Tag Archives: Telepresence

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The Concept of Virtual Meeting Rooms and the Challenges

A recent report from Transparency Market Research indicates that the Video Conferencing Market  valued at US$ 3.31 Bn in 2013 is Expected to Reach US$ 6.40 Bn by 2020 Globally. The growth doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone involved in the industry, but the numbers are impressive nevertheless.

Driven by the savings in business travel and increased productivity through greater collaboration and utilizing remote workers, companies are reaping the benefits of Video Conferencing and deploying on-premise solutions on a large scale, offering both managed and self service  model to its clients.

The Video conference self-services have been particularly interesting as they lower operational costs but also tend to increase utilization as the technology becomes more easier to use. At the core of a self-service solution lies a so called “Virtual Meeting Room”.

 What is a Virtual Meeting Room?

A Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) is an online collaboration place where people can communicate over video. Participants usually join by dialling a specific number or an address with a simple name like John-VMR@company.com. Once created the Virtual Meeting Room is permanent and can receive calls at anytime, although the host usually controls access to the VMR with a host PIN.

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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.

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Book Video Conferences Quickly & Easily – What Is Possible Today?

Today, many companies already use software solutions to manage the booking of meeting and conference rooms. But often the usage of such tools is limited to specific locations (corporate headquarters) or specific employee groups (assistants, secretaries).

Nevertheless, videoconference and Telepresence projects are usually subject to national and international requirements – and they are an enormous complex issue. Many companies experimented with Exchange/Outlook solutions in the past in order to realise the aspect of a “quick and easy booking“ for their employees – but generally without success.

New SaaS Offer: The Lifesize Cloud

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Lifesize, a division of Logitech

The revamped and refashioned logo of Lifesize indicates its desire to rebrand itself in the video collaboration circuit and bring in new innovations and technologies to better suit the needs of organizations and businesses today. Having brought in HD video conferencing nearly a decade ago, an introduction that changed the face of business communication, Lifesize has reinvented its video conferencing technologies to suit today’s need for easy, flexible and economical collaboration to ensure effective and efficient transfer of data and information within and among organizations. With “cloud” playing a predominant role in video collaborations in recent times, Lifesize has come up with the new “Lifesize Cloud” to bring the benefits of cloud into video conferencing.

Web Conferencing – a New Mean of Training

Among many influential tools that could be used in an online learning or training is Web Conferencing. Web conferencing offers online training participants easier and convenient access also known as e-learning or TeleEducation.  In addition, it is much more cost-effective, faster and better. Web conferencing is becoming a popular means of providing training, the benefits are astounding, and here are some of the reasons why.

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Photo by Steve Garfield

  1. Convenient

    If you are an employee, attending seminars or trainings can be quite a daunting task. But with web conferencing you have the chance to learn from your own workplace, home or even on the road at your won flexible time. No matter where you are web conferencing can function for you.  Another scenario, if one participant got sick, there is no need for the training program to be cancel or delay. With web conferencing you can still be able to reach one other (trainees and trainer) and proceed with the program.

  2. Fast and Easy

    Sharing knowledge can be done with just a few mouse clicks and maybe a registration. But other than that, no need for any other complex steps. In addition, web conferencing allow any number of trainees to learn all in one time.

  3. Fun

    Lectures are enhanced. Forget about the wide screen projectors. There are various VoIP provider, desktop applications and internet tools that made interaction much more interesting. One can make revision and commentaries on every file types that flash on screen. Trainees or trainer can edit and draw on a document visible in their computer screens through the use of annotation tools. Desktop sharing applications can also be used to share resources that are pulled from the worldwide web. You can learn from other video presentations (if video conferencing functions are included), downloadable files, and the like to stimulate the discussion further.

  4. Friendly and Easy to use

    Just open your computer and connect to internet, participants are up and you can start learning. Survey also says that people can communicate more through web conferences than personally. Mainly because other people are shy to talk in person but in web conferences they can show their true self.

  5. Affordable

    According to a survey, it is 93% cheaper than instructor-led courses. Of course it is. Online training doesn’t cost a classroom, it doesn’t cost electricity, you can learn/teach at the comfort of your own houses.

Regardless of how gifted an individual is, he or she should still need to undergone generous amount of training so as to fit for a certain occupation. Specialized fields such as information technology and healthcare are vital in today’s living, and they require a standard of performance to sustain their proficiency. Aside from that, training empowers the workers to work in agreement to the mission and the vision that the company takes after. Without unified objectives, the company will have no clear heading to pursue and thus no end of the line to arrive at. With Web conferencing all these can be done without the worry about the location, budget and availability of an individual.

