As competitive pressures have become increasingly intense, many new business needs have surfaced that point to videoconferencing as an important communications tool. Corporations and other organizations are discovering that videoconferencing can increase productivity, allow distant personnel to communicate with each other easily and quickly, and improve the timeliness and quality of critical decisions. It can also help companies establish and reinforce corporate goals and directions more clearly by allowing them to communicate interactively with a large and widespread employee base. The technology of videoconferencing has become routine for distributing information, managing business, and communicating in general. A major factor in acceptance has been the availability of a wide range of systems designed to fit every need and every budget.

Videoconferencing systems can generally be categorized into "fixed" and "portable" systems. Applications requiring larger format group meetings with six or more participants will generally require a fixed system. Fixed systems are conference rooms that are constructed as fixed or permanent video meeting rooms, incorporating business TV and videoconferencing capabilities as part of a total audio visual presentation environment. Portable systems serve smaller groups and individuals. These are usually single or twin monitor systems that can be moved from one office to another or incorporated into a personal computer.

For those considering the implementation of a fixed system, great care must be given to various room design parameters to maximize the effectiveness and utility of the system:

  • Lighting and associated zoning
  • Acoustical isolation and reverberation control
  • Electrical and HVAC design
  • Choice of colors and finishes
  • The design and layout of furnishings

All of the above factors directly effect the performance of videoconferencing systems.

In fact, the proper design of the room often has more impact on system performance than the does the equipment itself. Appropriate lighting fixtures costing perhaps $2,500 may well improve video image quality far more than an extra expenditure of $20,000 for higher resolution video cameras. As such, the room is an integral part of the system. For this reason, an experienced consultant is usually involved in the design of fixed video meeting rooms - not only to specify equipment, but to recommend the proper balance between room and equipment costs.

Equipment in a basic videoconferencing system consists of a codec, two or more video cameras, video monitors for display, an audio system, and a controller. However, a variety of other products and system configurations are possible. For example, there are a number of ways to transmit graphics and text in a videoconferencing system including the use of an overhead video camera, a video scanner, or video copy stand. (The text type and size of images and drawings must be considered in order to select the appropriate peripheral products.)

So, how do you determine if videoconferencing is the right solution for you? Chances are, if your organization has several of the following key characteristics then videoconferencing will prove effective:

  • Dispersed operations in multiple locations
  • High-tech products with a complex development process
  • Intense competition
  • Short product life cycles
  • Downsizing of staff and overall streamlining of operations
  • Travel concerns
  • Spending restrictions
  • Need for enhanced productivity

The primary benefit of videoconferencing is immediacy, therefore producing a more productive organization. Videoconferencing lets you get things done today, rather than having to put them off until you can get people from all over the country, or world, in the same place for a meeting. That's an incredible advantage, particularly when you are dealing with major projects that require input from numerous departments within a company. By its nature, videoconferencing allows a company to involve more people in any corporate process, whether they are developing a new product, a marketing plan, or executing an engineering project. At a time when many companies are downsizing, they can utilize scarce human expertise more efficiently. And, the factor of travel time is eliminated entirely. Today's global business environment has made spontaneous, cost effective and efficient communication a key challenge for the future. With videoconferencing, companies can meet that challenge!