Online Video Transmissions Offer a Cost-Effective Alternative
By Jim Young |
In today's fast-paced world, businesses require up-to-the-minute information from all over the world. Spending hours flying to remote locations for meetings is not always an option. And telephone conferences, while helpful, lack the personal touch often needed to close commercial real estate transactions.
When immediate communication is needed, online video transmission can help. Applications such as video conferencing and Webcasting can transmit live video and audio to any location with an Internet connection. Web cams allow users to view live video of any place in which a camera is installed. In the future, users will be able to hold video conferences from their mobile devices.
Although not perfect, the quality of video transmission via the Internet is improving rapidly. During the last two years, online video has evolved from
jittery, unclear image clips to smoother, more precise, and more compelling applications. The overall improvement of this technology is due to new broadband infrastructures and more sophisticated display software. While full-screen, motion-picture quality imagery is not yet mainstream, existing video technology offers several applications that can enhance commercial real estate professionals' business operations.
Holding Conferences Online
The most popular video Internet application is video conferencing, which allows two or more parties to view and hear one another through an online connection. Varying Internet transmission speeds may cause images and sound to be out of sync, but the potential benefits of this technology outweigh the minor drawbacks. For a relatively small investment — PC cameras are available for less than $100 — commercial real estate professionals can experiment with this new media to find ways to enhance their businesses.
For example, company owners can meet with branch locations without ever leaving their offices. Brokers can make initial contact with potential clients across the globe without the expense of plane fares.
Viewing Live Presentations
Webcasting is an evolving video application that could lead to many changes in the way businesses communicate. Unlike the reciprocal interaction in video conferencing, Webcasting is a one-way, real-time transmission, much like that of a television broadcast.
Webcasting offers a unique opportunity for presenting up-to-date information, such as speeches, presentations, company communications, news, and live events. In addition, Webcasts may be saved and viewed at a later time.
The quality of Webcasting technology has increased dramatically during the past 24 months, and it quickly is evolving into an effective mode of business communication.
Watching Properties From Afar
Web cameras are different from video conferencing and Webcasting due to the fact that they do not include sound. These video-only cameras are designed for circumstances where audio is not required.
Web cams may include remote navigation tools that allow users to control the camera's direction, zoom, and angle via the Internet. Again, transmission speed limitations can affect the clarity of videos, but the technology is improving. Examples of live video streams from Web cams around the world are located at http://www.earthcam.com/ and http://www. camvista.com/.
Web cams provide commercial real estate professionals with unlimited options, such as viewing properties for security purposes, monitoring development sites, observing crowds, and marketing. In addition, Web cams can be used for meetings with remote participants. Once participants have secured the video online, they can take part in the meeting via traditional phone conferencing. And, Internet transmission speed is faster without the audio transfer, thereby producing a clearer video.
Until recently, the concept of delivering video over the Internet was in its infancy. However, technology has improved tenfold during the past three years, and the cost to implement these video applications is relatively reasonable.
The foundation for video on the Internet is based on high-speed bandwidth. Most cable and DSL connections provide more than enough bandwidth to view video applications effectively. A T-1 line offers the best connection speed, but most applications run relatively well with slower connections. As technological capabilities increase, video applications will be less dependent on bandwidth, without compromising size and quality.
The software required to run video applications is easy to install and, in most cases, free of charge. Windows Media Player is packaged with Windows operating systems, and the basic version of RealPlayer can be downloaded for free at http://www.real.com/. These two programs allow users to view more than 95 percent of video found on the Internet.
Webcasting is more complicated and expensive. Video streaming software and additional hardware are required, and producing a Webcast also requires a reasonable level of technical skill. The video conferencing software NetMeeting is a standard feature on many computers. NetMeeting also can be downloaded free of charge at http://www.microsoft.com/.
Video in Your Hand
The next generation of mobile devices will take Internet-based video to the next level. These extremely powerful technological tools will allow users to view live video over the Internet on their portable devices. Although this technology currently is not available, smaller, more powerful mobile devices will make video conferencing and mobile cameras in cell phones and handheld computers a reality. Applications for commercial real estate professionals soon may include the ability to monitor development projects at any time from any location on a handheld device and the ability to equip security personnel with Web pads that display real-time images from various areas of a property.
More importantly, these new capabilities will change the way businesses operate by making employees more mobile. Ultimately, this even could change the way individuals use physical space both in their businesses and personal lives.
When video technology is fully implemented, it will change the way businesses operate. While many of the potential uses for this new technology still are unknown, now is the time for commercial real estate professionals to begin experimenting with this exciting and cost-effective tool.