The Wainhouse Research Blog
News & Views
on Unified Communications & Collaboration
I couldn't cover everyone with whom I met at EC, but here are some highlights.
Prysm. Recognizing that not every customer has the money or footprint for a 190-inch collaborative video wall, Prysm has released and is now shipping 85-inch and 65-inch single-screen versions of its Cascade solution (addressing feedback from customers seeking to deploy more Cascade systems in more places). In addition, while no formal announcements have been made to date, WR is aware that Prysm is working on a new version of its Synthesis platform with a focus on empowering multi-location collaboration. While still too pricey for the “typical” meeting room around the corner, the combination of a broader product line with lower entry level pricing and expanded collaboration capabilities is likely to resonate well with enterprise customers.
Altia Systems. The makers of the Panacast panoramic camera system announced and focused on its “integration” with Lync. Essentially, the Panacast device appears as a standard camera to a Lync user. However, once the Panacast camera is selected, remote Lync users can use a special Panacast app to control their Panacast experience. So imagine that a Panacast camera is in use in London. The Panacast app allows a user in New York to see the entire panoramic view of the room in London, while a user in Hong Kong can digitally pan and zoom in on a specific participant in New York. While not strictly “integrated” with Lync, Altia has simplifies the workflow of using the Panacast camera with Lync.
Conference Room Systems. Part integrator and part manufacturer, Conference Room Systems (CRS) offers USB-connected, motorized pan / tilt / zoom cameras under the brand name of HuddleCamHD. The product line starts with the HuddleCamHD 3X (3x motorized zoom - list price of US $399) to the newly announced HuddleCamHD Air (12x or 20x motorized zoom - list price of US $3,599). In the weeks leading up to EC, CRS heavily promoted the Air as the first wireless USB camera on the market. According to the specs, Air operates at 5 GHz and works at distances up to 80 feet (25 meters), which means it can replace wired cameras in most conference rooms and even some auditoriums. Air also offers onboard streaming capabilities. From WR’s perspective, the concept of a wireless USB camera is very interesting. However, given the need for wired power and the relatively large size of the device, we question how many no-brainer applications there are for such a device - beyond the ability to avoid the dreaded video cable between the camera and the codec.
Vaddio. Our visit to the Vaddio booth gave us a first-hand look at the company’s PTZ camera line. The newly released RoboSHOT 12 USB, for example, offers USB 3.0 connectivity, 12x optical zoom an a 73 degree field of view, an HDMI output, and streaming capabilities. In addition, this unit includes “tri-synchronous motion” meaning the system uses direct drive motors to pan, tilt, and zoom simultaneously. Compared to legacy systems that require the camera to first pan / tilt and then zoom, this offers a faster, smoother, and more natural user experience. The company also demoed the AV Bridge Matrix PRO, a multi-function device offer audio and video switching, camera control, an integrated DSP with echo cancellation, and remote control via RS232. The AV Bridge Matrix Pro is expected to ship by the end of April with a list price of U.S. $5,495.
Blue Jeans Network. The BJN team made several interesting announcements at EC including MPLS peering with Level 3. As a result of this peering, Level 3 customers now have on-net access to the BJN service. By keeping all video call traffic on the Level 3 MPLS network, customers will enjoy several key benefits including improved performance, reliability, and security. In addition, BJN announced BJN Relay - a customer-premise software solution available toward the end of March that includes (1) a server component (Linux virtual machine) and (2) a software client designed for use on a dedicated, customer-supplied tablet (e.g. a low cost Android tablet) located in each meeting room. The Relay server talks to Microsoft Exchange, Google Calendar, and group video systems, and provides users in the meeting room with the ability to dial a group video system into a BJN meeting with a single click - all without picking up the remote. Having suffered through many delayed meeting starts due to complex dialing strings and intimidating remote controls, we welcome anything that simplifies the call launch process.
Vidyo. Our visit to the Vidyo booth revealed yet another disrupted idea from serial disrupters Vidyo. While other exhibitors at EC were focused on bring video and audio to the meeting room, Vidyo’s booth was focused on bringing video to the applications, websites, and workflows of everyday consumers. Via partnerships with companies like American Well, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, and United Healthcare, Vidyo has video-enabled the online patient care delivery systems offered by these companies. Patients log into their provider’s portal, indicate the type of help they need, choose a healthcare professional, provide payment information, and then enter a two-way telehealth session. Telehealth has been an ongoing area of strength for Vidyo. For more information about Vidyo’s presence at EC.
Videxio. The team at Videxio demoed and discussed several new items at EC. The first is a Videxio soft client - which will be available toward the end of April. While the service will continue to support standards-based soft clients, the Videxio client will be fully brand-able and will offer some additional capabilities (e.g., access to meeting participant lists, etc.) not available on third-party clients. Given that Cisco's Jabber video client will not be available for download after mid-April, Videxio expects the reception for its soft client to be very strong. Videxio also announced integration with third-party audio conferencing services. To use this feature, users simply enter their credentials (phone number, host code, etc.) for their external audio bridging provider into their Videxio profile. A user then has the option to connect an external audio bridge to a Videxio-hosted meeting. We know this is a feature that will be of great interest to many companies.
Vytru. Vytru demoed its new version of the Room Video Communication software (RVC). The RVC is a Lync wrapper designed to empower users to integrate Lync into the meeting room. Unlike the Microsoft-controlled LRS systems, the RVC user interface was designed by Vytru and include many features unavailable to LRS or Lync users (e.g., multi-camera support, far end camera control, streamlined content selection, wireless presentation capabilities and more). We also learned that Vytru is planning to expand its U.S. presence and is currently in talks with several US distributors.
Array Telepresence. We dropped by the Array Telepresence booth to learn that the company’s Equal-i is now shipping. The new design includes a new, svelte form factor that allows the camera unit to be installed between the main displays, at any desired height to optimize eye contact, and without creating a gap between the displays.
Starleaf. No trip to EC would be complete without a visit to the Starleaf booth. The company has reported ongoing success with its approach of offering hardware optimized for its service offering; a model also in use by others in the industry including LifeSize. StarLeaf also announced and was showing the StarLeaf SBC 6350, a session border controller built to solve the interoperability issues that exist today between disparate UC environments, delivering direct video calling between Microsoft Lync, Cisco’s CUCM and all standards-based video systems, H.323 and SIP.
And don't forget the audio
Revolabs. The line has been drawn. Best known for bringing cost-effective, secure, high quality wireless audio to the AV meeting room, Revolabs has declared itself the first to include “a real speaker in a speakerphone.” Wit aside, Revo’s position is that existing speakerphones simply don’t provide the audio performance needed to meet the expectations of today’s users. To that end, the company created the FLX UC 500 (USB-only speakerphone - US list price of $399) and UC 1000 systems (USB and SIP speakerphone - US list price of $799). The 1000 has the ability to bridge SIP-based and USB-based (e.g. Lync, Jabber) calls together, and can be expanded with optional external microphones.