What is Video Conferencing?
What is Video Conferencing?
Video teleconferencing uses communication technology to connect parties via real-time, live video. It can use telephone lines, satellite/wireless signals, or the Internet. Either through a webcam-equipped PC or through a dedicated console unit, video and audio are compressed and then transmitted from one point to another. The set up can be relatively simple or complex, depending on how many people will be involved in the meetings, how often they meet, and the type of equipment needed. The most simple video teleconference would involve two people with webcam-equipped PC's talking over the Internet (many newer computers, particularly laptops, have built-in cameras and microphones to allow for video conferencing). A more complex setup would be a boardroom set up so that groups can teleconference with other groups around the world. Some companies specialize in video conferencing and can help clients evaluate their needs and recommend the appropriate equipment and connection services. They can also evaluate a company's or institution's current costs and compare them to savings when appropriate video teleconference systems are set up.

History of Video Teleconferencing
Analog video conferencing was the earliest form of this technology and involved two closed-circuit televisions connected via cable services. NASA used two radio frequency links to video conference the first manned space flights. Later, satellites were used for teleconferencing, sometimes requiring specially equipped trucks for mobile teleconferencing service. All of that was far too expensive for common use. In the 1980s, digital transmission networks came into use and bit rates for compressed video and audio transmission made the technology more accessible. By the 1990s, dedicated teleconferencing systems quickly became affordable to the public. Internet Protocol video conferencing became possible and better compression technology evolved, thus desktop or PC video conferencing was possible. Later with ISDN, larger video teleconferencing systems became affordable for schools and companies of all sizes.

Who is Using Video Conferencing
Some lawyers use video teleconferencing to conduct depositions. Teachers and professors use video teleconferencing to teach online courses, or to have experts give guest lectures in class. Utility companies have used video teleconferencing for showing employees in the field how to fix equipment. Militaries use video teleconferencing for briefing and debriefing personnel in the field. Many large corporations use video teleconferencing to simultaneously train employees at all of the company's sites. Doctors have used video teleconferencing to collaborate with other doctors working on difficult cases. And, of course, individuals often use video teleconferencing to talk to friends and family, whether they live across town or on the other side of the world.

The Lingo of Video Teleconferencing
There are a few terms that will help people better understand video conferencing. VTC is short for "video teleconference." CODEC refers to the hardware or software that performs the necessary compression of video and audio. IP stands for Internet Protocol, and is the basic transmission language of signals sent over digital networks. ISDN, or "integrated services digital network," is a process that transmits accurate data fast over existing copper telephone wiring, which is the preferred method for large teleconferencing systems.

The Future of Video Telconferencing
The future of video teleconferencing seems limitless. Already, many hand-held devices are using some aspects of video conferencing. With the technology advancing so rapidly, costs are dropping and accessibility is increasing, allowing many more people and organizations to benefit from video teleconferencing. As more people and organizations try to reduce their carbon footprints, video teleconferencing is likely to continue to reduce the need for people to travel for business meetings or commute to work every day just to talk to co-workers.