Videoconferencing Grows at a Number of Levels

Carl Weinschenk

In overall volume, the growth of video capacity is driven by entertainment video. The use of Internet protocol (IP) to bring movies, television shows and privately videoed programming to people is great and growing.

What also is growing is the use of video as a replacement for — and in many cases improvement over — things that formerly were done in person.

It is possible to argue that this in some ways is a more exciting development than streaming of entertainment content. People will use electronics to be entertained for a certain amount of their days and weeks. This is true whether the material is film at a theater, traditional television or streamed IP content. The number may tack upwards a bit, but the potential growth is limited by entertainment saturation and the fact that people need to do things like eat and work.

But there is far more room for growth in the area of replacing true contact with video. Today, The New York Times posted a story about the use of videoconferencing for prison visits. There is a lot of positive and negative: The positive is that it is cheaper, safer and more efficient. The other side of the coin is that the visits are less fulfilling to the participants. This is a pretty stark example, but the move from real to cyber always will have pros and cons.

Prison visits and related endeavors — such as video arraignments — are categories in which video is growing. It’s a bit under the radar, perhaps because the subject is by definition a bit depressing and off-putting.

A lot more attention has been paid to patient monitoring in health care. This is more upbeat and is growing rapidly. Kalorama Information released a study in late July that suggests that the U.S. market for advanced patient monitoring systems is in the process of growing from $3.9 billion in 2007 to $8.9 billion last year and will reach $20.9 billion in 2016.

There is a subtle difference between the prison visitation and health care sectors. In the prison model, it is a strict replacement activity. In health care, the pie can grow. The Kalorama report says that the equipment is getting more sophisticated and can gain capabilities over time. InformationWeek reported on the study:

In addition to the growing development of devices that monitor multiple vital signs—for example, a glucose monitor that can also track a patient's blood pressure--the report cites another trend: the increasing use of patient monitoring systems that come with data processing applications and equipment that use algorithms to evaluate monitoring measurements for a patient's specific condition.

The videoconferencing market is not immune to the ups and downs of the market and the growing pains all sectors must endure. Investors.com cites IDC research suggesting that the rate of growth has slowed a bit. That is, of course, the ultimate mixed message: A slowing rate of growth still is growth. But, admittedly, it isn’t the best of news.

The high-level takeaway is that conferencing will continue to grow — both for high-level executives who now see a viable alternative to endless travel and for less sexy applications such as prison visits and medical monitoring. Indeed, perhaps the latter will end up attracting the most creative minds and end up being the bigger business.

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