Banks looking to add more video-based services should get a boost from a recent announcement from Motorola Inc.
The electronics giant is creating frame relay technology that lets video images travel on the same networks as data.
The souped-up frame relay devices build upon existing technology that lets businesses send voice transmissions over their data lines.
Such technology "saves on long-distance charges for intercompany calls because you can let the voice ride free over the data network," said Adrienne King, manager of marketing communications in the Schaumburg, Ill.- based company's information systems group.
"Video is the next frontier" for frame relay, said Gary Cranmer-Smith, product manager in the access products group, network systems division.
Frame relay is a technological protocol for transporting information.
By moving from a leased-line network to one using frame relay devices, banks can reduce their related telecommunications costs by up to 35%, said Eric Larson, product marketing manager with Motorola's information systems group.
Frame relay is a "mainstream data communications service for medium-size and large organizations," said Robert Hyatt, marketing director at Pacific Bell. For voice and video traffic, "it's an emerging area," he said.
Mr. Hyatt noted that it is still rare for companies to use frame relay for voice and video. But new standards under development through industry forums should help promote acceptance of video applications.
Motorola's video frame relay device, called RemoteVU, is similar to a standard frame relay device but is equipped with a video card.
One application for the device lies in video surveillance. By attaching the cameras already installed in branches and other offices to personal computers, banks can send the images captured by their cameras over frame relay networks at a fraction of what they would spend with dedicated video networks.
Such transmissions are possible at low bandwidths by an algorithm allowing video signals to be encoded and decoded using very little computing capacity, Mr. Cranmer-Smith said.
RemoteVU can be used for other applications, including video conferencing and connecting customers with bank representatives via personal computer.
But Motorola executives see security applications driving the product's sales in the short term.
"There are more cameras out there for video security surveillance than there are for video conferencing," said Mr. Cranmer-Smith.
Video security "would work fine over frame relay," said Jay Pultz, a research director with the Gartner Group. "You just need to have enough volume or traffic to justify the frame relay link."
In a related project, Motorola is working with Austin, Tex.-based Vtel Corp. to enable "room-to-room" or group video conferencing, Mr. Larson said.
"Video conferencing from the lay perspective should work well as long as the delay over the frame relay network is reasonably short," Mr. Pultz said.