Ofer Shapiro, the CEO of videoconferencing vendor Vidyo, recently wrote an open letter to Wainhouse Research on Vidyo's blog. It commented on a Wainhouse report relating to Cisco's future architecture and congratulated Wainhouse for saying that Cisco, and the rest of the industry are finally waking up and following Vidyo's lead. (You decide if you agree with that spin).
The problem is that Vidyo has developed a new way to do the same old thing.
Replacing a hardware MCU with a "Vidyo Router" doesn’t solve the REAL problem, which is improving people’s ability to collaborate in an intuitive and cost effective way.
Where are Vidyo and others missing the boat?
- Presence -- Presence is a buddy list that shows who you are connected to and whether or not they are currently available. We all owe a debt to ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, Skype, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and others who created a consumer expectation of Presence, and being able to reach out to a contact with one click. People now bring that expectation to work and enterprise communication platforms need to catch up.
- Escalation -- If you have Presence and the ability to engage at different levels: starting with text chat, moving to audio, immersive video, app sharing, white board sharing, etc. depending on what makes sense for each particular interaction, you have an effective solution and what VeaMea believes will drive “Videoconferencing 3.0.”
- One Solution -- A friend often tells me that Polycom and Tandberg can do everything that VeaMea can. The difference is that we put everything into one package with one interface. Other solutions tend to use a cafeteria approach that makes users learn multiple interfaces, and IT support a patchwork of boxes.
- Interoperability -- To roll out a business grade solution, you need to leverage the existing network and desktop assets, to interoperate with traditional H.323 videoconferencing, phone systems and LDAP, have strong security and IT management tools, and increasingly to operate on a variety of tablet and mobile clients. Not a lot of organizations want to throw out everything they have now and migrate to a new platform. More often, adoption is an evolution than a revolution.
To be successful, any company has to focus its product on the core business problem it is trying to solve -- in this case to make it easy for people to communicate in a natural and "in person" fashion despite distance -- and not fall in love with its particular technical implementation, because the technology changes rapidly.
I had a call today with a guy who works for a large consumer electronics manufacturer. Let's call him Philip Sony (to protect the innocent).
Philip does R&D for tablets and smartphones, and we were discussing how the VeaMea video collaboration platform might be an asset to enable interaction of people from anywhere to anywhere. Philip is an interesting guy, with a massive, deep pocket organization with global reach behind him...I was lucky he took time to speak with me!
I mentioned that another part of his organization had developed an enterprise video conferencing codec, and that our software could be part of the solution that connects their codec to every desktop, tablet and smartphone in the enterprise ecosystem, securely, with IT firmly in control (as they typically want to be), and with the ease of use that keeps training and support costs low over time.
He asked if I could tell him the name of the group that had developed the codec, because their company is sooooooo big (How big is it?); it is so big that different groups can be developing video conferencing and collaboration architectures, and forget that another division of their company might be very useful to involve in the discussion. So I guess it was good for Philip to speak with me too.
If ever there were an advertisement for why a large organization should have VeaMea on every desktop to enable cross-silo communication, this is it.
So the big question: if I introduce these two guys (even though they both work for the same company and I don't work there), can I collect a finder's fee on everything they produce together ?
OK, that isn't really the big question. The big questions is: would you like to learn more about how software for video conferencing and collaboration can help your organization to be more nimble, more efficient and more effective?
A lot of people have gotten excited by the release of video conferencing on the iPhone 4 with Facetime and Skype. Having used them, I have to say it is a lot of fun.
The excitement has led a lot of video conferencing professionals and prospective clients to ask if VeaMea or other business-class video conferencing and collaboration software runs on Android, or iOS. The short answer is no, not yet. The longer answer requires thinking about what makes sense given today's technology.
