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If you look at the range of infrastructure solutions by major video conferencing system developers, you will see that the transfer from specialized hardware VC infrastructure towards software, cloud services and VM solutions is already a reality. It is time to move forward and understand how the acquisition cycle between the IT and AV industries – along with the ‘softwarization’ of videoconferencing – will affect the video conferencing market in 2015. Here are five of our top predictions.

Forecast #1: The prevalence of SVC-based architecture.

The number of VC endpoints connected to systems built on Scalable Video Coding (SVC) technology will outnumber the endpoints dedicated to classic mixing schemes (MCU) in 2015. The new architecture makes use of the extended capabilities of video codecs such as the H.264 SVC and VP8 SVC codecs, which allows video streams to be processed on the server side without re-encoding. This effectively lowers the cost of video conferencing infrastructure, cancels the limitations regarding the number of connected subscribers, and eliminates delays and visual artifacts caused by signal compression.

Forecast #2: All-purpose PCs will replace the video conferencing endpoints in meeting rooms.

Our proof is in the recent announcements introducing Microsoft Surface Hub, Google Chromebox for Meetings, and the Russian release of Flipbox by Polymedia. Users do not care what enables video conferencing features on the end device, whether it be software, high quality peripherals, or a dedicated VC terminal. When there is no noticeable difference, people see with their wallets. That is why the majority of modern conference rooms (with the price tag under $20.000) are equipped with widescreen 4K displays, an integrated or dedicated PC, and special software which enables meeting and brainstorming, whiteboarding, and all other video conferencing features.

Forecast #3: A world of AV peripherals to choose from.

This is a direct consequence of the previous point. Previously, cameras, microphones, speakers, etc. could be connected only using their own proprietary ports that usually were not interoperable with solutions from different vendors or even with different product series by the same manufacturer. With the introduction of PCs in the meeting rooms, we get the ability to connect anything via USB, HDMI or analog ports, and also by using wireless technologies like Bluetooth, Miracast and WiFi (the last two of which deserve a separate article). There is now a huge range of plug-and-play PTZ cameras, speakerphones, and content capture devices. Moreover, those peripherals are as good as the old hardware video conferencing endpoints, in terms of content transmission quality.

Forecast #4: The advent of UltraHD 4K and mobile video conferencing.

Those may seem like two separate subjects, but in reality, they are closely connected. The key feature of SVC architecture is the ability to deliver video streams to multipoint conference participants in both the original resolution, and in any lower resolution. This allows for the creation of a dynamic video window layout with the total resolution starting from 120px and scaling up to 3840×2160 (4K) or higher. The same conference can be accessed without the need for re-encoding from any device, and with great adaptivity for fluctuating bandwidth quality. For now, though, this feature is available only in software VC solutions built on modern SVC infrastructure, which gives those solutions an advantage.

Forecast #5: New work scenarios – from planning to delivery.

In 2013 and 2014 we saw how quickly video conferencing systems entered workplaces and mobile devices. The classic scenario of booking a conference room and planning the meeting with an overloaded web interface seems to be receding into the past. In the era of Skype, users demand the same comfortable interface, the ability to call to phone numbers, and to be able to add their own contacts from the enterprise video conferencing system. In 2015, browser-based conferences, address books with presence, integration with telephony, calendars and streaming platforms brought together by a comfortable user-friendly interface will become standard features for any respected video conferencing vendor. WebRTC, support for SIP protocol, and basic UC principles will help.

This article has been made in collaboration with TrueConf CEO Michael Gotalsky