education' . The usefulness
of any particular system will depend on the kind of tasks
it is expected to perform, e.g., are shared applications
are required, very good video, very good audio?
using LANs, full screen full motion video (25fps) will not
normally be possible. The software will incorporate some
kind of codec to compress the video. The level of compression
can be up to 100:1, though the higher the level of compression,
the lower the quality, and the quality will be much lower
if there is a lot of movement. Even at high levels of compression,
full screen video may not be possible. LANs were not designed
to handle the constant bandwidth necessary for good video
conferencing, but more 'bursty' data, which does not require
real time transmission or synchronisation, and as the traffic
on the LAN increases video conferencing may become unusable.
is one solution allowing many to many conferences over bursty
networks. Multicast means that data is only sent once, but
can be received by every participant, so only one channel
is required regardless of the number of participants. The
Multicast Backbone (MBONE) allows video conferencing to
take place over the Internet. MBONE is known as a virtual
network because physically it shares the same media as the
Internet, using routers that can support multicast. Audio
and video are compressed and they must still compete with
other traffic on parts of the network, so the quality of
MBONE video conferencing is limited.
video conferencing using Apple Macintosh computers and the
CUSeeMe program is being used at the University of Derby.
The computers are mainly connected over a LAN with a 64K
Internet connection. The system is used to link students
with tutors, small group meetings between different sites,
and informal contact between dispersed colleagues. Livenet
at the University of London provides videoconferencing to
several of its colleges over three ISDN 2 lines. A range
of equipment allows the system to be used for one to one
meetings through to lectures.
at the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research
Councils hold regular meetings between two remote sites
at Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire and Rutherford Appleton
Laboratory in Oxfordshire, using SuperJANET. Since staff
from the two sites need to meet regularly this arrangement
saves a great deal in travel time and costs.
directory of UK education users of desktop videoconferencing
is maintained at: http://www.ncet.org.uk/project/vcdirectory/
is likely that the use of video conferencing will continue
to increase over the next few years. PCs and workstations
often have many of the components of a video conferencing
system built in, and networks, particularly internal ones,
will be better able to cope with the increased traffic.
These factors, and others such as increased travel problems
and financial restraints will encourage the uptake of video
conferencing to provide remote lecturers, remote seminars
and courses, distance learning and telecommuting.
from technological aspects, there are a number of other
factors that affect the success of a video conference. It
is necessary to be aware of the conventions used in a conference,
how to ask questions or interrupt, how to switch site and
so on. Although many of the conventions may be those used
in traditional face to face meetings, the environment is
slightly different, and some training will be required.
In particular teaching staff will need to learn an additional
set of skills to use video conferencing facilities. Different
strategies for presenting material and encouraging student
interaction will be required.
training the video conferencing systems will be under used.
Therefore there will be an increasing need for courses on
using the basic video conferencing hardware and software,
and on presentation skills.
What Is Real-Time Video-Conferencing?
symbolic of the space age, communicating both voice and
video in real time has become a realistic option for many
clients. Whereas early "room based" models required
participants to gather in a conference room equipped with
cameras and look at monitors displaying similar rooms at
remote sites, the desktop model works more like a telephone
call, allowing participants to call up the other participants
from their own PCs. Vendors, such as PictureTel and Intel,
introduced desktop video-conferencing systems that use regular
phone lines about five years ago; however, these proprietary
systems can be extremely cost-prohibitive to set up and
maintain. By comparison, the use of TCP/IP over Ethernet
LANs provides a favorable environment for applications that
require the simultaneous transmission of audio and video.
The intranet environment offers more bandwidth than solutions
that run over regular phone lines. Unlike with the Internet,
the network operator of a corporate intranet can control
the type of connection between desktops using video-conferencing
applications, which makes performance levels more manageable
wave of Internet communications began to attract attention
when Cornell University released the CU-SeeMe program as
freeware for the Macintosh in 1993. The program allows users
to conduct point-to-point communications, group conferencing,
and broadcasting with audio and video over the Internet.
Since its release, more than a half million individual users
have downloaded CU-SeeMe for recreational and educational
purposes. More recently, commercialized versions of CU-SeeMe,
such as the enhanced version offered by a company called
White Pine, are making it a viable means of business communication.
