Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Beyond House Party: Face to Face Networks Have Bigger Role to Play

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If you have flicked through the news recently, it’s likely that you have come across reporting on the massive increase in popularity of face-to-face social networks like House Party, or business-tailored video conferencing software like Zoom. In short, people are using the software to socialize or to stay in touch with the office while working remotely. 

Zoom and House Party have been around for a few years now, but the onset of Covid-19 has caused an explosion in their popularity. They have gone from relatively niche products to household names in a matter of days. Consider this statistic: At one point in late-March during the pandemic, Zoom’s valuation was 50% more than all US airlines combined. Mind-boggling. 

It’s been well-documented about how people are logging on to these apps and buying the software, but there is also an intriguing area to discuss; one that goes beyond socialising during the lockdown. Namely, the idea that video communications (the industry doesn’t really have a common usage name yet) will form a part of our daily lives long after the disruption from Covid-19 has passed. 

Workers scrambling for software and equipment 

The best place to start is with remote working. We know that many businesses have scrambled to set up their employees working from home. If you have tried to buy a laptop lately, you will be aware that this is, indeed, a “scramble”, as many enterprises are buying up equipment for employees who have never worked from home before.

But there has long been a school of thought that business should be encouraging more people to work from home. The evidence is mounting that employees can be more productive; after all, they don’t have to deal with the commute. And, there are other benefits like staff retention, overheads, rents and so on. Looming above everything else, however, is the environmental benefit of working from home. If software like Zoom and apps like Slack can facilitate remote working, there should be plenty of incentive for businesses to keep employees at home. 

Tourist attractions, too, have seen an uptick in the number of people taking virtual tours.  Again, taking a tour of La Louvre or the Sydney Opera House through virtual means is not new, but business is booming. It can help kids see something educational during the lockdown, and help parents who have run out of ideas in home-schooling. But there is a future for these services when the dust settles. 

Tourism and entertainment will change 

Many tourist attractions are under huge pressure to limit numbers. The city of Venice, now more of a tourist attraction in itself than a home for Venetians, has been experiencing what can only be described as an ecological disaster over the last decade. Venice cannot cope with the vast numbers of tourists descending from huge cruise ships. A virtual tour of Venice might be your go-to vacation in future years. 

Other areas of entertainment have already embraced these principles. The casinos of Las Vegas closed their doors a few weeks ago, but live casino has been popular online since the middle of 2010s. You can find out more on www.casino.com about live dealer games like roulette and blackjack, which are streamed from studios with real croupiers and real-time action. The dream trip to Vegas isn’t going to be replaced overnight, but it’s a viable alternative with evident benefits. 

The point of all this is that video communications are going to play a bigger role in our lives. The likes of Zoom had already experienced lots of investment and some huge jumps in share price long before we had heard of Covid-19. In the coming years, you are going to see lots more in the way of video communications offering solutions to remote working, remote tourism and entertainment. Covid-19 has pushed them to the forefront, but it looks like they are here to stay.

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