With all the innovation we saw at Vegas this year, there are simply have too many winners to do them all justice and give them each complete individual coverage within the few weeks after InfoComm. However, after briefing with the following companies during the event, I simply must recognize how much there was to like. While I do plan to return to many of these winners for a deeper dive, for now please check out my quick thoughts (in no particular order) on why they made the list this year.
In-Room Collaboration Solutions
These solutions all had a huge buzz at the booths. The days of emailing your presentation to a dedicated room computer, or dealing with unusual adaptors and dongles are coming to an end. Presenting and collaborating using your own content, controlled by your own laptop or tablet, on the meeting room screen(s) is a reality. As if the basic premise wasn’t enough, many of the vendors have particularly cool implementations and differentiators. Notable entries to the market include some new faces, as well as new products from established players. The ones I took a look at included the Christie Brio , Crestron AirMedia, Mersive Solstice, Oblong Mezzanine, and the WOW Vision Collab8. All booths were well attended and all demos were impressive.
I know this isn’t a completely new market, but it feels like this is their year. Some industry analysts scoff at the real world use of this technology, pointing out that the fancier demos may be performed by well-practiced product specialists. However, the same can be said for the basic PowerPoint presentation. Experts can make an exceptionally compelling slide deck using advanced features that most users will never bother to learn. But that doesn’t mean PowerPoint is a failure as a product. I think these solutions will follow a similar model. The basic user will be able to use these solutions for everyday presentations, while advanced users will be able to take it to the next level. I look forward to seeing more of these in action at the workplace.
Maybe it is my inner nerd, but I just love robots. While the analysts tend to look down on them, and talk about what they aren’t well suited for, it is undeniable that there is a niche and there are legitimate uses for them. I have attended a trade show previously via the Beam from Suitable Technologies. While I didn’t get to taste the buffet, I didn’t end the tradeshow by getting a cold like I did from InfoComm this year. Pretty good tradeoff as far as I am concerned. The Beam continues to develop as their management continues to explore various business models and uses.
The Ava, by iRobot, is the BMW of the field. With features like auto-navigation, it answers many of the typical robot pain points, and with Cisco providing the video it delivers a high end experience. This is the premium robot on the market and its rich feature set allows for a much broader range of potential uses.
I was particularly pleased by the VGo’s new robot for Audi. On a minor note, the bot is custom designed with Audi-like styling, including “hub caps” for the wheels. Very cool, but the real value here is how Audi is using these bots. Rather than using bots to replace humans, Audi is using VGo to assist their workers by bringing in experts to advise their mechanics. When you take your Audi to the shop, the onsite mechanics are prepared to deal with most repairs, but need expert help for some of the trickier aspects. A phone call doesn’t do the trick, and sending pictures between each step is just too slow. With the remote expert driving the VGo, he can watch the mechanic in real time as the repair is being completed and offer advice on the fly. The end result is that you get your car fixed in hours, rather than days. Any robot naysayers want to try and convince me this isn’t a legitimate use for robots?
Teliris and Dimension Data
Dimension Data is a global powerhouse, and just like everyone else is adapting to meet the needs of the new software/service centered market. The result is a lot of rumors, to the point where any medium sized vendor who stepped within 20 feet of the DD booth was suspected of being a buy-out possibility. The Teliris acquisition is real however. Teliris’s cloud capabilities, and more importantly expertise, will help DD with an important piece of the new VCMSP puzzle, as they bring a strong history of providing a high touch service with the ability to address the high end telepresence and tier one installations.
Vaddio is always a hit at these events. If your strength is quality cameras, why not set up your booth to be a challenging video environment to really put them to the test? With colorful backgrounds, and actors dressed as superheroes swooshing about, attendees were able to see what Vaddio cameras can really do. And besides, it makes these events a little more fun (mixing marketing with fun is a Vaddio trademark, see the video above). While all of their cameras have their uses, their GroupStation and EasyUSB solutions are of particular relevance to the growing DIY huddle-space market. I definitely look forward to Vaddio’s continuing developments in the SMB space.
Everyone has heard of ClearOne and their audio equipment. They have a great brand and reputation for quality sound devices. So why not just sit on their laurels and keep selling mics and speakers? Because their customers want more. The ClearOne booth was like a mini InfoComm, with streaming solutions, infrastructure, their Spontania solution (one of the more impressive Cloud solutions out there, and one I hope to test out soon), and, of course, the latest versions of their iconic audio solutions. It makes sense for ClearOne to expand into video based off their success in audio and they are looking to fill all the gaps. Their Collaborate line addresses the traditional room based VC model, while Spontania should provide the logical cloud layer for expansion and interop. It will be interesting to see where ClearOne takes it from here.
Starleaf always impresses with its next generation UI, high quality experience, and flexible virtualized infrastructure. Customers appear to be liking it as much as analysts, as StarLeaf has grown to support over 1 Million minutes per month. Check out their Free Trial to see what makes it so different.
I’ve been a big fan of Revolabs technology ever since I had the pleasure of evaluating their microphones back in my Wainhouse Research days. While you may think that a mic is a mic, the truth is that videoconferencing environments often have unique audio challenges. Revolabs systems are specifically engineered to address these challenges, and the result is an outstanding experience. While their latest mics have the sexy appearance, ease of use, and impressive specs needed to stand out in this crowded market, their real secret weapon is their soon to be released FLX UC Conference Phones. This is a potential game changer, due to its inherent strengths, and their partnership with Cisco. This device will be the audio hub of tomorrow’s Cisco collaboration environments. It could not have been easy to win this partnership, but check out the specs on the system and you will see it was earned.
Since coming out of stealth mode last year, their “Pexip Infinity” scalable interop meeting platform has scored some major partnerships and a ton of industry accolades. At InfoComm they were demoing browser support (WebRTC and plug-in) and their own desktop client (white label-able for service provider partners). Their latest announcement regarding stronger Lync integration just adds another element to this new force in the industry.
With all the video wall vendors at InfoComm, it is hard for one to stand out. But Prysm stands out in several ways. While the details involve some tech geekery, the result is a product that looks better, and is far more energy efficient, than what you would expect. Whether it’s the tiny bezels between the screens, or the view-ability at multiple angles, or the comparatively easy setup and configuration, this is straight up future tech when compared to industry standards.
I got another chance to get a close look at the new Phoenix Spider, and it really is something for the company to be proud of. While its audio specs are the real value, you can’t deny human nature, and we all want something sexy on our meeting room tables. Their previous devices has a cool spaceship appearance, but this is on another level. More importantly, the Spider sounds as good as it looks, and its feature set and usability matches its appearance.
Wolfvision makes awesome overhead capture devices, which are a key element of many collaboration workspaces. I was pleased to see their latest models and newest features, which included a cool laser which helps you center your content, without appearing on the presentation. But I really enjoyed their app which can be used to control and share the presentation from your own personal device. It was very user friendly and powerful. Great to see another vendor being creative, innovative, and clever, rather than just selling an updated version of last year’s success.