(The article below is an excerpt from a recent Cisco Press title "The Power of IP Video" by Jennifer Baker, Felicia Brych Dalke, Mike Mitchell, and Nader Nanjiani)


  • Visual networking refers to combining Web 2.0 capabilities with video.
  • The opportunities and applications of visual networking in businesses for e-commerce, advertising business-process improvements, and collaboration are extensive and varied.
  • Besides businesses, other segments such as entertainment, education, and public communications also stand to benefit from visual networking applications.

Rather than install a new firewall every time a new customer, department, agency, application, and so on is added, creating a new context is very simple and does not require any additional rack space. The footprint of a device is a huge concern in locations where customers lease space by the Rack Unit (RU). Multiple contexts do not require additional space. The "green" initiative is concerned with the impact on our environment. Reducing the amount of power consumed by leveraging multiple contexts and consequently reducing the hardware will help us do our part in being ecologically responsible.

This chapter discusses how organizations will benefit when all things Web 2.0 are embedded into video to unleash the era of visual networking. By Web 2.0, most experts refer to the interactive nature of how content is delivered and generated on websites. Unlike in the days of Web 1.0 when websites reflected the site author´s viewpoint, Web 2.0 enables the authors to deliver content with greater interactivity (through customized programs that combine functionality of multiple applications, also known as mash-ups). Moreover, users of the website in a Web 2.0 environment can also contribute content by posting their blogs, videos, commentary, ratings, and feedback to make the content more engaging. The Internet of today is often referred to as Web 2.0 to distinguish its current evolution from that of the 1990s.

The distinction is largely based on the emergence of empowered users connecting with each other in ways and at speeds vastly enhanced from years past. With blogs, social networking, video sharing, immersive games, and personalized portals, our societies have experienced a global connectedness among all people that was barely imaginable several years ago. Compared to prior years of the Internet, the current form of the web enables unparalleled levels of peer engagement, collaboration, and personal involvement for individual users. Despite its strength and widespread acceptance, critics of Web 2.0 remain vociferous. Many in the industry often wonder whether socially engaging applications such as LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, wikis, and Twitter (the stalwarts in the Web 2.0 world) have the potential to deliver productivity, business transformation, cost savings, or revenue streams that the Internet has delivered in the past to economic entities. The tough business question remains: How will Web 2.0 transform the core value of people connecting with people for organizations and economies to where they might experience significant productivity gains over a five-year period? The following passages illustrate scenarios of what visual networking might look like in a few short years.

Beyond Web 2.0: To Visual Networking

For Web 2.0 to live up to its promise, productivity gains will result from practices that extend beyond the mere scaling of the past tried-and-true processes to encompass fundamental innovation in how individuals connect, collaborate, and interact with each other. The answer lies in first transcending the appeal of Web 2.0 beyond the core social audience into more of the economically sensitive segments of web audiences (including businesses, organizations, government, individuals, and markets). And second, the answer lies in transforming the social-networking practices of social audiences into collaboration best practices at work.

The notion of embedding all things Web 2.0 into video is what we refer to as visual networking. Because video remains a familiar medium in its appeal and convenience to users, embedding Web 2.0 practices in IP video is an intuitive way to not only empower new segments of the population with unified communications capabilities, but also to deliver a compelling experience through those capabilities to influence faster adoption. Simply put, visual networking delivers the potent payload of instant collaboration over the user-friendly medium of video (see Figure 14-1).

14-1: Real-Time Living Room Communication over TV
Real-Time Living Room Communication over TV

Visual Networking at Work

Straightforward as the concept might sound, combining streaming or on-demand IP video with Web 2.0 capabilities stands to increase engagement and productivity for users by order of magnitudes. But how might that experience impact the way individuals, organizations, and society benefit from the web? What might be some of the specific manifestations of visual networking in products or services? The sections that follow review some examples from diverse spheres of commerce and economics to highlight potential business value of visual networking.

Enabling E-Commerce through Visual Networking

What if video content that interests and inspires us were to also act as an e-commerce portal with which to interact? Many of us would value viewing videos where we can purchase what the actors are wearing right from within the scenes of our favorite TV shows or movies. Clips from movies, TV shows, documentaries, or talk shows with products and services featured in them will be available for sale on our TV sets, mobile phones, or over the Internet, with an easy point-and-click using your remote, mouse, or cursor. You view the video and just click a hyperlink within the video to be dropped into an e-commerce site to purchase the merchandise for sale.

In an age where IPTV, Internet video, and mobile video offer greater interactivity, the opportunity to purchase products placed within entertainment content will influence the shopping behavior of many consumers. The model delivers an online shopping experience that captures the interest piqued in a product from its placement in entertainment content and almost instantaneously transforms that interest into a purchase decision (see Figure 14-2).

