Tag Archives: Video Conference

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Video Conferencing in Project Management

As technology keeps on progressing, industries are constantly adapting to a dynamic world. With the development of business at a faster rate, it is increasingly significant to execute improvements on projects. The fundamental key of effective project management lies in excellent communication specifically in conveying goals, updates and other information to the people/stakeholders involved.

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Benefits Of Video Conferencing In The Business World

In a world where people are becoming more and more busy in their daily lives, conferences and business meetings can become a slight issue. Attending a conference can cause an issue for certain business workers because they are already busy on vacation, need to take time out of their work or even on the other side of the world. With continuously evolving of technology and continuously growing the demand for productivity, video conferencing is becoming more and more used in the business world. Below are the several benefits of utilizing video conference technology in the business world.

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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.

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.

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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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!

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.

IPv6 and its Impact on Videoconferencing

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

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

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

Huge address space

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

Improved Quality of Service (QoS)

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

Plug-and-Play support

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

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

Improved Security

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

Improved Mobility

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

Big packets and improved routing

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

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

Migration considerations

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

Outlook

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

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

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.
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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!

Software MCU Comparison – What does the market offer?

A Videoconference Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) is a crucial part of every serious Videoconference infrastructure. It’s a system used to connect multiple media streams into a single Videoconference, therefore very often the MCU is referred to as a “bridge”.

The traditional MCU is a DSP (digital signal processing) based hardware whose primary functionality is to decode all incoming media streams, compose a single stream for each far-end participant and finally re-encode that stream before sending it out, needless to say all this requires a huge amount of processing power. More over, hardware-based MCUs define scalability on a per-port basis, which means if we want to have more participants connected in a Videoconference at the same time, we need MCUs with more video ports i.e. more DSPs and DSP hardware does not come cheap.

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LifeSize UVC Multipoint used on a Tablet

That is why a lot of companies are turning their attention towards a new type of product when it comes to multipoint Videconferences – the so-called “software MCU” or soft-MCU. A soft-MCU serves the same purpose as the hardware-based, except that all the transcoding and signal processing is done in the software which introduces big advantages in terms of cost, scalability and flexibility.

The soft-MCU eliminates the need for DSP hardware and can run on virtualized servers on private or public clouds, therefore it is significantly cheaper to deploy than the expensive hardware MCU. In terms of scalability, customers can often just purchase the number of ports they require at the time and then scale up or down easily as the need changes. Software MCUs offer also more flexible deployment, updates and feature enhancements are easy and more frequent, which gives them advantage in today’s fast evolving demands in the Videoconferencing world. Manufacturers can offer the soft-MCU for on-premise deployment on company’s internal servers (usually preferred by enterprises) but the lower end of the group video conferencing market will also benefit from the hosted services (cloud services) offered by providers.

Current market of Software MCU solutions

Although still in relatively early phase in terms of adoption, the market is all but short in offering soft-MCUs solutions for multipoint Videoconferencing. Some of them offered as pure software to be installed on industry-standard servers, some of them require some sort of hardware usually from the same provider which makes them a kind of  “hybrid” solution. I will just go briefly through some of the most talked about products out there at the moment:

 Avistar

Avistar offers the Avistar C3 Conference, a software-based MCU that runs on standard off-the-shelf hardware and operating system software, and on virtualized servers. It is mainly designed for on-premise deployment in enterprise environments, but service providers offering managed Videoconferencing services could also take advantage from it.

Each conference server can support up to 12 ports of simultaneous conferencing, video standards supported are H.263 and H.264 up to 1024 kbps call rate per endpoint with 30 fps.

 Polycom

The Polycom RealPresence Collaboration Server 800s, Virtual Edition is a multi-protocol, integrated, software-based multipoint MCU running on x86 servers. Mainly designed for mid-sized enterprises or to expand an existing RealPresence Collaboration Server (RMX) environment, it provides open standards scalable video coding (SVC) support and interoperability with systems that use advanced video coding (AVC). It can support up to 40 H.263 or H.264 video ports with 720p and 30 fps.

