Let’s take a quick look at the history of video conferencing to get to the technological progress we see and use today.

Video had it’s 15 minutes of fame

In 1968, video conferencing was first introduced and packaged as a commercial solution at the World’s Fair in New York. The technology introduced was called the Picturephone from AT&T. Participants were able to sit down and communicate “via video” with the person on the other end for 10 minutes at a time to experience the first video telephone device designed for the masses. Unfortunately, this particular machine was ridiculously expensive, clunky and difficult to set up. Still, it was pretty cool for the ’60s.

There was a huge dry spell (in terms of video adoption) until the 1980’s. Video remained a sci-fi fantasy in the minds of consumers until the introduction of systems from Compression Labs were sold for $250,000 and the VC system from PictureTel that took a big price drop to $80,000 in the late ‘80s.

In the 90’s major advancements in IP technology, the internet and video compression enabled more possibilities for video collaboration via desktop. Another price drop to $20,000 systems from IBM and the introduction of CU-See Me (no audio) from Macintosh made video collaboration a bit more of a reality for consumers and businesses.

As for the late ’90s to early 2000’s you can look to Polycom for playing a large part in the evolution of video conferencing with things like the ViewStation® in ’98 that put Polycom at 1 billion in sales for the year and the Via Video desktop solution in 2000.

FUN FACT: the director of the Lord of the Rings used Polycom technology to communicate with people on set in over 150 locations across the world during the making of the trilogy in 2003. Remember his name?

Scale of video adoption and usage: the mobile workforce and pervasiveness

The mid-2000’s was a crucial time for video conferencing use cases other than large enterprises (although enterprise adoption was continuing to grow as well). Courts, law firms and military needs for video conferencing came into play, more specifically – video conferencing kiosks, and mobile technology for collaboration across borders. The biggest use cases driving video adoption at the time though were higher education distance learning and telehealth in healthcare.

FUN FACT: In 2003, major advancements in telehealth, like the first transatlantic “telesurgery” helped drive more awareness of the impact and possibilities of video technology on healthcare. Video technology allowed a surgeon in the U.S. to control a robot overseas to perform a successful gall bladder surgery.

Enterprise video adoption

But, where video really began to take off was throughout large global enterprises who realized the need to reduce travel, increase product time to market and improve collaboration. The internet (Wifi) and HD video camera technology in smart phones and laptop devices helped push video out of “the boardroom” for many large enterprises, and into the hands of knowledge workers across the organization.

Video adoption is great

In a Wainhouse report from this year, IT decision makers reported using video in 45% of their meetings. The more that video spreads across the organization, the more efficient and cohesive communication becomes inside and out. Working with a lot of companies who use video, I’ve started to notice the impact of video on communication and company culture myself. Generally speaking, video collaboration helps keep meeting participants more engaged throughout the meeting, and drive better outcomes than audio. It also helps us at Vyopta build better relationships with our customers through face-to-face interaction and adds a bit more of a personal touch to our one-on-one meetings.

From my experience, I can confidently say that large enterprises with only IM, VoIP and audio conferencing solutions are missing out on the richness of interaction and collaboration that connects workers across organizations with video.

Analytics for enterprise video environments

As video administrators deploy company-wide technologies including mobile and desktop solutions – the environment simultaneously becomes more difficult to manage without analytics. Issue resolution for video infrastructure and quality across the large video conferencing environment is nearly impossible without a real-time monitoring solution.

Many video IT teams are starting to use real-time quality monitoring tools for complex, multi-vendor video environments to improve their networks in-house, rather than outsourcing. Things have changed a lot since the 1968 World’s Fair and thus adoption of analytics to manage networks that enable 10,000 + employees to access video collaboration is a natural progression.


Polycom infographic: http://www.polycom.com/company/about-us/history-of-innovation.html

Image source: http://www.technoreviews.in/picturephone-the-invention-more-flawed-the-whole-story-50-years/



Check out this great infographic from Arkadin and follow Vyopta on Pinterest for more great facts in the history of video conferencing and unified communications

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