The Future of Video Communication and Meeting Productivity
The Current State
Five years ago, cloud-architecture emerged as the biggest industry disruptor since the conception of HD. Today, companies offering a video conferencing and communication solution have either transitioned to cloud, failed to do so, become a specialty on-premise niche solution or are so new that cloud is the only thing they’ve ever known.
The big trends impacting the current state of the UCC industry are as follows:
The places where work happens have changed
Home office, remote office, coworking space, coffee shop — video has enabled a massive global remote workforce that relies on high quality face-to-face interactions with their teams every single day.
Collaboration rooms have gotten smaller
Companies transitioning to more open office layouts are placing a greater demand on smaller huddle rooms for team collaboration. Technologies like video conferencing and wireless content sharing are being incorporated into every meeting space and not just the executive boardrooms of the past.
Users expect interoperability and flexibility
You have Skype for Business/Cisco/Polycom/Slack/HipChat/etc., I have Lifesize — we should be able to connect despite our differences (and we can!). Businesses are made up of everyday consumers demanding that the tools being deployed are standards-based to be compatible with one another and designed in a way to work within existing workflows.
The workforce is rapidly changing
Millennials now represent the largest generation in the labor force. Businesses looking to attract the best of this digitally native workforce are prioritizing video-first collaboration cultures to better fit with agile work styles.
One of the best things about the Lifesize blend of smart conference room devices with a cloud-based service is being able to make use of emerging trends from both the hardware and software worlds without being tied to a full infrastructure refresh.
Lifesize CTO Bobby Beckman and CPO Michael Helmbrecht recently participated in panel sessions at InfoComm 2018 in Las Vegas. Here are a few technology trends brewing in 2018.
1. The evolution of video from business advantage to business necessity
Video conferencing will soon no longer be a strategic advantage for companies; it will be a must-have for companies that want to stay relevant. This means it will move from being a bonus feature or an option to be a requirement for getting business done with remote employees or affiliates. From virtual home tours in real estate to automatic translation on multi-language calls to a widespread telehealth boom — we’ve only cracked the surface of what is possible in the near term.
Video has often been regarded as “the next best thing to in-person meetings.” As improvements in AI and augmented reality start to enhance the video experience, live translations and facial expression monitoring will make video-assisted calls far superior to in person meetings for many exchanges.
2. The prioritization of user-driven experience
Now that most of the technologies in the marketplace are “good enough,” we are hitting a point where the shift to a primary focus on user experience will supersede quality enhancements. Vanity features like definition improvements will be surpassed by efficiency and productivity features driven by automation and AI. The notion of “Cisco shops” will fade into obscurity as the user preference will take priority over legacy hardware investments and outdated service models.
Furthermore, this end user–driven culture will give way to a rise in multi-use mini and huddle meeting rooms that teams can use for more than just in-person meetings. Trends in meeting room technology continue to evolve as what was once executive boardroom technology enters standard conference rooms and huddle rooms. Businesses wanting to make the most of their meeting room real estate will create a video and content sharing experience in every meeting room and invest in low-cost mini conference spaces built for one to two people.
3. The video-first culture
The “three C’s” (cost, cloud, complexity) are no longer the elephant in the room. Culture is the new C word. How will business and IT leaders drive a video-first culture that enables every employee on every device? We will see an increased focus on the science of technology adoption, which will go hand in hand with a user-driven experience.
A simplified user experience is not a substitute for education. While the individual features and call flows have become more intuitive, end users still want to be empowered by best practices and power users still want education for going above and beyond the typical use cases.
4. The balancing of quality and mobility
The sheer accessibility of video conferencing around the world combined with the fact that guest users are joining more than 50% of all calls has created a new challenge for service providers to make the most of a range of network bandwidths. To ensure a top-notch video experience, video services in particular will continue to evolve their network architecture to be more efficient on the low end and continuously scale to high-end 4k resolutions.
The use of WebRTC and web-based applications that natively run in browsers without the need for plug-ins or extensions will reduce barriers to communication, allowing anyone carrying a device with a built-in camera to participate in a video call.
5. The convergence of meeting room technologies
We no longer live in a workplace of siloed communication tools. Audio, video, data sharing and whiteboarding have come together to create a meeting room experience with a real impact on how people meet. The term UCC has never been more accurate than it is now, but the challenge is taking productivity tools and weaving them into collaboration workflows for an enhanced experience.
The average business is currently juggling 4.4 different collaboration technologies just to keep users connected inside and outside of the meeting room. As meeting technologies converge, the end user experience will become even more seamless, making it easier to focus on the meeting at hand.
6. The growth of automation and productivity bots
Natural language processing in the consumer technology space — such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana — has sparked an interest in automation and bot technology in the business setting. This will take the form of facial expression recognition, auto-generated meeting summaries, smart notes/annotations, language translation and many more use cases. Keep an eye on this technology as it advances in the video collaboration industry.
Security will play a huge role in automation and bot technology as businesses look for a way to make use of the technology without subjecting their workforce to consumer-based cloud technologies and attacks. In its current state, many businesses are interested in voice recognition but are unwilling to use consumer apps based solely on security implications.
7. The rise of AI and machine learning
From background noise suppression and echo cancellation to voice and facial recognition, machine learning has already made huge strides in simplifying the way we communicate from an end user perspective. When it comes to IT admins managing a collaboration technology stack, however, machine learning has aided in the monitoring of networks and endpoints for enhanced reliability and performance.
Cloud-based video conferencing solutions give us access to huge amounts of data about meeting habits. This data, aided by artificial intelligence and machine learning, could allow us to optimize the use of the platform and increase the effectiveness of meetings — many of the other trends (e.g., virtual assistants, facial recognition) are, in effect, powered by AI. At a basic level, AI could enable us to determine optimal meeting length, the ideal number of participants or the best time of the day to hold a meeting to improve productivity. Voice recognition could analyze the content of meetings, compare against other meetings in the same organization and make suggestions regarding connections among people with complementary skills or knowledge.
A note on GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will soon be a disruptor of innovation in the area of AI and machine learning. GDPR requires informed consent to process a user’s personal data, which surfaces the question of how consent can be managed within the AI space. We’ll begin seeing more and more news on this as GDPR sets in. It will be interesting to see how it affects collaboration in the workplace.
As businesses scramble to keep up with communication trends, there are a few things we know to be true this year as it relates to video conferencing.
First, the technology at our fingertips is excellent and, like every other generation, it is driven by the personal tools people use. To that end, user experience will become a primary driver in innovation. What the user wants will be the most important consideration.
Second, the impact of video on more specialized use cases will continue to grow. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to video collaboration in the workplace. As mentioned earlier, video has been a business advantage up to this point, but soon it will become an essential part of corporate technology.
Third, we’ll begin to see more workplace green initiatives with the rise of video collaboration. Today, 40% of all emissions are from vehicles. By offsetting a commute or working from home a couple of days per week, we could collectively make a notable dent in our carbon footprint.
And finally, video conferencing is here to stay. Many of the tools in the marketplace are simply “good enough.” What businesses have to decide is what features matter most when selecting collaboration technology.