All posts by Christopher Isak

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5 Things You Should Not Forget When Inviting To A Meeting

Today I would like to show you 5 things to consider when inviting others to a local meeting or video conference. These methods have developed throughout years of hosting and participating in meetings all over the world and I hope they will be of value to you. So without further ado don’t forget the coffee and … enjoy!

1 – Identify Participants

Meetings can be a nice way of bringing relevant people together on a table (or virtual table) to analyse the status quo and decide for the best way forward towards a common goal. However a meeting host, who is to send out the meeting invites, has to consider carefully who should participate and who does not add value. That might sound harsh but the reality is that even people often forget it, every person’s time costs money. Maybe they are not charged for it but at some point the time they were involved in this meeting could also have been used differently. That is especially a critical factor if meetings happen with more than just one organisation involved.

Who’s gonna be at the ISE 2014 – Integrated Systems Europe

ISE Logo

ISE 2014 in Amsterdam RAI

It is that time of the year again and they come from all over the place. Manufacturers, installers, solution architects and everyone interested in Audio Visual and electronic system technology. And they all seek to get the latest news on their own hot topics.

So from the 4th through to the 6th of February will be this years ISE fair in Amsterdam. Ever since 2004 a great annual event to meet old partners and make new acquaintances alike throughout the Audio Visual business. If you seek to:

  • See the latest developments in technology
  • Trial new products
  • Network and mingle with people like you
  • Spot new break-through companies or solutions
  • Drink a coffee at every booth and corner

… then this is for you.

Who is going to be at the ISE 2014?

To name only a few of the exhibitors please find our quick list below:

Get the total overview of the 952 exhibitors at the official ISE 2014 homepage.

I wish all of you, who are going a lot of fun there and make sure you drop us your comments below. If you cannot be there, make sure to follow the ISE 2014 Social Channels on Twitter for updates live from the scene.


ISE in 60 Seconds (Footage of 2013)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbZkbB8Djvs&w=575]

Introduction to Session Border Controllers

High definition video conferencing is a standard right now. If it will change, it will only change to an ever higher definition such as Ultra HD (involving 4K and 8K). Virtual workplaces, telecommuting and working from home becomes more and more easy and so organisations go expanding, sometimes forgetting about network requirements ending up with new capacity limits or reduced quality of their video communication solution.

A Session Border Controller can help with many problems there might be, but it is not a remedy for every issue ever to occur on your video conferencing network. I wrote this article to give you some more insight into what a Session Border Controller is, what it does and how it can help your corporate communication.

Session-Border-Controller-Setup-Visio-Drawing-Network-Video-Conference-Example-Gatekeeper-Endpoint-Data-Media-Signaling-Telepresence24-Unified-Communications

Click for large version

What is a Session Border Controller?

A Session Border Controller is a network component designed to safely link networks with a different security requirement and setup. They are mostly utilised for VoIP and video conferencing networks to establish secure connection sessions. The Session Border Controller therefore allows control of signaling and transfer of media data in a secure way.

What can I do with a Session Border Controller?

Session management allows service providers to control the session routing, establish interoperability across environments with differentiating standards, enforce bandwidth policies or create an interface to a third party application. To keep it short and simple: A Session Border Controller optimizes solution performance and overall service quality, it allows a rapid service deployment or growth and it protects infrastructure from malicious attacks.

Who develops Session Border Controllers?

Based on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers from October 2012, Acme Packet (recently acquired by Oracle) excels in execution as well as vision scope, making them the leader of the magic quadrant (see graphic). Other competitors are Huawei, Sonus, Genband, Metaswitch Networks, Dialogic, ZTE and Technicolor.

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Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers by Gartner Research

Acme Packet is very interesting due to their focus on unified communications networks and even offering solutions especially designed for video conference networks of manufacturers such as Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya / Radvision, Cisco (including former Codian / Tandberg technologies), LifeSize, Polycom and Vidyo. Supporting and enabling interworking these technologies the Acme Packet solution avoids potential for vendor lock-in, protecting the investment made in video conferencing infrastructure and endpoints.

What are the technical functions of a Session Border Controller?

