The rapidly-increasing cost of fuel, coupled with unreliable electricity provision, is driving the popularity of videoconferencing – and a competitively-priced hosted offering launched last week is already inundated with demand for the service.
Facetalk is a desktop videoconferencing product offered by IT Convergence, which is available to any users regardless of their size.
Conferences with up to 16 people can be held, with the only requirement being a PC with an Internet connection and a webcam.
Roland Buhler, CEO of IT Convergence explains that, because Facetalk uses efficient compression, any connection that can handle 150kbps is good enough for the user to participate.
The user convening the conference books the facility up to 24 hours in advance, providing participants' names and e-mail addresses.
The system automatically notifies attendees of the conference, and gives them instructions on what they need to do. A small client application needs to be downloaded prior to the conference.
Costs are marginally more than a telephone conference – R3.85 per user per minute – but, as Buhler points out, a lot less than if everyone had to drive or even fly to a meeting.
Some of the additional features of the next product update – anticipated for release later this year – will permit participants to scrutinise, edit and exchange documents and contracts at will. It will also facilitate simultaneous use of other applications on the member’s computer and allow them to have a private one on one conversation with any chosen attendee without being forced to share this with the entire meeting.
“All business sectors are set to benefit from this application," says Buhler. "However, the timing of the launch is particularly relevant in light of South Africa’s traffic congestion due to power issues. It can be a case of business as usual without getting up from your desk This holds enormous potential for productivity and business cost savings.
"Facetalk negates the valuable time lost in traffic hold-ups and the considerable cost outlay on flying people around the country. Business people can now conduct the same meeting in a virtual conference room boardroom, view contracts, close a deal and all while still being able to look the customer in the eye,” says Bühler.
One of the most compelling benefits Facetalk offers is the fact the literally anyone can go on to the site and book a videoconference without any investment in additional technology, Buhler adds.
The site also offers users advice on videoconferencing etiquette and dress codes.