Let’s Do Video is pleased to bring you our coverage of InfoComm 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. InfoComm is often considered a must for anyone involved in North American AV and it’s easy to see why. This year’s show had a record number of exhibitors showing off all the latest technologies and attendees showed up in big numbers to see them. This year, 38,883 people attended InfoComm to receive training, see industry thought leaders, learn about the latest trends, and play with the newest gadgets – including me. Below are some of my big takeaways from this year’s exciting show.
Keynotes and Sessions
The opening ceremony was in a packed room and started out by honoring this year’s award winners. Afterwards, Stephen J. Dubner, the co-author of the Freakonomics books, took the stage for this year’s keynote. The presentation was engaging and entertaining, but left many attendees scratching their heads wondering how it applies in any way to the AV industry. It may not have been obvious, but I do think there were lessons to be learned. For example, Stephen’s first story was about gathering analytics and changing behavior in a hospital setting.
Stephen discussed how doctors need to sanitize their hands between visiting every patient to avoid spreading germs. When the doctors are surveyed, they self-report very high levels of compliance. However, when the nurses were tasked with reporting on the doctors, the numbers didn’t look so good. One of the biggest issues in AV is ensuring high levels of adoption to achieve ROI through productivity. So lesson #1, we need to take a good look at how we gather our analytics to make sure our adoption numbers are valid.
Stephen then went through the hospital’s various attempts to improve hand sanitation compliance. One method, the carrot and stick approach, has problems as doctors learned to game the system to avoid punishment and get rewards. The winning strategy was to show the doctors the implications of compliance vs non-compliance. The lesson here could be to track the success of individual teams and show your entire workforce how teams that use the tools get results.
I attended several IMCCA sessions and, as always, enjoyed hearing directly from the end users. I noted several common themes throughout the event. Rather than summarize each session, I thought I would share some of the common trends.
True UC is still elusive. During one session, an end user from a large financial firm shared a slide laying out his UC platform. I expected the slide to identify one of the many unified communications offerings on the market, whether it be Microsoft, Cisco, Mitel, Avaya, etc. Instead, I saw a slide listing over a dozen individual vendors. His “unified” solution included big players, like Polycom, Cisco, BlueJeans, Pexip, as well as a handful of smaller vendors. While this may be an extreme example, I heard similar anecdotes throughout the sessions and in my conversations on the show floor. Very few organizations are finding success with one UC solution that meets all of their collaboration needs. Hopefully the current movement towards consolidation, simplification, and roll-ups will help these vendors.
The huddle room hype is real. Over the last year, some of us in the analyst community have started to question the huddle room buzz. The term is so heavily used in marketing, that it’s starting to feel like the next “telepresence”. The discussions at InfoComm confirmed that user interest in huddle rooms is off the charts. Simon Dudley‘s IMCCA session dedicated to huddle rooms (iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud) was standing room only. (I heard estimates of over 170 attendees.) Aside from the designated session on huddle rooms, the topic kept coming up in session after session.
What really got me excited was the fact that it wasn’t just vendors talking about huddle rooms, trying to promote their latest offering. The users themselves were constantly talking about how their growing millennial workforce insists on working as teams, foregoing the solo cubical experience to huddle up in any available common area. Finding the right combination of tools and services to enable collaboration in these spaces will be a continuing challenge for our IT teams and a continuing growing market for our industry.
Workflow trumps technology. This ties into the huddle room phenomena, but goes far beyond it as well. One of the things I’ve noticed is that we’re becoming less focused on the technology itself, and more focused on how our collaborative teams are getting things done. Even in the vendor booths, there was less discussion about protocols and resolution. Instead, vendors wanted to talk about use cases and workflow.
I think the ultimate example of this is the huge success of Slack. They may not have been in attendance at the show, but their ears were certainly ringing. Slack is the fastest growing business app in history and its technology is numbingly simple. Its success is all about workflow. Traditional collaboration vendors are jumping on the bandwagon, by either offering similar workflow options or integration with Slack itself. Slack aside, the focus of almost all discussions wasn’t how the technology works, but how it’s being used.
