Video conferencing has come a long way. From what was novel and interesting at first to be able see and chat with a person on a display, VC has now become a useful and practical tool in corporate boardrooms and meeting spaces. A veteran in the Uni ed Communication & Collaboration (UCC) industry / space, Polycom has come a long way, growing alongside with old and new technologies alike.
Moving forward, what kind of trends and developments can we expect from the UCC industry? SI Asia’s Shireen Ho caught up with Michael Frendo, Executive Vice President, Engineering of Polycom to find out more.
The Changing Face of Visual Collaboration
Over the years, video collaboration has become much more dynamic. The solution is no longer “one size fits all”. Traditional VC rooms which comprised of a screen and a camera at the end of a room and long table are beginning to see slower growth rate as the market becomes saturated.
“It’s still selling and it’s a good market, but it’s not a market that is proliferating,” said Michael. “What the market now needs are solutions that can address work spaces more appropriately according to their needs. When you consider what the spaces are used for and how they are being used, you open up a door to video collaboration in a much broader way… So you combine that aspect with the knowledge that people are much more comfortable with video now because it’s everywhere – on your mobile devices, laptops and tablets.”
…Historically, customers had to adapt to the way video was delivered, but now we are able to make visual collaboration tools adapt to the way people work.
Workplace of The Future
We have been talking about “Workplace of The Future” for a while now. However, in many experts’ view, the “workplace of the future” is no longer in the future, but it is here, right now, happening in our offices and workspaces. How would Michael define this workplace and in his opinion, what are the main drivers of this revolution?
“From what I see, there are three dimensions to this. Firstly, technology. Looking at how technology has evolved, a great deal of it is about interconnectivity and mobility. The world is becoming hyper connected, and people are expected to be connected to everything all the time.”
It’s true, compared to slightly more than a decade earlier where email was king, today’s communication channels have evolved greatly. We use chat applications like Whatsapp, WeChat and social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with people and broadcast our thoughts. As time goes by, we are now expected to be connected and responsive at all times.
According to Michael, the second dimension to workplace of the future will be the generational shift. As more and more people coming up in the workforce today are millennials, they are beginning to have more influence over the way we work.
“The millennials are expected to join the majority of the workforce in the next 5-10 years, and they are very different from previous generations. Being digital natives, they have been around technology since they were born. So their expectations and their comfort with technology is different,” he explained.
Millennials eat, live and breathe technology. There is no resistance to use technology or try out new ideas / devices. They are the first generation who embrace visual collaboration as a preferred means of communication – which is interesting because they somewhat skipped the audio conferencing stage and went straight from chat to video.
“Because they are digital natives, the connected world is a place they are used to, hence they will bring that aspect of their personal lifestyle into their professional lives as well. Things like checking their smartphones 3-7 times an hour shows their need to be constantly connected.”
Michael went on to elaborate the third piece: work space. Impacted by the two earlier mentioned dimensions, the size of work spaces are also influenced by companies who want more collaboration between their employees.
The power of being able to cooperate globally combined with the fact that workspaces are changing – drives the need for smaller workspaces like huddle spaces, where people can get together and work locally through shared screens. To Michael, these are all mega trends in the modern workplace and the motivation behind Polycom’s product innovations.
“The power of collective minds and collaboration is so much more powerful than an individual working on their own, but collaboration is not necessarily something people do in a room together. I mean they can and they still do, but with an increasingly globalised marketplace, companies are venturing out of their home country and have teams around the world. It’s a very distributed workforce we have now.”
Augmented Collaboration Experience?
In recent years, augmented reality has become a big thing for vertical markets and many companies have already started to explore how AR can help enhance processes and experiences. But how would it affect collaboration in the long run, and is it something UCC leaders should look into?
“Absolutely. I think augmented reality will play an important role sooner than virtual reality. The idea of being in an augmented conference room where you can see information overlay with real-life objects and appears automatically is something people really look forward to.”
Pushing Forward: Enabling Technologies
We know that millennials and innovative companies are two key drivers in revolutionising the modern workplace, but advancement in basic technology infrastructure such as DSP, bandwidth have also played an important role in enabling the quality and flexibility of visual collaboration we have today. What is Michael’s take on this?
“There are a lot of factors that have to be there to make this work. There will always be a number of factors that will come into play that enable something to happen that couldn’t happen before. For example, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This real-time communication in the internet space is something that was enabled by advancement in DSP horsepower and suddenly you could compress and do things with voice that you couldn’t do before. In the 10 years before VoIP, those things were impossible not because you can’t do it, but because cost was so prohibitive that you couldn’t deploy end-points that way.”
He continued, “But then suddenly the evolution of technology gets to a place where something that was feasible but not commercially viable becomes viable. Video is very much the same. When you look at the way how optical network and bandwidth has evolved in the last 5 years, we have gone from optical fibre carrying 500GB of traffic to 8TB of traffic or more today. So now you have all these bandwidth and bandwidth is always a fundamental enabler for things to happen.”
*This article was first published in the Jun-Jul 2016 issue of Systems Integration Asia.