Monthly Archives: August 2013

Best Access To Easy Communication

Best Access To Easy Communication
Over the years, we have seen how communication evolved. Innovators constantly struggle to make our way of living simpler. In the past, long distance communication was not possible for those who did not have the resources and money to pay for it. We are now at an age where communication is available for everyone regardless of social and economic status. A far cry from those times when we were limited with what we had.

Our solution to communication problems

 The telecommunication industry has seen that problem and formulated solutions to address each issue on man’s needs and demands to communicate. It has become broader and more pervasive, and while there are multiple means, the overall effectiveness became fragmented. Availability is made ready; we practically have access to all corners of the globe. To top it all off, we can bring devices with us that have access to the Internet. Portability is now the selling point. Back then, only the military had such advancement in communication. We often see the big telephone boxes they carry around on their backpacks in movies. What we have now are wireless phones that we carry in our pockets.

Internet phones

Communication has a price. There was a time when we were paying expensive phone bills with limited features. But that changed when the internet phones were introduced to us. Calling and mailing is no longer as popular as it was. Now we have found other ways to enjoy communication without uttering a word.

Morse code was very popular in sending coded messages. Now there is text messaging and electronic mail. It was before when service providers charge you expensively for a text message. But with the rapid growth of the telecommunication industry, everything became either free, or cheap. Who would have thought that it is possible to carry your business anywhere using a business VoIP system? You can manage your business calls and negotiate using your smart phone.

Smart phones

In the past two decades, one revolutionary innovation changed everything, and made communicating more diverse. The birth of the internet almost made telephone extinct. Fewer people used the telephone to communicate. Cell phones were the most popular gadgets at the turn of the century. But right now, it is slowly being transformed into a smaller and smarter device. Traditional cell phones are now being replaced or upgraded into smart phones which are run by operating systems just like a computer. The older generation is slowly adapting to these changes and educating themselves with the latest technology available.

Modern Smartphones further make it possible to take communication one step further on the level of videoconferencing. Either with consumer grade solutions such as Skype or with enterprise grade hosted or cloud solutions – it is easily possible to make a video call into either another mobile device or join a call with a physical videoconference room. Even outside of a wifi network the modern network carriers provide with with technologies such as LTE / 4G that provide you with a bandwidth that easily lets you have a videoconference only on the mobile network without any quality issues.

Cyber Age and the New Generation

The pressure from the industry and society is enormous enough, and the ones who are dictating the trend are the younger generations. Is it not that our parents are the ones who should be teaching us how things work? In this generation, it is the other way around. The children are the ones educating their parents how to use a laptop, a cell phone and the ways around the internet. They have no choice because with the way things are going, whether they like it or not, we are jumping into the cyber age. Everything will eventually be run by computers and the internet will be the next frontier.

Easy communication is what drives people to use the internet. We are like living in one big community and we can reach anyone, anywhere and anytime that we want to. Not only that, businesses are now done virtually, and communication has never been wanted on such a scale. It has become more of a necessity for people; it is now a basic need. That is why the demand for an easier way to communicate grew and the internet became the answer.

IPv6 and its Impact on Videoconferencing

I’m sure most of the people working with technology are familiar with the terms IPv4 and IPv6. In a nutshell – every device connected on a network (Internet or private network) requires an IP address in order to “communicate” to other devices. The current standard for these addresses is called IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4), and it forms the foundation of most Internet communication today. IPv4 however suffers from several important shortfalls, most importantly the lack of sufficient address space. For that reason, IPv6 was developed which introduces a number of other improvements especially to QoS (Quality of Service) and Security.

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Visualisation on how we are running out of IPv4 addresses (Photo: Abode of Chaos)

In order to utilize a device for a video conference, regardless whether it is a high end video codec or a smartphone, that device needs to be connected to a network, so naturally it will require an IP address. Without going in too much technical details, but still mentioning the most important terms,  let’s see how IPv6 features will affect video communication.

Huge address space

The most important benefit of IPv6 implementations is that it will provide virtually unlimited address space, by introducing 128-bit address, versus the 32-bit address used by IPv4. Just as an analogy, it will be enough to assign IPv6 address to every atom on the earth and still have enough left to do another 100+ earths. This will allow virtually any device in future to be assigned a globally reachable address, which in turn means that NAT (Network Address Translation) will be no longer necessary in the long term, and removing NAT from the equation will solve a lot of the interoperability issues in real-time services such as VoIP and Videoconferencing. It will also be possible to assign multiple network  addresses to devices which means they can stay connected to several different networks at the same time.

