Tag Archives: Cisco TelePresence

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.

How to become a Videoconferencing Expert

I will start this article by answering what exactly is an expert – to me it’s a person who is really really good at something. Simple as that. This post is only about my thoughts on what it takes for a person to become such, not how he uses his expertise.

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There is more to becoming an expert than this.

I agree with the assumption that all humans are born as “tabula rasa” (lat. blank state), meaning all their knowledge comes from learning, experience and perception, but with genetics playing significant role in the process. Unfortunately, not all people take advantage of the amazing opportunities that lie ahead of them in becoming really good in something they love doing, often due to fear of failure. But failure is not something to be feared of, on the contrary, as Thomas Edison said:

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Every person can be good at anything, good in so many things at the same time. But becoming really good at anything isn’t just a walk in the park. It takes discipline, focus and more importantly a strong will to make it happen.

So how does one become expert at anything? Well, I believe the formula is pretty much the same for any skill you choose. Since this is a Unified Communications blog and it happens to be the field that I’m currently working in, I’m going to point out what I consider to be important in becoming a Videoconferencing Expert.

Videoconferencing Education

I believe education is the first step in becoming good at something. Once you identify your objective and set your goals, you have to start preparing for reaching that goal, show genuine interest in learning all the bits and pieces that are related to what you really want to do, in this case Video Conferencing. I’m talking about harvesting knowledge you can use from every source you can get your hands on: specialized courses , forums, blogs, whitepapers, industry reports, product guides…

When it comes to official training, major industry leaders like Cisco and Polycom are already offering specialized training programs for anyone interested in becoming engineering or sales expert in Videoconferencing / Unified Communications and these certifications are usually valid for 2-3 years in order to keep up with the latest trends in the industry.

Cisco recently added two new programs to their certification portfolio focusing on Video, which already included the Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist and Cisco Rich Media Communications Specialist:

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CCNA Logo by Cisco

  • CCNA Video establishes an individual’s ability to deploy video endpoints, set up new users, and operate networked voice and video solutions for job duties that include configuring voice and video single-screen endpoint devices, supporting telephony and video applications, and troubleshooting. The certification also validates a candidate’s knowledge of the architecture, components, functionalities and features of Cisco Unified Communications Manager solutions.
  • Cisco Video Network Specialist establishes and enhances key skills including the ability to configure video single-screen endpoints, set up new user accounts, support video applications and troubleshoot networked video solutions.
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Polycom Logo

Polycom is offering the Polycom Certified Videoconferencing Engineer – a program that confirms the successful candidate has the necessary knowledge to perform implementation, configuration and troubleshooting operations for small to medium-sized environments on the Polycom RealPresence Platform including. In addition, the PCVE exam will validate the individual’s knowledge of networking models, standards and protocols relevant to videoconferencing.

Plenty of free training material is also available on the Internet. Personally, I liked the old Tandberg Certified Expert Partner (TCPE) program, simple and straight to the point, it’s perfect to gain the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to Video Communication.

Forums such as the VTCtalk and the Cisco Support Community are a great place for promoting and  sharing knowledge and engage other experts in constructive conversations about topics of the Videoconferencing / Unified Communications industry. There are also great groups on videoconferencing business and technology available on LinkedIn for anyone to join and listen or contribute.

Working Experience

It has been said many times before – no amount of theoretical knowledge compares to a real world experience, no matter what field are you part of. If you’re just starting in the industry, try an entry-level position and work your way from the bottom up. There are also companies who first offer training to their personnel for couple of months, and then make hiring decision, this is another good way of getting practical work experience.

And once you get there, try to learn as much as possible, try to learn everything you can about the topic, focus on becoming better and better until you become “so good they can’t ignore you”.

The constant hunger for knowledge is what separates experts from…well, everyone else. The beauty when working with technology is that it changes constantly, there is always something new to digest. Personally, I don’t understand how some people are pretty content with doing the same thing day by day. There is much more you can do, if you want to. The internet is there, the books are written and there are heaps of people to talk to, who are more than happy to engage in discussions – so jump right into it and become an expert!

I am going to end this post with two quotes from people who were really good at something and accomplished a lot:

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

The Benefits Of Wide Area Networking Using Cisco Technology

Cisco Nexus Switches (5010 and 2248)

Cisco Nexus Switches (5010 and 2248) (Photo credit: pchow98)

Long before the internet became the phenomenon that it is today, Cisco was providing networking solutions, so efficiently that it has become the world leader in computer, IT and communications networking. In fact, the company has become a household name, recognised even by people who haven’t a clue what Cisco does. This is why, to those who are in the know, Cisco technologies are the perfect choice when planning Wide Area Networking (WAN) solutions for anyone from home users to corporations operating around the globe.

