Tag Archives: Apple

video conferencing Connect Two Boardroom 2_edited

The Elephant in the Video Conferencing Room

The fundamental challenge of running enterprise-wide video conferencing (VC) is keeping users happy. Happy users feel empowered, not foolish when confronted with the challenge of setting up or running a VC meeting. If you keep users happy you have most likely cut support costs while increasing utilisation – both metrics critical to any AV service manager come review time.

However for some inexplicable reason the VC industry as a whole has done a very poor job of keeping users happy. Regardless of what the respective vendor marketing departments say, most VC users consider the experience to be at best annoying, at worst completely off-putting. Integrators try to put lipstick on the vendor-grown pig, but inevitably only add cost and introduce unneeded complexity.

Mobile Unified Communications: The Solution to Enterprise Success

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Photo by Victor1558 via Flickr

In the communications industry, smartphones have evolved into an invaluable device that blurs the line between business and personal processes. Many of the features necessary on these gadgets elevated the status of these devices from merely a trend to an inexpensive ubiquity. With SMS functions, e-mail connectivity, internet browsing, and voice over the internet protocol applications; smart handsets are now key examples of how mobile unified communications translate to a more successful enterprise.

Unified Communications in the Mobile Age

The concept is no longer an innovation or a ground-breaking thought. A 2011 research by Information Week stated that almost 36% of enterprises have been implementing unified communication systems. Back then, almost one in five business technology experts said that deployments of unified communication strategies are under-way. O2 conducted a similar study this year, which showed that 88% of senior IT leaders said that a consolidation of their data, voice, and mobile networks will occur in the next two years. Unified communication is the perfect contingency plan.

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Photo by Saad Faruque via Flickr

There seems to be one reason why so many deem this enterprise concept as a standard. As  ‘smart’ technologies grew in number, innovations related to the communication realm are both inevitable and optimal. The industry enjoys the continually improving technology of VoIP and live video, which equates to web conferencing being the norm on many enterprises. Instant messaging and social networking has largely affected the business way of thinking.

Unified messaging is a concept that allows a single space to become the gate to many different communication portals. All of these technologies are made simple, portable, and hassle-free mobile technologies – smartphones, tablets, and everything in between.

Vital Role in a Business’s Success

Its aim is to address the many common errors committed through traditional business communication models. These communication problems often stem from misunderstandings, Chron said. More often than not, these misunderstandings come from the vagueness of language. Either way, digital unified communication strategies are employed to lessen the risk of these crucial flaws.

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Photo by ffaalumni via Flickr

A well-planned strategy, zeroing on the mobile platform, can prove to be beneficial to many enterprises through the following advantages:

  •  Maximize productivity – It allows a better exchange between managers and workers, minimizing time wasted through unnecessary back and forth e-mails or calls. Working at home is now a possibility that is open to most desk jobs that previously required office spaces and devices.
  • Minimize costs – It is admittedly not the least expensive resource out there, but it is definitely a guaranteed investment that pays off over time. Also, the initial cost may be reduced depending on the current tech and communication infrastructure of the company and thus, can be modified for cheaper solutions. Additionally, the cost of travel can be minimized (or even totally eliminated) through many features of UC. 

Social Media and Unified Communication

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Photo by SalFalko via Flickr

Social media has undergone many advances in its field that is largely due to unified communications. For example, the increase in popularity of social networking site LinkedIn tells us that there is more to social media than ‘liking pages’ and ‘becoming a fan’. This interestingly blurring of professional and personal realms is credited to UC concepts such as network cultivation through contacts. Mark Straton, senior VP of Marketing, Voice and App Solutions of Siemens Enterprise Communications Group, echoed this sentiment. “Social media tools have rapidly moved from being the preferred communication method of millennials,” Straton said.

The main goal of UC is to reduce what is called communication latency. Thus it’s touted better than the multitude of avenues by which we communicate as people, workers, or businesses. This has been adapted extremely well in the most recent phases of social media through sharing of Tweets and automatic posting on Facebook’s wall from many other places like Flickr, Instagram or Ask.Fm.

