Yes, I Wear SpongeBob Boxer Shorts – That’s Why I’ll Pass On Video Technology For Now

Let me first say that I am not fan of video chatting. In fact, I wish the technology was never invented at all. Is it because I’m a curmudgeon? Don’t like change? An angry guy?

Well, yes I am all that. But that’s not why I don’t like video chatting. It’s because I have teenage kids. And their school issued them, and their friends, free Macbooks at the beginning of the year. And within minutes of receiving these devices they quickly figured out how to use the video chatting software that came pre-installed. So now I can’t even go down to the kitchen for a glass of water at 10 at night without hearing some giggling teenager who lives two miles away say “Hi Mr. Marks” or “Nice boxers Mr. Marks.”

But the fact is that video technology is here. It’s inexpensive. And for some small business owners it’s become a critical part of their companies’ communications.

Like Marty Grunder. And Lee Buffington. They both use Oovoo, a video chatting service, to help them run their businesses. And according to Marty, “it’s revealed a whole new world.” For me, it’s revealed to the tenth grade that I wear SpongeBob boxers.

Marty is a consultant and speaker to the landscaping industry. He helps his clients grow their businesses and better manage profitability. And he relies heavily on Oovoo to help him do this.

“The last several days in a row I had back to back coaching sessions with clients,” Marty recently told me. “These were with landscapers located in different parts of the country. I did it all face to face…from my desk.”

Lee Buffington is one of Marty’s clients. His company, northern Alabama based Turf Tamer Inc. provides both residential and commercial landscaping services like designing/building, lighting and irrigation. He also uses Oovoo to connect face to face with both current and prospective customers to discuss projects.

For guys like Marty and Lee, a picture’s worth a thousand words. And a video’s worth a million. But they’re not the only small business owners benefiting from video chatting software. Doctors are sending assistants to make house calls on their behalf, sending back instant video streams from their mobile phones for consultation. Roofers are showing video evidence of flaking shingles to their office estimators so that quotes are more accurate. Real estate agents are displaying new houses to their customers the moment they come on the market.

It made me think about my own business. My company sells customer relationship management, accounting, and other business software. Should I be using video sharing technology like Oovoo (or Skype, or others like it) too?

These services seem easy enough to set up. I mean, for God’s sake, both Marty and Lee are landscapers. These people mow lawns for a living. If they can do it I’d think just about anyone could (just kidding guys).

All kidding aside, using a service like Oovoo is stupidly simple. You setup an account for yourself. Then you’re listed in the Oovoo community as available – others can click on your listing and request to be connected. But your video doesn’t have to be with another Oovoo member. You can just send an email with a link to your invitee. He clicks on the link and right away he’s seeing you through his computer’s browser. If he’s got a video camera on his computer you’re seeing him too.

Skype makes you install software (it doesn’t take long though). Oovoo does not. These applications work on both PCs and Macs. Most computers today come with video cams built in. If not, buying one and plugging it into a USB port is easy too. Both Lee and Marty say to make sure to buy a decent camera too.

I did all this. I downloaded Oovoo and it installed on my computer in under a minute. I then sent a link for a video conference to a friend who clicked on it and in under another minute he was seeing me (he didn’t even have a webcam on his computer). I did the same with my 10th grader (trust me, he’s got a fully operational webcam on his Macbook) and we were instantly seeing each other close up. It works, almost too well. Video chatting technology makes me wonder just how I ever thought my kids were once cute and cuddly.

By the way…I did all of this for nothing. Oovoo, like Skype, iChat (that’s Apple’s software included on their products) and other video chatting software is free. No charge for the two-way video time. Or for calls to other Oovoo members. Oovoo gets away with this by charging for advertising – so be careful you don’t inadvertently click on a third party’s link while in the video calling screen. I can buy premium services, like audio calls, more participants on a video conference, better resolution, saving of video conferences and desktop sharing too. Business plans, which incorporate these features and more tech support and administrative capabilities, range from $39.95 per month for one user to $699.95 per month for 50 users.

Marty and Lee seem to love this. “If I say ‘how’s business going’ and I don’t see a client’s face when he answers then I’m not getting the whole answer,” Marty says. “I need to look in people’s eyes if I can really help them. It adds a whole new level of accountability.” Lee just likes the ability to connect to his clients and present his ideas without having to take a whole day out for travel.

You may think I’m all in for this, right? Unfortunately, I’m not. In fact, I’m going to pass for on video chatting for a while for my business. I’ve got my reasons.

