Is Innovation Required for Video Conferencing or is it The Applications That Need to be Innovative?

I've been whining a bit about the lack of innovation in video conferencing in my RADVISION blog, and even took the time to suggest what the next innovation might be.

At the time of writing these posts, I haven't had the time to read Robert Cringely's post about the education system:

Education, which - along with health care - seems to exist in an alternate economic universe, ought to be subject to the same economic realities as anything else.  We should have a marketplace for insight.  Take a variety of experts (both professors and lay specialists) and make them available over the Internet by video conference.  Each expert charges by the minute with those charges adjusting over time until a real market value is reached.  The whole setup would run like iTunes and sessions would be recorded for later review.

And this is just a quote. You should definitely read the whole post, especially the beginning of it, which is rather amusing.

The thing is, that his post got me thinking:

What if the innovation in video conferencing should not be in the technology or the service, but rather in the applications that people use?

Cisco Telepresence used in a class (commercial)

Maybe it's time to start thinking about video conferencing infrastructure (endpoints, bridges) as vehicles or enablers for other industries. The technology is mature enough and solid enough to take the next step. It is time we stop selling it as "just" a communication means to enterprises. Video conferencing should be embedded in a lot more applications and verticals. Education is one such vertical; Health care is another one. But there are many others which can enjoy the benefits of video conferencing, if we would only take the time to integrate it properly and find the right use cases.

There are misconceptions about video conferencing, even today:

  • I am in perpetual arguments with people who state that point-to-point video conferencing is useless and irrelevant. Not needed. Un-natural. Tell that to my mother who forced me years ago to purchase a webcam, just so she can speak with me on Skype. And I only live 30 minutes away.
  • People argue that video conferencing isn't required to replace face-to-face calls, since HD Voice can replace it at lower costs. So how do you explain companies who use video conferencing on a daily basis for internal meetings between branch offices and swear they could never exist without it?
  • Others say that video doesn't add anything on top of voice and that it even diminishes the communications experience. And still people, a lot of people, use video.

If we just provide video conferencing as a building block, instead of a whole service, we could let smart people like Robert Cringely find ways to use it,  let others mesh it up with other functionalities and use it as they like.

So is innovation necessary in video conferencing the building block or should it lay in the way people use it to build their own application logic around it?

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1 Comment

I think you raise some very good questions, but I prefer to discuss it further in person.

Next time you are in Boulder, let's discuss it.

Dave M


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