Videoconferencing is the conduct of a videoconference (also known as a video conference or videoteleconference) by a set of telecommunication technologies which allow two or more locations to communicate by simultaneous two-way video and audio transmissions. It has also been called 'visual collaboration' and is a type of groupware.
Videoconferencing differs from videophone calls in that it's designed to serve a conference or multiple locations rather than individuals. It is an intermediate form of videotelephony, first deployed commercially in the United States by AT&T Corporation during the early 1970s as part of their development of Picturephone technology.
With the introduction of relatively low cost, high capacity broadband telecommunication services in the late 1990s, coupled with powerful computing processors and video compression techniques, videoconferencing usage has made significant inroads in business, education, medicine and media. Like all long distance communications technologies (such as phone and Internet), by reducing the need to travel to bring people together the technology also contributes to reductions in carbon emissions, thereby helping to reduce global warming.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) (formerly: Consultative Committee on International Telegraphy and Telephony (CCITT)) has three umbrellas of standards for videoconferencing:
- ITU H.320 is known as the standard for public switched telephone networks (PSTN) or videoconferencing over integrated services digital networks. While still prevalent in Europe, ISDN was never widely adopted in the United States and Canada.
- ITU H.264 Scalable Video Coding (SVC) is a compression standard that enables videoconferencing systems to achieve highly error resilient Internet Protocol (IP) video transmissions over the public Internet without quality-of-service enhanced lines. This standard has enabled wide scale deployment of high definition desktop videoconferencing and made possible new architectures, which reduces latency between the transmitting sources and receivers, resulting in more fluid communication without pauses. In addition, an attractive factor for IP videoconferencing is that it is easier to set up for use along with web conferencing and data collaboration. These combined technologies enable users to have a richer multimedia environment for live meetings, collaboration and presentations.
- ITU V.80: videoconferencing is generally compatibilized with H.324 standard point-to-point videotelephony over regular plain old telephone service(POTS) phone lines. The Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF), a non-profit alliance between communications vendors, launched in May 2010. The organization's vision is to maximize the interoperability of UC based on existing standards. Founding members of UCIF include HP, Microsoft, Polycom,Logitech/LifeSize Communications and Juniper Networks.