The best part of whole huddle room craze isn’t that video has finally moved out of the boardroom, but that cool things are happening in these huddle rooms. It isn’t just the boss getting status and giving orders. It’s working teams bringing up the project on-screen and truly collaborating. In and out of huddle rooms, we’re enjoying new and more productive workflows.
Booth Visits and Vendor Briefings
Altia Systems was showing off their new PanaCast 2 Huddle Room Solution. This solution consists of their PanaCast 2 camera paired with an Intel NUC (or Compute Stick), a USB speakerphone, and a wireless keyboard. As I’ve explained in a recent webinar and previous video podcast, the PanaCast 2 offers a unique solution to the problem of trying to look around a room from a remote location. While competing solutions mainly rely upon moving cameras with difficult controls, the PanaCast 2 captures the entire room in 4K resolution. Remote users can then pan and zoom to any part of the image on their mobile device or desktop. In other words, you look around the PanaCast 2 video image just as you would look around a standard digital picture image.
This makes it the only solution on the market (that I am aware of) allowing each remote participant to individually look at a different area within the room from a single camera. With other solutions, all remote participants must share the same exact view. By pairing the PanaCast 2 with a small PC and speakerphone, it becomes a complete huddle room system.
At the booth, Aurangzeb Khan (Co-Founder, President & CEO), explained how the PanaCast 2 was built with plenty of overhead in its processing power. This has allowed Altia to continuously improve the camera for existing customers via software updates to improve the experience. It’s almost as if they can give the cameras a complete “brain transplant” at no cost. Most cameras or hardware peripherals can not offer this level of future-proofing.
Many cloud video vendors are offering Skype4Business interop in one form or another. However, interop is one thing and true integration is another. At the booth, Nihal Mirashi (Senior Manager, Product Marketing) demoed BlueJeans‘ latest integration for me. By adding a BlueJeans button to the interface, any Skype4B chat session can now be upgraded to a business quality BlueJeans video call at the click of a button. The bigger story at BlueJeans is the development of their Enterprise Video Cloud. This promises to be more than just a videoconferencing service. It’s a full business video platform including streaming, recording, analytics, etc. This topic is so exciting, I’ve actually written a white paper that goes into more detail. To learn more, click here.
Big hardware video vendors have had to reinvent themselves in one way or another in response to the massive software/cloud revolution of recent years. I spoke with Adam Moulden (Vice President, North America) to learn how Lifesize managed this transition. The Lifesize reinvention was particularly significant. They went from being a pure hardware play, to having a heavy focus on their cloud solution (although they do still sell hardware). As part of this shift, the company had to dramatically downsize. Sometimes change isn’t easy. However, looking at it through the lens of a “re-startup” competing with other small, agile, software firms, Lifesize is doing quite well. Its cloud video offering is solid, high quality, and feature rich. Just as importantly, the company is growing by adding both customers and staff.
Lifesize recently announced a new service level agreement (SLA) to guarantee the reliability and availability of the Lifesize Cloud. Lifesize has maintained a rapid development cycle, adding new features at a quick pace. However, they recently have been focusing on reinforcing the quality and reliability of their service in order to be able to offer this new SLA. This allows them to position their service as part of the integral day to day communications of their enterprise customers.
When the consumer PC peripheral giant entered our space with their ConferenceCam series, we were more than skeptical. What does a consumer product company know about business video? Turns out, they knew exactly what the market was looking for. Affordable, high quality, solutions ready for huddle rooms. Their success has been astounding. After the Enterprise Connect show, I reported that Logitech had passed Polycom to become the number two player in our space (by units sold). No one would have predicted that a few years ago. Today, I can report that they have now passed Cisco, making them the number one vendor of videoconferencing systems. At the booth, I briefed with Joan Vandermate (Head of Marketing) and Robin Raulf-Sager (Head of Global Communications) who were showing off their new ConferenceCam Kit.
The big announcement from Logitech at the show was the expansion of the Logitech Collaboration Program. Logitech understands that today’s working teams want much more than mere videoconferencing in their huddle rooms. They want complete collaboration environments. Logitech is actively helping their customers by building this partner program with complementary cloud services and other hardware peripheral vendors. These partnerships are working to create integrated, complete collaboration solutions. From a business point of view, this is a brilliant move for Logitech. The 15 vendor partners in this program are now effectively a Logitech ConferenceCam sales force. Betting odds are that Logitech will not only maintain their recently achieved position, but will further increase the gap.
