Video calls are an exciting technology– science fiction long ago promised us real time face-to-face communication across any distance, and that promise was finally realized with the advent of Internet-based video calls. Video calling has been enthusiastically adopted by educators, doctors, businessmen, bankers, and grandparents all eager for more face time. A video call is nothing more than the use of a computing device to stream real time video and audio over the Internet, and it can be done by anyone with a minimal investment, a broadband connection, and a personal computing or mobile device.
- Business Video Conferencing
- Personal Video Calling
- Video Calls in the Classroom
- Video Calling and Telemedicine
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A host of services offers video calling, including free services such as Skype and professional video conferencing solutions. Fully-integrated solutions offer HD video, codecs with compression algorithms that conserve bandwidth yet deliver quality, manageability and central control, high grade encryption and security, and the reliability needed in a professional environment.
Video calling has already been heavily adopted by business– few large companies are without some kind of video conferencing solution. Security is paramount– financially and legally sensitive information is routed through these systems, and many companies must protect their video conferencing data. IT professionals would be wise to invest in a solution with strong encryption and ensure that it is configured correctly. Interoperability is another concern for businesses– professional video conferencing systems must be able to reliably transmit data between two companies with different hardware, software, and IT departments. While the investment can be significant, the rewards are many: reliable, secure HD video conferencing allows collaboration between remote groups on a scale never before possible. As more businesses reach for a global presence, this technology will become a vital part of the operations of growing companies.
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For personal use such as far-flung family members keeping in touch, or small business owners holding informal video conferences, a free service brings the wonders of video calling to the masses, without a major investment. Using an inexpensive webcam and free software such as Skype, FaceTime (iPhone), or Tango (Android), anyone can call friends face-to-face. FaceTime and Tango even work on mobile phones and tablets, allowing video calls from anywhere with a reliable 3G, 4G, or WiFi connection. The quality and reliability of these free solutions can be good, but you’ll be using someone else’s busy servers and sometimes things won’t work as well as you want. For more professional use, a paid solution will likely be necessary.
Video calls hold exciting possibilities for students and educators at all levels. Many colleges already offer remote classes in which students attend a virtual video call lecture from their own homes. As video calling equipment and software has become accessible, more K-12 educators are embracing it as well. Schools use it to connect students with experts via video call, as well as facilitate collaborative group activities with students from other schools or even other countries. Schools also conduct virtual field trips consisting of live video calls with experts at locations across the globe. While security is less important for educators than for other users, a truly educational video call experience comes with steep requirements for high quality HD video and reliable connection. A reasonably priced video conferencing solution can meet these needs while remaining within the tight budgets of schools (also, many grants are available, and LifeSize offers grant writing assistance).
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Video calling promises to improve access to quality medical care for millions worldwide. From their offices, doctors can diagnose and recommend treatment for patients in remote locations around the world. While exciting, this process requires an extremely high level of performance from video calling technology. As the decisions made based on these video calls can have serious implications, it is critical to use the best technology available, with the highest reliability and video quality. As medical information is legally protected, encryption and security is also necessary.
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