New Opportunities With Voice: UC Enabled Video Conferencing

24 Mar 2012

The common goal of UC-enabled applications is to provide greater flexibility in communicating with people, including both a variety of messaging and synchronous, real time connections or conferencing. While voice conferencing has become relatively easy to implement, being based on traditional telephony and now with Web-based IP Telephony, including video as a more flexible option for individual conference participants, is now practical with UC enablement.

Voice conferencing has primarily been limited by participant "availability," and typically requires scheduling people's time. With video, however, availability is not the only constraint, because individual participants may have other needs that will affect the way they participate. Allowing individuals to selectively participate in a real time conference connection with different communication modalities can greatly simplify and expand the power of all conferencing activities. I would like to call this flexibility simply "unified conferencing" but "UC" already means more than that.

Why Do Companies Need "UC Conferencing?"

It's nice if you can gather everyone into a room for a face-to-face meeting, but increasingly distributed and global business activities makes that more difficult, inefficient, and expensive. With voice and video conferencing, those problems can be reduced, but people are not just sitting at their desks 24x7 and available for a real time conference connection. We now face a BYOD world of mobility, where not only will end users have different mobile devices, but they will also be in different situations that can limit their real-time participation in a multimedia conference. Providing individual user control over their mode of participation, voice and video, will enable faster conferencing initiation and greater participation, and that's what UC Conferencing brings to both the desktop and mobile devices.

While we have all seen video face-to-face conferencing or "telepresence" as a growing form of business communication, it has been a limited and expensive technology silo. It required participants to use location-based room or desktop conferencing equipment and, while smartphones and tablets can also support mobile video conferencing participation, not all users will need or want to be "on camera." So, by making video conferencing UC-enabled, it can now be integrated with voice conferencing to provide individual end users with personal flexibility in participating in real time. Obviously, mobile users will gain the most from such flexibility.

As I reported on Avaya's recent announcement of its acquisition of RADVISION, Ltd., it highlighted such UC Videoconferencing flexibility in the form of "mixed-mode" conferencing, where individual participants have a choice of dynamic conferencing interface modes that are in use today but not necessarily integrated for concurrent use, including:

  • "On camera" face-to-face connection (conversational voice and video)
  • Video and voice calling
  • Video viewing ("off camera") and voice conferencing connection
  • Voice-only conference connection
  • Web conferencing with one-way video
  • Sidebar communications (text messaging, chat)

Such flexibility will be particularly useful for ad hoc conferencing and video calling, where individual mobile users with smartphones and tablets, may have to participate in a restricted mode because of their situation or endpoint device. This also means that people, who want to communicate in real time, don't all have to have identical endpoint devices, communicate with identical modalities, or have the same network connection. With the growth of IP Telephony and CaaS, individual end users, both inside and outside of an organization, should be able to choose their modes of conference participation dynamically and switch modes as needed. Video includes voice, voice doesn't include video, but both still need user real time availability (presence).

In addition to supporting mobile devices for UC enabled conferencing, Avaya's RADVISION announcement indicated that the technology was "cloud" ready, i.e., that the technology can be available as a service without investment in premise-based equipment. This combination, coupled with standards-based applications, open infrastructure and endpoints for ad-hoc and scheduled videoconferencing with room-based systems, desktop, and mobile consumer devices, will facilitate the establishment of practical organizational BYOD policy for mobile employees.

"Cloud-based," UC enabled video conferencing was viewed by Avaya as high on the list for:

  • Health care and medical devices
  • Education markets for distance learning
  • Contact center applications
  • Financial services
  • SMB ad hoc video conferencing

The bottom line for UC enablement is not just in reducing costs and improving operational usage management, but also to maximize the benefits of UC for individual end users and operational group productivity (UC-U, UC-B).

New Opportunity for VARs to Become UC Solution Integrators

UC-enabled video conferencing is one more way for established telephony VARs to jump on the moving UC train, especially in reselling it as a "cloud" service. Inasmuch as conferencing services are needed for collaboration with people at different locations and outside of an organization, "UC Conferencing" (voice and video) as a service makes a lot of practical sense. Integrate it with Mobile UC and other forms of information exchange, and, voila, UC enablement can really pay off!

The Mobile UC game is on and video conferencing has stepped up to the plate!


There are currently no comments on this article.

You must be a registered user to make comments