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Company Profile: FocusVision Empowers Market Research with Streaming Media

From corporate communications to entertainment to interpersonal communications and beyond, streaming media continues to find itself at the heart of numerous new ways in which video and audio can be leveraged to change, extend, and enhance traditional modes of communication.

And while streaming doesn’t necessarily bring to the table functionality that was impossible to realize through dedicated hardware technologies like videoconferencing systems, its ability to leverage the open Internet as a distribution platform continues to drive a new paradigm in the economics and reach of interactive video-based communications.

One such company that has seized upon the many benefits of streaming in order to enable new ways of doing business in a specific industry vertical is FocusVision Worldwide, a leading provider of video transmission, recording, and analytic tools for the qualitative market research industry. What follows is a look into the nature of how streaming has helped to expand the capabilities of their business as they’ve made the transition from relying primarily on dedicated videoconferencing tools to an Internet-based streaming platform.

What They Do
Based in Stamford, CT, FocusVision initially came into existence back in 1990 with the intent of offering market researchers a new way of disseminating the results of focus groups and other interview-based research. "We’re an overlay on qualitative market research," says Peter Houlahan, FocusVision’s president, COO, and cofounder. "The market researchers continue to conduct their focus groups as they always have, and we simply step in to transmit that event live from their facility back to the client. We’re not involved in analyzing market research, and we don’t moderate focus groups. What they use us for is to increase participation in the project to make sure they have all the team members involved in case some can’t travel."

Initially, FocusVision had to rely solely on dedicated videoconferencing technology in order to enable point-to-point communications, which required that hardware be installed both at the site of the market research as well as in a conference room on the client’s side. Then, in January 2001, they introduced their video streaming product, which enabled market research clients to watch these focus groups from any computer connected to the Internet. "Today we offer streaming from all of our facilities, and it accounts for 90% of our business," says Houlahan.

And that business has grown leaps and bounds since the early days as today there are 217 facilities in the U.S. and 115 outside of the U.S. that are equipped with FocusVision’s technology. These facilities are typically established market research centers that cater to a broad clientele. "It runs the spectrum of industries that are using our technology. Pharmaceutical is the biggest, followed by consumer packaged goods. But it also includes telecom, technology, entertainment, financial. The companies we’re selling services to are all Fortune 500 companies, like Microsoft, Pfizer, and Coca-Cola," says Ariel Kunar, FocusVision’s CTO and cofounder.

FocusVision’s streaming solution starts with them providing the necessary camera(s) and operator(s) to capture the video in the first place. It also includes on-site encoders; FocusVision streams its video in Windows Media back through their media servers in Connecticut, and from there the streams are distributed out to clients around the world.

To view the streams, clients are given unique passwords to enter into the FocusVision system. "They then get to watch their project in a proprietary interface that we’ve designed, which includes the live video, a chatroom, and our VideoMarker feature," says Houlahan. "VideoMarker enables them to take notes during the focus groups that then become synched to the video instantly. If they use the VideoMarker function, then later on they can click on their notes and jump right to the place in the video when they were made."

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