Video conferencing software–sometimes called video conferencing, web conferencing, or simply “visio”–is computer tools that allow direct, online, video-conferencing communications between two or more parties, simulating face-to-face meetings.
Video conferencing brings together people who would normally not be able to meet face to face.
In its simplest form, Video transmits still images and text as well as low-quality audio. But most of the current tools allow transmission of HD video and audio streams.
In the world of professional IT, video is a central component of Unified Communication (UC).
The emergence of virtual meeting rooms in the cloud now allows companies to reduce the minimum investment in infrastructure to deploy video conferencing.
How video conferencing works
Technically, the basic process of video conferencing is divided into two main stages: encoding, compression / decoding, decompression, and data transmission and encoding.
Compression consists of capturing an analog signal (sounds, colors, brightness, etc.) with a webcam and microphone and converting it, using codecs, into digital packets that can be transmitted over a network using the lowest possible bandwidth.
During transmission, digital data is sent to the receiver (or devices). Once it reaches its endpoint, the stream is decoded and decompressed by the application’s codecs which convert it back to analog audio and video.
The transmission between participants can be centralized on a server (provider server) which integrates and redistributes the streams (multiplexing) or in a decentralized manner (network or otherwise) depending on the protocol used.
The stream is encrypted during transmission to avoid any interception of conversations. But true end-to-end encryption (ie without any obvious point at any point in transit, not even on the publisher’s server) has not been popularized yet.
The various components of a video conferencing system
The components of a video conferencing system are:
- a network to transfer data. This is usually a high-speed Internet connection that uses technology similar to Voice over IP (VoIP).
- from cameras Video or webcams that provide video input.
- from microphones – External or built into the user’s device (smartphone, PC, Mac, meeting room equipment).
- a Screenor a monitor, TV, or projector for the video output stream.
- helmets Amplifiers Built-in devices or external speakers for audio output
- Encryption and decryption software solutioncoding) and encryption.
- A solution for Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC) and audio latency reduction.
Benefits of video conferencing
Video conferencing has many benefits. In companies, it provides a better way to communicate and interact with colleagues, partners and customers.
Its tangible benefits include lower travel costs – especially for employee training – and reduced project times through improved communication between team members.
On a personal level, face-to-face communication adds a nonverbal part to the exchange, making it possible to develop a stronger sense of intimacy with each colleague.
Disadvantages and limitations of video conferencing
While video conferencing has many advantages, it also has limitations. For example, video calls require a stable high-speed Internet connection, which is not the case everywhere.
Conferences with high latency in audio or video streams can quickly become frustrating.
Another downside is the high cost of high-quality commercial video conferencing systems. Businesses rely on video services to reduce business travel costs. But unlike pure software or SaaS solutions, many continue to furnish their workplaces with dedicated rooms, resulting in large budgets (hardware equipment, licenses, system installation and maintenance, etc.).
Video conferencing market and players
Consumer tools — Apple’s Facetime and Microsoft’s Skype — have greatly democratized video. They are also accustomed to users to have meetings on the computer and on their smartphones.
The B2B video market consists of a large number of players. These programs include Cisco (Webex), Microsoft (Teams), Avaya, Mitel, Lifesize, Logitech, ZTE, PGi, Poly, RingCentral, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, Fuze, Zoom, BlueJeans (Verizon), or Google (Meet).
Options are also in France – with Tixeo, ALE (Rainbow), Apizee, Livestorm Meet and Private Discussion – and in Europe – with Britain’s Starleaf or Norway’s Whereby
On a larger scale, video conferencing has become a “commodity”, particularly as open source solutions reach maturity that provide a solid foundation for creating and deploying a tool yourself (Jitsi, BigBlueButton or NextCloud Talk, the latter still in development).
Key Features of Video Conferencing Tool
The primary functions of video conferencing are to broadcast video and audio in real time between meeting participants. But these solutions go beyond that.
Before upstream, they manage invitations (sending emails, adding to diaries, inviting to a permanent virtual room or creating a temporary room, etc.) and access rights (adding a password, waiting rooms to verify the identity of participants, etc.).
During a meeting, video conferencing tools allow for screen sharing, public chat (a comment is sent to everyone), private chat (a conversation between participants) as well as a range of reactions (raise your hand, emoticons).
Ultimately, most tools allow recording meetings for later viewing.
Video conferencing can always turn into a webcast. In this case, only organizers can broadcast. They have the word and the hand, and the audience can only respond through chat or “emoticons”. This particular use of video is appropriate for shareholder committees, company conferences (internal or press), or major events.
With the advent of remote work, some jobs that are considered “tools” tend to become democratized and become “centralised”. For example default backgrounds – with or without a green background, static or animated – hide the participants’ background. Another example, participants can be visualized in a hypothetical context (representing the meeting in an inserted form for example).
Advanced video conferencing features
In addition to these basic features, publishers are adding value to these tools through “advanced” features, which are often paid for.
Conversations can, for example, be translated in real time, and then translated either via an interpreter or via artificial intelligence.
Visio tools make it possible to force panels (a static presentation model, with two interlocutors, one presenter and one interfering for example) or trigger timers to control speaking times and/or transitions.
Video conferencing is increasingly playing the card of integration with third-party tools. Either by integrating, via a connector, into an application – for example to initiate a call with clients from a CRM. Or, in the opposite direction, by integrating these applications into video – for example by starting a poll or quiz during a meeting, by sharing documents stored in EFSS with Dropbox and editing documents using an online office suite without leaving a video, or by Share a whiteboard for reflection, among many other possibilities.
Solutions that do not offer functionality such as machine translation, using these connectors, can offer them to their customers via an external service provider in the form of an extension (add-on).
In addition to connectors, some video conferencing solutions have application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) to “encapsulate” their functionality into developer-designed business solutions: mobile field intervention applications, staffing tools, etc.