14-2: Click to Buy What the Stars Wear
Click to Buy What the Stars Wear

Connecting Live through Visual Networking

Being able to initiate a live conversation right from within a video will reduce the chances of viewers delaying their desire to interact with the message owners. Using an auto manufacturer as an example, visualize a car commercial streaming over the Internet, playing on your TV, or running on your mobile phone. For those in the market for a new automobile and seeking to learn more about the featured automobile in the commercial, one point and click on any scene right from within the video commercial places them into a live conversation with a contact center representative. The representative at the other end can assist the prospect within more information about pricing, features, availability, and scheduling a test drive. Using the communications capabilities of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) embedded within video, such instant conversations or live chat sessions will be convenient to set up.

For the prospect, the benefit lies in the timely information readily available on demand. It eliminates the need for the prospect to visit the website, look up the car details, and send in a request for a representative to contact during normal business hours. For the automaker, the benefit is establishing contact with a potential customer as the desire for the product is piqued through the advertising. A relationship between the prospect and the provider is established right when the interest on the part of the prospect is high (without delay, reducing the risk of the potential sales lead growing cold over time).

Media Conferencing (Sharing) through Visual Networking

Sharing exciting shows, sporting events, or news items with friends and family has always been desirable but difficult because of distance, schedules, and the inability for others to see what you see. What if, for instance, you are watching exciting live sports coverage and choose to share the excitement with a friend. You reach out to connect with him to share your play-by-play stream with him. When you try to connect, you receive presence information indicating he is available, but because he is on a train back from work in a different time zone, he prefers that only his mobile phone be used to contact him. You choose to conference him in to share the live video stream from your TV set right on his mobile phone. Along the way, you converse, comment, exchange, taunt, or trash-talk your way through the viewing experience. The excitement is shared across locations, time zones, and devices while preserving the nostalgia of enjoying a scintillating sporting event with an old friend (see Figure 14-3).

14-3: Conferencing Video Content across Devices
Conferencing Video Content across Devices

E-learning through Visual Networking

Visual networking will have a tremendous impact on how we learn. Consider a how-to video clip on troubleshooting a technical problem (see Figure 14-4). In a learning environment, the video clip could present a pop-up midstream containing a quiz page that enables you to test your knowledge gathered thus far from the video. Based on your performance on the quiz, the video either repeats the recently played content to reinforce the learning objectives or proceeds to the next sequence. The content displayed on the video stream is determined by your quiz performance, creating conditional viewing based on your competence. In situations where you excel at such pop-up quizzes, the video stream has the capability to skip to advanced levels to engage with you at your personalized readiness level.

14-4: Trouble shooting at Work Using Visual Networking
Trouble shooting at Work Using Visual Networking

Business Process Integration through Visual Networking

The potential of visual networking can be unleashed in an enterprise environment as business processes are integrated with real-time user video. Consider the case of a small business applying for a loan for the first time. After meeting with a loan representative either in person or over a videoconference, the applicant receives a video link to an online guide about the loan process. The entire process is embedded through links within a three-minute video clip. As the speaker in the video describes the loan process, the speaker prompts the loan applicant to complete the loan application by clicking the embedded links within the video. Should questions arise, one of the embedded links will enable live chat or conversation with a loan specialist from the bank.

By integrating on-demand videos with live support and business-process steps, the entire loan application completion process is simplified. The reduction in time taken to complete the loan application process not only allows greater productivity for the loan applicant but also helps the bank by speeding up decision inputs and reducing the risk of losing a potential client to another financial institution.

We can extend the illustration to other business-process integration examples such as filing vendor approval forms, completing purchase orders, tracking program compliance, managing costs or payables, and signing up for human resources benefits. In any of these examples, video could potentially assist the respondent through the process, cutting down on errors and speeding up decisions.

Video Wikis

Just as Wikipedia enables us to jump from one page to another simply by following a link to a reference site in a hypertext environment, visual networking will allow us to jump from one video to another reference video just by clicking the elements presented within the video. We can build on the example of troubleshooting tips. If there is a concept in the troubleshooting video that you need more background information about, you can just click an embedded link within a video to jump over to another video that provides the introductory content you seek. By embedding secondary video links within the primary video, content creators can save a user the time it takes to go searching for it elsewhere and can avoid not knowing whether the video the user might come across will do justice to the topic.

