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Exclusive: VITEC senior VP on video refresh strategies

Colin Farquhar looks at how next-gen video refresh strategies integrate IPTV into corporate IT networks

Video content has always been a powerful medium to communicate efficiently within organisations. The types of technologies used for this communication have varied quite dramatically. When we think of traditional video content, we typically think about live television originally distributed over coax cable infrastructures. 

While this approach was straightforward, within organisational facilities, it was often ‘upgraded’ to include some internal channels that offered content specific to the company or the facility. For the most part, it was an adequate solution – and all that was available at the time. But it was pretty clear that it did not offer a lot of flexibility for delivering content to screens throughout a corporate workspace/building. It was a dedicated infrastructure that delivered content to dedicated terminals – TV screens.

As demand for video content continued to grow, the limitations of coax cable became increasingly apparent. Having a computer screen and a dedicated TV on a desktop was not convenient – or practical. This is why we saw the initial demand for enterprise-class IPTV begin to manifest itself. Once reserved for the most prominent organisations that could afford to allocate resources for dedicated RF video infrastructures, the emergence of internet-protocol television (IPTV) has democratised access to video as a critical enterprise resource.

About fifteen years ago, we saw the first wave of organisations move away from dedicated RF video infrastructures to IPTV systems that integrate video traffic into the enterprise network. For those that made the transition, the outcome was very successful. They not only saved a tremendous amount of money on capital expenses and operating costs but also freed up technical talent to engage in higher-value activities that advanced organisational interests. For many reasons, however, a significant number of organisations have not, until now, moved to enterprise-wide IPTV. 

But this is beginning to change as the market goes through a bifurcated set of enterprise video infrastructure refresh initiatives:

• Many organisations are relocating to new facilities. Few have found a compelling case to stay with the legacy RF technology. This has created a greenfield environment that has prompted growing interest in IPTV.

• Organisations that transitioned to IPTV 15 to 20 years ago are now moving to a new generation of internet protocol technologies that offer higher performance levels, intelligence, and security. The good news for this category of refreshers is that the transition to the latest capabilities can be accomplished by leveraging investments already made in IPTV. It doesn’t require a complete overhaul. 

Another easy transition is to incorporate IPTV, which allows businesses to take greater advantage of the content available to them – including but not limited to content from a wide range of sources, like TV content, self-created educational content, and virtual signage, just to name a few. This essentially takes screens from being a simple play-out point for video to a visual experience geared towards enhancing employee and customer experience.

One of the significant advantages of integrating IPTV into enterprise networks revolves around the ability to deliver high-quality video to any point in the building with no delays or buffering. 

This is in stark contrast to RF video networks, where video can only be delivered to a dedicated device (a TV set), and quality depends on many factors, such as: how far an amplifier is from the screen displaying content, how many connections are on the cable and how many people are trying to view the content at the same time. 

IPTV has emerged as a proven high-performance solution that delivers a consistent digital bit stream of content to any terminal across the enterprise network. 

Today, IPTV video content has exploded and represents one of the fastest-growing categories of traffic flowing through corporate networks. According to a BTR-100 survey commissioned by VITEC, 93% of enterprise technology executives report that video traffic in their organisation is growing because of end-user demand, with 85% indicating that video traffic on enterprise networks contributes to the achievement of important organisational objectives. Businesses are now tasked with delivering vast amounts of material across infrastructures. Doing so optimally has become the number one priority, and video is emerging as the key to meeting this requirement.

In my view, there are four critical areas that enterprise leaders should consider as they begin their refresh process:

How organisations use video content
Leaders must clearly understand the broad array of use cases that need to be supported by asking questions such as: Are we producing a lot of employee-generated content? Are we streaming programming from outside of the organisation? What are the digital signage requirements? Are we upgrading existing facilities, moving into new offices, or building a new corporate campus?  It is important to review and discuss these questions to understand the desired future state that organisations seek to achieve — and the role that IPTV can play in supporting that business transformation. 

Disposition of existing infrastructure and new technologies should be included in refreshed networks
Technologies today are more sophisticated, intelligent, and intuitive than ever. There is no shortage of options and features that can be included to support a wide array of use cases. The key is understanding what to include as organisations design feature-rich networks that deliver video content to various devices over wireless and hard-wired networks. 

Training and staffing
These are an often-overlooked aspects of a successful refresh strategy. The rising use of video technology contributes to how corporate culture is defined and developed. But this promise can only be fulfilled if people know how to create, distribute, and appropriately consume this bandwidth-intensive content category. These competencies need to be consciously developed and nurtured. Working with video is becoming as important as using word processors and spreadsheets. That is why it is critical for organisations to adequately hire and train staff.

The threat landscape has never been more severe. As organisations refresh investments in video technology, leaders must ensure doors are closed to bad actors. Best practices and the latest security solutions must be incorporated into every aspect of the design, development and deployment of new IPTV technologies. Post-deployment, IT professionals must ensure that the ongoing management of enterprise video resources is executed with the protection of data, applications and personal information as a top priority. 

These are the principles that should guide IPTV refresh initiatives. They provide a structure for working with internal staff and external partners to bring the full value of IPTV to market. Early adopters of IPTV are well placed to use their existing systems as a basis to develop and scale further, thanks to the inherent flexibility of the technology. Meanwhile there has never been a better time for those moving to a new premises – or those with an RF-based system – to leverage an IP network to distribute video content to all manner of devices, such as TVs, laptops, tablets, video walls, digital signage screens and more.