Summary

It is no surprise that the enterprise unified communication market is rising. In this age of mobile usage, businesses acknowledge the necessity of an equally mobile enterprise to increase yield without much wasting of resources.

iRobot Ava 500: Next-Gen Telepresence Roll-About

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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]

Video Conference Services for Banks of the Future

How Video Conference Services can create additional value for banks of the future.

The Banking Sector and the whole financial industry have been subject to considerable change within the last couple of years. The fast development of the Internet and the growing acceptance of Internet users for online banking, entail great chances as well as great risks. Deutsche Bank AG Co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen has expressed his concerns about possible competition from big Internet companies such as Google or Microsoft, who have detailed knowledge about their customers’ preferences, which they could use for financial services.

Also video conference services play an ever growing role in the banking sector and add positively to change and modernization of business processes. Especially investment banks make use of video conference services in order to globally exchange real time information about markets, shares, currencies and other relevant information.

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“Deutsche Bank Skyscrapers in Frankfurt, Germany” by Thomas Wolf (www.foto-tw.de)

Up to now video conference services have been used seldom in areas such as Private Wealth Management, although those could potentially have an important impact on changing banking products and offers. Many banks keep themselves busy with designing concepts for bank branches of the future, in which video conference services certainly will be one of the components.

If you take a closer look at the traditional banking concept for private customers throughout Germany (provident banks, cooperative banks, Deutsche Bank, Postbank, Commerzbank and many more) you will not find a lot of creative approaches for change: During normal office hours customers get detailed advice about accounts and construction loans, leaving almost no time for individual advice.

Video conference services could leave more design scope to banks, thus helping them to offer better, faster and more tailored advice to their customers.

Improving Internal Communication

Using modern video conference services enables banks to equally inform all employees at all locations about current developments at the financial market, political changes or new products of the bank and their business partners. A big advantage compared to ordinary media channels (e-mail, intranet, video streaming, etc.) is the personal contact, which allows for further inquiries and therewith promotes a higher level of knowledge. Furthermore participation numbers are transparent.

Remote Experts Advice via Video Conference

In many cases customers confront their bank advisers with very complicated questions. The worst case is that the adviser will give the customer bad advice or has to start a lengthy inquiry within the bank to get the necessary information from an internal expert. Either way is not very customer friendly. A smart solution here would be to patch in the expert via video conference. This concept could also save travel costs where experts are shattered across the whole country and it additionally could accelerate decision processes concerning sales and distribution deals.

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This lady can talk to the right expert, thanks to video conferencing services.

Customer Advice via Video Conference

Modern video conference services can also be used to advice customers via video conference. Many video conference services permit taking part in a video conference via desktop PC, Mac or also with Tablet or Smartphone as mobile service. In the future bank advisers can effortlessly communicate with their customers via video conference. This still might sound like a vision to banks, but it should not be forgotten that the coming generation has been exposed to video conference services such as Skype since their early childhood and does not have any reservations against this communication medium. Banks certainly will have to look into this new consumer behaviour.

Consequently video conferences and modern video conference services have great potential for innovative financial services and banks. Putting technology to use in a smart way can be the decisive competitive edge for banks in creating an ideal environment for individual and superior advice also in the future.

Have you ever been using service like these or is your organisation having similar approaches? Let us know of your experiences and drop us an comment below!

All New Viber: Cross-Platform Monster for Consumers

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Viber Desktop with all new features (Image by Viber Media Inc.)

Some of you might know Viber already and that they are  now also providing a solution for Windows and Mac based workstations. For everyone else here is a quick introduction to Viber:

What is Viber?

Viber is a cross-platform VoIP solution for consumers developed by Viber Media Inc. It was first introduced to iOS in December 2010. Since then they have been increasing support for other smartphone platforms such as Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nokia Symbian and Samsung Bada. Their app does not cost anything but the initial registration requires a SMS to be send for validating your phone number.

What’s new?

On May 7, 2013 Viber released software clients for Windows and Mac. So you are able to install the application on your computer or notebook and register with your phone number to synchronise contacts. When you are logged in with both your smartphone and a desktop client at the same time you can move any active call to the other device.

