With Q1 2014 in the books, it’s a good time to anticipate what may lie ahead for us in 2014. For starters, there are some interesting things happening in the world of video conferencing that are worth paying attention to. Following are the top three trends businesses should keep on their radar as the New Year approaches.

  1. Software-Based Video Conferencing Solutions

    Video conferencing has traditionally been a hardware-centric technology solution. Over the past couple of years, however, there has been a shift in interest and demand for software and services-based video conferencing solutions. This new model is giving customers more options, more flexibility, and cost savings with regard to how they implement and consume video conferencing solutions. The downside to this trend is that the myriad of services available creates confusion in the market, and it makes the investigation and procurement process more difficult for decision makers.One of the technology enablers behind software-based video conferencing is virtualization technologies that allow software-based components to be deployed more cost effectively. For example, you can put your video management layer, Session Border Controller, and gateway/gatekeeping services on the same physical server now rather than using a dedicated device for each component.Another enabler of the software-based video conferencing trend is the wider adoption of standards-based protocols [e.g. SIP and H.264] and interworking mechanisms by the developers and providers. This is what allows end users to mix-and-match across different video conferencing vendors and brands, and across different end point types and networks. This improved compatibility makes it easier to cap and grow or deploy a specific solution for a specific portion of the workforce and integrate the new solution with existing investments. For example, an enterprise may choose to expand its capacity to meet mobile demands. By deploying software-based solutions, customers can more easily ensure these new mobile solutions can integrate with existing room-based and executive video conferencing systems.

  2. AVaaS (Video-as-a-Service)

    One of the main benefits of virtualization has been a move to hosted and cloud-based video conferencing. Rather than owning a solution, businesses are becoming more comfortable paying a cloud provider or video managed services provider a monthly subscription fee and consuming video as a service.This trend started a few years ago as the global economy climbed out of the recession. Organizations were looking for lower risks with their IT investments and paying a monthly subscription fee offered less risk than making large capital investments in video conferencing software and infrastructure equipment. It also protects organizations from worrying about technology obsolescence as well as the ongoing costs of upgrades, maintenance, and repairs. We’re projecting the hosted and cloud-based video conferencing model to continue growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 25% through 2016. The traditional on-premises managed services model is also continuing to grow, but at a CAGR less than half (11%) of what the hosted and cloud model is growing.

  3. Mobility

    There’s no denying that BYOD (bring your own device) is really happening in the work place. There are a lot of new IT management challenges that come with BYOD, including managing video. Mobile devices – especially tablets – make for very feasible video conferencing end points. The downside is that many organizations traditionally paid for their video network capacity by the port. So, if you have more end points using video conferencing at work, you need to add capacity. BYOD requires organizations to figure out who really needs to have video and how to prioritize video ports and bandwidth.VaaS providers are responding to this need by offering new pricing models that take into account the number of concurrent users accessing the network. Organizations are wise to use management software that can reserve video ports for users and can report on who accessed the network, on what device, for how long, at what connection speed, and provide their total bandwidth usage to get a better idea of usage patterns.  With this information, organizations need to then lay out what their projected port usage and bandwidth needs will be over the next year. This will allow them to scale video capacity and work with their network providers to select bandwidth plans that best meet their evolving needs.

Despite all the exciting things happening, video communication is not going to replace voice calls any time soon. Organizations need to be strategic about any video deployment to ensure it’s used in a way that adds value to a conversation and complements other modes of communication within their unified communications and collaboration environment. In some situations video doesn’t add value. In other situations face-to-face communication is proving to be extremely beneficial in developing relationships, understanding job roles, troubleshooting and shortening learning curves. For example, if a remote engineer can visually assist a technician via video conference, the resolution can often be realized more quickly, thereby reducing the customer’s downtime and boosting the repair person’s knowledge and efficiency. In that case, it’s a win for everyone, which in the right circumstances is exactly what video has the potential to be.