Advertising through Visual Networking

One of the largest opportunities of visual networking is presented in the advertising arena. Advertisers who deliver rich media content in the form of video clips, video episodes, or teaser ads with embedded links are likely to prompt greater click-through rates than the current banner ads or search-generated ads do. Viewers seeking more information about a particular problem or a reference within a video could click a pop-up or a hotlink to learn more. Even search ads running as videos are likely to garner greater attention from visitors than a simple text rendition.

These visually stimulating advertisements delivered as teasers or stories will be delivered via TV, the Internet, and mobile devices and offer users the option to click and sign up for offers, download coupons, or initiate live contact over a SIP connection. For specific customer groups based on geography, demography, or personal tastes, the online advertisements could be triggered to a back-end database to run customized versions of ads when users fill out online forms for more information about a product (see Figure 14-5).

14-5: Visual Networking Makes for Efficient Advertising
Visual Networking Makes for Efficient Advertising

Public Affairs and Government Relations through Visual Networking

Whether at the local, state, or federal level, governments have an obligation to publish and make available information from all proceedings to the public. With visual networking, this information can be in the form of video feeds, which can be made available on line for all citizens to access. Within those videos could also be embedded content-specific links to legislation drafts, proposal designs and blueprints, maps, polling, constituent discussion forums, and instant feedback to the representative speaking in the video. Such real-time access and transparency could make it easier for citizens, staff, and other constituents to participate and engage in the democratic process and hold their representatives to a higher standard of accountability.

Games, Sports, and Virtual Environments

We are regularly seeing successful television shows, sporting events, and movies being adapted into online games and virtual environments. Links embedded into the video and the direction of which way the video proceeds based on user input could enable an array of quiz contests, games, and simulations. Video proceeding one way or another based on user choices and input could create unique forms of storytelling with alternative endings based on user preference for a particular adventure or outcome from a choice of various storylines. Deploying video modules for audience engagement into immersive game environments will continue to grow. Such elements ensure more realistic renditions of virtual environments and blur the lines between games, movies, and web entertainment even further (see Figure 14-6).

14-6: Embedding Social Networking into Video
Embedding Social Networking into Video

Live Feedback through Visual Networking

Visual networking also enables capturing live comments, polling, and posts through pop-ups embedded in the video assets. As a presidential debate or speech is streamed live, visual networking will enable ongoing audience polling embedded within the live video. The poll queries viewers about their favorability ratings on what is being said in the ongoing debate or speech by the candidate. Instead of limiting response meters to a few select individuals, audience anxiety, emotion, interest, and response to the content could be captured across the board in the midst of the live streams over IPTV, mobile video, or Internet video. The feedback stream from the viewers would empower content providers with the ability to make instant and future decisions about the choice, nature, and tenor of the ensuing content.

Knowing which characters, dialogs, or settings resonate more with the audience can be incredibly cost-effective and useful for producers of pilot shows in development. Similarly, sports show producers can learn more from which plays, camera angles, and comments from the broadcasters the viewers are responding to more favorably. On the other side of the spectrum, news coverage and the types of questions or comments being posted by the viewers about particular breaking news can clue news producers in to which direction to proceed with further reporting.


The illustrations in the article offer only a brief glimpse into how video may be used in the future. However, as the technology becomes available, all these applications will be manifested in one form or another using video, in what we refer to as the era of visual networking. The era of visual networking will be device independent, spanning a host of devices using technologies such as IPTV and Internet video to be pervasive and accessible to users. If we build collaboration, social networking, and audience participation into video streams and on-demand video clips, users will have the interactive capability to influence content creation. And there are worse things that can happen in business than for content developers to become more responsive to the desires of their users.

About the Author:

Nader Nanjiani has worked in the area of interactive media, IP telephony, communications and marketing for more than a decade. Nader is currently Marketing Manager for Cisco Unified Communications. In this role he has been responsible for marketing a host of unified communications solutions including desk phones, soft phones, wireless phones, video endpoints, presence and call control applications. While working as Marketing Manager at Cisco Systems, Nader has developed or launched a series of award-winning online games, IP communication products, web applications, and communications solutions to boost awareness, revenue, and brand loyalty around Cisco technologies. In 2003, he launched the first ever Cisco online community for certified engineers which today supports the professional development needs of hundreds of thousands of Cisco customers, partners, and prospects. Nader has co-authored two books: "The Business Case for E-learning," published in 2004 and "The Power of IP Video" published in 2008 - both by Cisco Press.

Nader Nanjiani

The Power of IP Video

The Power of IP Video
Felicia Brych, Jennifer Baker, Mike Mitchell, and Nader Nanjiani
ISBN-10: 158705342X
Pub Date: 12/22/2008
US SRP $45.00
Publisher: Cisco Press