Features

So what value does it add to your unified communications environment? Here are some of the new (and some old) features that might come in handy:

Positioning

The Viber solution is clearly positioned in the consumer market and gained wide popularity among users in that category. So far I have not come across enterprises utilising Viber as part of their unified communications strategy. If you are using Viber for professional purposes please feel invited to share your experiences in the comment section below.

Competition

As the Facebook Chat app is currently tested for possible VoIP features and beta tested, Viber seeks to increase their solution portfolio to maintain market share and this release seems to be the result of that. Other in-direct competitors of consumer-based unified communication tools are solutions such as WhatsApp for instant messaging and Skype for video conferencing.

Possible Business Usage

If you and your social network connections list their smartphone number along with the social profile, and install the apps of such on their smartphone they will see each other on Viber. Being completely synchronised  they will be able to communicate via VoIP, video conference or instant message beyond their enterprises unified communications abilities. This should serve for non-critical communication only though, as consumer solutions might not be sufficient to match your organisations IT security policies.


The Viber Desktop Introduction Video

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEqS5W-KfRw]

Telepresence on the Road – The Nomad Businessman

Telepresence enables you to much more than only using it holding meetings – you can even build your business on it!

Technologies such as Telepresence has changed many things and many industries and made many of our day-to-day routines and activities much easier or more enjoyable. For everything from staying in touch with friends and families, to travelling to work, to managing and organizing information there are new ways of doing things that have enabled us to do more, more quickly.

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Of course business is one area that has been particularly impacted by Unified Communications, especially Telepresence and with easier communication and amazing productivity tools the very business models we rely on are changing.

And one thing in particular here that has been altered is the where of business. As technology improves and we’re able to communicate all around the world, there is no longer the same need to be in a single place to run a business or even to have a base of operations. This then means that we can not only save a huge amount on rent and other overheads, but also potentially enjoy much more freedom in the way we work. Here’s how you can use modern technology to enjoy life as a ‘nomad businessman’ (or woman).

Running a Business from a Café

For the most part business involves providing a product or service to a client or consumer and in the majority of cases this doesn’t actually require any face-to-face interaction. Sure if you run a restaurant or a high street store then you’ll need a physical location to serve your customers, but if you’re providing consultancy work, web design or customer service, or if you sell a product, then normally this can all be handled online thanks to communication technology such as Telepresence.

And with the portability of many devices such as smartphones and laptops, there’s no reason that this shouldn’t mean working from a café, from a park bench or from your flat – you could even work while travelling around the world. Most places have WiFi connections, and when you’re out of reach you can use a 3G connection (or even a 4G connection) to get online.

With most of our files stored on the cloud meanwhile, and with most services pushing for a paperless option, you’ll never be out of reach of the information you need. And if you need a business meeting? Well it always creates a metropolitan and modern vibe to ask to meet in a café, or using a webcam you can engage in Telepresence – saving you and your clients time and money.

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Of course some services do require a physical location for production. If you are creating a product that you want to sell then copies will need to be manufactured and stored somewhere until you sell them via your website. However this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t live the nomad lifestyle as these services can now be outsourced using digital manufacturing and thanks to ‘print on demand’ companies you won’t even need to store any stock. And if you aren’t fussed about producing your own products then you could simply become an affiliate marketer.

In short computers, smartphones, tablets and the web at large are now making it possible for us to get out of the office and run businesses from wherever we choose. We are now all connected at all times and we all have access to large production and printing services. In the next few decades the traditional office environment may no longer be relevant at all… What do you think?

Low Budget Telepresence for Your Tablet

Revolve Robotics to turn your tablet into a Telepresence device soon?

Not yet another app but a high-tech tablet stand, that is what the people from Revolve Robotics are introducing to the market and they call it “Kubi”.

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The sleek design and the wide range of possible applications for Kubi allows you to use it as personal Telepresence device for the home office as well as it could provide a low-budget Telepresence solution to small to medium-sized meeting rooms.

Who is Revolve Robotics?