The functional scope of a Session Border Controller can vary, depending on what the individual device is designed to do. However to reflect a maximum of capability information, we would like to list the following functions that can be found in Session Border Controllers:

Connectivity

  • IPv4 / IPv6 interworking
  • SIP manipulation
  • NAT traversal
  • VPN connectivity
  • H.323 / SIP interworking

Quality of Service (QoS)

  • Traffic policies
  • Call admission control
  • ToS / DSCP bit setting
  • Resource allocation
  • Rate limiting

Security

  • Defense against DoS attacks
  • Can prevent toll fraud
  • No topology hiding possible
  • Malformed packet protection
  • Signaling protection via TLS and IPSec
  • Media protection via SRTP

Media processing

  • DTMF delay and interworking
  • Media transcoding
  • Tones and announcements
  • Data and Fax interworking
  • Support for Voice and Video calls

Regulatory

  • Call prioritization (e.g. for VIP usage or emergencies)
  • Auditing functions for internal audit or for law enforcing organisation
  • Business Intelligence, reporting, management information, source for billing information

Summary

Even though not a mandatory part for VoIP or video conferencing networks, Session Border Controllers have a great potential to add value to the communication services of organisations. The relevance increases for service providers companies as the functions described above can significantly increase the quality and performance of a serviced network.

If you have questions, remarks or other types of feedback please drop us a line in the comment section below. Thank you!

Raffle – 100 Articles on Telepresence24.com

Dear readers, we have truly anticipated this moment and we would like to use this opportunity to also thank each and every one of you for reading our articles, contributing in the discussion and even guest blogging. It is you, for who we are doing this and it is the exciting moments that we share with you, that keep us going.

To celebrate the 100th published article, we are doing a raffle among our email subscribers. You can win an Amazon.com Gift Card with the value of 50 $ (US) or equal value of your local Amazon store, if you are outside of the United States.

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How to join the raffle?

If you are already a subscriber, you’re all set and ready. If you do not yet follow us via email subscription, please sign up using the widget on the right side or just visit our subscribing page.

When will it happen?

The raffle will happen on Friday the 4th of October and the winner will receive a notification to the same email address, which they have also signed up with.

Who can participate?

Everybody can – Feel free to pass this to friends and colleagues or anyone who is interested in Unified Communications and Collaboration.

What is “the Cloud”? And what is it not?

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Clouds on summer sky (Photo: fastjel)

The Cloud – One of the hottest buzzwords and most abused in describing products or services recently. In this article I would like to mix facts with personal experiences I made, in order to assist everyone, who would like to find out what the cloud is and does and the things that is does not do (hence the title). Cloud has been buzzing around for a while now but when I witnessed both my parents talking about “the cloud” and how they use it in private I understood that this technology has arrived in mainstream and it is here for good.

Cloud??

So what is the cloud in few words? The cloud, or cloud computing is a technology design to enable users working with solutions independent from device, location and network. Of course there are specialisations with a larger or smaller focus on one or two subjects but in general this is it.

Origin of the Term

There are many theories on the origin of the term, yet there is no proven story. Feel free to check some good options on the Wikipedia article for cloud computing. My theory is that it developed from the use of cloud clip-arts and stencils in technical drawings or presentations, created to visualise a network setup. I am sure that even before the term became a buzzword, most of you have seen presentations with little black boxes, switches and routers in and around a large cloud to set a virtual border between realms.

Is the Cloud something new?

I am afraid it is not. The ideas and designs for such concepts have already been around since the 1950s but like with many breakthroughs in the user world, it required certain cultural and technological thresholds to be reached before the adoption could take place on wide-scale.

What is the Cloud?

  • Agility – The cloud is agile and therefore allows users to upscale or downscale their service based on business demand. Further the actual hardware, used to host a virtual machine, can be re-purposed if necessary. This is however not a cloud-only benefit, please read further down on infrastructure virtualisation.
  • Availability – Services have the technological possibility of being available independent from devices, network and location. This is of course relative to the design of each service along with its purpose but technically this is no limitation. For instance you can use cloud video conferencing services to join any enterprise-grade video conference call from your smartphone, notebook, office workstation, tablet or even from a private computer at your home or maybe somewhere else. Of course your conference partner needs to have their own environment set up to accept connections from outside in general. Cloud technology is not a wall-breaker and cannot bypass security of an organisation, if they don’t allow such connections by policy.
  • Business Continuity – Cloud services are set up with redundancy and failover automation in place. So that even if single devices would fail, users would not notice and can proceed using the service. Such reliability would traditionally cost a lot of money when investing in owned or dedicated infrastructure black-boxes.
cloud, device, demonstration, windows 8, microsoft, surface, asus, tablet, lady, gala, outfit, promo, event, PR

Asus product presentation event of cloud-enabled tablet device with Windows 8 (Photo: Tecdencias)

What is the Cloud NOT?

