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Multipoint video conferencing allows participants at more than two sites to
engage in real-time communication by means of a Multipoint Control Unit
(MCU) to which all the participants connect. In multipoint communications
this video bridge device interconnects signals from several sources in the
same fashion that multiple audio lines are intermingled in a telephone
conference call. The key difference in multipoint versus “normal” video
conferencing is the fact that there are multiple participants at multiple
locations rather than a single interaction between two webcams or two
digital video cameras communicating directly through conferencing software.

Is There a Demand for Multipoint Conferencing?

There is an increasing demand for multipoint video teleconferencing for a
number of reasons. Not only does it overcome the expense and delays caused
by travel, but these meetings tend to be briefer and more focused than
face-to-face encounters and thus more productive. Busy executives can budget
their time more effectively when meeting with clients or employees and,
compared to the cost of travel, establishing facilities for a multipoint
video conference is much more cost effective.

How Does Multipoint Video Conferencing Work?

Essentially a conferencing system uses a CODEC, a device which converts and
compresses the video signal into digital data for transmission to a decoder
which reverses the process on the other end. Working in full-duplex mode,
the system encodes and decodes data in both directions simultaneously. The
network over which the data travels may be any kind of broadband or
satellite connection. Speeds as lows as 128 Kbps will produce a decent
quality conference, but for television quality video the minimum data rate
should be around 384 Kbps. There are two modes or formats for multipoint
video conferencing, continuous presence (CP) and voice activated (VA).
Participants in the conference should always be told which method is being
used. Generally a moderator is used in both scenarios to control the
interaction and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Continuous Presence

In a multipoint video conference conducted in continuous presence mode, all
sites can be seen at the same time. Usually at one site participants will
see themselves on one monitor and the remote participants on a second
monitor in smaller windows. This is not an optimal method for displaying any
kind of data other than voice communication because the data will not occupy
the full screen. Microphones can be simultaneously active at all sites
involved and as a result, things can get a bit noisy. Intervention on the
part of the moderator may be required to keep things in order.

Voice Activated

In this method of multipoint video conferencing only the remote site that
produced the most recent audio will appear on the monitors. Again, at a
single site participants will see themselves on one monitor and the source
of the most recent audio will appear on a second monitor. Microphone
settings are critical in voice activated mode. When a site is not speaking,
their microphone should be muted to avoid random noise that will suddenly
place them on screen. Moderation is especially recommended in this mode.

Could Multipoint Conferencing be made Affordable?

Many systems now offer a built-in video conferencing bridge, which has made
multipoint conferencing increasingly affordable. Still, a system capable of
supporting a four-way conference will cost in the $8,000 range. As
multipoint video conferencing continues to grow in popularity, however, and
systems with build-in bridges become more refined, prices will undoubtedly
drop. Multipoint video conferencing allows participants at more than two
sites to engage in real-time communication by means of a Multipoint Control
Unit (MCU) to which all the participants connect. In multipoint
communications this video bridge device interconnects signals from several
sources in the same fashion that multiple audio lines are intermingled in a
telephone conference call. The key difference in multipoint versus “normal”
video conferencing is the fact that there are multiple participants at
multiple locations rather than a single interaction between two webcams or
two digital video cameras communicating directly through conferencing
software.

Is There a Demand for Multipoint Conferencing?

There is an increasing demand for multipoint video teleconferencing for a
number of reasons. Not only does it overcome the expense and delays caused
by travel, but these meetings tend to be briefer and more focused than
face-to-face encounters and thus more productive. Busy executives can budget
their time more effectively when meeting with clients or employees and,
compared to the cost of travel, establishing facilities for a multipoint
video conference is much more cost effective.

How Does Multipoint Video Conferencing Work?

Essentially a conferencing system uses a CODEC, a device which converts and
compresses the video signal into digital data for transmission to a decoder
which reverses the process on the other end. Working in full-duplex mode,
the system encodes and decodes data in both directions simultaneously. The
network over which the data travels may be any kind of broadband or
satellite connection. Speeds as lows as 128 Kbps will produce a decent
quality conference, but for television quality video the minimum data rate
should be around 384 Kbps. There are two modes or formats for multipoint
video conferencing, continuous presence (CP) and voice activated (VA).
Participants in the conference should always be told which method is being
used. Generally a moderator is used in both scenarios to control the
interaction and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Continuous Presence

In a multipoint video conference conducted in continuous presence mode, all
sites can be seen at the same time. Usually at one site participants will
see themselves on one monitor and the remote participants on a second
monitor in smaller windows. This is not an optimal method for displaying any
kind of data other than voice communication because the data will not occupy
the full screen. Microphones can be simultaneously active at all sites
involved and as a result, things can get a bit noisy. Intervention on the
part of the moderator may be required to keep things in order.