Media Network Services has taken our industry by storm racking up partnership after partnership. Some of the biggest video clouds in our industry are actually powered by their QoS.VC service. Also impressive, a rapidly growing number of services are now offering recording powered by their REC.VC service.
The StarLeaf development team has been working overtime. Fortunately, Hellene Garcia and William MacDonald were there to give me the scoop. On the hardware side, they have a new addition to their line of Skype4Business room solutions. The new GTm 5140 Huddle doesn’t have as many integrator ports on the back as the GTm 5250, which is designed for larger meeting rooms. However, it offers the same ease of use and native Skype4B experience at a price suited for the huddle room market. On the software side, they now have a WebRTC client. This is a big game changer for StarLeaf, in my opinion. Their powerful interop cloud makes it easy for callers to join using any existing hardware or software endpoint. However, guests with no endpoint were forced to take a few extra steps and install their Breeze app. By joining the “click this URL to join” crowd StarLeaf has vastly increased their ability to gain viral growth.
Other news from StarLeaf includes their new UC OpenCloud platform. This is a clever and strategic play. StarLeaf has a powerful interop cloud, which makes them a natural partner for vendors of business quality endpoints. However, since they also sell StarLeaf video endpoints, other hardware vendors may have concerns about promoting the StarLeaf cloud. By offering a brand-neutral version of their cloud, StarLeaf can now partner and support these other hardware vendors without upsetting the marketing folks. Other new developments including their Encore recording service, their Maestro Management Platform, POTS connectivity, cloud endpoint subscriptions, and Slack integration (a big LDV favorite). I have word under NDA that their developers have more to come in 2016, so stay tuned.
The Tely 200 is enjoying great success, due to its consumer level ease of use and business level manageability. Tely continues to rack up partnerships and customers. In my Enterprise Connect coverage, I expressed my appreciation for their Tely Touch tablet app. Video users do not like videoconferencing remote controls, no matter how well designed. Everyone likes controlling things with apps on their mobile devices. At InfoComm, the Tely team shared the latest iteration of their app, designed for the mobile phone. This takes ease of use for the Tely 200 to the next level. I expect to see Tely continue to grow as it solidifies its reseller/integrator relationships and gains awareness with customers.
VDO360 has gained a well earned reputation as a trendsetter in the PTZ camera space. They were one of the first on the market with a USB PTZ camera, the Compass. Today, USB PTZ cameras are dominating the space. VDO360 was also one of the first (if not the first) to bundle their camera with an Intel NUC, creating the PTZPC product category. While several competitors now offer a camera NUC bundle, the VDO360 Clearwater is arguably the most well integrated of these solutions, as the NUC and camera are physically housed in the same unit. VDO360 has been working very closely with the Intel team to position the Clearwater as not just a camera solution, but a collaboration hub featuring Intel’s Unite software solution. The Clearwater has won multiple awards, including an InfoComm 2015 Best of Show from AVNetwork.
The trend-setters at VDO360 are not content to rest on their laurels and are continuing to push the envelope. Their latest innovation involves speaker tracking. I’ve repeatedly complained about what I see as the biggest issue with PTZ cameras. Namely, the fact that people rarely bother to use the remote control in-room, and remote participants almost never use far end camera controls. The result is that these cameras generally are set with a compromised view of the room and never changed. Cisco and Polycom have addressed this issue with intelligent cameras that robotically track and follow the active speaker. However, these solutions are priced out of the range of the huddle room. VDO360 is developing a capability for their camera which will work similarly in the huddle room space. I saw an extremely alpha version of this capability at InfoComm (CEO Dan Freeman said it’s only been under development for 6 weeks), but it was already functional. The tracking-enabled version of their camera will be called the Navigator. Already making waves, it won an InfoComm 2016 Best of Show from AVTechnology.
Videxio had a slew of announcements at InfoComm including enhancements to their IE/Safari browser support, expanded endpoint registration capabilities, the addition of local PoPs in Canada (allowing Canadians to avoiding running traffic through the US and triggering Patriot Act concerns), workflow improvements, and simplification of their subscription offerings. Karl Hantho (President, Americas), and Tom-Erik Lia (CEO), filled me in on the details and shared stats regarding their continuing stratospheric growth.