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.

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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!

5 Business Ideas That Enable Working From Home

For the last couple of years, the internet has provided opportunities for people to work not only in the offices but also in their homes. This is through “working from home” business that is currently popular among many people in the world because of the numerous business ideas possible through it. So, what are examples of business ideas that enables people to work from home?

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Example of a home office setup (Photo: Kevin Shorter)

1. Working from Home – Freelance

Freelancing is one of the home based business idea that will enable you to work from home while providing services to the rest of the world population. Currently numerous websites offer online businesses that make a good business idea once implemented. This will let you work from home at the same time enhances create jobs to other people whom you hire to assist in your everyday chores.

2. Academic Assistance

TeleEducation – Internet technology has enhanced the process of education by enlarging the accessibility of these services. This is a great work from home business opportunity. Through video conferencing services, you will be able to tutor thousands of students that need tutoring services through internet in your home. Many people are currently using this new business opportunity to earn amazing amounts of money. This has allowed people working from home without the need of travelling to these academic institutions.

3. Medical Services

TeleHealth – Provision of medical advisory services is another idea to work from home business especially if you have a medical background. Instead of seeking to work in a hospital, you can subdivide your house to medical room where you offer services to clients that are indeed of medical services. This will not only create huge amounts of dollars but also create jobs for those people who will help you conduct the services. In addition, you can also offer virtual medical assistance through the internet where you help even those people beyond your geographical reach.

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An example TeleHealth setup with Polycom equipment (Photo: USDAgov)

4. Online Office Virtual Assistance

The internet also offers another amazing opportunity to provide virtual assistance especially in office functions. Through the internet, at your home, you can find a job as an office assistant. This will enable you to exercise any delegated office job such as answering of mails, drafting letters as well as memos among other numerous services. This will not only be a good opportunity to earn money from home but also ensures that corporate communication with the clients is enhanced to greater heights. To gain leverage, you have to be familiar with some of the most common tools used by businesses. Look at this Pure Leverage review to learn a few.

5. Construction Or Engineering Advisory Services

Offering advisory services in the engineering services is one of the ways to create a home based business especially if you have an engineering training background. Currently there are numerous clients both online and offline that needs construction services. Through your services, you can solve their problems that will help you make money at home without the worry travelling to an office. This will also improve accessibility especially when you are settled in a strategic position.

Summary

I believe the above top ideas on how start a home based business that will enable you working from home without worrying about the need to reach the office at the appropriate time.

How Video Conferencing Technology Can And Is Changing Marketing On The Internet

Video conferencing, once the domain of larger organizations with bigger budgets, has come down in price dramatically during the last decade and a half. At the same time, not only its quality but also its versatility and portability have increased exponentially. The end result (at least up to now) of these trends has been a dramatic explosion in how many people use video calling and the ways in which they do so.

Aside from the many coordination and communication benefits that have stemmed from the video calling revolution, another major bonus has also been discovered in the myriad ways by which this rapidly advancing technology can be used to serve as a marketing and promotional tool for not only large companies but also smaller business and even individuals following their own business or professional goals.

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Pitching via Video Conference (photo: gcbb)

From personalizing customer relations in an effort to draw in more sales to using video calling for online sales pitches and demonstrations of products or services, video conferencing has become a powerful marketing tool that carries its own unique position in the online promotion landscape.

Here’s a look at some of the major innovations found in using video conference call technology when marketing to clients, buyers and anyone else.

More Face-to-Face Client / Seller Relations

The first and most obvious marketing innovation of video calling is the ability it has given marketers to engage their clients and buyers in face-to-face consultations or Q&A periods.

If someone is running a service or product business on the web, making sure to highlight the fact that their customers can interact with real people in real-time over any questions, doubts or issues they might have before or after buying is a big selling point to many potential clients, especially if their previous experience with customer service in a particular niche involves being ignored or unable to reach some solid customer support.

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, if you really want to enhance your customers experience and decision-making into something that’s memorable, be sure to do exactly this and underscore it in your marketing materials now that video conferencing offers you the ability to schedule actual life Q&A sessions with multiple people over interactive video media.

Interactive Long Distance Pitches

The long-used art of pitching a product, service or idea to potential buyers during a face-to-face meeting is a tried and true marketing tactic that numerous business owners use worldwide. With video conferencing, this very same strategy can reach into the digital world by allowing a marketer to lure clients or potential buyers toward a one on one consultation which is then in essence used as a sort of digital pitch that tries to create a purchase through interactive salesmanship.

