4k Video is Backing its Way into the Enterprise
Feb 27, 2017
For years we’ve been hearing about the emergence of 4k, or ultra HD (UHD), video. The technology essentially quadruples 1080p resolution in a single image. In consumer markets its state of the art, and is supported by a wide range of smartphones, camcorders, DSLR cameras, displays, televisions, hardware and software players, and more. Prices are dropping fast as well. Big box stores and electronics retailers across the US consistently offer 4k products at very attractive prices. In my area of Metro-Atlanta, Target recently offered a 55” Samsung 4k television for $499 and a 65” model for $899. At these prices, it’s almost a no-brainer to go with the latest technology, even if most programming is broadcast at lower resolutions and 4k support on cable or satellite boxes is still rare. As the consumer market for UHD video products and services gains steam, I’ve been keeping an eye out for similar adoption to take a foot hold in the enterprise.
After some fairly thorough research, it’s become clear that UHD video has not yet taken off in the enterprise. There are a number of business use cases where the technology will deliver obvious benefits. 4k resolution can enhance the extreme details in still and live images in healthcare, engineering, and other fields. However, it would seem that 1080 resolution is good enough for general business use. As evidence I point to a number of webcast, web conferencing and video conferencing products and services that support less than 1080 but are still successful. It begs the question as to whether the broader business market really needs UHD.
The analogies I use to explain what 4k video does are the same ones I’ve used for years to describe HD voice and video in general. It does matter. Most business phone systems and services support HD audio. When a solution doesn’t, we definitely notice. The same its true of lower video resolutions compared to HD. Think of the programming options available for your home television. If both standard definition (SD) and HD are available, we’ll routinely select the higher quality options. It’s just a better experience.
One problem is that purchase decision makers and users need to be exposed to UHD video in order to appreciate it. Another issue that has helped to keep 4k video adoption rates behind consumer markets is that enterprises have historically opted for “good enough”, with many businesses unwilling to pay a premium for higher definition, the bandwidth required to support it and the necessary components to integrate 4k with existing lower resolution video solutions, unless there is compelling ROI for the additional expenses.
In a recent conversation with Chuck Van Dusen, video systems architect for Biamp, I began to more fully recognize that UHD video will soon be pervasive within enterprise UC and collaboration solutions by default. In fact, enterprises may not have much choice, with UHD increasingly built into more products or already the only option available. Chuck mentioned that 50% of new screen shipments are UHD; it’s already becoming more difficult to buy screens with anything less than UHD resolution with which to build products.
Business buyers and users should take the opportunity to buy UHD video products when they can. Just as in consumer markets, we are seeing prices for business-grade UHD products declining. In some cases the incorporated functionality is offered as a value-add that does not increase the product or service cost. While many enterprises may not put the functionality immediately to use, buying products with 4k capability is a wise future-proofing move.
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