I was particularly impressed by a demo showing the power of their partnership with Polycom. Out of the box, the Polycom Debut endpoint is configured to self-register and provision itself to the Videxio cloud (which powers the Polycom RealPresence cloud). Tom-Erik showed me how easy it was, taking a fresh Debut and going through the provisioning wizard in just a few minutes. Thankfully, the days of assigning IP addresses and gateways may be finally coming to an end!
Zoom continues to defy all expectations with its incredible viral grassroots growth. They regularly add features and capabilities (including three screen support, touch-based room solutions, and a new plugin for the Intel Unite solution). However, their real strength is their combination of affordability, ease of use, and an extremely pleasing user interface. At the booth, I briefed with Janine Pelosi (Head of Marketing) and Janelle Raney (Product Marketing Executive), who brought me up to speed on Zoom’s forward motion.
Despite Zoom’s enviable success, I think they’re just starting to reach their potential. Many of their own users see it as an affordable solution and haven’t realized its full suite of capabilities yet. I recently hosted a webinar on the Zoom platform. One attendee typed a question saying he was a Zoom user and wanted to know if they were planning to add annotation support for screen share. This feature already exists within Zoom! The user simply assumed it wasn’t available since it’s an advanced feature and Zoom is such an accessible service. For that matter, many users don’t realize that Zoom can be used for to stream webinars to large audiences. Not only does it do the job, but I found its setup and registration engine to be far more customizable and easy to use than many legacy webinar services.
Zoom has just partnered with Let’s Do Video as our newest Gold Sponsor, so I will have the opportunity to really run it through its paces and share its full capabilities with you over the next few months.
This unique camera solution upgrades any existing meeting room by providing a more immersive experience. Array works with your existing codecs, so no rip and replace is required. Through clever camera angles and video processing, it changes the typical “bowling alley” view of the meeting room to a more appropriate “across the table” experience. It’s one of those solutions where a demo is really required to understand the full value. The team has added a number of new capabilities to the solution. In addition to a better experience during screen share sessions, Array’s recent updates include the ability to have the Array experience in both directions, even when only one site has an Array camera. The company has lined up several reseller alliances and is looking to continue building momentum in 2016.
AVI-SPL‘s customers look to the integration giant to solve all of their collaboration needs. Often that means they won’t be happy simply being handed off to a video service provider for services like VMR, scheduling, streaming, recording, management, or MS Exchange integration. They want it all from one place so they have a trusted number to call if they have any questions or need any support. AVI-SPL is ready to answer this call with a slew of new collaboration service enhancements. I chatted with Frank Mehr (Senior Vice President of Research and Development), who explained how their Symphony management platform has been redesigned from the ground up to support the needs of today’s video environments.
Cisco Spark is continuing to gain steam. I even created a Spark room as a back channel to share thoughts with other industry analysts during the show. However, Spark wasn’t the only interesting thing at the Cisco booth this year. Angie Mistretta (Director, Collaboration Solutions Marketing) showed me the new workflow on the DX70 and DX80 desktop video endpoints. They no longer run on Android and now have the same UI and user experience as the rest of the Cisco video suite. Consolidation, consistency, and simplification continue to be the vision for Cisco hardware. I also got a close look at the new Cisco PresenterTrack which provides a leading experience for remote lecture attendance (please see my recent industry briefings article for more details).
In my opinion, the biggest story at Cisco is how the recent $700 million purchase of Acano is shaping up. I spoke with several Acano team members and other industry analysts. They all confirmed that things are moving along swimmingly. Sometimes an acquisition can be rough. Often companies have very different cultures and visions, which can clash and gum up the works. The original purchase of Tandberg by Cisco had its fair share of pain points (although it certainly doesn’t rank amongst some of the truly awful mergers we’ve experienced). Although this acquisition involves some of those very same Tandberg folks, the atmosphere this time is very different. Visions are aligned and the Acano developers are happily and productively working alongside the Cisco team. Everyone is confident that the August target for full assimilation will be reached.
