We’ve heard that “video is king,” before, but today, I would venture to say, “videoconferencing is king.”
At least, this was my biggest takeaway from AVI-SPL’s Global Sales Meeting (GSM) held recently in Tampa, FL. The annual event gathers AVI-SPL management and vendors for several days of conferences where the latest products and services are on display, among other events.
This year’s GSM wasn’t just about making collaboration as easy, flexible, personal, and mobile as possible. AVI-SPL and its vendors are taking unified communications into every room, envisioning futuristic business spaces comprised of various “huddle rooms,” areas technologically and aesthetically conducive to impromptu brainstorming sessions, fostering collaboration at every level. The back boardroom is no longer the place where innovation is expected to occur.
The “huddle room” buzzword was a recurring theme across both the vendor expo and executive roundtable. I’m sure that by the time the InfoComm show concludes (a mere 7 weeks [!!] from now), I will have heard “huddle room” enough times to want to banish it from my lexicon.
More than 50 percent of AVI-SPL’s projects include video conferencing, and its sales are stronger than ever, the company stated. Polycom named the integrator its 2012 U.S. Partner of the Year. AVI-SPL’s purchase of Iformata Communications, a video managed services company, in January 2012, included both Iformata’s video network operations center (VNOC), and its VNOC Symphony management platform, which has really propelled AVI’s growth in the sector. The Symphony software automates complex, backend processes required to schedule, monitor, and manage video conferencing resources. The platform enables users to easily schedule their own meetings, survey video resources available, view reports and analytics, and access remote support from a desktop or mobile device.
The focus wasn’t exclusively on different video conferencing solutions, but there was the evolution of some more traditional technologies, transforming them into more flexible, collaborative products. Take Biamp’s Vocia system for example. The critical paging system targets hospital applications, where zone paging is required, nurse call systems in particular apply. Vocia takes paging functions onto the network for distribution, enabling it to be scalable and flexible, and easy to operate for various people.
Crestron was showcasing its Capture HD solution for preserving meeting content in high definition video through automated scheduling, recording, and online delivery of the video. Target applications include lectures, presentations, medical procedures, seminars, and training sessions.
AMX was touting its Enova, all-in-one presentation system, creating the backbone to distribute video content from a range of different sources to a slew of display options. From a sales perspective, AMX is pushing the “perfect meeting,” described Titus Sam, director of national accounts. Sam described how AMX is focusing not on what a customer says they need, but what the customer doesn’t know they need. Simplifying the user interface was also a major way AMX is bringing a more collaborative approach to its systems.
Back in the realm of traditional videoconferencing solutions, Polycom’s RealPresence CloudAXIS suite represents the leap forward videoconferencing technology is making, adapting to modern means of consuming technology, or as Polycom likes to say “redefining.” The concept is rather basic, yet it is the common theme emerging from most every technology solutions provider of any type: simplicity, available to anyone, on any device, anywhere (with an internet connection).
Some features of CloudAXIS include social media integration, so users can enter a meeting through Facebook or other chat platforms, enabling most any type of user to participate in the meeting. The system effectively builds a private cloud to operate off of. Here’s a useful infographic about CloudAXIS.
Cisco has recently brought its WebEx meeting center together with its TelePresence conferencing system. The effect is an environment where anyone and any device can easily communicate and share content.
Radvision, an Avaya company, is making an aggressive push in the market, the company refers to as a “transformation” from infrastructure provider to video conferencing solutions supplier. With its Scopia product portfolio, Radvision is bringing together voice, data, and video conferencing, including network infrastructure for multi-party conferencing, and management software for scheduling and directory services. Scopia is both a hardware and software solution designed for flexible use from the boardroom, to conference rooms, desktops, and mobile devices in a secure enterprise environment.
Perhaps the most indicative of where the industry is heading was SMART Technologies’ current move into videoconferencing. SMART is known for its interactive whiteboard technology, but I caution against dismissing the company’s move toward UC as just an attempt to capitalize on a growing market sector because the solution seems to take a very different approach. In fact, the company’s background was actually in communications, said Frazer Couzens, who works in business development for SMART. Couzens led a dynamic overview of SMART’s Room System for Microsoft Lync, a turnkey hardware solution combining interactive displays with the Lync software, which delivers audio, video, and data collaboration. Meeting participants have the ability to contribute more creatively though interactive visual tools.
SMART’s system provides the touch-enabled, commercial-grade display, microphones and integrated audio, HD camera, an administrative console touchpanel, and promixity sensors, so the system powers on when someone walks into the room.
Couzens described the solution as a “way more consistent experience,” which is something “we believe is disruptive to the status quo,” in the videoconferencing industry.
Check out what Todd McCandless wrote for SCN about Lync and disruptive technologies back in August 2012, where he asserted that Lync “has been an innovative assault on the unified communications front.”
While this is just a small sliver of the broad range of unified communications technology on display at AVI-SPL’s GSM, it seemed as though every solution was presenting itself as a jack-of-all-trades. At a certain level, the ideas tend to blend together despite coming from a wide range of backgrounds and development. The ultimate judge of their success will be how the market reacts to all the solutions, which ones are accepted by users and installers for their benefits.
I predict that the industry will see some consolidation of these technologies a few years down the road. But for right now, we’re experiencing a vibrant hub of innovation and healthy competition in videoconferencing technologies. With the InfoComm show looming right around the corner, I’m looking forward to experiencing more of the innovative product development paving the future of unified communications.