Video Conferencing and Unified Communications

Old school video conferencing (VCS) and unified communications (UC) is often put into the same frame; as the traditional “video conference” systems are seen as a must to many business decision makers. It normally starts out when the business decides to have a video conference system. Here are the tasks often initiated:

  • Get a large, preferably 42″ LCD screen to hang on the wall in the meeting room – not to wide, not big, but a great picture!!
  • Get a high-definition camera, preferably with head tracking or movement sensors – must be neat, small, great and everything.
  • Get a conference phone set, something where we can talk on the intercom together, as we need to make meetings more virtual.
  • Get a set of tools to hang the video on the wall etc.
  • Find a video conferencing system and software to leverage the above… 7 out of 10 ends up with Skype… ?
  • A small pc; all above options need a pc to share the experience of video conferencing. It must be small, low noise and yes; must be able to leverage high-definition video and audio.
  • Cables, cables, cables. Nightmare just arrived, so find something that may hide all the cables.

While in theory this is a great opportunity to “unified communications”, let’s look on the details on the above requirements.

  • First of all: normally only sales and management use the meeting rooms which then causes an internal alignment problem when senior management needs to move to the kitchen or the degraded meeting rooms; as the development/coder team needs to make a video conference between the offshore department and the local office. likelihood of the senior management to move? Not likely… A fixed solution means fixed. You just don’t take the Philips screwdriver and move a 42″ screen to the kichen to make a call…
  • High definition means HIGH DEFINITION. You don’t get a small neat camera to deliver pictures for a 42″ screen. It is just like taking a phone from a mobile phone with 1.2 megapixels and printing it on a football field. BAD resolution, BAD choice.
  • Conference phones are often PSTN related, and not IP related, which means all the systems you just wish for, does not interlinks and you and up using 45 minutes per conference explaining where in the presentation your are, and not the purpose and content of the conference.
  • Óne pc per meeting room? I would just like to add the question of identity? Would that meeting pc be logged in with the user MEETING1@Company.Local? How does the IT agnostic senior management access the protected \\management\ share with the credentials everyone use with MEETING1 ? AAahhh sorry; roaming profiles, everybody can login to the meeting room pc’s with their own credentials… that smart or – management have their own pc, own content – you just added a USB nightmare to the meeting room; or simply that the board of directors leaves the room logged on the meeting pc, discussing lay offs in Excel for everyone to show. Great thing about centralized printing = global reach 😉
  • Software for high-definition video conference? Yeah right – take Tandberg systems and use them. This is traditional video conference systems – many-to-many participants and NOT an agile system.
  • High definition = 10 to 50 MBit/s of internet access. Add that to your offshore location in Vietnam, Ukraine or Cairo? Not in a million lightyears. High definition is for dedicated lines between offices not an internet carrier solution. Skype? Think again.
  • Which small pc have a high-definition, enterprise graphics adapter and CPU/memory to drive this? And graphics often deliver heat = sound = not a solution you would be happy about; and the elderly head of board, who cannot hear a damn thing in the meeting will only complain on the noice from your video powerplant. Do-over.
  • Cables? Take a look at a conference room with a fixed video conference system. There are cables ALL OVER THE PLACE. Not an attractive place to add customers or client.

Look carefully on the above points. We are we looking for? Agility? Business productivity? Reduction of cost? I only see cost, cost and mess. And a solution never used as it becomes to complex for anyone to use; and the quality of the high-definition is never high-definition.

Unified Communication (UC)
So Unified Communications does not supply video conference. Wrong! It’s simply lowers the barriers and makes the experience much more agile. The big difference between Video Conferencing and Unified Communications is that UC is a personal thing just like your e-mail. It is actually attached to your e-mail. Conference calls becomes video conferences are any user just call and have a video conference. From their office, their work desk or even from small meeting rooms or on the road (hotel, car etc.). Unified Communications is about moving the usage of the meeting rooms away are lower those 1-2 hour chit-chat talks with a bunch of coffee to fast, goaltending touch-bases with your colleagues. When dialing in a video conference from your desk; you automatically move from social chat (please close that Facebook window now) and a coffee break to a vigilant and pointedly collaboration. This makes the business profit from it and business becomes more productive.

Don’t we need the video conference systems then? Yes of cause. But replace the big 42″ screen, the PSTN voice bridge and the high definition camera with a Microsoft Round table stand and small screen or a projector. Give every employee a 720p camera and a headset; you suddenly turn all workdesks to sales meeting room or meeting places. If you select to eliminate your local voice central and add that option too; you don’t need to purchase deskphones and expensive devices.

Many customers I speak with tells me it is too expensive. I agree with the Roundtable device if it is only for show-off; reality is that there are a high value in the damn thing. Headsets and 720p cameras per employee, is less than $140USD in investment. What is the price of an Alcatel or Cisco Phone ? Sum it up and you would see great cost reduction, happier employees and a fix; just like on drug, when your organisation leverages Live Meeting, Office Communicator and instant collaboration.

There is a big difference on Skype, Tandberg and Unified Communications.

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