A friend of my wife's had his 15 minutes of fame recently when he was featured in an NPR story about TeleMedicine.
As a physician at Johns Hopkins, he sees a patient via videolink to upstate New York.
The story does a nice job of explaining both the benefits and some of the bureaucratic obstacles to adoption of telemedicine.
There is an interesting sidebar that says that in Canada the incentives are exactly the opposite: telehealth is encouraged by the Government-sponsored health plan because it is efficient for doctors and patients. Hopefully someday we'll learn form our neighbors to the North, eh?
Interestingly to VeaMea, as a provider of secure, software-based video conferencing and collaboration, the patient has to go to a remote site where the video conferencing system is located. The good news in this particular case is that the video conferencing site is just down the block; the bad news is that a block can seem like a marathon during a cold, snowy upstate New York winter--especially if the disease you are being treated for puts constraints on your movement.
A simpler alternative for patients who are computer literate, is to have the consultation in their own home, on their own PC. With an $85 Logitech C910 webcam and typical residential broadband internet, vendors like VeaMea, VSee, and Vidyo can provide a level of quality on the desktop that makes home telehealth a reality.
The Video Conferencing and Collaboration market has been dominated by Cisco/Tandberg and Polycom for years. They have had challengers, but all trying to sell using the same model, dedicated pieces of hardware. Much like the Big Three auto makers, there was competition, but to the user they all sort of looked the same...until Honda, Toyota and Nissan showed up.
Video conferencing software used to mean low quality, cheap, sometimes working products -- of course that used to be what they said about Japanese cars too.
As desktop computers and servers have become more powerful, and network capacity has expanded, the need for custom-built proprietary hardware in order to deliver a quality interaction has faded away and a new way of thinking has emerged: Just Another Application (JAA).
You have IP networks, you have desktop or mobile computers and they manage to run everything from graphics to databases to email and Facebook. Could they run Video Conferencing and Collaboration too ?
Today companies like Vidyo, VSee and VeaMea are delivering JAA solutions that work.
A lot of exciting things happen when you start to think about Video Conferencing and Collaboration in a JAA-world.
- Do you need a firewall traversal bridge ? Nope.
- Do you need a separate recording server ? Nope.
- Do you need a separate media server to present desktop content ? Nope.
- Do you need an MCU ? Nope.
- Can you still have multi-point, secure, high quality communication from a boardroom, a desktop, a laptop, a NOC, and even a mobile device over IP or 3G/4G wireless?
JAA is a simple concept, but not simplistic. There are a lot more moving pieces which are not centrally controlled. To make secure, multi-point video conferencing and collaboration a reality on any device, anywhere there is still a lot of heavy lifting to do for software, vendors, hardware vendors and network vendors.
However, TODAY, with your existing infrastructure, using JAA as the starting point in your thinking will give you more flexibility and simplicity in your communications infrastructure and management.
For more thoughts on how to choose the right solution for your organization, download our Free Decision Guide: 10 Things To Consider.
There are lots of high quality video conferencing systems in use today, from vendors like Polycom, Tandberg, LifeSize, VSee, Vidyo and VeaMea.
But if the person who you want to call isn't part of your network, and doesn't have your brand/model video conferencing system, what can you do ?
If you said "Go to Paris and leave your video conferencing troubles behind you," it is understandable, but not the credited response. If you thought "Get a bridge!" you should read on and if you were thinking about a video conferencing bridge, rather than a 400 year old stone bridge, you get extra credit.
What is a video conferencing bridge ?
Like any other type of bridge, it connects point A to point B. Unlike a physical bridge, point A and point B need not be anywhere near each other for a video conferencing bridge to work, and typically they are made by different vendors, potentially for very different purposes. But if the systems meet a common standard, for today's video calling systems that standard is H.323, a video bridge can be the medium that allows you to make the connection from VeaMea to Tandberg to Polycom in one call, seamlessly.
Video bridges are sometimes called video gateways, or H.323 gateways because they are the connection points between the internal network which is proprietary to each individual video teleconferencing (VTC) solution and the H.323 standard conversation among them.
How does an H.323 Gateway work ? The mechanics are pretty simple:
* Identify the location of the "other" system
* Initiate a session using the "common language" of H.323
* Translate the common language to the video server/MCU within your network that speaks its own proprietary language
* Repeat until finished
* Close the session
Most vendors currently provides some sort of gateway/video bridge to enable communication with other H.323 devices. The challange is that they don't always work. In fact, sometimes you can't make a connection between a Tandberg and a Tandberg or a Polycom and a Polycom. Our experience has been that this often has more to do with network security architecture than the quality of the bridge/gateway, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating or more productive as you watch the senior executive team swear and throw remote controls at the wall.
Some third party video bridging services are emerging, promising dial-in video bridging that is as easy as teleconference bridges. (If you have used one of these services, please comment below with your experiences).
Hopefully one day, like a telephone, VTC will be a simple utility that can interconnect from any point A to any point B and all you will need to know is the "number to call."
For today however, I can only say that I know (for certain) of one video bridge that works, connecting to Polycom, Tandberg and more with just a click and an IP address. See more here.
Ask your VTC vendor about their bridging capabilities. If what they say it isn't what you were hoping to hear, maybe VeaMea can help.
On the surface it seems like a logical question.
H.323 is a standard for sharing audio and video over IP networks. It is the mechanism that allows a video conferencing device to interact with a different model, a different network, or a device from a different vendor, and produce a conversation rather than static.
But each vendor has its own way of processing (and pre-processing and post-processing) audio and video traffic. What's more, some vendors do all sorts of other things in addition to sending just audio/video, for example VeaMea does: encryption, application sharing, web content sharing, presence, instant messaging and more that are not part of the H.323 standard for audio and video communication.
So, for a VeaMea user to have an H.323 conversation, a lot of functionality has to be removed from the data stream to strip down to the basic audio/video that the other H.323 device will be expecting to receive and know how to process.
Another reason to have a Gateway is because a call to an "out of network" H.323 client sometimes needs some special care that an "in network" call wouldn't. A Gateway is a perfect place to make all those extra corrections and put all those extra controls so that in network communications are as streamlined as possible, but the tools are available to connect when you need to go out of network.
As video conferencing becomes more pervasive, whether in a conference room or on a desktop, Gateways will be critical to allowing the smooth flow of communication between people using different generations and models of hardware and software.
As long as vendors are compliant to the standards, Gateways will be the glue that allows your VeaMea endpoint to communicate with your Tandberg, Polycom, Magor and VSee clients without a hitch.
Do you see Gateways becoming more important as your organization's visual communication grows ? Let us show you how to connect the dots and let communication flow.