According to the insiders, a big part of the success of this merger is the mutual respect and alignment of the team leaders. Rowan Trollope and OJ Winge have a great working dynamic and their teams are following suit. My real interest will be in seeing how they blend Acano into Spark. Stay tuned as that story develops.
CEO Daryl Hutchings really impressed me with his latest innovation. While the world waits to see how Cisco will integrate Spark with Acano, Daryl took a shot at it himself with Collaboration Squared’s Acano-powered Ubiety service. The integration is actually far more developed than I expected when Daryl first offered to brief me with the details. I assumed that from within Spark, I could type a slash command that would generate a link to a temporary Acano room. In other words, I thought it would be like the basic Slack integrations with various cloud meeting services. However, I learned it’s even more advanced than that.
Whenever a new Spark room is created, a permanent mirroring Ubiety Acano room is automatically created. No manual slash command is necessary. As soon as a Ubiety user creates a Spark room, the accompanying Acano room is created and all members of the Spark room are made members of the Acano room. The information needed to invite guests to the Acano room is posted in the Spark room. In future versions, Daryl plans on having the chat in Spark mirrored into the Acano chat and vice versa. Even some Acano/Cisco developers were caught at the Collaboration Squared booth taking notes!
Compunetix is known for its carrier-grade, high-capacity conferencing servers. While they’ve made a name for themselves in audio conferencing, they support many service providers with video capabilities as well. I was particularly impressed by a very unique use case that Eric Murphy shared with me. One service provider using Compunetix hosts a daily video call for a customer with 300 or more connections. Many platforms simply couldn’t handle that many connections, nor provide the manageability needed to control such a meeting.
Condeco recently acquired myVRM which fleshed out its scheduling and analytics offerings. Condeco already allowed users to schedule rooms and physical assets, whereas myVRM manages meeting software and technology. Ken Scaturro gave me a run through of the combined offerings. One thing that I thought was particularly cool is their occupancy sensors. These little devices are installed under the meeting room table at each seat. The analytics gathered can help your facilities team better understand their true room usage and how it relates to reservation status. If one person is booking a 10 person room for his/her own use, you’ll know about it and be able to stop that waste of resources.
It’s important to analyze our collaboration environments to ensure our teams are achieving full productivity benefits and maintaining ROI. Condeco not only helps gather these analytics, but its scheduling and management capabilities make the tools themselves more usable. The result is that your team spends less time getting the meeting started and more time getting things done.
The lines continue to blur between the various forms and functions of business video. Discover Video understands this and offers a single portal (their DEVOS video server) for streaming, recording, and digital signage. Why require your customers to learn to use different products for different functions? Mike Savic shared that Discover is also releasing a web conferencing solution, further expanding their business video platform. At the booth, they showed me how their “StreamPumps” can receive and cache video from the main server and share it with local branches. This is a great way to lower bandwidth use and make your network more efficient.
When the hottest URL in the conferencing space starts offering video, it’s a big deal for our industry. While their video service is still very new, the team was able to report that initial customers are quickly adopting the service. The big message from FreeConferenceCall is that “free” doesn’t have to be a dirty word in the video industry. Their focus is on continued development to ensure their solution has the quality and reliability that business video users demand.
HD Technology Partners
As we spend more and more time on video, we’re becoming increasingly self conscious about the way we look on video. In the early days of Skype, it wasn’t an issue. When you’re a pixilated blur, your flaws are hidden. In today’s 1080p world, it’s a different story. Unfortunately, bad lighting enhances our flaws. Ask any expert in advertising or marketing photography/video; it’s all about the lighting. There are a few new solutions on the market to address desktop and mobile VC lighting, but only HD Technology Partners was exhibiting at the Logitech booth. Logitech doesn’t choose its hardware partners lightly, so the HD Illuminator must be something special.
What I find most promising is that the light isn’t glaring or distracting. In other words, it doesn’t hurt your eyes even though it’s right in your face. It also does the job. I’ve seen it demoed throughout the development process and it’s a vast improvement over typical room lighting. The latest version is rechargeable and easily clips on to webcams or mobile devices.
