“It’s the next best thing to being there.” At one time, Bell Systems made that proclamation about long-distance telephone calls. The ante has long since been raised and is now perhaps best achieved through video conferencing. But, there are different types of video conferencing solutions out there:
Web video conferencing
Desktop video conferencing
Set-top video conferencing
Room-based video conferencing
Telepresence video conferencing
In finding the right video conferencing systems for your needs, you may want to keep these questions in mind as we briefly describe each:
What types of meetings are you traditionally holding?
Training / Seminars
How many people will participate at each location where the video conference will be viewed?
Is it to one room of people?
Is it to multiple sites with a room of people at each site?
Is everyone accessing the video conference separately?
Is it important to share documents, files, videos, presentations typically stored on a PC or similar?
Are video conferences generally internal company communications or do you expect people outside of your business to participate?
How much bandwidth is available?
With these questions in mind, let’s step through your options. But first, if your existing telephone system is particularly outdated, you might want to consider reaching out to some of the IT companies in Melbourne or IT companies closer to where your business is based for advice and support on how to go about updating your telecommunication systems. From then onwards, you can start to look at video conferencing technology.
Web Video Conferencing Just about everyone in business has experience with web video conferencing solutions. Their experience varies depending on the quality of the internet they are connected to; fast internet is essential for a productive video conference that avoids delay and disconnection. Some video conferencing solutions are so common, their names have almost become nouns: Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc. Everything needed for a video conference is hosted in the Cloud. Participants connect, view and talk using a browser (and in some cases, an app). Simple. Fast. Cheap. You can participate in a web conference virtually anywhere, anytime. But the convenience comes at the expense of quality and capability. Generally, it’s one participant per device with the experience completely dependent on your device’s camera, microphone, speaker(s), Internet connectivity and your immediate surroundings. Some people are now starting to take their video conferencing into the privacy of an office phone booth.
Desktop Video Conferencing The next step up is desktop video conferencing. Generally, hardware (i.e. camera and potentially a microphone and speakers) and software are added to a desktop computer or sometimes a laptop. The software operates the camera in conjunction with speakers. It also facilitates the Internet or broadband connection for two-way communication. The sweet spot for this type of solution is usually within the confines of an office or cubical for use by one person…although two or three others could potentially squeeze in. This could be used with web conferencing or in a point-to-point video conference where the video conference is directly connected with another location. Costs can vary, but are usually less than $300, depending on the camera and software features.
Set-top Video Conferencing Set-top video conferencing systems have all of the hardware components required to initiate a video conference in a portable box that sits on top of a monitor. More often than not, video conferencing sessions using these types of systems will be connected directly with other video conferencing systems of similar or more advanced capabilities. Usually, the system is on a cart that can be wheeled around from room to room – with the rooms often being small conference rooms or huddle rooms. The camera, microphone and speakers are designed to allow a small group of people to comfortably see and hear as well as be seen and heard. Pricing may range from $3,000 up to $20,000 (or so) depending on the video quality and acoustic capability of the unit.
Room-based Video Conferencing Room-based video conferencing will have a room dedicated to video conferencing, such as a boardroom or conference room. The room is ideally soundproof and acoustically tweaked to minimize echoes and other issues such as droning ventilation sounds. System design and integration can vary dramatically – from having hardware in the middle of the room for easy access and using fixed monitors/screens, to having virtually everything (including monitors, projects, screens etc.) concealed with remote control access. In the case of the latter, microphones and speakers can be strategically placed in the ceiling throughout the room to facilitate very natural conversations. It is not unusual for these types of system integrations to cost in the neighborhood of $100,000.
Telepresence Video Conferencing When it comes to “the next best thing to being there,” telepresence may be as close to “being there” as we’re going to get. At least for now.
It requires a dedicated room like a like room-based video conferencing solution, but the room comes with a lot of additional design and technology:
Life-size high definition (HD, 4K) quality screens that are often transparent, giving the impression that remote participants are actually in the room
Eye-level, well-concealed cameras for direct eye contact
A ton of cool features, including remote participants being able to control equipment as if they were in the room
Very sophisticated acoustics such that the directional sounds of people talking are just as if you were sitting at the end of the table – rather than another room…2,000 miles away
Costs will vary greatly based on specific requirements, but you can pencil in $300,000 as a place to start.
As you can see, some video conferencing solutions are very straightforward, inexpensive and easy to implement on your own. However, any room-sized solution calls for an audiovideo integrator like ExhibitOne.
After all, along with all of that technology, it’s important for one more thing to be in your room – experience. In this case, “It’s the best thing to be in there.”