Based in San Francisco (USA), Revolve Robotics was founded earlier this year by Artificial Muscle, Inc. (AMI) founder Marcus Rosenthal and Key System Designer and Product Visionary Ilya Polyakov.

How to get it?

Kubi is currently available for pre-order at indiegogo.com for the price of $199 instead of the targeted retail price of $249. As this is a new product you may also support the Revolve Robotics start-up and the Kubi tablet stand on the very same web page.

What can it be used with?

Kubi is designed and tested to work with the Apple tablet line-up (e.g. iPad3, iPad4 and iPad mini) but it is said to be basically compatible with every device that supports Bluetooth 4.0 as well. An iOS app is currently on the way as per developers and an Android solution is planned to be completed in the future as well.

Technically this would include newer smartphones as well, however the current Kubi model does not have arms small enough to hold the device properly. Perhaps Revolve Robotics will surprise us in the future with a solution that concentrates entirely on smartphones and similar devices.

How does it look like?

Kubi, Apple, iPad, iPads, iPad1, iPad2, iPad3, iPad4, iPad mini, Sleek, Design, White, Stand,

Summary

Product designs like the Kubi and start-ups like Revolve Robotics indicate that both Telepresence technology as well as BYOD is not just a trend in the market. The applications and the hardware might change but at least two things are clear:

  1. Telepresence (a.k.a. Video Conferencing) is here to stay
  2. Enterprise and consumer technology will continue to merge

That much being said I am looking forward to hear more from Kubi as well as from the start-up company Revolve Robotics and wish them all the best for the release of their high-tech tablet stand.


The Introduction of Kubi

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ0KdH0jrOA]

Video Conference Meeting Etiquette and Guideline

Joining a video conference for the first time?

We all love our quick 1-on-1 video conference calls from the desk with information provided just in time, but if you are participating in a scheduled meeting with the goals to exchange information quickly and progress to a common goal in an effective and mature manner you should consider some of the following guidelines.

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Better not eat nor drink during a video conference

Everyone is busy nowadays and wants to invest time as efficient as possible, however consuming your lunch during a video conference might not be the best idea due to low aesthetics as well as the fact that the microphone will most likely amplify all the sounds that you would rather not want others to hear. This is especially the case for participants joining with a headset. Telepresence restaurants such as Fleming’s the Steakhouse in the United States or Haidilao the Hotpot restaurant chain in China are of course an exception but to avoid drooling, all sites should be in such a venue.

Introduce everyone

After all participants have joined the host should introduce any individuals that might be not acquainted with everyone yet. This prevents participants from being confused about people they might have exchanged emails with but have never seen face-to-face.

Remain within camera view

Before you are joining your video conference you should check if the camera is set up properly and if not adjust it to fit. You should not see feet under a table nor should you have too much headroom above the individuals. If others are joining your room as well you should zoom out and re-adjust to make sure everyone is seen clearly – after all this is the purpose of having a video conference.

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Mute yourself if you are not speaking for long periods

If your meeting is set up in a structured way and follows an agenda you don’t need to have your microphone active all the time. If you mute it while nobody in your room is talking you are reducing unwanted noise such as the air-con, someone sorting their documents and similar sources of disturbance. You can keep your remote control near in case you want to quickly say something but in general you will notice a more clear communication experience if everyone who is not talking, has their microphone muted. Even though your room is on mute, you should not talk with other participants within your room even if it is just a quick comment. This will most likely distract the speaker and add confusion to the communication flow.

Talk slowly and anticipatory

Video conference and immersive Telepresence technology is at a very mature state, however it can still happen that someone finishes his sentence but have not yet finished his speech. So talk calm and wait for the speaker to finish and don’t talk over each other. If you happen to have talked someone over, quickly apologise and ask the speaker to carry on in order to continue the conversation in a structured way.

<Your advice here>

If you have a great advice for participating in or hosting a video conference, let us know in the comment box below. We are looking forward to hear your great ideas!


 

 Video: Top 10 Video Conference Bloopers by Karen Boosalis

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfu4ZO91zk0]