How Mobile Video Changes Things


Photo credit: Tommyvos on flickr.

Note: This is a collaborative blog post authored by Jim Reilly (@oldantler) and me.

Introduction

In the first generation of web-based video calling, families could stay in touch (e.g. Skype), while companies could conduct business meetings over several locations (e.g. Polycom, Cisco Telepresence, etc.). Mobile-based video calling options dramatically changes things.

iPhone users can now call one another via the pre-installed Facetime app, as long as both parties are connected to a WiFi network. With Skype app (iPhone, Android and Symbian), Skype users can video-call one another from their smarthphone over WiFi or 3G. Let’s consider a few use cases to demonstrate how mobile video changes things.

Calling Home While on Business Travel

Let’s say Mom has gone on a business trip for a few weeks. In a typical scenario, Mom calls home each night to check in with Dad and the kids. If Mom has her PC with Skype installed, perhaps they do a video call every other night. Now, imagine Mom has an iPhone. She connects to her hotel’s WiFi network and dials up her daughter at home using Facetime. The daughter has an iPod Touch and is connected to the WiFi network at home.

Now, Mom and daughter can see and hear one another. And with mobile, they can now see their surrounding environments as they walk about. When Mom asks, “Are you taking good care of my garden?”, the daughter can walk to the garden and give Mom a close-up view of the vegetables. When the daughter asks, “How is your hotel room?”, Mom can give her a quick tour.

Buying a New House Before Relocating

When a family relocates to another part of the country, the husband or wife typically heads out before the rest of the family, to secure housing and get things set up. This can make home-buying a challenge, as both spouses are not able to see the house before making a decision. Mobile video changes that.

Now, the husband can land in the new city, make appointments with a realtor, then video-call his wife to view the houses together. He can take his wife through the family room, kids’ bedrooms and yard.  While the listing page (on the web) for the house may provide panoramic, 360 degree views of the home, the mobile video-call transforms the 360 degree view from an “on-demand viewing” to a live guided tour.

Repairing a Server in The Data Center

A server has gone down and the only engineer available is the most junior member of your IT team. Not to fear – have him initiate a video call once he arrives. From there, senior members of your team can provide direction on how to fix the server.

The junior engineer powers down the server, then pulls out the blade server in slot 2. He points his smartphone at the server as the senior members explain how to carefully extract the card. Note that in this scenario, mounting the phone on a tripod would be helpful, to free up the junior engineer’s hands!

Emergency Services

A member of the public comes across an unconscious person in the street, dials the emergency services and is not only sent animated instructions to their phone, but the trained medical staff taking the call gives advice based on video observation of the subject, not just vague description. Vital minutes are saved to administer the correct first aid and potentially saves the person’s life.

Turning Trade Shows into Hybrid Events

Video calling can connect trade show and conference attendees with remote users who were not able to attend in person. The on-site attendee can take the remote attendee on a walk down the exhibit floor.

Exhibitors can take prospects through a tour of their booth, showing them their latest product offerings (in the same way you’d do in person). If the remote attendee switched to a desktop (e.g. with Skype), s/he could even conduct interviews with on-site attendees and post the interviews on a web site or blog. Mobile video allows the physical event experience to be shared with anyone.

Enhancing the Experience with Augmented Reality

With the development of augmented reality (AR), the examples above become even more useful and compelling: in home buying the video tour is augmented with room dimensions, distances from local amenities and details of local crime rates; in repairing the server the nearest spares supplier can be identified and the replacement part purchased there and then; and with trade shows, the video of a stand or product is enhanced with background information, case studies, product specifications, availability and costs.

Further Thought

We are talking about delivering these services over the top (OTTP) of the mobile networks. Where the future possibilities get really exciting are when these services are delivered as an integral part of an intelligent, mobile network.

The network knows a lot about the customer and hence it can prioritise and contextualise the experience. Frightening? Too Big Brother? Or the best way to filter information when we are exposed to ‘way too much’ content and have less and less time to sift through it and consume what we select?

Conclusion

When video arrived on the web, it changed things. Mobile video has arrived in the form of smartphone apps that are “detached” from the “web.” While we’ve listed just a few examples (above), our belief is that mobile video will have a far greater impact on communications than web video. The world becomes flatter and flatter by the day.

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