During the course of my regular briefings with industry professionals I often come across information that I find newsworthy. We have created this recurring feature as a way of sharing these items with you. Below, in alphabetical order, are notes and thoughts from a few of my most recent briefings.
The concept of software meeting room solutions is making more and more sense as peripheral equipment continues to improve in quality and lower in prices. In recent years, the market has spoken and it loves cloud video infrastructure. Cloud solutions with strong interoperability, like BlueJeans, allow traditional meeting room solutions to join in these new cloud meetings along with mobile and desktop users in a seamless experience. One question remains however. How do we set up our new meeting rooms? We can buy more traditional meeting room solutions, but they can be expensive, and the user interfaces aren’t always as easy to use as cloud based UIs. Ideally, our new room experiences would be the same as the new mobile and desktop interfaces that are going viral through SMBs and enterprise. Software meeting rooms solve this problem.
The focus of my recent briefing with Eric Tooley (Sr. Product Marketing Manager) and Krish Ramakrishnan (Co-Founder and “Punk Rock Style” CEO), focused on the new BlueJeans Huddle software meeting room offering.
The BlueJeans user interface on my desktop is one of the better ones on the market. It is clean, intuitive, and attractive. After getting a taste of how easy it can be to connect to a meeting, their users were clamoring for the same experience in their meeting rooms. We want to put down those complicated remote controls, in favor of a “click to join” option. That is the premise of BlueJeans Huddle. Note: the BlueJeans Relay solution offers a similar functionality for traditional meeting room systems, providing a BlueJeans interface on a tablet for easy meeting creation.
BlueJeans is positioning its BlueJeans Huddle solution as a way to eliminate the “video tax”, or that unnecessary 8-15 minutes it typically takes for users to figure out the remote control and connect a meeting room system to a call. However, I think this is really just the tip of the iceberg of software meeting room system benefits. By leveraging the same friendly, comfortable, UI of their desktop/mobile client, they are also eliminating the video “fear factor” that intimidates users from touching those expensive fancy meeting room systems. Too many meetings are still held over the phone because no one is brave enough to pick up the remote and try to make a call on the boss’s complicated video system.
The kit itself includes an Intel NUC to run the software, an Apple iPad Mini for control, a Revolabs FLX UC500 speakerphone, and a Logitech c930e webcam (although I may recommend upgrading to a PTZ camera depending on room size/configuration). To be clear, this isn’t just BlueJeans desktop software running on the NUC, it is specialized with room specific features such as wireless content sharing from your personal device, and Outlook/Google calendar integration for easy room scheduling and meeting creation.
I particularly like its “Smart Sensor Technology” which automatically knows you have entered a room (via a signal from your mobile phone) and connects to your personal schedule, allowing you to join your meeting with a single click on the included iPad. Of course, the BlueJeans Huddle is manageable by the BlueJeans Command Center. This is a must for your IT team. The list price (not including the hardware) is $599 per room per year, which is less than the typical annual maintenance on a standard room video system.
Final thought, while I am very pleased to see BlueJeans entering the budding “software room system” market, I was equally pleased with Krish’s vision for the future of the company, and the future of videoconferencing. I think the days of selling video as a siloed product are coming to an end. I believe we need to start seeing video as a feature, to be included in many aspects of our businesses. Today’s video has the power, and flexibility, to go far beyond conferencing. This kind of thinking is behind the BlueJeans Enterprise Video Cloud, which now has four components; onVideo Meetings for desktop/mobile conferencing, Primetime for events, onSocial for broadcast, and now Huddle for the room experience.
It’s always good to touch base with Tom-Erik Lia (CEO) and Karl Hantho (President, Americas) from the Videxio team. The company is continuing to enjoy spectacular growth. While their customers are still primarily split between the US and Europe, they’re seeing a lot of growth, particularly in Asia. This is partially as a result of their partnership with Huawei and tight integration with Huawei products. Huawei (and Polycom) endpoints now have registration to the Videxio cloud built in as an option during the set-up and installation process. Cisco products can also be easily registered to the Videxio cloud via an app.
Videxio is privately held and profitable. They’re now pouring these profits into research and development for the next generation of Videxio features. These upcoming features include a number of experience and workflow improvements. The meeting experience will be changed to allow for more moderator control and general usability. The new versions of their mobile apps (currently in alpha) are being designed with mobile user behavior in mind. This means the buttons are where your thumbs naturally rest on the screen. Additionally, the controls are simple and intuitive. Even their workflow for joining a meeting is being changed so that desktop and mobile users can join a meeting in single click.