Voice Activated

In this method of multipoint video conferencing only the remote site that
produced the most recent audio will appear on the monitors. Again, at a
single site participants will see themselves on one monitor and the source
of the most recent audio will appear on a second monitor. Microphone
settings are critical in voice activated mode. When a site is not speaking,
their microphone should be muted to avoid random noise that will suddenly
place them on screen. Moderation is especially recommended in this mode.

Could Multipoint Conferencing be made Affordable?

Many systems now offer a built-in video conferencing bridge, which has made
multipoint conferencing increasingly affordable. Still, a system capable of
supporting a four-way conference will cost in the $8,000 range. As
multipoint video conferencing continues to grow in popularity, however, and
systems with build-in bridges become more refined, prices will undoubtedly
drop.

Empty office space litters skylines, freeways and office parks. Once-busy
hives of cubicles have become empty steel and concrete caverns. Their
previous occupants met with a variety of fates: Some were victims of a deep
recession; others were washed away by tsunamis of cheap labor in foreign
lands; still others were unleashed by virtual technologies. Only the last
group of former office dwellers have freed themselves willingly. They did so
by exchanging their physical presence for a virtual existence.

“My partner and I have run the business from a lakeside dock in Canada and a
hotel in Barcelona, for around US$200 per month for all the necessary
tools,” Stephanie Pakrul, cofounder of TopNotchThemes, told the E-Commerce Times.

Virtual Gets Real

“Our virtual assistant wakes up on the East Coast, checks the mail, checks
for voicemail, answers support emails, and I get a report of anything
pressing by the time I’m awake in Pacific time,” explained Pakrul.

The TopNotchThemes team uses the following tools to make their virtual
existence concrete:

* Earth Class Mail for digital mail
* RingCentral for phone/virtual PBX
* Quickbooks Online for
portable bookkeeping
* Bank of America’s (NYSE: BAC) online
banking and bill pay to send direct deposit, wire, or checks to anyone
* RescueTime for tracking tasks and
project work
* Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Docs for online
document creation and storage

“There are some huge benefits to Earth Class Mail in particular, in that you
can get an actual street address, not just a P.O. box,” said Pakrul. “Plus,
with your mail scanned quickly online, you don’t need to re-ship everything,
and often can just have the paper copies shredded and keep the scans, which
keeps down the cost and paper.”

A Place to Be or Not to Be

If, however, your business is the type that needs the occasional meeting
room and all snail mail as original hard copies, then opt to be a virtual
tenant in any number of actual offices.

“We have a virtual tenant who is actually in China,” Jeremy Wolf, owner of
Wolf Commercial
,
told the E-Commerce Times. “We box his mail and ship it to him once a week.”

Many of Wolf’s virtual tenants, however, are attracted to the common areas
— namely, boardrooms and fancy lobbies with highly skilled receptionists.
Still others like the faux caller ID.

“You can either plug one of our phones into your computer or install some
simple softphone software. Either way, the receptionist can transfer calls
to you anywhere without the caller knowing you’re outside the premises,” he
added.

“You can also call anyone and the caller ID will show your ‘office’ number,
not the number where you actually are,” he said.

The result: A small business can appear much larger, and workers never have
to set foot in an actual office again. On the downside, it’s much easier to
set up a scam operation these days!

The costs for a virtual tenant is “roughly 25 percent or less than a regular
tenant,” said Wolf. The lowest rent Wolf offers regular tenants is $1,000 a
month. By comparison, virtual tenants pay $250 a month, on average.

The recession is starting to push hard against the retail industry and is having a big impact on sales. This usually has a trickle down affect for the credit card processing business. Many retailers are getting their chips in-line to be able to market itself efficiently during the new, tougher economy. This past holiday season was a good test for the retail industry on the new less is more buying mentality. Former JCP CEO made a statement that described this perfectly and I quote “I never saw anyone go out of business because they didn’t have enough of something.” So what are retailers suppose to do? You can only cut prices so low. Retailers should create themselves a niche or leg up over the competition. Such as JCP has created over 20 different private label brands that you will not find anywhere else. Having an exclusive brand keeps your customers coming back time and time again. Being green is another business concept that is on the rise as well. How retailers operate and the products they sell are becoming more green than ever before. Organic goods is one popular item that is increasing in demand. Many retailers like Wal-mart and Target are also incorporating as many green products as possible in their building’s designs when creating or renovating a store.

About GordonGus
"Whether selling products, services or information I have helped others succeed online by clarifying goals, simplifying technologies, motivating players and executing tasks. My energy and perseverance has helped others reach their goals. Of course, some wanted to shoot me in the process."
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