It’s always great to welcome a company of Intel‘s stature to our little corner of the AV industry. The Intel Unite offering is worth learning about and paying attention to. Like many great technologies (including Spark and Twitter), Unite wasn’t originally created with the intention of being a marketed product, but as an in-house collaboration solution. In other words, Intel create this to solve their own collaboration issues, but realized they had something worth sharing. I got a quick look at the solution from Brian Talbott (Product Marketing Manager), while Chad Constant (Director, Business Client Platform Group) gave me the background story.
Previously, attendees in Intel development meetings would bring their own laptops with their work in progress, but struggled to share it with the team. In a telepresence room, they quickly established a video connection, but wasted time connecting their laptops via dongle-based solutions in order to share their screens. Unite was created to solve this problem.
Quite simply, Unite is software running on a NUC connected to the network and a monitor in the room. When it’s started, the monitor will display a connection code. Users then run an app on their laptops and type in the code. The result is an instant and wireless connection, where they can share their content on the monitor and with other users connected to Unite. Multiple users on multiple laptops can share at the same time. Intel first installed this in a few rooms, but once the executives got to try it, they soon demanded it in their meeting rooms. It quickly grew to ~50 rooms within Intel, at which point IT took over its deployment. It’s currently in 1,000 rooms with plans to expand to 3,500! At this point, they’re able to get substantial metrics on these deployments and determined that meetings are starting 75% faster. If Intel is able to work that much more efficiently, we may have to update Moore’s Law.
Additional capabilities are already being added. Unite can be used to join Skype4B meetings, adding Intel to the short list of Skype4B room system vendors. Also, Unite can be used for screen sharing and sharing files, saving meeting attendees the trouble of remembering to email files after a meeting concludes. Guests can connect via Wi-Fi directly to the NUK. So, if you invite a guest to your meeting room, they can join the Unite session without you having to allow them access to your network. The possibilities are really limitless as the capabilities can be varied from room to room. It can even be configured to adjust room lighting or other physical equipment, similar to a Crestron appliance.
Intel has already started partnering with other vendors in regards to Unite. Zoom just announced it can be added to Unite via a plugin. In addition, Intel is working with several camera vendors to create Unite hubs, including Altia Systems, Logitech, and VDO360. I think this is a very clever approach to a common problem in collaboration spaces. Accordingly, I expect to be hearing a lot more about Unite in the months to come.
As I mentioned in my coverage of the keynote (above), analytics should be a focus for any IT professional looking to get the best ROI from an AV investment. Kramer is answering this call with its new control platform. In addition to providing passive analytics, it allows for active control of AV systems from a cloud-based solution. Kramer is a key player in the InfoComm community. Their President, David Bright, won the Mackey Barron Distinguished Achievement Award this year. They also hosted a cocktail hour to thank their customers and employees, which was an excellent opportunity to share thoughts about trends and developments with other InfoComm insiders.
I briefed with Anders Eikenes (CTO/Co-Founder) and Heidi Frost Eriksen (Vice President of Sales & Marketing) at their location within the Pexip booth. The kubicam is designed to hit that sweetspot for huddle room collaboration. Webcams and laptop cameras often aren’t able to provide the quality and experience you need, and PTZ cameras can cost $1,000 or more. At $499, the kubicam is just right. Meeting room quality in a plug-and-play, webcam-like form factor. This company is very new, but judging by the buzz at their display, we’ll be hearing a lot more from them.
Ofer Shapiro changed the game when he co-founded Vidyo about a decade ago. The first true business quality video call that I ever made from a desktop PC over the unprotected public internet was a Vidyo call. Ofer recently handed off the reins at Vidyo and went on a little sabbatical. However, the call of innovation and technology soon brought him back to our space.
To be clear, his newest interest is very different from Vidyo. Whereas Vidyo addressed the remote communications aspect of meetings, this time his focus is on local (in-room) collaboration. He’s the director of a new company called Layer Logic. Ofer didn’t contribute to the creation of the idea/technology here, as he did at Vidyo. However, his involvement as a director is notable, considering his experience leading a major player in our space for over a decade. At InfoComm, he introduced me to Layer Logic’s CEO, Rich Reiss, and gave me a quick demo of the solution.
