Video conferencing with anyone, from anywhere, on any device is becoming a major trend. Users love the flexibility of being able to join from their PC at home instead of trekking into the office conference room. Similarly, the ability to join a video call while taking the ferry back home or even an extremely important client meeting while on vacation not only makes employees more productive but helps contribute to a better work/life balance.

But can you really join a video conference from anywhere?

For personal use – absolutely; because no one really minds a choppy signal that fades in and out or the oddly dressed fellow in the background. The conversations are more casual and participants are simply so excited to actually “see” each other that the importance of high quality communications dissipates.

However, for business use, the answer is not really. The quality of communications plays a significant role in business video and a signal that fades in and out can be extremely frustrating. As a result, mobile video becomes a challenge in many business cases due to a lack of consistent internet quality.

In many public places, such as hotels and airports, the WiFi signal is unpredictable; resulting in poor quality and lack of a consistent experience. Furthermore, restricted 3G and 4G networks are inconsistent in their coverage (4G in some metropolitan areas, 3G in outlying area), making high quality video on the go extremely difficult.

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use mobile video ever again; it simply means be careful. Be wary of joining a video meeting from a new location and make a few test calls before committing to join a business meeting over video. If the quality is inconsistent, perhaps it’s better to join the call over audio.

I spent my childhood in St. Louis, MO and by the time I graduated high school I was ready to leave. I decided to go to college 1200 miles away in Boston and eventually moved to New York where I’ve finally settled down. Now, my best friends and I are all scattered across the country – Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, Washington, DC. We went from seeing each other every day to only during the summers and holidays and now it’s been a few years since we’ve all gotten together as a group.

Last year we were talking about getting a group trip together but schedules just never seem coordinate properly and trying to agree on a central location was practically impossible. As we continued through our crazy lives I couldn’t help but miss those crazy slumber parties and wondered how we can stay in touch better.

Then one day, while talking to my friend it hit me, why don’t we start a book club over video chat?  Shortly thereafter the most amazing idea was created.

Wine Wednesdays! One part book club, two parts happy hour, and six parts great laughs and good conversation.

Since we are all avid readers, we selected a fun book to read; then about a month later, we all gathered in a cloud meet-me room with our books and bottles of wine. We started sharing our thoughts on the book and as the night (and wine) progressed we were reminiscing and sharing funny stories of things that this book reminded us of. Next thing I knew it was going on 1am and my husband was yelling it’s bed time, you have work tomorrow.

So we all said goodbye and vowed to do it again soon because it was completely amazing and so much fun. We recently picked our next book which I am eagerly reading because I cannot wait for our next date. Although, I think we’re going to move Wine Wednesday to a Friday because I’m just not cutout for late night drinking on work nights.

There has been significant buzz around a recent Forbes article about the death of telepresence and Cisco’s  response. One side claims that telepresence is a dying breed while the other claims it is alive and well. So who is right?

Both of them.

Yes, there are many new entrants that are disrupting the visual communications space. These companies are making video more accessible by allowing organizations who previously couldn’t afford the technology the opportunity to video conference.  Furthermore, the explosion of cloud services and mobile video is extending the reach of visual collaboration while overcoming interoperability barriers.  The market is ever growing and organizations will continue to invest in these technologies at a rapid rate.

These solutions will not replace the need for Telepresence though.

While the quality of desktop, mobile and cloud solutions are improving; they pale in comparison to a truly immersive experience.  C-Level strategy meetings are far more likely to demand the quality and lifelike experience immersive systems offer.  In fact, saying that the executives of a multi-billion dollar corporation will opt for a lower quality but cost effective video solution is like saying they will choose to drive a Pinto because it’s more cost effective than a Mercedes-Benz.  Unfortunately, the current price tag for immersive solutions is typically only justified for executives; plus, there are only so many rooms a company can dedicate to telepresence.  This creates a significantly limited market and contributes to the declining sales of telepresence systems.

Experienced audio visual integrators; however, can overcome these limitations and expand the market for telepresence.  Advanced integrators can customize solutions to create an immersive feeling using standard HD video systems for a fraction of the cost.  Additionally, elite AV integrators can modify immersive and standard systems to expand both the range of rooms and applications telepresence can work in; allowing companies to design a solution that best fits their needs.

What does the future look like then?

While there will still be a place for telepresence; the shift towards software based systems will continue at an accelerated pace.  Many organizations will begin adopting UC and cloud platforms over standards-based enterprise systems due to their user friendly, cost effective and scalable collaboration capabilities. Polycom and Cisco will need to continue to drive innovation around UC solutions to remain competitive in this space. Integrated UC solutions, with interactive document sharing, will offer far more value to organizations than stand-alone desktop video solutions.

The bottom line is this:

Telepresence systems will continue to have their place in the C-suite and for meetings where the highest audio visual quality and seamless collaboration are mission critical.  However, UC and mobile video solutions will put the future of business collaboration into the hands of every user organization-wide ushering in a new era of connected workforce.