Streaming video growing in corporate communications

Video communication has entered the business sector across a wide range of applications and uses. Its application is set to expand still further. Steve Montgomery investigates the future potential.

The streaming of live and pre-recorded videos in the business environment is becoming commonplace as organisations discover its simplicity and benefits.  Streaming services like YouTube, Vimeo and domestic IPTV have raised the expectation and acceptance of video communication whilst concurrently driving down the cost of production and improving the quality of the transmitted image.

Video streaming is now used in a wide variety of business applications; from internal employee communication and customer training to product launches and corporate announcements. “Our research into this market points to training as the foremost use for streaming video to reach employees,” says Ellen Camloh, senior director industry marketing, NewTek.  “Staff members of all seniority levels or experience live in a world of video consumption, using it to learn essential tasks every day in their personal lives. Professionally, their expectations are no different: they want to watch how to do something, not just be told or read how to do it. Like any other shared office resource, once a company has embarked on video production for the streaming requirements of one department, other uses inevitably follow as people become increasingly aware that real-time video is the most effective way to help meet business goals by delivering the information all employees need.”

“Staff members of all seniority levels or experience live in a world of video consumption, using it to learn essential tasks every day in their personal lives. Professionally, their expectations are no different."

Beyond the office environment, video streaming is used to transmit and view a wide variety of video streams. “Control rooms and surveillance installations increasingly use streaming technology to display video signals from cameras and other devices on personal displays and videowalls, especially in those situations where a responsive and flexible multi- view is required,” says Wim van Dijk, sales manager, Teracue eyevis.   “Video streaming offers enormous advantages. It speeds up the sharing of information.  People can review the content on-demand whenever they need it or have the time for it: they can view any video, any time, any place. Because of streaming, employees do not have to travel as much, which saves time and money. In other areas, like education and finance, streaming live and on-demand content has a similar impact.  It changes the way students absorb information and expands the use people make of mobile devices.  An interesting application is one of providing feedback in training and simulation settings. Subjects or processes are monitored and the signals will be streamed and recorded for remote playout and recording.  This enables a very effective method of monitoring and providing feedback to the trainee.”

Video streaming systems have evolved to encompass real-time encoding of live recordings to personal devices over wireless networks and now also encompass cloud and internet transmission services.

Brian Davies, AMX, explained: “For real-time transmission and in cases in which frame-accurate control is required, alternative codecs, including JPEG2000 and H.265 have been introduced. Advances in processing have reduced bandwidth and transmission overheads whilst at the same time improving image quality, making the technology even more flexible. We are now providing systems that can be used in high- performance, mission-critical situations such as live surgery review, where doctors can remotely monitor a surgical procedure to advise the surgeon undertaking it. Latency and low quality images are not an option.” 

"Multiple screens located around a single office space or trading floor, as well as live interaction between users means that delays are not acceptable.  Synchronisation of content must be down to the frame level within and beyond the LAN.”

The reach of video streaming is also extending rapidly. “A greater range of sources is being delivered to a wider spectrum of user devices,” points out Colin Farquhar, CEO of Exterity. “Business processes are transforming rapidly and radically as technology and social trends evolve. Live video is commonly transmitted throughout and beyond the business location to any number and type of user terminal. Within an organisation meeting rooms and huddle rooms benefit from collaborative technologies which include streaming video alongside video conferencing and local data input.  Multiple screens located around a single office space or trading floor, as well as live interaction between users means that delays are not acceptable.  Synchronisation of content must be down to the frame level within and beyond the LAN.” 

At the same that codecs are becoming more efficient and bandwidth is expanding. Dedicated networks for video distribution are no longer necessary; content can reside on the same network as business data and telephone systems without adversely affecting their operation.  Consequently the interaction and relationship between AV specialists with IT management teams is closing. “IP is the overarching technology in business,” points out Colin Farquhar. “Our customers are now, very often, the IT professionals responsible for a business network infrastructure.” Integrators are being asked to supply streaming systems as it is seen as an extension of the AV infrastructure. 

“Some more innovative integrators build a business model and a solution around this topic because it differentiates them from the pack,” Wim van Dijk believes. “But to install a couple of cameras and TV monitors and use them as part of a streaming infrastructure and to support a streaming strategy requires a deep understanding of IP networks. This is of an entirely different level to that required for local hardwired AV distribution or video conferencing. The more innovative integrators make sure they posses these skills or have a strategic partner and position corporate streaming solutions in an active way.

 “Aviv Ron, VP strategy and business development at Kramer, says: “There are aspects of the installation that every integrator has to understand and deal with. These include understanding who the users are, the types of devices they will be using and the applications. Whether content is more likely to be text-oriented or contain moving images. For text-oriented applications, lossless compression such as JPEG2000 might be more appropriate, whilst MJPEG and H.264 are better suited to video.

“Available bandwidth on a corporate IP network and users’ access to it should be considered during the system design process. If it is based on a public infrastructure bandwidth may be limited so system integrators and customers should carefully consider performance variables such as overall video quality and latency specifically in low-bitrate conditions.” 

With a rapidly expanding stock of video content the management of stored fi les and access to the correct sequences is escalating. Indexing and finding content is becoming a challenge resulting in the use of Media Asset Management tools. Indexing and metadata techniques are crucial to large organisations to track content and make it available on demand. Rob Lipps executive VP of sales at Sonic Foundry outlines the search capability of Mediasite: “Analytics is key.  Metadata is invaluable to enable viewers to scan for phrases and words within the title and body of the material and description. Audio phonetic search can also be used to discover spoken material.”

 As with all integration jobs, accurate specification of user requirements is essential. Jonathan Rackowe, managing director of Netvue, explains: “Close attention must be paid to IT network requirements to allow successful deployment without causing problems to other network services. In the early stages before system deployment user expectations must be evaluated and set realistically to avoid confusion or disappointment later. Experienced integrators have a valuable role in translating manufacturers’ marketing claims into realistic and achievable goals.”

Technology will evolve further, businesses will upgrade to higher bandwidth networks when they become more cost-effective and this will allow even greater amounts of video to be transmitted at higher quality. At the moment most systems are on-premise and the inevitable future increase in network capability will permit much wider use of cloud-based content delivery which will enable even more opportunities and capabilities for streaming of video material over even wider networks.

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