Now, the corporate intranet provides a fertile territory
for real-world business applications of video-conferencing
over both local and wide area networks.
basic parts of a video-conferencing system include video,
audio, a whiteboard, a running application, and encoding
software. Video requires a camera and video capture board;
audio requires a microphone and speakers or headphones.
Almost all commercial software offers a "whiteboard"
function to display graphs, images, text, and documents,
or to write on shared applications. Finally, software encodes
and compresses the signal and then transmits the signal
to remote sites.
key limiting factor in video-conferencing is bandwidth consumption.
Bandwidth is the amount of information per unit of time
that a particular transmission medium can handle. Sending
audio and video through any communications channel requires
an enormous amount of bandwidth. To avoid a bottleneck,
system administrators need to consider carefully the issues
raised later in this chapter that relate to compression
standards, server hardware and software requirements, and
Serving Video-Conferences on an Intranet
you need a video-conferencing component built into your
intranet? Probably not; however, it could save considerable
time and money to provide for video-conferencing while you
are planning your intranet strategy. As the technology improves,
you might decide that video-conferencing is an essential
tool, and you won't want to change your entire hardware
setup to support it. Fortunately, the latest generation
of browsers and server software is bundling support of live
media. Netscape Navigator already provides its LiveMedia
structure to send audio and video from within the browser.
you have decided to implement video-conferencing over your
corporate intranet, you should consider these initial steps
for setting it up. First, you should start with a very small
test group. Try beginning with no more than 10 clients for
the first pilot project. Second, refer to the table provided
to get an idea of the products that work on PCs and Macs.
Third, be sure that each pilot desktop has the following
the clients are configured and tested, it's time to tackle
the server side of the operation. CU-SeeMe's reflector software
is written in C code and can be compiled and installed on
various UNIX platforms, including, among others, Solaris,
SGI, BSD, FreeBSD, and OSF-1. This software is also available
for Windows NT and Windows 95. The reflector can be configured
quickly in UNICAST mode, which allows for point-to-point
conferencing. More time and experience, however, are required
to set up the reflector in MULTICAST mode.
Implications of Video-Conferencing Over
the Video Phone has been around for many years, only recently
has this method of communication been seriously entertained
by system administrators for business communications. Proponents
of video-conferencing over the Internet think that it could
ultimately replace the telephone as the primary means of
business communication; however, compression and bandwidth
issues are still stumbling blocks for successful implementation
of the technology in corporate intranets. Video-conferencing
technologies are likely to improve along the same timeline
as technologies for increasing bandwidth are developed and
Client Hardware and Software Packages
packages of hardware and software for video-conferencing
over the Internet are available from vendors including White
Pine, Automated Management Systems, Connetix, Insoft (Netscape),
and BBN Systems and Technologies. Table 33.1 summarizes
many of these products.
Table 33.1. Video-conferencing products.
Pine offers its enhanced CU-SeeMe software for Windows,
Windows 95, Macintosh, and Power Macintosh. Users can have
up to eight participant windows and an unlimited number
for audio and talk windows. The caller ID feature is a message
alert box for incoming connections. It provides a whiteboard
for collaboration during conferences and supports multiple
users. White Pine offers Mosaic browser support for direct
launch of CU-SeeMe from its Web page. It also allows for
selectable audio compression algorithms with 100 ms and
50 ms sampling settings: 2.4 Kbps and 8.5 Kbps audio codecs
to support 14.4 Kbps and 28.8 Kbps modem connections; and
16 Kbps and 32 Kbps codecs for higher bandwidth connections.
Additional features include support of 24-bit true color
and 4-bit gray scale; a phone book for saving, adding, and
editing participant addresses and reflector sites; standard
and high-resolution settings for video compression; and
password, caller ID, and other conference and inbound call
security. Installation is relatively simple and user-friendly
with TCP/IP network software.
vendor, Connectix, initially produced only computer-mounted
cameras for the Mac and PCs; however, it now bundles video-conferencing
software with the cameras. Insoft (now owned by Netscape)
offers CoolTalk and CoolView software products designed
for Windows 95. These products have been designed right
into that Netscape browser so that users do not need to
leave the browser to use the video-conferencing client.
The disadvantage of using these products is that all participants
in the call must have the company's software installed.
At this time, Insoft has no plans to release similar products
for the Mac.
