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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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April 16, 2007 8:55 AM

Expo Musings: Face-to-Face Communication Evolves Into Manifold Forms

Don’t want to appear overly self-promotional, but I can’t help sharing my enthusiasm for the event we’ve got cooking at the Killer App Expo, April 30-May 2 in Fort Wayne, IN.

There’s so much content jam-packed into three days it’ll make your head spin. Everything from telemedicine to distance learning to egovernment to tools for business and a whole lot more.

With the Expo constantly on my mind, I thought I’d take the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: highlighting key sessions at the Expo while finding inspiration for AppRising.

The session often first off my tongue when introducing someone to the Expo is called “Online Video Communication: Calling, Conferencing, and Collaborating,” which will feature Cisco, Adobe, and SightSpeed showing off their latest products.

Enabling face-to-face visual communication over a network is nothing new, of course, as it dates back to the dawn of television. Initially, its use was extremely limited as it required a cable or satellite connection be established from point to point, making it prohibitively expensive in all but the most extreme situations. The introduction of ISDN lines in the 80s laid the foundation for dedicated videoconferencing hardware that opened up the possibility to a much broader range of entities, but it still remained out of reach for most.

Today, powered by the ascending availability and speed of broadband, the basic concept of enabling face-to-face visual communication has evolved explosively to produce a number of distinct videoconferencing products offering unique value propositions, both for the high end and increasingly for the masses.

Dedicated hardware solutions grow ever more capable of squeezing higher quality video through as small a pipe as possible. While the recent rise of telepresence technologies has redefined what remote small group communication can be, though at a six figure price tag. (As an aside, if you're at the Expo, be sure to check out Howard Lichtman's session on telepresence at 2:20 on May 2nd. It'll give you an in-depth introduction to what telepresence is and why it's such a transformative technology.)

Applications sitting on servers bring forth virtual workrooms that de-emphasize face-to-face interaction in favor of collaborative workspaces that combine all forms of communication and media, like Adobe Acrobat Connect. Often these also blur the lines between one to one and one to many communication by easily delivering both. And they do all this at a relatively low monthly cost without the need for an expensive upfront investment in dedicated hardware.

Applications installed on your desktop, like SightSpeed, open windows into the lives of those that are important to you, be they friend, family, associate, colleague, or stranger. Using nothing more than a webcam, a computer, and a broadband connection, many solutions offer videocalling for free, making it truly accessible to anyone.

There are two mega-trends I wanted to pull out of this.

One, arguably the most powerful aspect of broadband is on display within this range of videoconferencing solutions, showing how given sufficient bandwidth fundamental modes of communication can expand in a million different directions resulting in a diverse array of remarkable technologies. This continual innovation is one of the most exciting aspects of the digital economy, and one that is driven in large part by ubiquitous and ever-increasing broadband connectivity.

The other thought I wanted to share is to take note how the further you push dedicated hardware away from users, the more accessible and economically feasible these applications become. Of course there are some trade-offs in terms of quality and reliability to not having dedicated hardware or a dedicated connection, but those issues continue to decline as general purpose hardware like computers and webcams grow more powerful, the applications increase their ability to do more with less, and bandwidth becomes more plentiful.

Through the presentations by Cisco, Adobe, and SightSpeed at the Expo, we will introduce attendees to the new broadband-enabled definition of what videoconferencing can mean, highlighting both what these applications are capable of and the fact that videoconferencing is a technology now within reach of even the smallest of companies.

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