Improved Quality of Service (QoS)

Quality of Service refers to the ability of the network to prioritize certain traffic to other and is especially important to VoIP (Voice over IP) and Video Communication, since we don’t want to have any delay here. The way data is transmitted in today’s IP networks is in form of network packets. These packets consist of two parts: packet header – containing control information, and payload – containing the used data. IPv6 improves over IPv4 in terms of QoS is by introducing new field in the packet header called “Flow Label”. This  “label” is used to identify and prioritize certain packet flow, for eg. video stream and allows devices on the same path (routers, switches…) to read the flow label and take appropriate action based on it.

Plug-and-Play support

With IPv6, addresses can be assigned automatically and dynamically by the client device, by getting the network prefix from any router it finds and then generate the full IP address for that network, based on the hardware MAC address. This means there will be no need for DHCP servers like with IPv4, and also less configuration requirements.  DHCPv6 will of course still be available for assigning IPv6 addresses.

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Example of how IPv4 and IPv6 can look (by webopedia.com)

Improved Security

IPv6 will provide better security than IPv4 when it comes to authentication and encryption of the transmitted data. The main reason for that is IPsec – a security protocol that is mandatory for IPv6 systems, and only optional for IPv4 environments. IPsec is defined as a set of security standards, originally written as part of the IPv6 specifications, and allows data to be secured from the originating to the destination host (through the various network elements such as routers, gateways…) by maintaining data confidentiality, integrity and authentication at the network layer. Another security improvement comes from the fact that IPv6 subnets will be so large so any attempt for hackers to scan them searching for a specific host will be ineffective.

Improved Mobility

Mobility refers to the ability of a device to move between different IP networks and still maintain the same IP address. This is very important for IP enabled real-time communication services, no one wants to be disconnected from a call while moving from one physical location to another. For that purpose, the Mobile IP protocol was designed by IETF. This protocol was further enhanced with Mobile IPv6 and Hierarchical Mobile IPv6 (HMIPv6) which propose higher level of security and more efficient data transmitting.

Big packets and improved routing

Another benefit to visual communications is IPv6 support for very big packet payloads, up to 4 billion bytes (IPv4 supports up to 65535 bytes only). With bandwidth becoming cheaper and the increase in device processing power, supporting big packets delivery  will be important when dealing with high quality multimedia content of the future. Even though the packet can be a lot bigger than in IPv4 systems, the actual routing of the information is improved due to the simplified packet header and structured approach to addressing, which reduces the amount of information network routers must store and leads to faster packet forwarding.

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When should we implement IPv6 and with what approach? (Photo: ºNit Soto)

Migration considerations

When talking about IPv6 impact on the network, it is very important to consider the  migration strategy as well, from Ipv4 to IPv6. Basically there are three ways to manage this: dual-stack implementation where all the network components and devices support both IPv4 and IPv6, tunneling – is implementation method where IPv4 packets get encapsulated and transported over IPv6 network backbone, and proxy translation – where network border element performs the mapping of packets from one IP version to another.

Outlook

Most likely, providers and businesses will opt to upgrade the existing network infrastructure to dual stack in order to support both customers. Some network elements that do not support dual-stack mode will have to be upgraded or replaced and new infrastructure that will be deployed will have to support IPv6 dual stack from the beginning.

Each migration strategy will definitely introduce certain level of latency in the network, so that is just a reason more that all services must be properly tested before a production rollout.

Advantages of Managed Services in Videoconference Environments

“Hello, I am your Videoconference Operator. How can I help you?”

It is 9.30 am. The reception of the conference facility welcomes a group and accompanies them to their previously booked videoconference room. When coming to the room they see their colleagues have already arrived and started with the preparations. A colleague of the group cannot make it on time and has informed the other group members that he wants to participate via telephone. He is already dialed in and takes part in the preparations. A 30 minutes preparatory meeting takes place. Afterwards a signal is given and at 10 am sharp the business partners are connected as well. The negotiations can begin. In the background works the managed service.

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Everything is tested and on stand-by, you can start the conference. (Pic: Victor1558)

That is how daily business can look like with managed services. In the example we have chosen, a back-office videoconference operator prepared the videoconference. The preparations begin before the actual videoconference with the operator testing all videoconference rooms that will be dialed in. Thus a smooth running of the videoconference is ensured. Problems can be identified and solved beforehand. Special requirements or processes can be adequately tested and when in doubt be revised.

