* What are the advantages of using videoconferencing technologies? What are the disadvantages?
* What is telepresence and what sorts of companies are best suited to use it as a communications tool?
* What kinds of companies could benefit from using videoconferencing? Are there any companies that might not derive any benefits from this technology?
1. Brief introduction about videoconferencing 2. Advantages and Drawbacks 3. Telepresence and who should use it? 4. Who should use videoconferencing? 5. Conclusion 6. References
What is videoconferencing?
Virtual communication has become the norm for numerous establishments. As technology has progressed, time and distance obstacles have softened. Videoconferencing –that is a huge part in virtual communication- is conducting a conference between two or more individuals that are present in different geographical areas through the use of telecommunication technologies. It is a type of videotelephony that uses audio and video transmissions to bring people at different sites together. It was launched in the 1970s in the USA by AT&T Corporation. Nowadays, it is growing at an annual rate of 30%. Many companies are using it, and those who are not have thought or are thinking of acquiring videoconferencing technologies. So what are the pros and cons for using this mode of communication?
Pros and Cons
New benefits of using this IT solution seem to develop each day. Now more than ever, videoconferencing helps reduce travel time and costs and increase productivity. It simply provides an added value and a competitive advantage to businesses. In fact, many firms use this service for the primary reason of cost savings. Employees can attend meetings online regardless of location, without paying for flight tickets and without the headache of traveling. Moreover, it is easy to use. Steps are really simple: login, attend the meeting, and then leave. No more dealing with security lines at airports. It only requires a computer, a webcam and an internet connection. It is a face to face experience rather than just an auditory one, making the contact more personal. It permits users to communicate anytime and anywhere. Additionally, it helps construct better affiliations with suppliers, clients and even potential employees before meeting with them in person.
Also, employees are able to work at home while conducting assemblies with other colleagues through videoconferencing. Furthermore, it creates equal opportunities in the workplace. As a matter of fact, physically-challenged individuals have greater access to the virtual environment than the physical workplace, and this will create more diverse teams, and foster greater creativity and innovation. Nevertheless, this mode is green in a sort that it reduces our carbon footprint, since the air travel and the vehicle uses are decreased. This IT solution brings you face to face. Meet together as if you were in the same room, and help save the planet – who wouldn’t want to do that? But then again, although videoconferencing has got many benefits to offer, it also has certain limitations. Disadvantages are logistical, but also deep-rooted.
Videoconferencing poses countless technical and logistical problems, such as scheduling, coping with time delays, and facing software bugs. Time zone barriers are an issue that is often encountered. Training and technological expertise are also an obstacle, since many users are not really familiar with this type of technology, so they don’t know how to navigate videoconferencing. As well, many interpersonal challenges are present. Social presence is eliminated which impedes trust and integrity, which are both imperative for an efficient virtual team’s success. Likewise, the lack of proper databases and people train to scheme knowledge is more prone to result in an information overload. In addition, the recipients in a videoconference may sometimes deduce that they are not significant enough to deserve the expense of face-to-face time.
To telepresence or not to telepresence?
Telepresence is “the top-of-the-line videoconferencing technology”. The term “telepresence” was firstly used by the US scientist Marvin Minsky in 1980 to shape his vision for a more developed version of teleoperation that focused on giving a participant a feeling of being present at a different location. It is a virtual experience meeting like no other that give the users the feeling that they actually are in the same room thanks to a combination of technology elements (such as a whiteboard, projector, etc.) and environmental design. Telepresence uses high definition audio and video. It is more user-friendly than traditional videoconferencing. Companies like Cisco, HP and Polycom are the players in this field. Its major drawback is that it is very expensive (if we want a reliable telepresence endpoint solution) and not all organizations can afford it. Actually, a fully-equipped telepresence room costs $500,000.
Even though telepresence is costly, its popularity is increasing. Casting companies can use it in order to audition talents who are present in a far location, without having to fly them in. Moreover, big schools or universities can benefit largely from a telepresence system, for many purposes, among them having a lecturer who also gives lectures in a university overseas. Besides, it has become a must for hotel chains to have at least one telepresence room that customers can rent. It is also very beneficial for hospitals or medical centers, where doctors can give information about some patient or even share their knowledge and expertise during a surgery.
Who benefits from videoconferencing?
As videoconferencing gains in popularity, more and more industries are making use of it. Therefore, the top industries that benefit from it are architecture firms, educational institutions, the medical fields, as well as hotel chains, banks, etc. With videoconferencing, money and time are saved, and efficiency and productivity are increased. The areas of telemedicine and teleducation benefit immensely from this advanced technology.
The problem of missed hours or days lost is dissolved with this mode of commuting. In addition, student collaboration is enhanced, in a way that videoconferencing encourages engagement and a more active participation in the learning environment. Students will benefit from an exceptional and dynamic learning experience. Institiutions will be able to bring in more guest speakers and real-world experts without the cost of time and travel. In architecture schools, students can communicate with project sponsors or collaborate with other schools to prepare for national competitions for example. Nursing students can dial into real hospitals to train with doctors, and be in the field without leaving the classroom.
On the other side, videoconferencing is disadvantageous for few industries. For instance, with videoconferencing being on the increase, business travel is decreasing, so the airline industry is losing because of this mode of telecommuting. If this trend continues, business travel will disappear.
Virtual communications offer a sustainable competitive advantage for many industries. The debate over whether virtual communication is a viable alternative to face-to-face communication is ongoing. There is no doubt that videoconferencing brings a new meaning to the concept of globalization and the world being a planetary village, but one might as well consider its cost, reliability, availability and quality before acquiring it.