Perhaps a bigger fundamental change is the development of their new video/messaging platform based on microservices and Docker. With their rate of traffic growth, they realized that their current architecture would not scale to support their service. As a result, they developed their own platform from scratch. These new Midgard services (named after a realm in Norse/Viking mythology) use next generation architecture that will enable Videxio to scale quicker. Moving forward, this platform will also allow Videxio to accelerate the development and implementation of new services.
Videxio is taking a new approach to recording and streaming that I find very interesting. They could offer a typical streaming/recording platform. However, they realized there’s a number of existing world class platforms, like YouTube Live, that people are already very comfortable with. In this initial release, they are leveraging YouTube’s existing reach and audience, a very smart choice in my opinion. The basic concept is that a typical Videxio meeting will be pumped into YouTube Live through an integrated and seamless workflow. That will allow the meeting to be seen by potentially millions of viewers live on YouTube. Even better, the stream will have the option to be recorded as a typical YouTube video. They aren’t the only company currently exploring this approach, but they are certainly getting in on it early. I expect that leveraging social media streaming (YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Periscope, etc.) will be one of our next big industry trends.
Finally, Videxio is looking to help out their service provider partners in a new way. Their service is entirely white-labeled. They are the “Intel Inside” for a good number of large and small providers. However, the end users are generally completely unaware that they are using Videxio. It’s a lot easier to sell an “Intel Inside” computer if customers are aware of Intel. With this in mind, Videxio is looking to increase their name recognition with end users. One way they’re looking to do this is with a new freemium Videxio service. This would allow customers to try out basic Videxio cloud meetings at no cost. If these users decide they need the full service, they would be referred to a Videxio reseller partner. This program should achieve the two goals of increasing Videxio’s brand awareness and providing a new customer funnel for partners.
There is a new player making waves in the digital signage industry. I recently spoke with Laurie Berg (VP of Channels at Dept 60) and Mike Brandofino (Managing Partner & CEO at Dept 60) to learn more about the growing momentum of their company’s Visualz offering.
The company scored some recent partnership wins, signing deals with both Yorkel and Ingram Micro. This is not an easy achievement in a market already flooded with digital signage solutions and it is a testament to the unique differentiators of the Visualz solution.
Traditional digital signage is a heavy capex investment. Each monitor requires an expensive decoder box and the typical installment requires an expensive central server that runs the solution and stores the data. With Visualz there is no capex, the decoder boxes are free, and the solution is an affordable cloud-based service with no on-premise server required.
Visualz also eliminates the barrier of requiring IT support, as it is exceptionally user-friendly. If you can create a PowerPoint slide, you can create a digital sign in Visualz. This technology can be used in many different verticals, such as an educational setting. Teachers can easily post assignments, cafeteria staff can set up menus, and principals can post announcements. Of course, all of this is possible without the help of expensive IT resources. It’s even manageable from a mobile app, so a principal can quickly post an emergency message, even if s/he is off-site.
Laurie, Mike, and I had some fun discussing other new verticals which have a great need for digital signage, but found it too expensive and hard to manage in the past. One big potential market is houses of worship. These locations are often the hubs for entire communities, hosting numerous scheduled events from regular prayer sessions, to charity events, to children’s choir recitals, and so on. Manually rewriting the schedule on a whiteboard is much more labor intensive, and less attractive, than a dynamic digital display. It could also be used to thank donors, or post other important announcements. Other potential new verticals are far too many to list here, but a few obvious ones would be retirement communities, and small (as well as large) town city halls.
Another key benefit of the Visualz platform is that it is multi-tenant. This means a service provider (such as Yorktel or Ingram Micro) can manage the digital signage on behalf of their customers, granting those customers access to their individual accounts and assets, without compromising their security. When I last checked in with Laurie and Mike earlier this year, they were in the first stages of deployment, getting units out to initial customers. Now, the offering is clearly ready for primetime. Yorktel is even using it themselves, with a Visualz display in the lobby of their headquarters. When your channel partners are using your solution for their own internal needs, it is a great sign that they are behind you and will be pushing it toward their own customers. Things are moving fast for Visualz, so I made Laurie and Mike promise to check back in with me soon.