In the simplest terms, many meeting/collaboration rooms have a nice big touch screen, but no easy way to share and work with your apps on that screen. Layer Logic is designed to solve that problem. By touching the screen, you bring up a very simple UI widget that allows you to pick a source (or multiple sources) to share on the screen. Then, intuitive touch controls allow you to move around the various shared applications. The real differentiator is the fact that you’re not only displaying these apps, but that you can work with them. In other words, you’re not just sharing, but controlling. If you bring up an excel worksheet, you can enter data into the worksheet right there on the screen. So, for example, an agile-scrum team can start by bringing up their VersionOne account in a window to manage their scrum. At the same time, they can bring up their Trello or Kanban board on another window to track project progress. They can then add a window with their in-progress code in another window to dig into whatever bugs are blocking development. As they fix the bugs, they can update their VersionOne and Trello accordingly. It supports multiple touch, so several people can be working on various applications on the same touch screen at the same time.
This is a solution that really needs to be seen to be understood. I highly recommend watching this short YouTube demo video to get a much better understanding. Now that we’ve figured out how to connect to our meeting rooms, we need to look at ways of improving our collaborative workflow within these rooms. Layer Logic represents the kind of thinking that will lead the next stage in collaborative technology. I plan on following them closely, so be sure to check back in at Let’s Do Video for the latest updates.
Industry insiders have been closely following the development of the Meeting Owl under NDA for several months now. This very interesting product has the potential to really shake things up. I’ve been in touch with Dan Marchetto (Vice President of Sales & Marketing) for a while and had a chance to meet with him to see a prototype of the Meeting Owl at InfoComm. The buzz around this is growing quickly. Every time Dan pulled it out from his backpack, it gathered a crowd.
So what is the Meeting Owl? It’s the brainchild of Max Makeev (CEO) and Mark Schnittman (CTO). Max and Mark developed their robotic chops at iRobot and are taking that thinking to address collaboration and videoconferencing issues in the huddle room. The device is roughly the same size as an Amazon Echo and runs on Android. That means it potentially could run any number of meeting and personal assistance applications.
In my opinion, the real genius is in the camera. From my examination of the prototype, it appeared to be a single, fish-eye lens pointed straight up. This allows it to capture an entire 360° view of the room and then digitally manipulate the image any way it sees fit. While many details are still NDA, the potential is clear. It could be used to show the room panoramically or use voice tracking to pan and zoom in on any location in the room. It can potentially display any part of the room, without the typical PTZ distractions or having to stitch together images from multiple cameras. I look forward to sharing more information as it becomes available.
Pexip has clearly been gaining momentum. In my discussions with users, I always ask what platform they’re using and the number mentioning Pexip this year was notable. They featured a workflow demo at the booth that showed how you can join a Pexip meeting in under 4 seconds by leveraging the NFC capabilities in the Logitech GROUP solution. Also, Pexip is now on version 12 of their Infinity platform, which shows how agile their development team is. These aren’t incremental upgrades, but 12 true full version releases.
Phoenix Audio Technologies
The Phoenix team is continuing to build momentum behind their Condor Beamforming Microphone Array. Customers looking to clean up their conference rooms love the idea of getting the microphone (and its associated cables) off the table and on the wall. The Condor is particularly well suited to video-enabled rooms (where it can be placed up by the monitor/display) and huddle room collaboration spaces. As a result, they have racked up a number of partnerships with other collaboration vendors, including BroadSoft, Crestron, PTZOptics, VDO360, and Zoom. To keep things fun and exciting (and to raise awareness for conservation), they had an actual live condor at their booth. While they did display their Spider speakerphones at the show, I don’t think anyone missed the giant tarantulas they brought last year.
Last year, BCS Global merged with Video Guidance to form Pinnaca. I briefed with Dan Driscoll (Director of Marketing & Communications) to learn more. The newly formed company is finding a number of synergies as it works to offer managed, cloud-based collaboration services to its customers. They’re enjoying particular success with their Acano-powered offering and recently added MNS.VC powered recording capabilties.
