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IP video conferencing is the establishment of simultaneous real-time video connections between two or more points to allow people to communicate over the Internet. This is sometimes known as teleconferencing, although this term more accurately refers to the use of telephones to allow people to participate in remote meetings. Software for IP video conferencing is readily available and ranges from free software for basic communication to custom software packages for specific business needs.
The technological requirements for IP video conferencing can vary, but generally include a high-speed Internet connection and computers robust enough to handle the audio and video. If people at multiple locations participate, it may be necessary to have multiple monitors, a split screen view, or other tools to follow all of the participants. Some firms sell complete suites of software and equipment and will also send a technician to install and configure it.
Businesses were among the first to adopt IP video conferencing, along with government agencies and some educational institutions. It provides a way to meet when people cannot be in the same location and can be cost effective as well as productive. For example, scientific researchers with a station in Antarctica can regularly communicate with their colleagues through IP video conferencing and may also interface with researchers in multiple cities at the same time. This allows for rapid exchanges of information to keep the study participants current and focused.
Many of the tools for basic video conferencing are affordable and readily available. Families can use it to communicate long distance, often for free, which can cut costs on phone calls and other communication methods. IP video conferencing is also sometimes used in the media to allow for remote interviews. An interview subject can appear in the studio on a screen and respond to questions without having to leave her home or office. This can be convenient for people who live in remote locations or who are very busy with work.
It is possible to secure and encrypt an IP video conference to make sure that bystanders cannot listen in. This can allow for the exchange of confidential or proprietary information, including materials of a sensitive national security nature. Many heads of state have video conferencing facilities in their situation rooms to allow for secured real-time video communication. This can allow them to do things like monitoring military operations from a safe location.