The world is catching up with science fiction; autonomous vehicles are entering the roads, computers are getting smarter, people can now speak to home automation systems to ask questions and control their lights, and robots are starting to run hotels. Video conferencing, has long been thought of as the future. It’s been the communication method of choice for generations of Star Trek adventures, starting in 1966. Today, it’s pervasive in our personal lives, as we chat with family and friends on Facetime, or even Snapchat. But why is adoption of video in the business communications world still lagging?

Video is a valuable tool for building relationships and driving real collaboration, ideation, planning and execution. It can create more life-like connections with remote work teams, international colleagues, clients, partners, suppliers, and customers. Moreover, face-to-face interaction is more effective than phone calls. Research in Multimedia Systems determined that video conferencing improves the ability to show understanding, forecast responses, give nonverbal information, enhance verbal descriptions, manage pauses, and express attitudes. Despite the advantages, how many of us use business-grade video to connect with colleagues or other business associates as often as we use Facetime to talk to our families?

Video conferencing is no longer science fiction or just for personal video chat. It’s a reality and, in all truth, it’s a necessity for businesses. The barriers such as interoperability, affordability, simplicity and easy connectivity that have prevented us from fully enjoying the benefits of video in the office are finally being eliminated:

1. Creating Interoperable Solutions

Since the technology for video calling was first developed, the industry collaborated to address interoperability issues by creating standards. IT-centric developments like the Network Video Protocol in 1976 and the Packet Video Protocol in 1981 helped advance the technology, making video conferencing a viable option for businesses by the 1990s. These standards were created to facilitate communication across devices, but it took time for companies to embrace them.

Clunky implementation of the standards turned businesses off the technology regardless of the benefits, and some services charged extra for use of these features. Consequently, calling colleagues using other conferencing systems could triple or quadruple the bill.

Many providers eschewed standards in favor of their own proprietary technology as a way to retard the spread of standards and drive more users to their own platforms. While providing some near-term financial benefit, the practice limited video adoption and created fewer users, rather than more.

The standards issue has been resolved but, while companies felt the pressure to adopt video conferencing, they were still deterred by high costs.

2. A Better Business Model

When it became a viable option in the 1990s, video conferencing was still too expensive to provide to everyone in an organization. With a high price tag and challenging deployment that required deep involvement of the IT department, many business managers shied away from video to avoid the complexity, delay, budget rejection, or IT department gauntlet. As a result, employees started to take matters into their own hands by using free consumer-grade solutions such as Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts.

In recognition of this opportunity, a new breed of video conferencing service providers, focused on business-class offerings, emerged with a retail approach to subscription. Following the model of services like Slack, they made it easy to go to online, select a subscription, and enter a credit card to immediately implement department-wide video conferencing from a laptops and smartphones. Subverting the old guard of providers that required lengthy commitments and capital expenditures, Vidyo, BlueJeans, Zoom, and others offered service as a monthly expense. This business model simplified acquisition and deployment, but there were still limitations and expenses that did not serve business customers well. Premiums were charged for making standards-based calls and users were assessed additional fees for making calls on larger room systems.

3. Making Business Conferencing Ubiquitous and Affordable

The remaining obstacle to its mainstream video conferencing was delivering business-class services and flexibility at a price that justified providing it to all employees. The sweet spot for enterprise-wide deployment — in every conference room, at every desk, on every employee’s laptop and smartphone — is a per-user price similar to that of a Netflix subscription, or less. And, it needed to be incredibly easy to acquire, deploy, and use.

This last barrier to making business video conferencing as common as company-supplied desk phones and laptops would require a radical rethinking of what constitutes basic features and what is an appropriate price. Video conferencing systems need to make standards, standard, and at no additional cost. No one would buy a mobile phone plan if calling users of other plans incurred an additional fee. Interoperability is essential to video conferencing, and should be free.

Moreover, users should be free to make a video call on whatever device is in front of them. The subscription should include the ability to make calls on mobile phones, tablets, video phones, laptops, interactive displays, room systems, and video walls for a flat fee. Ubiquitous access is essential and should not incur differential costs depending on the type of device used.

All of the pieces are lining up: interoperability, simple acquisition and subscription models, easy deployment, and now, sensible prices that allow businesses to extend the benefits of video conferencing to every employee. New services are enabling easy, affordable, business-class video calling no matter what device is at hand to help move adoption forward. As more businesses join the new era of video conferencing, we are finally closing in on that future with video communications everywhere that was promised by Captain Kirk.