  • Cloud = VirtualisationVirtualisation of infrastructure is a great way of deploying new solutions and upgrading your environment. But if you do this within your WAN this does not automatically mean you are using the “cloud”. You are just virtualising your infrastructure. Fair and square.
  • “No more hardware” – Well that’s a lie. Using software solutions or virtual infrastructure there will still always be servers and databases that require a physical body. Only the deployment and usage is changed but there will always be hardware. You might not own the hardware and you will most likely never see or touch it but it’s there, somewhere in a physical data centre.
  • Grid computing – No, grid computing is not the same as cloud computing in my opinion. Even though, it might be its scientific opposite. Where grid computing allows many computing units to work on a common target (e.g. movie rendering in render farms or Bitcoin mining), cloud computing allows a single user to utilise just any infrastructure in the pool offered by the cloud service provider to achieve their objective.
  • “Private Cloud” needs to be on-premises – No that’s not correct even though it seems to be a common assumption. A cloud service can be deployed dedicated for your organisation without anyone else having access to it, but the location of the physical hardware is irrelevant in order to provide that. In most cases the service provider will utilise hardware that is physically near to the user base in order to avoid performance issues that could occur on long “open internet” routes.

Challenges of Cloud Technology

  • Security – Any cloud service can be set up in secure manner if the solution and the environment of the clients allow it.
  • Privacy – Yes, privacy is a hot topic nowadays. But actually, it always were even in pre-internet age. Privacy is nothing impossible even in the cloud, even in the internet if you choose the right service provider. And if you are looking for good providers but affordability is a concern, make sure that your selected partner has a few good reference clients to show-case to you.
  • Compliance – When you are in phase 2 of the provider selection, bring in the techies of your organisation to make sure all offered functions and features are compliant to any active IT security policies that you need to consider.
  • Vendor Strategy – Cloud providers equal single vendor lock-in? Yes, it can be the case but if you want to avoid that, talk about this particular subject with your provider candidates. A few providers out there have established alliances and offer support to avoid any lock-ins.
  • Online works, offline it doesn’t – Depending on what your solution looks like make sure that your workforce  can use the solution when they are online and when they are offline. For instance when changing a file being on a flight, the data should update and synchronise itself in the cloud again when they are online. However there are some services which this does not apply to such as real-time communication (e.g. WebRTC, video conferencing, VoIP telephony, instant messaging).

Examples of Public Cloud Solutions

Summary

I hope this cleared some confusion around cloud terminology and technology. Further I hope it helped you through your process of picking a good service provider for your organisation if that was your objective. Further I would like to thank Simon Dudley of LifeSize and Phil Karcher of Forrester Research for hosting the webinar, which sparked the inspiration to write this article. LifeSize is often arranging interesting webinars and announces them on their social media platforms. Maybe I will see you on their next event – until then.

Have anything to add or feel I got the wrong picture? You are welcome to comment below and join the discussion. We at Telepresence24.com love your feedback!

iRobot Ava 500: Next-Gen Telepresence Roll-About

irobot, ava 500, ava, ava500, robots, telerobotics, robotics, remote control, cisco, ex60, telepresence, futuristic, enterprise, corporate, hallway,

Photo: iRobot

Telepresence robots are not only a sci-fi part of TV shows such as the “Shelbot” as seen in “The Big Bang Theory”. A new telepresence robot has been announced: iRobot mounts Cisco EX60 TelePresence units on their cutting edge, auto-moving robots and introduces the iRobot Ava 500.

iRobot Ava 500 Introduction

The iRobot Corporation is an U.S. based company founded in 1990 and one of the pioneers of telepresence robot technology. Their portfolio includes robots for domestic use as well as solutions for police and military forces. Now they have introduced the Ava 500 and moving into enterprises and manufacturing sector by enhancing the iRobot technology with the Cisco EX60 TelePresence unit for HD video conferencing features.

Ava 500 is not only able to be remotely moved, but can also move autonomously to a target location without the effort of actually steering the unit. This enables the users to use the scheduling function to make sure that the Ava 500 robot is in the desired position at a planned time and date. All information about its position and move can be tracked on an app via iPad or iPhone and does not require in-depth technical insight.

In order to be able to move autonomously Ava 500 will make an “exploration” run when placed in a building for the first time. The area will be scanned and all information will be recorded on its location map, which then can be used by the user easily to tap to a location using only the touch screen of the iPad or iPhone. POIs, such as conference rooms or employees workstations, can be placed on the map for easy access. Even though the user does not actively have to steer the unit, it will still be possible to view the camera feed of the moving Ava 500 and to say “hi” to co-workers passing by. After a session is complete, the Ava 500 unit will automatically move back to it’s docking station to charge up again.

