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The Future of Video Conferencing: VC Daily Interviews Eran Westman, Vidyo CEO

October 4, 2017 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by VC Dailey

VC Daily's interview series, The Future of Video Conferencing, looks for answers to the question of how evolving technology will shape the world around us by speaking directly with the people at the forefront of its development.

In this interview, we talk with an expert in the critical and rapidly expanding fields of telehealth and finance. Eran Westman, CEO of pioneering VC provider Vidyo, is overseeing the development of new platforms that will see us meeting our doctor and banker from the convenience of our smartphones and tablets.

VC Daily: First off, what is the current state of video conferencing in the healthcare industry?

Westman: Telemedicine has been evolving very rapidly the past few years. I'm very happy to say that all states in the U.S. now give recognition to telemedicine, and doctors are being recognized and paid for remote medicine. At the same time, there's been a convergence of new technology, improved commercial bandwidth, and a readiness of people to use video conferencing. This has created a very interesting time for doctors and patients.

VC Daily: You mentioned the development of new technologies, but it seems video conferencing still has a little way to go to accommodate the small screens and limited processing power of smartphones.

Westman: The size of the screen-the real estate, as we say-is an issue, and we are building our APIs and codecs to create the optimal solution to help solve it. We've optimized our product to work much better on mobile phones than rival software, and we've enhanced our own software to help it run on phones without running out the battery.

VC Daily: Going back to the emerging video conferencing technologies you mentioned earlier-we have seen tablets used by ambulance EMTs to link stroke patients with remote experts before they even reach the ER. What's next for IoT video conferencing in emergency medicine?

Westman: We are very proud, actually, to have many solutions like this already on the market. It's crucial to have solutions like these not only to give feedback to the ER from the ambulance, but also to give feedback to people in the ambulance from the patient, even before anyone arrives on the scene. What we see coming are new devices that use machine learning. There are a lot of devices that are built for people to do their own blood testing and other things, so they can run these tests on themselves and send that information to remote doctors or emergency workers.

VC Daily: Obviously, having great visuals is a benefit in the telehealth industry, so when will 4K video conferencing become commonplace?

Westman: For us, and for a lot of our customers, it's already commonplace. It's important to be able to clearly see someone who might be having a stroke or has a rash. Vidyo was the first to bring in 4k a couple years ago, and most of the products we ship are 4k, including, our commercial service. One of the beautiful things with our tech is our video router that communicates with any device on the call, be it a cell, tablet, etc. The router checks the real estate, size of the screen, the bandwidth, and the CPU of the endpoint and start point, and provides the highest resolution to every device. No matter whether 4K is supported or not, we enable every participant on the call to get the highest possible quality.

VC Daily: Let's switch to your other field of expertise, and talk about video conferencing in the finance industry. What role will browser-based video calling, such as WebRTC, play in the future of online banking?

Westman: We are very excited about this field. Video conferencing is useful in healthcare in terms of doctor-to-patient calling and video conferencing from outside the hospital. We've looked at other industries and found many of the top banks in the world use our tech. In response, we've changed the way we work. We work with small and very innovative organizations such as credit unions, helping them conduct high-importance transactions, private banking, mortgage applications, and wealth management services via video conference. There's the ability to use mobile devices, too. We work together with these banks and help them train agents who are used to using less efficient phone conversations rather than face-to-face situations which have a more personal feel.

VC Daily: Given that transition to video calling, will we ever see a day when all financial transactions eventually take place over a smartphone?

Westman: I don't think it's too ambitious to say that all financial transactions will eventually be conducted on smartphones. The only thing that might present a problem is transferring cash, but I think we'll be there soon, too. Vidyo already offers some good solutions for banking by smartphone. During the Rio Olympic games, for instance, one of our big bank customers-one of the athletes competing in the games-lost his credit card, and in the middle of the night did a video call with his agent and got the issue fixed. That's what excites me. To disrupt technology is one thing, but if you can take the technology and make it practical, that makes a big difference to people as individuals, and we're very proud of that.

VC Daily: We hear stories about Mark Zuckerberg and James Comey putting tape over their webcams-is VC a safe way to discuss personal financial information?

Westman: So, maybe I'll take this little bit broader. A lot of our focus is in regulated markets, like healthcare and financial services. We're in those markets because we believe we have the most secure applications. For healthcare specifically, you have to be HIPAA compliant and you have to provide a very safe and secure platform to achieve that standard. We invest a lot of money into ensuring this, so we feel good about it, and we know the doctors we work with feel the same.

VC Daily: Is there a role for biometric security in telehealth and remote finance, something like the facial recognition technology that's now available in Windows Hello?

Westman: I believe voice recognition is a very strong security method in financial services. I'm confident it will become standard sooner or later. We are designing and developing products to enable us and our partners to do biometric recognition, which will provide higher security to those who use our technology for telehealth and financial services applications.

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