Also for the colleague who could not come to the conference room in person, a managed service has advantages. The responsible operator can quickly take action and change the infrastructure according to the new circumstances. He opens the dial in port for the telephone and immediately passes that information on to the participant.

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Focus on your conference, leave the setup to us (Photo: Victor1558)

The participants from the business partner also profit from the videoconference operator. While the preparatory meeting still goes on, he already has “taken care” of the “external” location. The location is connected in a sub-conference and audio and video quality are tested. After a successful check the room awaits the starting signal to enter the main conference. After the participants have given their “OK” the external location has been connected to the main conference and the meeting can begin.

These and others are the daily tasks of a managed service videoconference operator. Our example illustrated the preparation and testing in a pre-call, which allows the participants to completely focus on the videoconference itself. Technical functionality and completeness of the meeting are taken over by the operator.

Working according to time schedules also is a means of organizers to be able to draw up very complex videoconference settings and allows participants a high degree of flexibility.

Videoconference monitoring is another task that will be taken care by the operator. In case of technical problems the operator can react immediately. This however does not mean that the operator is able to follow the content of the conference. He rather monitors the endpoints and the infrastructure and thus is able to identify alarms or other abnormalities and quickly analyze and solve them. This guarantees a smooth and uninterrupted videoconference. The participant can focus a 100% on the meeting, because he is not distracted by operational details.

Managed services account for an increasing efficiency and reliability in videoconferences, which also presents new opportunities.

Do you have experiences with this topic? Have you ever been in a situation where you would have wanted an operator? I am looking forward to your stories and reactions!

This Is The Office Of The Future

Look into the future office

Image by EG Focus

The office of the future. The concept in itself is enticing, but what features will become customary of the modern design and how will it impact on productivity and general wellbeing? Current designs are perfectly good enough for present-day needs, with some embracing some unconventional decor which is thought to stimulate the creative mind. Future designs are however likely to profit from the inevitable technological progression of the future.

3D Printers

The ingenious 3D printer. The technique used involves the production of a three-dimensional object from a digital model. A large growth in their sales has seen a substantial drop in their price and a consequential rise in their commercial use.

3D printers can be used to virtually recreate anything, for example, draft product models for promotional use, and can be very handy if your business deals with the real items rather than virtual sales. It can mean an easier design and testing process, which could decrease the time to market, reducing the overall expenditure as a consequence.

Standing-up Desks

Recent research has shown that being seated for much of the day can increase the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as having negative effects on your posture. Office desks that require you to stand are a great initiative and are becoming increasingly more popular as more organisations try to fit back against lifestyle of physical inactivity.

There are now a large range of standing workstations in versatile designs for businesses that have shown a willingness to invest in the standing desk trend.

Robotic Technology

With respect to the prevalence of robots, today’s office is a far cry from the office of the future, which is likely to boast sophisticated robotic technology that will take task automation and productivity to a whole new level. A robotic future will allow employees to work remotely from home whilst still participating in the same human interactions of the office.

Although it is expensive to equip entire offices with technology of this kind, it boasts a highly modern approach to videoconferencing and newer designs are becoming increasingly more adept; automatically docking themselves to nearby charging stations and easily synchronising with employee schedules.

Touchscreen Panels

The offices of the future are very likely to incorporate touchscreen panels and interactive displays on tables and walls, completely eliminating the need for dials, keyboards and mouses. It is thought to be more space efficient, faster and to encourage digital productivity.

The simple swipe or tap of a screen will see you using an easier wireless setup to collaborate ideas with clients and co-workers as well as allowing simple adjustments of the office lighting and acoustics. Again, the growing use of touchscreens has led to a decrease in the marginal cost of touchscreen technology and hence its usage is now more viable.

Living Green Walls

Peculiar as it may sound, living green walls are simply walls that are covered in greenery or vegetation and can be incorporated as office partitions or as an alternative to the conventional unadorned office wall. As well as the foliage being a tasteful visual display, interior green walls offer a number of other benefits.

They are thought to combat Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), where occupants of a building experience acute health discomforts due to poor indoor air quality. It is expected to encourage the rate of fresh air exchange and discourage allergenic mould growth. Green walls are relatively low maintenance with automatic irrigation systems and are far more water-efficient in contrast to conventional ground plant growth. It eliminates the potential for soil-borne pathogens, are cleaner and can also boast beneficial insulating properties. Whatever your office preferences, the vertical garden fad is taking the office design by storm and is becoming ever more prevalent.

The office of the future is sure to contain features that are absent in the traditional office design.

What are your ideas with respect to the modern office of today? Comment below!