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Photo: iRobot

Professional Video Conferencing

Having the Cisco EX60 TelePresence unit mounted, the video conferencing part of the robot can be maintained and managed by the VNOC (Video Network Operations Centre) just like any other Cisco TelePresence endpoint. Therefore maintaining full interoperability, security and ability to register the unit to Cisco TMS (TelePresence Management Suite) and the Cisco VCS (Video Communication Server) for easy management.

Quick Facts

  • Autonomous navigation in office buildings, laboratories, manufacturing floors, etc.
  • Remote control with iOS devices (iPad, iPhone)
  • Cisco EX60 with HD capability and auto-focus camera take care of the AV transmissions
  • Wireless connection on enterprise level with the Cisco Aironet 1600
  • Height adjustment to make sure you look your conversation partner in the eyes
  • Scheduling function makes sure the robot is in the meeting room when you need it to be
  • Release estimated in early 2014
  • Price not yet announced

Summary

The iRobot Ava 500 brings together high-tech robotics and cutting edge video conferencing technology in a futuristic looking device to assist corporate communications and collaboration on a new level without compromises to interoperability.

Thanks to Caitlin Kullberg of iRobot for helping me with the research and photo material. I’m looking forward to see one of these guys moving around in the future. How would you like using this robot on your “working-from-home” day or visiting a remote location with the ability to explore the campus? Let us know of your opinion in the comment section below.


iRobot Ava™ 500 Video Collaboration Robot

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVviDvsBQ78&w=575]

China Taking Video Conferencing One Step Further: TeleEducation from Space

chinese, taikonaut. wang yaping, wang, yaping, astronaut, profile. shot. portrait, female, lady, woman, space, china, chinese, full gear, costume, suit,

Photo: CMSE

We often hear about the use of video conferencing for professional communication and as a modern way to work together. So much sometimes, that we forget how large the potential is even beyond that. For instance it can be used for TeleEducation (a type of Telepresence).

What is TeleEducation?

TeleEducation usually replicates a guided way of learning wherein a presenter, expert or teacher speaks to the “class” from a remote location with the use of unified communication technologies such as video conferencing, often with additional content channel for demonstration and data presentation. LifeSize, for instance, is organising great virtual field trips for classes to be connected directly into museums, where their guide can teach them in a way that is exciting for both presenting party and participants.

Teachers from Outer-Space

China is taking this approach one step higher – above stratosphere to be exact. Yesterday we received word that Wang Yaping, in her capacity as  Taikonaut, has facilitated such an TeleEducation event from the space station Tiangong-1 together with her team. The space video conference was set up with an auditorium in Beijing, hosting more than 300 students. The three Taikonauts demonstrated the effect of zero gravity and weightlessness to physics and answered questions from the students live.

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Photo: CMSE

Mass-Audience

Another 60 million students followed the live video stream from their classrooms throughout the country. Now that’s a serious audience there! While this event was broadcasted on a state-owned CCTV technology, the next event like this might already be facilitated using IP video streaming solutions. If that was the case, the event could be natively recorded and stored on video-on-demand platforms to be seen by many generations of students to come.

Wang Yaping, Classroom, Broadcast, TeleEducation, eLearning, TeleLearning, China, Chinese, Space Station, Taikonaut, students, kids, chalkboard, young, pupil

Photo: AP

About the Station

The Tiangong-1 space station was launched September 2011 and mainly has experimental functions and holds three crew members . It is considered a large step towards a Chinese space laboratory, to be completed by about 2020. Tiangong-1 (Chinese: 天宫一号) literally means “Heavenly Palace 1” and is the first space station deployed by the Chinese space program. The module 1 has a planned lifespan of 2 years and is planned to be replaced by larger modules throughout the decade. The Telepresence24.com team wishes best success and hopes for many more TeleEducation events.


Astronauts give science lesson live from space (via ITN)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po8q4rTRsOA&w=575]

Deutsche Telekom discontinues VideoMeet

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Source: Wikipedia

The cloud video conferencing solution VideoMeet by Deutsche Telekom in corporation with Blue Jeans Network is now confirmed to be discontinued by end of the year. The decision was first published by the German  expert magazine “Telecom Handel” in an online article yesterday by Waltraud Ritzer.

What is VideoMeet?

The solution was designed to bring different types of video conferencing devices and software clients together with Blue Jeans cloud technology. The VideoMeet solution was first introduced in June 2011 and has seen strong marketing campaigns. In addition to the virtual MCU and the interop between systems of many different vendors, Blue Jeans technology was first to natively bridge Skype participants into professional video conferences. In 2012 more compatibility features were announces such as the integration into Microsoft Lync or using the service directly out of the Browser with WebRTC.

