Started by several Indus entrepreneurs in 1992, TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) is the largest global organization which fosters entrepreneurship. There are 57 chapters in 14 countries, with the TiE-Silicon Valley (SV) chapter being one of the largest. TiE-SV President Vish Mishra set the tone for this March 1st meeting by stating that Naveen Bisht, Chair, Programs and Board Member, TiE Silicon Valley, had revitalized TiE-SV programs.
Naveen said that tonight's program is significant because Real Time Video (over telecommunications networks and the Internet) has created a revolution- it enables people to interact and communicate with one another much more easily then ever before.
- Shalini Govil-Pai, Director & Head of Youtube Partner Solutions, Google
- Bhaskar Roy, Head of Qik Products, Skype (moderated panel discussion)
- Jeff Fluhr, Founder & CEO, Spreecast
- Mayur Kamat, Product Manager, Google+ Hangouts
- Michael Seibel, CEO, Socialcam
- Krish Ramakrishnan, CEO, Blue Jeans Network
- Muhammad Shaikh (Salman), Engineering Manager, Cisco Telepresence Exchange
- Kurt Thywissen, Director of Web Innovations, Skype
After a brief opening statement welcoming the attendees, the moderator let each of the panelist's describe their company's mission related to real time video:
Blue Jeans Network: Provides interoperable video communications using different vendors video platforms, e.g. enables real time video conferencing between Google, Skype and Cisco systems.
Spreecast: Focuses on social/ public face-to-face communications. The company has developed a social video platform that lets users broadcast together. That system has been in beta test for last 3 months.
Google+ Hangouts: Facilitates real time conversations that normally don't happen. Google+ Hangouts is the multi-way social video communication medium powering Google+.
Cisco Telepresence Exchange: Telepresence and Cloud (=Internet) based video conferencing systems. Aims to virtualize video conferencing around the globe with inter-networking between different service providers.
Socialcam: Aim is to share real time videos. The Socialcam app was said to be an easy way to record videos on your mobile device and then share them instantly with your friends and family. Socialcam was spun out of Justin.tv, which is a live broadcasting service on the Internet.
Skype: Wants to make real time video conferencing ubiquitous through inexpensive equipment and software. Last year, there were 300B minutes of calling of which 1/2 was said to be video calls (the author finds this very hard to believe). Consumer based video calling is an enabler of "social applications and touch points."
Next an open discussion ensued, with each participating panelist stating their company's position with respect to where real time video is now and where it's going.
Krish of Blue Jeans Network there've been four established trends for the last two years:
1. Increasing user adoption of broadband Internet access
2. Pervasiveness of 2-way cameras (especially on mobile devices)
3. Generational change of 20 & 30 somethings feeling comfortable with video (vs older generations that don't want to be seen on camera remotely by others)
4. Video communications quality has gotten better and is now quite good
Muahmmad of Cisco Telepresence said that business communications in enterprises was growing. "Business customers are using video as a key vehicle to communicate with one another," he said. "The ability to see people's faces in real time video conferencing makes people feel more comfortable," he added.
Mayur of Google+ Hangouts posed an interesting question: "Once (real time) communications is established, how can the users build relationships using this new tool?"
Michael Seibel of Socialcam was not bullish on live (real time) video. He said that when you step past the demo's the user experience has not been that good, especially for low cost video conferencing systems. Video is something that many people find intimidating. The challenge is how to use live video to solve real problems in people's lives. Socialcam is pursuing a broadcast model to distribute real time video to many consumers.
"The smartphone is the most popular video communications device. It's common to show your friend a video clip on your smart phone rather than send it to him or her live over the Internet." said Mr. Seibel.
Mayur Kamat of Google+ Hangouts said his company's offering would provide much lower latency- extremely important for real time video communications. (Author's note: To get started with Google+ Hangouts, you first need to install the Google Voice and Video Plugin on your PC or mobile device). It's important to distinguish between constant video streaming and busts of video, he said. Video conferencing and collaboration for business customers (Intel's model for desktop video conferencing in 1995) is now possible using Google+ Hangouts, according to Mr. Kamat.
Kurt of Skype (now owned by Microsoft) wants to give software developers the tools they need to integrate Skype voice and video conferencing into their devices and apps. Skype sees social networking applications that exploit video chats amongst friends and has integrated with Facebook to power Facebook’s video chat.
Sprecast will build on top of existing social network platforms, according to Mr. Fluhr. Like Skype, he believes social networking will include video communications. The ability to send video with 1 click to someone on your smart phone contact list will be a huge opportunity for mobile app developers. The mobile contact list on your smart phone will then have to be shared, resulting in privacy issues and concerns that were not addressed at this meeting.
Krish Ramakrishnan of Blue Jeans Network said there would be a "network effect*" if various video conferencing systems from Skype, Google+ Hangouts and Cisco Telepresence were all interconnected. We thoroughly agree and believe such interworking, if possible, would be a very good thing.
*Network Effect is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people. When network effect is present, the value of a product or service is dependent on the number of others using it. The more users, the more valuable is the experience which attracts even more users. This is similar to Metcalfe's law, which states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.
Skype believes Quality of Service (QoS) is paramount for users to have a good experience watching videos or engaging in video chats/ video conferences. In various tests, Skype found that audio quality is more important than video quality (that's because the human ear is a lot more sensitive than the eye.) For streaming video, a key issue is the time it takes to start playback. Does it play instantly or must it be buffered for several seconds? That's an important factor for many consumers who have become ever more impatient due to higher speed (and lower latency) broadband connections.
Video Surveillance is becoming important in security and law enforcement, according to the panelists. It's used for field service in some theme parks.
Video search (e.g. searching for videos) has been painful. Video search monetization is from search advertising, which is "owned" by Google's You Tube operation.
Comment and Perspective:
While this panel session was quite enlightening and informative, it was not a structured discussion. Rather, remarks and opinions on many different categories of Real Time (RT) video were interspersed by the various panelists resulting in a lack of continuity. The types of RT video and associated market segments are actually quite different! Here are a few examples of RT Video market segments/ applications:
- RT video conferencing and collaboration for business workers (my ? last nite). This is where Cisco is used. Skype and Google+ Hangouts also have the capability to share their screen while in a video call.
- RT video conferencing for consumers (mostly using 3G/4G mobile networks; amongst family & friends). This is where Skype is used most.
- Video streaming per user (YouTube, Netflix, on demand sports, etc)
- Video broadcasting (for distance learning or Over the Top videos like live sporting events/concerts)
- Video surveillance for police, factory or shop floor, 1st responders, theme parks, etc
- Video monitoring of patients + telemetry data for health care/ ambulances
Each of the above market segments has unique and different requirements on video/audio quality, latency, jitter plus additional bandwidth required (in some cases) for broadband data.
- What are the most important user, technological, market, and enterprise forces that will shape the course of global real-time video development and applications?
- How will work life change as high qualtiy video conferencing/ telepresence replaces business travel?
- Will video chat become an integral part of social networks, e.g. Skype integrated into Facebook applications? Or will privacy issues put a damper on that, e.g. making contact lists/FB friends available to mobile app developers?
- With no inherent QoS in te Internet, what techniques will ensure lower latency and guaranteed constant bit rate bandwidth for real time video applications?