Systems and Technologies recently released PictureWindow,
a software package that allows workstation users to hold
video conferences over existing IP networks. The product
uses Sun's VideoPix frame-capture board and a video camera
to bring video-conferencing to a color or gray-scale SPARCstation.
The software retails for about $495 per workstation; a PictureWindow
package, including software, a frame grabber, and a color
camera, is available for $1,495. For the first release,
the company offers a receive-only version of the software
at no cost. The software can be used in either point-to-point
or multicast mode. The multicast option allows for an unlimited
number of receive-only stations, which could be ideal for
some training courses or company-wide presentations. The
frame rate is generally about three to six frames per second,
depending on the system and the network. The product functions
best with network paths of at least 256 Kbps, but it can
be used with bandwidths as low as 56 Kbps by accepting a
lower frame rate and quality.
addition to these vendors, some of the leaders in the market
for desktop video-conferencing over regular phone lines,
for example Intel and PictureTel, might offer products for
the Internet soon. As these bigger players bring products
to market, the prices for video-conferencing applications
should come down significantly.
factors to consider in selecting a client package include
security demands for the video-conferences your employees
will hold, reliability of product support, and the quality
of broadcasting you will require.
facilitate cost-effective face-to-face contact among employees,
clients, and other business contacts who might be scattered
throughout the world, as shown in Figure 33.1. The early
adopters of video-conferencing technologies that run over
the Internet include professionals in the education and
scientific communities, who in 1993 and 1994 began discovering
the opportunity for conducting in-person communications
via video-conferencing applications.
the corporate intranet, the applications for video-conferencing
include connecting distributed work teams, enabling learning
or training from remote locations, and providing entertainment
broadcasts. Currently, corporate usage of TCP/IP-based video-conferencing
is progressing from testing among small groups and pilot
projects into an established communication medium for select
groups of users. Widespread adoption of desktop video-conferencing
is an increasingly viable option as the latest browsers
with integrated video and audio capabilities become available.
Currently, Netscape is beta testing its Atlas browser, which
includes full support of the LiveMedia framework, which
integrates real-time audio and video into the browser itself.
are a few examples of how companies across different industries
are using desktop video-conferencing to reduce travel costs,
facilitate quick communication of time-sensitive information,
and provide enhanced customer service.
Sales and Marketing
Ameritech uses a video-conferencing application to communicate
between sales offices and headquarters. This lets the company
save on travel costs and improve the distribution of competitive
information between the field and headquarters.
Technical Customer Service
SAP AMERICA uses
video-conferencing to offer customers real-time, in-person
support without the expense of on-site customer visits.
Chase Manhattan Bank has improved consultations between
portfolio managers and institutional accounts by providing
At the Georgia Tech Institute of Technology, video-conferencing
lets employers screen candidates in real time without incurring
A radiological services company is lowering the costs of
patient consultations by using desktop video-conferencing.
Medical specialists in remote locations have immediate access
to X rays and surgery videotape.
Real Estate Applications
Loan officers at real estate agencies use video-conferencing
to contact home buyers for loan qualification and processing.
A study revealed that
the principal area of concern for the experts at the central
office related to coordination between the central office
and the rig. Moreover, the ONGC personnel were required
to be physically present to monitor the equipment, drilling,
as well as the control room.
company deployed PictureTel's system 4000 model 200 ZX with
30 frames per second at the central office at Vasudhara
Bhavan, Mumbai, and at the three rigs, namely, BHN, BPA
and Heera. Other equipment used for the solu- tion were
video codecs; camera-main, auxiliary and docu- ment; Virtuoso
audio package; Sony monitors and handycam; VCRs; PCs and
others. Radio modems and sat- ellite link-ups using Comstrem
satellite modems provided the backbone for the complete
connectivity. The total cost of the VC solution was around
Benefits of the project: Before
the installation of the VC system, an average of around
five helicopter visits daily were made from the cen- tral
office to any of ttie rigs. This cost the company around
Rs5 lakh per day. Also every time there was a snag at one
of the offshore processing plants, the engineers were flown
to the platform to locate the fault and rectify it, further
in- creasing the cost. Other benefits which cannot be quanti-
fied are the life oostof personnel. During bad weather,
moni- toring often came to a standstill jeopardizing the
life of per- sonnel at the rigs.
of Video Conferencing :
is, as we have seen, an increasing variety of ways in which
to deliver videoconferencing. The most appropriate choice
of system will depend partly on the physical configuration
of sites to be connected, the number of people to be included
in the conference, the applications that are required, the
amount of traffic to be carried, and the distances between
recent survey of educational applications of videoconferencing
technology in North America (Bates 1992) identified a number
of findings that are likely to have a wide relevance.
