A video conference system is a next step in the continuously growing telecommunications solutions and services available today. Video conferencing is comparable to conference phone calls only that it also involves the use of video technology plus today’s high-speed broadband Internet technology. Its practical uses include business and consumer level applications.
A Not-So Technical Definition of the System
A video conference system requires the use of a set of telecommunication technologies and not just one particular piece of electronic equipment. The main idea behind conferencing is to make video and audio transmissions simultaneous. This, of course, will make it possible for more people from two or even more locations of varying distances to communicate in real-time.
That is the pristine goal but delays in both audio and visual transmissions can still occur. Nevertheless, with continuously improving technology both in telecommunications and Internet connectivity, these technological hiccups are slowly being resolved. Users of newer and more reliable video conference system technologies should expect to see fewer problems and issues as newer technological developments are introduced.
Video conferencing vs. Video Phone Calls
Some people may have questions about the difference between a video-teleconference and a video phone call. It is easy to admit that both forms of telecommunication are part and parcel of video-telephony which may use the same video conference system as well. It can also be easily observed that both of these also make use of what is known as picture phone technology. These obvious similarities sometimes make it a bit difficult to differentiate between the two.
Well, fundamentally, these two services are pretty much the same. They make use of the same basic forms of videoconferencing technologies (i.e. both can use the very same video conference system including all the necessary equipment). The big difference, of course, is the fact that more than two people and more than two locations are getting interconnected. Transmissions are basically coming from and sent to various locations at the same time. However, it should be clear at this point that conferencing services are more technological taxing compared to just making a simple video phone call.
Tracing the Beginnings of Video Teleconferencing
The type of video conference system that we have today is not the same as the ones that were in use about 30 or even 50 years ago. The technology that is used today has gone far beyond the predecessors and precursors to today’s modern video teleconferencing systems. Nevertheless, the concept or original idea remains the same.
Nowadays, people who make use of such forms of videotelephony do not only share live video feeds and live audio from their own specific locations. Today’s allied video conference technology allows users to share documents during the said long-distance conference. Other than that, users are also given the capability to share whiteboards and other presentation materials.
Those are only some of the additional capabilities that we enjoy today that weren’t there when video conferencing first began. Back then, analog technology was the premiere means of telecommunication available for any video conference system. One of the best examples of such technology is a TV transmission.
The case of a television transmission is pretty much like videotelephony. You have a transmitter sending out both audio and video. The only difference is that a TV signal is not sent directly to a specific target audience. In analog audio and video telecommunications for videoconferencing, you can go from point to point communication to a multipoint communication (i.e. involves multiple recipients and multiple locations).
Another example of early attempts at creating a video conference system is the German Reich Postzentralamt video telephone network. The network structure used by this post office video phone network is not wireless in nature. Instead of taking things through the airwaves, the designers of this early videoconferencing system used closed-circuit TV systems.
These CCTV networks connected various points or locations using very long coaxial cables that interconnected various cities in Germany. This early conferencing system was fully operational and was in use from 1936 to 1940.
Lowering Cost as Available Technology Improved
As technology improved, so did teleconferencing services. NASA used video links via UHF and VHF during their very first few manned flights into the realms of outer space. As more sophisticated technology became more available, more options were opened for designers of long-distance videotelephony.
One of the biggest issues that video conferencing designers had to deal with other than the available technology was the cost. Most of the systems and technologies that were available in the early days were also quite expensive. The concept of such a service is there and technology to deliver the conceptualized service is already present but it carries a heavy price tag that no one will pay for – not even businesses.
If large corporations who could make really good use of such a service have been held back by costs then you should expect home users to step away from such an option as well. Such was the scenario that people faced back then. The good news is that with the influx of today’s modern computer technology, everything became more affordable and services got better.
Today’s Components for a Standard Video Conference System
At the very heart of today’s video conferencing systems are the coder/decoder, which can be a software application and/or hardware that digitally compresses video and audio streams in real-time. Of course, this is not the only technological component of such systems.
Some of the other components that will be included in a video teleconference system will include video input and output, audio input and output, a medium for data transfer, and a computer system or something similar.
Types of Video Conferencing Systems
You can classify conferencing systems under either of two types: dedicated systems and desktop systems. Dedicated systems are systems that are specifically designed for the very express purpose of video teleconferencing. All the needed equipment, connectivity, and software will be included in that specialized system. A desktop system, on the other hand, is simply a computer that has been equipped with all the necessary add-ons and software and can be used for other purposes as well.
What to Look for in a Video Conferencing Company or Service
You should make sure that the equipment and software offered by a conferencing company, service, or equipment, meet today’s current standards (ITU H.320, ITU H.264, ITU V.80, etc.). You should also consider the cost and the bandwidth offered by such a service. You should also consider the complexity and usability of such systems. Most importantly, a video conference system should cover all your needs in business and home communication.