Connecting People Anywhere Anytime
Travelling back to early nineteenth century, telephone and telegram were the first choice means of communication to connect people from anywhere, anytime. Fast forward a little to 1970s, the world got to know a new way of connecting people across the world with much more limitless possibilities - videoconference. Working much like communication tool such as telephone and telegram, videoconference is basically a set of technologies allowing people to interact with each other both visually and sonically in real time. To put it simple, you can actually see the other party and hear their sounds in a long distance conversation.
While individuals can certainly make a good use of it, videoconference is originally meant for connecting people in several different locations together anywhere, anytime. More often than not, it is used to serve company meetings, organization conferences, or even virtual classroom / long distance learnings. When compared to other tools of communication, it appears as better option since not only it supports simultaneous audio and visual transmissions, participants actually also got to share documents and multimedia contents over the air. And of course it goes without saying, videoconference offers an ultimate benefit of getting people connected anywhere and anytime in an easier way. But before digging in deeper with videoconference, let's have a quick look at different type of videoconferencing currently in use.
Types of Videoconferencing
As indicated by the name, multipoint videoconferencing connects calls from multiple points/sources. This way, users can connect to several people in different places at the same time. In the first place, it facilitates more effective and efficient communications. Next, it also comes handy for users with larger networks to connect with. Case in point, a consumer electronics manufacturer with regional offices in South East Asia. They can rely on multipoint videoconferencing to have strategic planning with internal staffs or hold business presentations with clients in every respective regions at once if necessary and possible. This way, many companies will be able to save substantial costs allocated for business trips, long distance traveling, commuting, or even lunch/ dinner meetings. While it accommodates users to reach wider audience at single chance, it may have pose a tough challenge as well like scheduling the meeting/conference itself. Problem is, connecting people with many schedule and interests is not easy. Not to mention the time zone difference and the extra equipments needed to make it work. The latter is almost crucial to the multipoint videoconferencing process itself and you may want to make sure that both you and the other parties invited to the conference do understand the basic of its mechanism.
First thing first, note that the whole process of multipoint videoconferencing rely on a multipoint control unit (MCU). Essentially, it is a bridge that connects three or more remote sites so that participants can interact with each other in either ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) or IP basis. To join a conference, all participants will be required to dial an ID or unique phone number which will connect them to the MCU. In general, MCU unit consist of a multipoint controller and a multipoint processors. Sometimes, it also includes particular softwares to enable special features in videoconferencing such as video annotation or dual streaming. These days, some high end type of MCU from major brands like Polycom (http://www.polycom.asia/) offers MCU unit in both embedded model or a standalone unit. With multiple participants involved, it is important to know that videoconferencing system works in two different modes: voice-activated switch and continuous presence. In the former system, there will be only one site displayed or one people do the talking at one time. To define this one party, the system usually chooses the loudest voice. In contrast, continuous presence mode allows different sites to be displayed in a split screen format.
Desktop videoconferencing is probably the most basic and widely-used type of videoconference. In fact, a lot of home and SOHO users have taken advantage of this way of connecting methods for a long time now. The reason is because it is very simple and cost effective. All you need is a desktop PC or notebook as the screen, a webcam, a pair of headphone (with attached microphone), and an Internet connection. What's more, there are currently tons of videoconference services, software, and freeware including a popular one like Skype. Even, some of the instant messenger apps like Yahoo Messenger and MSN messenger have the video call features built in. Then, of course you cannot possibly exclude smartphones and tablets. Really, if you are one of those nex generation socialites, there's a lot of ways to get connected anywhere, anytime.
The most common scenario of the desktop videoconferencing is some family or friend chats with people living miles away or in different cities/countries. Although phones are also applicable, video chat is often more preferred because of higher degree of closeness to the audience due to visual imagery aside of sound. Apart from personal matters, home users can also an option to communicate with companies from remote areas. As such, they does not have to come all the way to the offices and waste time during long commute. Instead, they can just work from home and send their works over. Even if there is internal meetings or trainings, they can also join with the right video conference equipment. More or less, it makes people more productive than they are used to be since they obviously can reduce unnecessary traveling costs and make quicker decision with everyone available at any time.
Along with the vast improvement in telecommunications industry, videoconferencing has grown much more sophisticated than expected. If you are amazed by how videoconference connecting many people in many places anywhere and anytime, telepresence perhaps will make you drown in Wonderland. Literally, telepresence videoconferencing is an array of systems that can create an impression of other participants being really present in the very same place you are although they are not. To make it as realistic as possible, telepresence will require involvement of all senses and thus usually have all the environment of both parties duplicated to the smallest details. If necessary, it sometimes include a very big screen to project real size image of the other parties. At this rate, sound distortion and noise are also kept to minimal with high fidelity sound equipment. But again, considering the accuracy of sight and sound offered, there's a price you need to pay. While telepresence is clearly beneficial, it also costs you pretty dearly, especially if you are not one of the multi-billion dollar companies out there. It is indeed a worthy investment but there are always for improvement and if you do not need such realism, traditional videoconferencing may make a wiser option.
In a nutshell, videoconference may benefit different people in different ways. For individual users, it may be just the perfect tool to keep the ties between family members and friends strong and flourishing. Then, it also facilitates easier learning process in education sector while improves productivity and efficiency for businesses. Videoconference still has a long way to go and there�re simply many ways of connecting people anywhere, anytime.