Students prefer the 'Electronic Classroom'
at a local site to having to travel to another learning
centre or central campus.
The amount of time needed for instructional
preparation time was usually grossly under-estimated, and
teaching (and learning) methods often had to be radically
changed to exploit fully the teaching potential of the technology.
Videoconferencing for teaching purposes required additional
skills to those of a classroom teacher. Without training
of the teaching staff and their students, systems were under-used.
In many of the projects reviewed, it was difficult,
given the extra cost and lack of exploitation of the visual
medium, to see the justification for using videoconferencing
rather than audio-conferencing.
None of the projects reviewed provided firm
evidence that two-way live videoconferencing was more effective
than one-way video plus two-way audio, or even the distribution
of video tapes for individual use. Indeed, there was some
evidence that mature students who were working preferred
flexibility to live video interaction, if the latter meant
they had to be in a certain place at a certain time (Stone
1992). We do not fully understand the psychological limitations
of video conferencing, more research in this area is essential.
is possible with video conferencing if enough money is available.
However, Institutes must have a clear plan about how they
want to teach and where they want teaching to be delivered
before committing to a particular delivery technology if
cost effective systems are to be established. Video conferencing
is the future of counseling. Now a client can sit in front
of his computer and interact with his therapist without
having to leave his home. A client can develop the same
rapport and give feedback to his therapist that traditionally
required an office visit.
future of videoconferencing is boundless and exciting. Systems
are being improved with multiprotocol codecs and enhanced
codec software. The introduction of Internet 2 also promises
inexpensive access to higher bandwidth and higher speed
In the near future, as voice and video over IP improve,
more and more people will be holding meetings or just chatting
over the Internet. Teleconference software developers are
looking to create a full sweet of applications for teleconferencing
in the future. Not only will you just be able to make or
participate in a teleconference, but you will be able to
make a call, receive IP based video on demand either by
multicast or broadcast basis. The goal is to provide an
entire IP package for corporations to purchase that will
fill all of their video and voice over IP needs.
As wireless technology spreads and available bandwidth increases,
people will be participating in videoconferences through
their PDA's (personal digital assistant) and wireless phones.
This will allow the participants to be on the move while
in a meeting. Handouts and materials to be discussed during
the conference will be transmitted to the participants in
real time. People will be able to access each other's schedules
and a common time can be agreed upon and placed in to each
person's electronic schedule. Negotiations with the videoconferencing
provider will be automated. Voice recognition will allow
the coordinator of the conference to set up all of the times
for the conference by voice and billing will be automated.
Some feel that video conferencing may eventually replace
the telephone as smaller and smaller devices can receive
bandwidths high enough to support this new technology. The
big question is if communication devices get smaller and
smaller and available bandwidth gets larger and larger,
how are we supposed to see the videoconference on those
Although starting slowly, Video conferencing is increasing
rapidly as part of Internet communications. Personal use
is already increasing rapidly. Business usage will increase
dramatically in as we move nearer to the 2000's. This is
going to be a headache for Internet Service Providers because,
CU requires more bandwidth (signal power) than Web page
browsing, and significantly more than chat--the current
most-popular form of live communications.
Is video-conferencing a viable business communication tool
that should be included in the corporate Intranet? The answer
depends on the specific goals and configuration of individual
networks. Video-conferencing affords corporations the sophistication
of in-person communications in a model that can be incorporated
into a cost-effective Intranet strategy; however, bandwidth
concerns still create challenges for the system administrator.
practical solutions to these issues are developed, video-conferencing
over the Internet might ultimately become a de facto standard
for business communications. In the meantime, most businesses
will continue to rely on e-mail, chat, and even Internet
phones to handle the bulk of communications traffic over
will provide a great opportunity to communications professionals
knowledgeable in a combination of writing, visual, computing,
and photographic/video skills, with a knowledge of marketing
and advertising. Communities who do not install this education
in their schools will lose business to those that do.