For starters, it’s a little too intrusive. Maybe I’m old school. Maybe I’m just skittish from having unknown teenagers see me in my boxers at all hours of the night (it’s not a pretty sight). But I do a lot of work from home. And often when I’m on the phone I’m doing other things – walking around, checking ESPN, clipping my toenails. I’m not so sure my clients want to see all that. I’m not so sure ANYONE wants to see that. And I’m going to bet the people I’m talking to don’t always want me to see what they’re doing too. Some things are better left to the imagination.

More importantly, video chatting isn’t really necessary for my business. I don’t do coaching and consulting like Marty. I’m not showing landscape designs like Lee. I’m not evaluating bedsores or a broken gutter hanging off a roof. No one wants to see my face. They want to see the software I’m selling and how it’s going to help their people be more productive. I’ve got good desktop sharing tools to help me do that.

Video chatting? It’s fun for teenagers. It’s valuable for some business owners. But with a face like mine? No thanks.

The Five Outstanding Improvements in Video Surveillance and Video Entry Systems

I have been installing some very solid video surveillance systems over the years, however in the last couple years I have settled down with just one manufacturer. That is not to say that there are not different manufacturers with wonderful features, it is just that I came to like one particular company. Two of the primary reasons I applaud them is that they are on the leading edge of research and development and their technical support is second to none. Once you have all the cables installed, properly installed your connectors and mounted the equipment, they can easily tweak the settings and have you up and running with your surveillance video system.

Security Surveillance Systems

There was a time when these systems were only referred to as security surveillance systems. That time has long sense passed as many of a home’s cameras are focused in on locations dealing only with family matters. A few examples of those types of locations are:

* Front gate or front door for video entry capability

* Swimming pool area to keep an eye on children

* Monitoring the babies’ room

* Family room area

* Back yard around the BBQ pit

Typical System

So now a typical system has cameras focused in on areas of security while other cameras are there solely to enhance the family lifestyle. In any case the technology today is state-of-the-art and very reliable. In fact, the images from all the cameras on one screen, or one camera image full screen are available on a local monitor, local computer monitor, or any computer monitor in the world.

Old News

Now that I have told you what I have been doing let me just say frankly all that is old news. The technology has taken a giant leap forward in the last six months and the manufacturer I chose is out in front in my opinion. Of course, IP cameras have been around for a few years now, but many security installation companies like mine have steered away from installing digital systems for a number of technical reasons. I won’t go into all the technical challenges at this time, but the biggest one in my opinion was the difficulty in having the main equipment be able to identify the Internet address of each IP camera. This was especially true if the main frame and the camera manufacturers were different.

New Technology

Like I say, all that is old news because a new technology has been introduced into the marketplace which is an IP Video Management System that takes the hassle out of networking. It does this by automatically detecting and configuring cameras and devices, making installation and use easier than it’s ever been.

The unit includes pre-installed software that is licensed for up to 8 cameras. Each appliance has a three-year warranty that includes complete protection on all components and telephone technical support. A three-year software service plan further protects the investment by including unlimited software technical support and free feature upgrades. This new technology solution is designed to reduce installation time and maintenance costs of network video systems.

How Advanced is New Technology?

OK, I have explained that this is the latest reliable technology available in local/remote video surveillance systems, but let me go further and explain why and to what degree it is advanced. Well, first of all it is much easier to install than traditional surveillance systems. There is no more need for running additional power cables to each camera because now the technology allows for video camera power to run on the same Cat5e which carries data. These systems don’t require coaxial cable anymore.

The second, and arguably the most important degree of improvement, is the much greater clarity in the camera video image. In traditional color analog cameras about the best available was 550 lines of resolution. Now the resolution is over 1000. Not only that, now you can also purchase megapixel cameras which are out of this world in how far out they can reach to provide you a perfect picture.

Bug’s Behind at 100 Yards

So before I get too far down the road in explaining all this new technology I should interject that this is not your momma’s video surveillance system. The system is more expensive and the cameras, especially the megapixel cameras, are also costly. If I did list old style equipment and cameras, the prices would be about 20 to 25% less. However, with the difference in cable cost and labor, that 25% doesn’t seem nearly as large. The megapixel cameras are reasonably more expensive, but they can see a bug’s behind at 100 yards.

24-7 Digital Recording

In addition, the typical system these days is recording twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Each camera’s images are recorded every second, or to save on hard drive space some are set in a motion detection mode. In other words, when armed in this mode, the images are not being recorded except in the case of movement where movement is not expected. A good example of that would be an infrared camera in the garage. During the night no movement is expected in the garage. If and when the camera picks up movement the images are recorded for a specified amount of time.