The Polycom booth is always well trafficked and full of very interested show attendees. The Centro gets the bulk of the attention, as it remains one of the showpieces of our industry. Although it’s priced out of the range of the typical user, it is being installed in some high profile customer locations. The cool thing about the Centro display at InfoComm was how Polycom coupled it with its acoustic fence technology. Remote attendees meeting with us on the Centro claimed they could hear us clearly, without hearing the background noise of the crowd at InfoComm. Of course, the Debut and Trio were also drawing a crowd at the booth. These new offerings are priced for the SMB space and have huddle room ease of use, with the expected Polycom quality and support.
Andy Cuneo (Senior Manager of Corporate Communications) showed me around the booth and shared the latest news with me. Andy showed me how Polycom is continuing to leverage its Microsoft relationship in regards to the Polycom RealConnect. This new offering is a one-click-to-call solution for joining Skype4B meetings. Other vendors offer Skype4B interop, but there’s generally some compromise. RealConnect not only makes it easy to create and join the meeting, but ensures bidirectional screen share works as expected. It even offers full roster support, listing all attendees in the call and allowing the meeting creator to drop disruptive participants. I also appreciate Andy recently setting up a meeting for me to gain a better understanding of their Clariti offering. Please see my recent industry briefings article for the full details.
Finally, I know everyone is interested in the big merger news. Unfortunately, any news on that front must remain NDA for now. Please check back for updates as this story continues to develop.
Prysm came into our industry with its amazing wall display hardware. Sharp images, super thin bezels, and low power consumption set it apart. Earlier this year, they became a collaboration player with their new Prysm Enterprise application suite. Rather than rely on software partners to figure out what to do with their amazing displays, they created their own solution. The goal was to allow both local and remote users to easily pop their content up on the screen in persistent visual workplaces. One prevalent message at this year’s show was that Prysm Enterprise software, and its visual workplaces, are not limited to Prysm screens. The software is available separately and can be used on your touchscreen of choice or on a Prysm screen. Also, they were announcing new integrations with Microsoft, making it easier to use OneDrive and Office365 in their visual workplaces.
I’ve always been a fan of the Revolabs high quality wireless microphones and speakerphone solutions. While they always have a few new products to share, what I really appreciated was their new focus on use cases and verticals. With such a variety of solutions, it could cause some customers to be confused and wonder which products they should get for their environment. Revolabs had stations set up in their booth designated by use case (huddle room, meeting room, lecture, etc), with the appropriate products at each station. Randy Lee (Director of Strategic and Channel Marketing) walked me through the stations and confirmed that Revolabs will continue not only to develop new solutions, but to help customers match the products to their needs.
The development team at Synergy SKY has been working overtime and had a big announcement for InfoComm this year. They now have an enterprise offering. Previously, their solution was designed solely for service providers, offering analytics and management over their customers’ video environments. However, enterprises managing their own video environments also need the kinds of tools Synergy SKY provides. The new “Enterprise Edition” offering has been tailored in many ways to meet the needs of individual companies, as compared to service providers. For instance, it’s constructed as a hybrid cloud solution, with all customer data stored on premise for security and privacy. For now, the offering provides reporting and analytics, but they plan to soon add the rest of the functionality (scheduling, management, etc) currently found in their service provider solution.
Industry insiders Mike Brandofino and Laurie Berg had something new and unexpected for us at InfoComm this year – a fresh take on digital signage. The Visualz solution is designed to be a real game changer in the space by eliminating many of the barriers to digital signage. Traditional digital signage is a heavy capex investment. Each monitor requires an expensive decoder box and 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.
It 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 educations 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.
Mike and Laurie have a lot of experience with the integrator/reseller side of our industry, so they designed the solution to be manageable by channel partners. It’s up to the customer how much they want to manage themselves or outsource. Visualz was getting a lot of attention at the show, so expect to be hearing more about them soon.
Full Disclosure: Several Let’s Do Video sponsors were exhibiting at InfoComm 2016. LDV strives to provide neutral, third-party coverage of sponsors and non-sponsors in our day-to-day writing, as well as event coverage. Sponsors are listed at the top of the “Vendor Briefings” section above (the ones with logo headers). However, everyone that we found interesting and had time to brief with was covered. None of the content of this article has been paid for or pre-approved by any vendor or sponsor. Apologies to those I missed. Let’s set up next year’s briefings early!