Videoconferencing Comes of Age

Article excerpt

For some, the vision was born in New York in 1964 at AT&T's World's Fair Pavilion. For many more, it began in the late 1960s with "Star Trek." For a few, it started with the TV cartoon "The Jetsons" in the early 1960s. However it began, the concept of two-way videoconferencing was the central part of a fantasy about how people might conduct business, government, even their social lives, more efficiently in the next century.

The next century, it turns out, has arrived a bit early. Today videoconferencing has become a reality for thousands of businesses and million of individuals. There are more than 25,000 videoconferencing systems operating around the world, and growth approaching 100% per year is projected for the next two years, with total revenues passing $1,000,000,000.

There are many reasons for the rapid expansion of videoconferencing: compression technology, which makes it possible to transmit more information; the continuing decrease in the cost of videoconferencing hardware; and the growth of communications links such as satellites, microwave transmission, and fiber optics. Where videoconferencing systems cost in excess of $50,000 three years ago, they are expected to dip below $10,000 in the near future. As a consequence, dedicated videoconferencing studios are appearing with greater frequency in corporate centers and business service bureaus across the globe.

The post-recession trend towards corporate downsizing and cost containment has resulted in businesses scrutinizing their travel budgets and trimming waste wherever possible. Since videoconferencing can deliver much of the personal contact and intimacy that otherwise requires on-site presence and can save enormous amounts of the time, money, and productivity lost in travel, it has become a much sought after alternative to business travel.

The potential applications of videoconferencing just are beginning to be explored. The first major use has been internal corporate communications, especially in situations where significant overseas initiatives require detailed reporting from operatives in the field. …