teleconference-Emerging Issues and Trends

In looking at the status of today’s technologies and applications, teleconferencing is poised for tremendous growth. A number of factors are contributing to this readiness posture. They include advances in technology and a maturing of the industry that are meshing with organizational concerns about productivity, communications, operating costs, and competition. Teleconferencing has also proved its effectiveness in many situations, and has demonstrated its ability to meet diverse needs.

There are, however, warning signs. Most involve human factors and those “soft” areas that relate to users and applications. Emerging as primary issues are the design of user-oriented systems, implementation strategies, training, appropriate applications, and support structures that promote successful applications and the integration of teleconferencing into an organization. There has been a tendency for people to put technology first, rather than focusing on applications and end users. The growth of teleconferencing depends on the recognition of human factors as well.

In the 80s, we saw dramatic changes in teleconferencing systems. We are currently witnessing the movement toward digital communications and information processing on many fronts. This trend not only promises to continue but will accelerate. In the teleconferencing industry, we are now seeing the forerunners of future products and services that will be more sophisticated and more widely available.

A relatively recent entrant into the market, for example, is multimedia software for personal computer workstations. These technologies include various combinations of laser scanning, video pictures, light-pens, electronic tablets, moused digital telephones, touch-sensitive screens, and voice recognition. They are directed to individual desktop teleconferencing as well as group teleconference rooms. In the continuing merger of teleconferencing with computers, multimedia will become an important tool in communicating information and data.

With digital voice will come more new audio teleconferencing products, from station equipment to advanced bridges. New digital bridges have already been introduced that not only integrate voice and graphics but also improve transmission quality and system control.

The impact of compressed video codecs and digital video processing will also increase as new products emerge. New compression techniques will also find their way into other products, like freeze frame video and audio graphics systems, to reduce transmission time.

Products for digital voice, graphics, and video will be linked via terrestrial loops and satellite skyways. Promoting the concept of inter-networking will be gateways joining local facilities to long-distance channels as we move toward integrated service digital networks.

Communications technologies are indeed advancing rapidly, promising or threatening to link us in local, national, and worldwide networks. With a dazzling array of new products and services on the horizon, it may be even more difficult to remember that the ultimate goal of any technology is to expand human potential. In the final analysis, the value of teleconferencing rests on how well it serves people, and its worth is measured by its users.