Control The Cost

The keys to this and any other video entry / lifestyle & security video system are capability and cost. The absolute best way to control these issues is to install the system yourself. To install one of these security video surveillance systems you will need to purchase a book on installing a specific system. Believe it or not, it’s not all that hard to install the system. You simply need to know exactly what equipment to purchase, what connectors to install, how to mount the equipment, and how to power it up and program the main unit. If you did not understand the importance of what I said earlier, now is the time to grasp the moment. Once you physically run the cable and mount the components, the software does the configuration setup for you. That is what I am trying to say. Even though this is state-of-the-art technology, it is really easy to install.

Installing Several Systems

It has been my experience that when people are considering one technology for their new or remodeled home, they are likely considering other technologies as well. It would be in your best interest to have installation guides on each system you would like to include in your project. Read them all then procure your equipment, special tools, and cable so that they are all on the job site ahead of your proposed start date.

Installing Numerous Systems

It has been my experience that when home owners are considering one technology for their new or remodeled home, they are likely considering other systems as well. It would be in your best interest to have installation manuals on each system you would like to include in your project. Read them all then purchase your components, special tools, and cabling so that they are all on the job site in advance of your proposed start date.

My goal for this informational article was to properly explain the difference between the old and the new surveillance video technology. Hopefully I have achieved my goal so that you take away the knowledge that the new systems are easier to install and once installed provide a much higher degree of video clarity. Yes they cost a little more, but that only matters if you completely discount the value of your time.

The New, Emerging Trend of Ambient Video Internet Technology

A new internet technology on the rise is called Ambient Video. Just as the word “ambient” means, this technology has the context of being totally surrounding and encircling. With the concept based on large-format projector based visualization technologies, people will experience a strong sense of constant immersion at remote sites throughout the world and will encircle people all around the walls in their office.

The Impact of Ambient Video on People

Ambient Video is a new, emerging trend in internet video technology. With the goal of Ambient Video being to provide the sense of immersion between the participants interacting with one another from remote locations, more large scale, high-resolution display devices will have to be made available for placement in homes and offices with access to the internet. This new technology will ultimately transform the video experience of people. It presents an entirely new receptive condition for people as they live their daily lives. For example, people today typically only view cinematic size projections at the movie theater, New York Times Square, a large church, or athletic stadium. Thus, Ambient Video will make cinematic size viewing a commonplace, domestic experience for people every day of their lives.

Ambient Video in Relation to the Art of Cinema

Ambient Video will most likely attempt to replicate or serve as an extension of the aesthetics of cinema. It will certainly call for a more pictorial visual style and lead to more utilization of cinematic techniques (e.g., split screen, visual layering, high tech transitions, etc.). In addition, this new visualization technique will most likely become useful to people when it is recognized as a new form of electronic cinema.

Is Ambient Video an Experience in the “Foreground” or “Background” Perception of the Viewing Audience?

The question of how Ambient Video relates to the constant immersion visualization technique is still under strong debate. For example, when people go to the movie theater in a darkened room, the moving pictures are in the foreground of our cinematic experience. In the seclusion of a darkened theater, the viewing audience loses itself and becomes immersed in the world of the film. Because of this insulation from the real world, the viewing audience responds to the moving pictures on the “big screen” as if they were actually human. People display their inner feelings and emotions as they watch a movie. They cry and laugh as well as exhibit sadness, happiness, fear, and even get angry as they watch films. As a result, the moving pictures and accompanying sounds of a motion picture place heartrending images in people’s minds and enter closely into our very being. However, in contrast with the “foreground” cinematic experience, the commonplace television in our homes typically plays in the “background” (not the “foreground”) of our living rooms. Thus, a quick glance, a more concentrated look, or even a deeper immersion are all factors to consider in determining whether or not Ambient Video will ultimately be a “foreground” or “background” experience for people.

Embracing Ambient Video Technology at the Consumer and/or Prosumer Levels

Many future trend experts believe that organizational leadership will embrace a consumer level application of Ambient Video by make moving images appear as a living painting with high cinematic quality providing a relaxing, visual experience. In the future, professional applications of Ambient Video will most likely take place when technology is available to tie together numerous remote locations with superior quality video in life size projection. At an instant, people will be able to communicate with each other just as if they were in the same room together, but actually are thousands of miles apart. Interaction with participants at remote sites could be prompted by a visual or audio cue; and during periods of non-interaction, a pleasing visual aesthetic will be projected on the walls encircling the people in the office or other similar location. Prosumer application of Ambient Video will most likely involve the ability to seduce a person’s attention rather than a commanding of it. Thus, prosumer level investment in Ambient Video will depend on the ability of this technology to allure, win over, and attract people’s attention in the internet video world of tomorrow.