Cisco Offers Bespoke Solutions

One of the most appealing advantages of using Cisco Technologies for WAN is the company’s flexibility to tailor its networking products and solutions to customers’ specific needs, meaning no prospective customer is only offered the choice from a range of off-the-shelf options. This also offers the scope for growth and future updates without installing a complete new system.

Connecting Through Switching

Wide Area Networking using Cisco Technology is where the company comes into its own. While many other providers have moved into the smaller Local Area Network and Personal Area Network markets, Cisco have undoubtedly looked at the big picture for the future and provide a service that is used and trusted across the globe. From a base or local station, information sent to a remote geographical location must travel via one or more WAN links, connected through switches that are dedicated to sending the information. A computer in London, for instance, would communicate through a router to a WAN that then sends the data to a router in, say, Munich, Montreal or Mumbai. Three different technologies, cell switching packet switching and circuit switching, are used, each with its own advantages, disadvantages and optimum uses.

Benefit From Unbeatable Flexibility

At the heart of all of the company’s products and solutions is the Cisco Internetwork Operating System, or Cisco IOS. The IOS brings together diverse and different systems and devices to integrate varied protocols into a cohesive whole system. The integration of all components of the network increases security, as well as speed and quality of communication. With these solutions available, network designers can work more freely and flexibly, delivering solutions to their customers in a smooth process.

Modern Communication with Cisco TelePresence

Cisco TelePresence

Cisco TelePresence (Photo credit: dolanh)

Using high-end video conferencing technology Cisco was among the first organisations to produce TelePresence infrastructure and endpoints alike. With the Immersive TelePresence suites they have reached a milestone that was unparalleled until now allowing important meetings to be carried out with participants from around the world with the same effectiveness as if they were all in the same room.

Cisco Technology Is Future-Proof

One reason that Cisco technologies lead the world is that the company has never stood still. It has acknowledged advances in technologies in networking and connectivity, which means that the company is trusted by a wide pool of users. Consumers and network specialists look to Cisco for future developments. Cloud technology is the latest development to have captured the imagination, but it will not be the panacea it is predicted to be without the nuts and bolts of everyday use. Whatever comes out of the cloud in the future, integrating WAN with Cisco technologies gives its users optimum usage out of their broadband and network to do their own jobs with the maximum of efficiency, while Cisco runs the system unobtrusively under the bonnet.

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]

Good Collaboration through Knowledge Management

The other side of the coin of organisational growth and how to fight it with Knowledge Management.

In order to work well with each other and collaborate, it is not only important to utilise appropriate collaboration technology. A good starting point is to understand each other and knowing what others are doing as well as what one can expect from their services.

In rapidly growing organisations, it can happen that people who previously worked very close with each other are more and more separated over time. Maybe not even in a physical way, but people are getting more and more skilled in their particularly focused task and might be even joining different teams permanently.

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Markus Mattern, holding a presentation around high-level video conference bridging.

This is a natural side-effect of organisational growth and there are a few things that can be done to prevent this from becoming a negative influence to the service quality. One thing that could be done is to increase the focus on Knowledge Management. Turning tacit knowledge into “common sense” can make a huge different when working with clients, other companies or even within the same organisation.

As GMS is not excluded from such effects we have developed a way of sharing knowledge and providing insight into each team’s work. That is why Markus Mattern, in his capacity as one of our Senior VIP Video Conference Bridge Operators, has taken great effort into preparing a presentation around technological and operational details around his and the team’s work.

Initially this was planned as a single workshop for the few of the company who might be interested in learning a bit more about other teams. However we received so much positive feedback about people who wanted to join that we actually had to make several workshops and even include the weekends.

The Workshop

The content of the presentation was prepared in a very appealing and visual way, so everyone in the audience could understand both the operational procedures and requirements of the video bridging service as well as the technical introduction on the video conferencing infrastructure no matter what their background was.

In this workshop we used Cisco TelePresence infrastructure devices as examples and described the function of a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) and all it can do as well, as all the things even a good video conference bridge operator cannot do. We do this because we believe that even within the same company it is absolutely key to have clear expectations of what can be done and to know the things that cannot be done.

Markus explained what the Video Communication Servers (VCS) are there for and how they are utilised to traversal through corporate firewalls in an audit complaint way. This is very important for enterprises with a very tight network policy on the traversal between intranet and internet. But it shows that if the firewall traversal is well planned, configured and managed a lot of costs on ISDN (or all in best case) can be saved.

After all sessions have finished we received quite good feedback from everyone and are looking forward to the next workshop maybe from a different department then.

Thank you, Markus!