Conferencing: How Will It Evolve in 2017?

Published: December 7, 2016

Conferencing has come a long way from the old days of a dozen people sitting around a singular phone waiting for their turn to talk.

Now, conferencing is no longer simply teleconferencing. Advancements in technology have allowed conferencing to evolve into videoconferencing and even telepresence conferencing.

Those involved in a conference “call” can now experience immersive, same-room conferencing with telepresence technology. Videoconferencing technology allows participants to see, hear and share important documents with each other, no matter their location.

PHOTOS: 28 Products Helping Meeting Spaces Evolve

While it seems like conferencing can’t evolve any further, the reality is it will.

To get a better idea as to how conferencing will evolve in 2017, we reached out to a few integrators and manufacturers in the industry to gain some insight as to where the technology is going, and what the industry will need to keep in mind as this technology continues to create new communication opportunities for end-users.

Scott Dunn, senior director, business development solutions & services, Axis Communications, Inc., says:

“Conferencing is still a new and evolving space for Axis as we have just recently introduced two new cameras for this purpose. Currently, there are many sophisticated and expensive video conferencing solutions on the market but Axis is looking to create a more affordable, scalable and open video conference solution with remote learning and webcasting options.

In 2017, I think we’re going to see Skype being used even more, especially with smaller companies who don’t have large budgets but want a high quality conferencing option.”

JP Carney, chief executive officer, Revolabs, says:

“Video conferencing has been going through a lot of changes recently; usage is going up while average selling prices are coming down. The emergence of cloud-based services is changing the dynamics of price performance and more importantly, the actual usage of video in day-to-day activities. Adoption of low-cost cloud-based video solutions at the desktop or personal PC, which started with Skype, has spawned a host of business class solutions.

These solutions are not only being adopted for the individual workspace but also is starting to be integrated with existing voice and data infrastructures in larger conference and collaboration spaces (UC). As this proliferation continues, the integrator community is going to be needed to help bridge the natural gap between what is acceptable to individuals talking from PC to PC (IT-dominated metrics for price/performance/installation) versus multiple people communicating in conference rooms with far-end participants (AV metrics for price/performance/installation).

Bridging the gap will not be an easy feat as both worlds speak different languages, but rest assured those who are successful, will be very successful.”

Carrie Keele, corporate marketing manager, Listen Technologies, says:

“Quite often, sound is an afterthought when it comes to building design. One in five American adults has some degree of hearing loss. When you consider this fact, increasing awareness of Assistive Listening and ADA compliance is more necessary than ever.

By integrating assistive listening into the design of a conference room or providing a portable solution for trade show conferences, we have the opportunity to include all of our colleagues, partners and clients and ensure that everyone is able to equally contribute to a successful outcome.”

Lou Chiorazzi, VP UC Practice, AVI-SPL, says:

“Conferencing is evolving to an increasingly accessible capability available within applications through native workflows.  For example, Skype for Business doesn’t have a specific conferencing function, rather as part of a normal conversation that starts with Instant Messaging, escalated to audio/video, then simply adding another participant is a conference.  This is also reflected in solutions like Cisco Spark that group persistent conversations and add members to the group.  At any time team members can establish audio/video into the conversation which can result into a conference.  These uses are further extended from desktops, meeting rooms/spaces, to mobility and growing in popularity – interactive whiteboards. 

Traditional forms of meet me conferencing, such as the widely deployed audio and also video meeting rooms are still prevalent.  However, as the workforce changes and businesses practice more agile process approaches, conferencing will continue to make its way into natural application flows of where collaboration happens, rather than considered a separate function or application.”

Wesley Sutliff, director of product management, Media Vision, says:

“Conferencing in 2017 is about accessibility for the participant. Looking specifically at conference systems, we have mastered intelligibility, have embraced all-in-one video mics and have entered into the world of IT with our Multimedia Terminals. Now we need to go further and explore the new ways to make meetings and conferencing accessible beyond the boardroom. Remote participation is nothing new, but there are more opportunities to be explored in the world of high-quality conference systems. We want EVERYONE to have their voice heard; their presentation seen; their message received!”

Brady O. Bruce, chief marketing officer for InFocus Corporation, says:

“In 2017, the demand for video conferencing and collaboration solutions will continue to grow. InFocus has seen major adoption across university and college campuses this year with the increasing number of maker spaces. Whether it’s in labs, libraries or student centers, students can work together in the same room, with other students or faculty on remote campuses, or with professionals anywhere in the world, thanks to collaborative technology.

We are also expecting even higher demand for collaboration solutions in the workplace, with the growing trend for more meeting rooms and huddle spaces. This year InFocus introduced the Mondopad Ultra line of high-performance video conferencing and collaboration systems and we’ve also seen product introductions in this category from other large software companies. The entrance of new brands validates the category growth that video conferencing and collaboration solutions have in the business world, and we don’t expect to see this rapid trajectory change anytime soon.”

Lilian Bories, VP of marketing, Oblong Industries says:

Immersion is a theme bubbling up from the developers of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality that is going to impact many consumer sectors. Just as the consumerization of technology like smart phones, tablets, and laptops impacted the workplace (demanding an easy-to-use BYOD environment) immersion is going to impact expectations of the workplace experience.

A single screen on a single wall is going to look very underwhelming very quickly. And it won’t perform well for the large visualization tasks at hand. A digital canvas which leverages architecture to surround the collective work group, just as goggles surround the individual face, is going to be important. We’ll see this unfolding over the next 2-3 years actually. 

More immediately: The evolution of conferencing from a single live stream of faces and voices, to a multi-stream visual bath of information from multiple participants simultaneously — something we call Infopresence — is going to be important for productivity, creativity, and innovation. The work style of the future is more collaborative, and with the coming data deluge (think IoT for example), the tools that enable a new kind of social computing will be key.

Don’t Forget About Big Data

In addition to the evolution of conferencing technology, integrators will need to think about how big data will influence the type of solutions they’re offering customers.

John Henkel, director of product marketing, RGB Spectrum, says:

“Big data has taken the business world by storm and shows no signs of slowing down. In 2017, data volume will continue to grow, which will require video wall and image processing solutions that can visualize disparate sets of data and can share information for collaborative analysis. Whether it is for managing an oil and gas control room, an office building lobby display or a surveillance control room, there will be an increased need for a multitude of display processing solutions — including video walls designed around a PC-based architecture or custom built display processing tools that allow for customization with various devices such as LEDs, tiles and projectors.

2017 will be the year where organizations will widely tap the power of video walls; empowering themselves with information — historically difficult to conceptualize — to make real–time decisions in mission critical environments.”

Related Whitepaper: Why Video Communication Fails When You Ignore Audio

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