What’s next?

Starting from January current users can switch to a new model by Deutsche Telekom, which is yet to be announced, or get the service directly from Blue Jeans. Spokesperson Marion Kessing says that unlike the cloud solution VideoMeet, Immersive Telepresence and other video conferencing options of Deutsche Telekom will be extended.

Next to the user base this also hits redistribution partners as they will have to find an alternative cloud video conferencing solution for their clients and integrate it into their service portfolio before January. Seeing the increasing demand for cloud video conferencing a complete removal of the service is unlikely.

Cloud video conferencing alternatives?

Users and redistributors alike might now be interested in alternatives such as examples that can be found on our recent cloud video conferencing solution comparison. In addition to that of course like always we would love to hear your opinion and the experiences you have made.

What is WebRTC? – Overview for Busy People

webrtc, logo, chat, bubble, shapes, colours, colorsNo other topic is roaming the news and social media as much as WebRTC these days. But what is WebRTC and what should it mean to you?

Today I would like to give you an overview around this trend and where it came from. In this article I would like to try out the “For Busy People” article format by consolidating all hot topics into quick facts to add value to you without getting side-tracked. I know you busy people are busy and so you can just skip the parts of the article that you are not interested in.

What does WebRTC stand for?

WebRTC means Web Real-Time Communication, so we are talking about ways to communicate without any delay, based on a web-browser, without the use of software that needs to be installed beforehand.

What is WebRTC?

WebRTC is an open framework for placing real-time communication components on web-pages and is controlled by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who are also taking care of other web-standards such as HTML, XML, CSS and others. WebRTC components could include methods such as VoIP, Instant Messaging (or just “chat”), video conferencing or a combination of these. Personally I would count WebRTC to the umbrella of Unified Communications, but the actual use of the WebRTC solutions depend on each enterprise.

Where does WebRTC come from?

WebRTC technology was first developed by Global IP Solutions (or GIPS), a company founded around 1999 in Sweden. In 2011 GIPS was acquired by Google and the W3C started to work on a standard for WebRTC. Since then Google and other major players in the web-browser market, such as Mozilla and Opera, have been showing great support for WebRTC.

How does WebRTC work?

The framework is based on HTML5 and JavaScript but does not utilise SIP or H.323 like other Unified Communication solutions. The signalling and transfer of data works over RTP and with an XMPP extension called “Jingle”. With the newly introduced JavaScript Session Establishment Protocol (JSEP) direct connections can be established without the need of a piece of hardware in the middle. Depending on the deployment audio, video and / or other data can now be exchanged to allow WebRTC to happen in your browser.

And for our firewall traversal specialists: WebRTC can do STUN, ICE, TURN, RTP-over-TCP and supports proxies. What else do you wish for?

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How does WebRTC work? – Click for larger pop-up

What does WebRTC mean to me?

Imagine the impact of 1,000,000,000+ endpoints. Not bad! This is the potential amount of endpoints talking to each other and making VoIP calls or even video conferences. Even though Microsoft is strongly pushing Skype for desktop video conferencing, they are also making sure that their Internet Explorer is ready to take on the WebRTC challenge.

But the missing link right now is: Will there be interoperability between WebRTC and other Unified Communication solutions? I believe the first developers, making both worlds compatible to each other will have edge.

Examples for WebRTC?

The possibilities are impossible to count. Especially in the age of BYOD everyone has their smartphone always ready and beyond that every notebook and desktop PC could participate in WebRTC. Here are some examples I could think of:

  • Customer service via video conference (the end of the service hotline?)
  • Working together on documents via web (web-collaboration beyond firewalls)
  • Smart-TVs allow you do do video conferences without infrastructure or service running in the back (if there’s a browser – there’s a way!)
  • Not interested in video conferences? Have a video diary! (takes only cloud storage and WebRTC)
  • WebRTC might change the face of Social Media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter completely if implemented (why not quickly talk about it?)
  • Instead of displaying phone numbers to your common window-shopper, provide a QR-code or a NFC space, so users can reach directly to you with their smartphone or tablet (we got a camera, a mic, a speaker – so let’s use them!)

Is there a WebRTC presentation?

You are lucky! Google has recently released a web-based presentation with a lot of interesting slides. I have also added a video below, for your to get some more details on WebRTC, Let me know of your thoughts!


Web Real-time communication – Google I/O 2013 – by Justin Uberti

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2HzZkd2A40&w=575]