Although this tactic might have some implementation difficulties that stem from problems with getting people to actually sit down for the sales meeting, if you’ve already built strong interest in your leads through a sales funnel and have motivated them with some sort of freebie into actually listening to your video call, you could really create a door-to-door sales level of interaction with a completely digital and much more targeted audience. Video call based pitching would be especially effective for high priced products or services that offset time costs even if your eventual sales closing numbers are low.

 Online Seminars through Video Conferencing

This is a really major and still largely unexplored region of the online marketing landscape that could benefit immensely from video conferencing. While physical sales seminars are a common thing in just about every hotel conference room you’ve ever passed through, and online video “webinars” where you can listen in but not participate are already completely established as part of online marketing strategy, a major and still very undeveloped leap would involve joining the two into a completely digital, massive video conference style seminar with full interactivity.

Thanks to the rapidly developing technology of video conferencing, the attendees can interact with the sales presenter just like they would be able to if they had physically gone to a real sales conference while enjoying the convenience of joining in from home as people do with classical online marketing webinars. On top of that there are many consumption based video conferencing software solutions that allow the use of the technology even with a smaller budget.

The marketing benefits this can potentially offer your business are considerable. For one thing, you as a marketer would save on the high costs of arranging for a sales seminar in an actual location where you’ll have to pay rent and present printed promotional materials. And furthermore, you could duplicate everything available at live sales seminars in an online environment while still being able to take questions and speak to leads in real-time. A somewhat heavier telepresence software bundle would be needed to pull off this kind of online marketing maneuver, but the potential benefit could be completely worthwhile.

What You Need To Know About Telecommuting

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Working on the train (Photo by rxb)

It was found in a recent study that around 20% of employees around the world spend a part of their work week doing their jobs from home.

Seven percent of these are those who work from home every day. Telecommuting, remote work or telework is an arrangement wherein the employees do not come in their office (or commute, hence the term) or to a central place of work.

Some work from at home while others work from coffee shops or other locations. This type of arrangement is becoming widely used among different companies all over the world although their views and standards of these countries are far from the same.

 Potential benefits of Telecommuting

For starters, it can actually save the company millions of dollars. It has a significant impact on a company’s overhead expenses, at the same time helps employees save money but cutting on a commute or gas costs.  Similarly, less commuters and less car users also reduce traffic congestion, road accidents and pollutants.

The flexibility of time has also helped many employees balance their life better between work and the home. Studies have shown that an employee’s productivity increases in a telecommuting arrangement. It was even found that around 75% of business or organization owners notice happier employees. This may be credited to the fact that some employees get more stressed as they are in their workplaces.

Telecommuting has also been found to possibly help keep 83% more talented women in the workplace instead of leaving in order to stay at home.

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Virtual Presence Handshake (Photo by ganderssen1)

Technology has made it easy for companies and their employees to stay in touch even when they do not physically see each other in the office.  For example, with a stable Internet connection, employees can still be part of conferences via some web conferencing software or phone systems. Many companies have also developed their products, like the RingCentral virtual PBX, to accommodate the growing number of companies that have telecommuters. Employees are also able to access the company’s network, and send e-mails and reports via the Internet.

But as many benefits as it has, telecommuting has also raised some drawbacks and concerns as well.

 What’s stopping them?

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns of employers is “losing control” over their employees who choose to work from at home. Experts say that telecommuting only works when employers hold their people responsible for the work they are doing from at home or outside the office.

At first, productivity rate was seen to drop, most probably because those concerned are still adjusting to the “new work regimen.” In the long term, however, surveys have found that the productivity of teleworkers will climb eventually.

Another concern is that in telework arrangements, employees need to work harder to maintain good relationships with their co-workers. Not seeing them every day may cause certain conflicts to arise and some telecommuters even feel a sense of disconnection from their office.

Security is also another issue that has been raised with regards telecommuting. It was found that many telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system that may put a lot of sensitive information at risk. Information technology issues have also been raised as one of the main problems of working from a location outside the office.

Telecommuting, in some cases, may also negatively affect a person’s career. In a recent survey it was found that people who telework are less likely to get promoted because executives cannot promote people into leadership roles if they haven’t been consistently seen and monitored.

There indeed is a lot of improvement needed for those who allow telecommuting in their offices. But one thing is certain. By giving a lot of support to their employees, businesses will definitely benefit from their being more productive, happier and healthier, regardless of where they choose to work.


What do you think about those potential risks? Have you remediated them or banned telecommuting like Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo? I am looking forward to hear you opinion around this.

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