 Vidyo

Vidyo solution consists of Vidyo Router at its center, offered also as a virtual edition (VE), which performs transcoding-free packet switching using their patented Adaptive Video Layering (AVL) technology which introduces low-latency video-streams for endpoints over any IP network. It can be deployed on industry standard servers and is “VMware Ready” certified. Interoperability with legacy systems requires the use of VidyoGateway. The VidyoRouter VE comes in two models – VE 100 and VE 25 offering 100 and 25 concurrent HD connections respectively, supporting native rate and resolution matching per endpoint, up to 1440p at 60fps. Vidyo technology is available through service providers such as Videoconference24.

 Pexip

Pexip is a new start-up that offers pure-software based MCU called Infinity, which will be available from September. It can be deployed on industry-standard servers in a VMware virtualized environment and port capacity can be easily scaled up by adding more servers. It will support H.263 and H.264, SVC, VP8 video codecs as well as interoperability with WebRTC and Lync. We are yet to see how this product will perform in the real-world but it definitely looks promising with of supporting wide range of software clients and endpoints.

Acano

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Acana Software MCU Example

Acano is also also a new player in the industry, offering software solution that unites “previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies” in “coSpaces” which are essentially cloud virtual meeting rooms. People can use whatever devices they have to call into a coSpace, including mobile phones, tablets, PCs, Microsoft Lync clients or video endpoints. Designed for the x86 architecture, it runs on their optimized hardware, standard servers, as well as in virtualized environments and can support thousands of users per server, with further scale and resilience provided by native clustering. Major video standards are supported including H.264 AVC, SVC, WebM / VP8, Microsoft RTVideo, and said to support H.265 as well.

 Vidtel

Vidtel is primarily a service provider; does not offer soft-MCU for on-premise enterprise deployment, but they do offer hosted cloud Videoconferencing solution, labeled MeetMe – it’s a cloud-based, “any-to-any” video conferencing service which supports interoperability between SIP, H.323, Google Talk, Skype, and WebRTC. It supports up to 20 video conferencing endpoints with 720p. The infrastructure for video conferencing is hosted on a Vidtel central cloud and each participant is given a private meeting room ID and a login PIN; they use this to join the Vidtel MeetMe meeting and start communicating and interacting almost as if they were in the same office.

 LifeSize

LifeSize UVC Multipoint is a software-MCU that can be installed on industry-standard servers. It supports H.263 and H.264, SVC video standards and interoperability with Lync (Microsoft RTVideo). Customers can purchase and scale one port at a time and administrators can selectively control the quality and capacity of each port, ranging from 360p for mobile users to 1080p for room-based environments (with the Enterprise edition) and maximum of 128 participants in a single conference.

 Cisco

Cisco became the undisputed king in Videoconferencing hardware, with the acquisition of Tandberg, but they do not offer software-MCU that can be deployed on-premise. They do however offer cloud Videoconferencing service called – Cisco WebEx Telepresence, which can support up to 12 participants per conference with 1080p. At the moment it’s only available in the U.S. and Canada.

 Blue Jeans Network

Blue Jeans – similar to Vidtel, Blue Jeans is a service provider offering hosted hosted video bridging with multi-vendor interoperability including Skype and Lync. Also they are the developers of their own solution and allow re-selling. It supports up to 25 participants per meeting with 720p at 30 fps  and offers easy web based management capabilities for administrators as well as reporting capabilities.

 Avaya / Radvision

Avaya / Radvision is offering the Elite 6000 Series – software-based hybrid multi-point control unit providing high port density up to 40 full 1080p HD ports (80 720p) on a single 1U system. All the major video standards are supported as well as interoperability with other vendors.

As we can see there are lots of different flavors and there are more solutions out there, opening new opportunities for those who could not own standalone MCU before. It’s hard to say what the future holds, certainly it’s too early to dismiss hardware-based MCUs in which companies have invested a lot of money. It’s clear that the two solutions will coexist for some time and it’s up to the customers to choose the best solution for their business based on their requirements in usage, cost and features.


Software MCU Example Video by Pexip

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA2oh-4A8Qg&w=575]

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]