Mobile Video for the Enterprise: Potential and Practical Considerations

Recently, video has grabbed an impressive mindshare among consumers. A plethora of video applications including video streaming, video search, video on demand, and video telephony, including mobile video, are experiencing rapid adoption. YouTube is now the number-two search engine in the world; the tablet and smartphone markets are exploding; and video has just surpassed all other applications in terms of network traffic. The next generation of tech-savvy prosumers using some form of video in their personal lives is going to demand the same experience and capabilities in the business environment.

As mobile video gains popularity among consumers, is it likely to also become the next frontier in enterprise communications and collaboration? My colleagues Roopam Jain and Shyam Krishnan took a look at this market opportunity and presented their findings in a study titled: Assessing the Potential for Mobile Videoconferencing in the Enterprise. Here follows a summary of their key observations.

Technologies that support collaboration among users at different locations are growing in demand. There has been a surge in the interest for videoconferencing, ranging from desktop to telepresence to mobile videoconferencing. As mobility continues to become the norm in everyday life and business alike, end users are looking to extend their enterprise communication experiences to mobile devices.

Faster, smarter, and more capable smart phones and the emergence of collaboration-ready enterprise tablets are fueling the interest in mobile videoconferencing. While we believe that mainstream adoption is still a few years away, the demand drivers are all aligned for the market to pick up pace.

The 2010 worldwide shipments of tablets (partially or entirely) used for business purposes was 600,000 units and is expected to go up to 49.1 million in 2015. We project that 90% of the enterprise tablets shipped in 2015 will have forward-facing cameras and will therefore be video-enabled.

Smartphone growth will be explosive. With shipments nearing 263 million smartphones in 2010, that number is expected to grow to about 500 million in 2015. In 2015, it is forecast that 90% of the smartphones will have forward-facing cameras and therefore will be video-enabled, growing up from 35% in 2010.

The move toward 4G will help carriers deliver higher-quality video. Carriers are jockeying for a more competitive position as the mobile industry moves towards 4G networks. As high bandwidth networks become widely available and camera and phone technologies continue to improve we expect to see more mobile videoconferencing on the horizon. However, there are challenges in store. As the usage of both streaming video and 2-way video catches on with users, it threatens to strangle the networks. Recent moves by network carriers to constrain the demand with monthly data caps will be a hindrance in videoconferencing usage.

Despite all the exciting developments on the device and carrier side and the growing need to have a videoconferencing solution, enterprise-level adoption is still nascent and needs to overcome several challenges, including deployment costs, business case, and increasing levels of security for wireless communications. Security issues with mobile technology are going to be a key focus as the market develops. IT will increasingly standardize on a single smartphone/tablet for its employees. IT’s policy on locking down their enterprise mobile device of choice will continue to prompt users to carry multiple devices.

Mobile videoconferencing can potentially support a wide variety of business solutions, from retail point-of-sale to hospitality, banking, healthcare, manufacturing or any custom business application. It will increasingly support  team collaboration across the entire value chain to shorten decision making time and enable immediate knowledge sharing.

In today’s context, the main use case for mobile videoconferencing in the enterprise remains remote employee interaction – for the mobile workforce or for employees who need a visual collaboration feature to ensure the “personal touch” during the call. Additionally, mobile videoconferencing offers an extension of traditional room-based and desktop based videoconferencing and leverages existing videoconferencing investments by extending the reach to the mobile user.

In planning a mobility strategy, enterprises should increasingly look at the full spectrum of devices which include smartphones and tablets along with laptops. Providing secure communications on a broad array of devices will be essential. Additionally, users will increasingly look at extending the Unified Communications experience to their mobile devices.

At the very outset, small-scale pilots would provide a good insight into typical usage stats. Mobile videoconferencing needs to be cost-justified, prior to deployment. All the key stakeholders must look at the network as a critical component in the process – developments in LTE and 4G in general, would be key to the success of mobile videoconferencing.

What do you think?

Also check out James Brehm’s blog on mobile video here.

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