Business Software

Business Video: Get Ready for the Surge

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Video traffic is expected to grow from 50% of all Internet traffic today to 90% by 2013. In volume that will be equal to transmitting the equivalent of 10 billion DVDs across the network every month.

Businesses that understand the implications of video to communicate, collaborate, educate and protect people and assets stand to gain a significant competitive advantage. Video is transforming enterprise activities from executive communications and training to physical security, marketing and sales.

[TREND: Enterprise video moving beyond the meeting room]

To succeed, companies need to understand three game-changing advances in business video, identify initial use cases that will generate a return on investment, and prepare their networks for the surge.

New advances in business video

Video content has become more useful because of three recent breakthroughs. The first is non-linear access: the ability to skip and jump right to relevant segments based on keywords or speaker. This is enabled by automatic transcript generation through speech-to-text technology and speaker recognition.

Why is non-linear access important? Most people can pay sustained attention only for about 20 minutes, and the average attention span for online video in particular is just about a minute. Non-linear access helps people quickly find relevant information without having to watch the entire video.

Second, with the rise of smartphones and tablet devices, video production is no longer limited to large video studios run by corporate communications and training departments. Now, employees can create video from their personal devices with little technical support, in some cases eliminating the need to create a full-length product data sheet.

Finally, video is benefiting from the social computing explosion. Enterprise video sharing solutions allow employees to watch videos, rate them, add comments, and even associate comments with specific sections of the video for viewing by subsequent viewers. Not only will sharing video enable creators to know how effective their content is, it also opens up another communication channel for rich employee interaction and collaboration.

Identifying the best use cases for video

Most organizations initially identify one or two use cases for video based on where they are seeing the most demand in their organization, and then later add others as video is adopted throughout. Popular uses include:

• Corporate communications: Compared to email and voice-only conferences, video communication drives better employee engagement when body visual cues can be seen, especially at important internal events such as companywide speeches and earnings announcements.

• Training and learning: At Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, personnel can access training videos on network-connected digital signs in break rooms or conference rooms, desktops or even mobile devices. Centralized management of training videos saves time and trainers can easily track who has watched which video. Duke University's Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina also uses video to engage its audience: Faculty can bring experts into the classroom from anywhere using telepresence. Recorded video of these lectures can then be captured and accessible by students for later playback.

real time collaboration
Artwork: Chip Taylor
Real-time collaboration: In the United Kingdom, Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals save valuable minutes on stroke diagnosis and treatment by enabling specialists to evaluate patients in the emergency room from their office using telepresence. Real-time video enables rapid diagnoses and further collaboration if additional specialists are needed in the case of an emergency.

• Safety and security: For Panduit Corporation, more than 100 IP video surveillance cameras surround the perimeter and restricted areas, and authorized personnel can monitor live and archived video streams from any Web browser on a PC or smartphone. By delivering server capabilities to the network edge and integrating device and alert alarms with IP-based dispatch and incidence response, integrated video solutions help meet the increasing demands of public and private sector organizations to efficiently and effectively support threat mitigation, crisis collaboration, and situational awareness.

• Advertising: Crédit Agricole, a French retail banking group, utilizes "virtual expert" kiosks where customers seeking product advice can touch a button to connect to a customer service agent. When not in use, the kiosks can also display relevant ads, increasing cross-selling.

• Entertainment: JW Marriott Marquis hotel in Miami, Fla., features a 450-square-foot video wall that has the capability to display 25 separate images, one colossal image, or anything in between, adding to the excitement for fans.

Compared to deploying and managing separate networks for each use case, it is more efficient to build a single network with the intelligence to deliver an optimal user experience for all types of video and rich media -- without interfering with the performance of other applications operating over the same network. This type of architecture is called a medianet, an end-to-end architecture optimized for video and rich media and designed to help network operators and IT managers more effectively manage and deploy multiple video systems.

Not only does a medianet decrease long-term costs, it can also increase ROI by enabling multiple departments to use the same video endpoints and content for their own purposes. For example, a company that invests in a telepresence system for executive travel reduction can later use the telepresence room as a self-service recording studio.

Employees can just press a button on an IP phone to record high-definition video, and press another button to publish the video on a Web portal. Similarly, a retailer that deploys in-store video surveillance cameras to prevent shoplifting can take advantage of the medianet to provide access to real-time and archived video to the merchandising team, to study shopper behavior. A medianet architecture has three layers:

• Video endpoints. A video endpoint becomes any end-user device that can capture or display video. Popular video capture devices in this category include professional equipment, tablets and smartphones. Playback devices include PCs and laptops, digital signage, tablets and smartphones.

• Media services. Transcoding and transrating services automatically create tailored versions of the same video, optimizing content on different devices from large digital signage displays to smartphones. Media services simplify this process so that a user does not need technical expertise to capture or access video. This category also includes reporting services that help IT see which devices are consuming which video, and how often, in order to make decisions around video archival and scheduled maintenance.

• Network infrastructure. The medianet is built on a foundation of switches and routers with scalable bandwidth and the intelligence to recognize video traffic and prioritize it appropriately. Routers and switches need to communicate with media services, to ensure an optimal quality of the total experience while automating many aspects of configuration and optimization. For example, if media services detect that a person joining a live webcast session has limited bandwidth, the medianet can transcode the streaming video for this location to a lower bit rate.

The question for enterprises is no longer whether to adopt video, but how. It pays to get ready now by building a medianet. Those companies that are prepared for the video surge stand to gain a competitive advantage by using business video for communication, collaboration, education and physical safety and security.

About Cisco Collaboration: From award-winning IP communications to mobility, customer care, Web conferencing, messaging, enterprise social software and interoperable TelePresence experiences, Cisco brings together network-based, integrated collaboration solutions based on open standards.

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