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Understanding the real meaning of pervasive video

One of the hottest topics in unified communications (UC) over the past year has been video. We've seen new startups, such as Vidyo and Magor

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, come to market. We've also seen Polycom's acquisition of HP's Halo, and most recently in July, Cisco listing video as one of its top five initiatives at Cisco Live, the company's user conference. I've read many news stories and reports that discuss the concept of pervasive video, but in my opinion the term is being used incorrectly.

For the most part, the terms "pervasive video" and "ubiquitous video conferencing" are being used interchangeably. Ubiquitous video conferencing is a catch-phrase used to describe the growing trend in desktop video conferencing where every desktop is equipped with real-time video conferencing, and the video session replaces the phone call. While this vision of ubiquitous video conferencing would exponentially raise the value of video conferencing, it's still a limited view of what pervasive video is.

In my mind, pervasive video means using the visual medium to enhance numerous processes, and not just point-to-point (or multipoint) communications. With pervasive video, organizations need to think about how every process can be built around video instead of building the process and then modifying it for video. To accomplish this, it's important to understand all the possible use cases for video.

Here's my list of the primary use cases for video:

  • One-on-one collaboration/interactions. This is currently one of the most common use cases for video. I have a camera, and you have one, and we video each other. Now we can see body language and maintain eye contact while we interact, which improves the overall experience.
  • Group meetings. Telepresence has improved the video-based meeting experience greatly over the past five years. If the system is designed correctly, a video-based meeting is the next best thing to being there live. Again, this is one of the more typical use cases for video today.
  • Safety and security. Many organizations, such as city governments and universities, have been using IP-based video surveillance to monitor high-risk areas. Video can provide a safer environment for everyone, and it is being widely adopted at a rapid rate.
  • Education and training. Video can be used in two ways here. One is in a real-time mode to provide training to groups of individuals who cannot attend a live training session, class or meeting. Additionally, video training sessions can be recorded and then watched at the worker or student's convenience.
  • Corporate communications. Sharing a company vision or delivering other messages to an entire organization can be a difficult process. Flying hundreds or thousands of employees to a single location can be time-consuming and expensive. Video allows for everyone to participate in real time without leaving his or her desk or home office. Read more about how video conferencing can reduce travel budgets while improving meeting productivity.
  • Advertising through digital signage. Digital signage is another fast area of growth for video. It allows companies to quickly change advertisements on large screens. This can be used to personalize an ad or modify one on the fly for competitive purposes.
  • Business-to-consumer interactions. It can be difficult to have an expert or customer service representative available to customers on the spot. Video allows customers to interact with employees that are not in the same physical location. This can be especially useful in retail, hospitality and healthcare. Learn how video use in call centers creates new ways to interact with customers.
  • Extending the reach of events. Video-enabled events allow the organization to extend the reach of an event out of the local area, providing potential and existing customers with a flexible and cost-effective alternative to attending the event in person.

Video continues to be an exciting topic in UC today. The ways in which enterprise video can be used go well beyond the standard video conference. Before embarking on a broad video deployment, companies must understand the many ways video can be used, and consider the aforementioned use cases for video to maximize the investment in video technology.

About the author: Zeus Kerravala, Yankee Group senior vice president and distinguished research fellow, leads the firm's Research Council and is chartered with the responsibility of providing thought leadership to the research organization. Comprising senior research leaders, the Research Council provides outreach to clients and the broader Yankee Group community, as well as ensures that the company's research agenda addresses the needs of business leaders. Kerravala drives the strategic thinking of the research organization and helps shape the research direction. Much of Kerravala's expertise involves working with customers to solve their business issues through the deployment of infrastructure technology.

This was first published in August 2011

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