What is Videoconferencing?

Malcolm Tatum

Videoconferencing is a real time connection between two or more physical locations that is composed of both audio and video components. In most cases, the typical videoconference will allow full interaction between the locations. The interactive telecommunications of the videoteleconference have improved a great deal since the earliest attempts to combine voice and video into a workable business tool in the 1970’s.

People at different locations can interact through videoconferencing.
People at different locations can interact through videoconferencing.

Like any type of audio teleconferencing, videoconferencing requires technologies that help to create a bridge between the locations involved in the meeting. The network used to conduct the conference may be a private network, such as a series of videoconferencing stations set up in conference rooms at each location of a given company. When this is the case, the bridging equipment often resides at the corporate headquarters, with connecting hubs and stations placed at each branch location of the company. Alternatively, the corporation may purchase and install the stations but use an independent videoconference service to function as the connecting hub for the meetings.

It is also possible to arrange videoconferences between stations that are not part of an integrated network. When this is the case, it is necessary for the videoconferencing provider to conduct what is known as a site certification. Essentially, this involves having the bridging equipment connect in advance with each location or site that will participate in the meeting. This is usually done a day or two before the live videoconferencing session, and allows time to work out any small issues that could impact the actual meeting.

In the early years, videoconferencing was often expensive and varied in video quality. Often, the video feed between locations would delay a few seconds behind the voice feed. During the 1990’s, innovations in technology helped to reduce this lag between voice and video transmissions, and also improved the picture quality. At the same time, videoconferencing became more cost efficient for small and mid-sized companies.

Today, the two-way transmission of video and voice on many videoconferencing networks is greatly improved. Along with more reliable connections and enhanced picture quality, videoconferencing today often makes it possible to enjoy such features as visual collaboration that involves graphics as part of the transmission. This is accomplished with groupware packages that are compatible with most of the major videoconference equipment on the market today.

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