It seems that Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone did not set the bar high enough. Nor did AT&T’s Videophone demonstration at the 1964 World’s Fair. Soon, we will be able to video-conference between our mobile phones. Demonstrated earlier this year in Hong Kong, 4G cellular service (the speed of the cellular data network) will allow data downloads that are fast enough to allow 4-way videoconferencing.
Now keep in mind (before you run out to buy a new phone) that even in mid-2005, parts of the US are still 2.5G, with 3G in most markets – the higher the “G”, the faster the data network. But think about the possibilities for the A/E/C industry. When Nextel’s push-to-talk (PTT) technology came out, job site issues were addressed much more quickly. A person or group could be “two-wayed” anywhere in the service area. PTT, now also supported by Verizon, can be done across the US, and internationally to Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru. PTT means a person no longer needs to be in “walkie-talkie” range at the job site to respond to a question.
Soon we will be able to video two-way team members about that coordination issue in the field. We can now do it with digital stills, however to get a video, we have to use a camcorder with a traditional video-conference system. With 4G, the field crew can give you an ad-hoc “video call” and you can direct them as to what you want to see in the video in order to solve the issue.
Are there limitations? You bet. We just had to replace the cell phone for one of our principals. All he wanted was a simple cell phone that had an easy to read screen and very basic directory, but instead the “insurance replacement” was a Videophone. Not only does it take still photos, but it can also shoot short videos. The display leaves a lot to be desired – it is very hard to see, granted the resolution is low, but so is the contrast and color depth. This has been the largest complaint of subscribers to video download services in the US.
The first generation of video phones from LG, Motorola, and Samsung have just come to the States from Asia, where the adoption of next generation wireless phone service has been much quicker than in Europe or the US. The good news is that domestic service providers see the light and are already planning on the implementation of the 4G standard, projecting that we will have the technology in the US by the start of 2007. As Maxwell Smart would say “That’s right Chief, I will need to replace my shoe phone in a few months”.