What makes Sense on Smart Phones
A one to one call on a smart phone is no doubt a useful feature, but is a small piece of the value of enterprise video conferencing platforms. Some features transfer easily, for example allowing people to be logged in so their presence/status is viewable by colleagues, and engaging in text chat or voice interaction are an obvious place to start. Smartphones can also be brought into a traditional video conference as audio only participants through a SIP Gateway. But what about true multi-point video conferencing ?
Multi-point video conferencing on Smartphones
Should video conferencing vendors develop one to one, "good enough video" applications for smart phones, or remain true to their high quality video roots and stay off these platforms until the platforms are ready to support this level of interaction?
Imagine the image from an iPhone camera projected onto your 60" Polycom OTX HD display. Not a pretty picture I am willing to bet. Or imagine the background noise from your car, airport, internet cafe, etc. being sent back to your colleagues in the board room at headquarters.
Further, if you have a five person call, do you really want to see 5 x 1/2 inch images of your colleagues on your smartphone? If someone wants to share a presentation, spreadsheet or other content, is a 3.5 inch screen really a useful way to view it ?
Finally, does your smart phone have the bandwidth and processing power to handle a multi-party video conference or collaboration session without being overwhelmed ?
The trends are moving in the right directions: more power and bandwidth are available with each new release. The day will come fairly quickly when the smartphone will be able to be a video conferencing endpoint. The lingering question is: do you want it to be?
Tablet Video Conferencing and Collaboration
Tablets like the iPad, Samsung Galaxy and Motorola XOOM offer most of the same challenges in terms of processing power, but cameras on each side are becoming standard and the screen size is improved relative to what a smartphone provides. We see tablets being a much more likely entrypoint into multi-point video conferencing and collaboration.
What do you think the role of smartphones and tablets should be in enterprise video conferencing and collaboration ? Comments Welcome...
We talk to a lot of people about video conferencing and collaboration. The ones who aren't looking to adopt a solution right now say some or all of the following:
Video Conferencing is really cool technology and I like using it...when it works. But it's too complicated for most end users, too expensive and too hard to manage in the organization.
So how can you make sure that the really cool technology works, isn't too complicated, too expensive or hard to manage? i.e. How do you get Return on Investment (ROI) by reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) ?
1) The Network Effect
Expand Your Presence -- move video conferencing and collaboration beyond the handful of tightly scheduled conference rooms and onto as many desktops as possible. Why ? The more people who have access to communication and collaboration tools, the more valuable the tools become. Equally important, the more pervasive video collaboration is in the organization, the more time everyone spends working and not travelling (down the hall, across the street, across town, across country, across the globe) to meet.
2) The OTHER Network Effect
Video conferencing and collaboration are different from a lot of other business tools in that they depend on real-time transmission of the data for a high quality user experience. Low bandwidth or poor quality bandwidth (jitter on the network) can destroy the meeting experience. A collaboration tool that can operate in modest bandwidth while retaining high quality will deliver the user experience benefits and make video collaboration "work" for your user community.
3) Video Conferencing Hardware
Some vendors sell all the pieces of the video conferencing solution as a matched set. That can be helpful if you are starting from scratch, although it also tends to be expensive. However, a "complete set" is redundant if you have existing monitors, projectors, desktops, laptop, etc. that can support video conferencing as a "plug-in" application, rather than a standalone solution.
4) Licensing Costs
Video conferencing vendors license their products in different ways. For some, any user who is turned on and available to receive a call occupies a license "seat." For others, anyone can be connected and available, but you only occupy a license seat when you are connected to a call. This encourages Network Effect #1 above.
The other question about licenses is whether you are licensing each feature separately. This can be important because if you buy firewall traversal licenses separately from multipoint video conferencing licenses, you have the unfortunate choice between overbuying licenses and increasing the administrative burden of watching each type of traffic to make sure you are not inhibiting user's communication due to license restrictions.
5) Video Collaboration Functionality
Video conferencing equipment can do a lot of different things: including presence, video conference, desktop share, media share, firewall traversal, IM, file transfer, webinars, testing, voting, scheduling and integration with other systems like LDAP or SIP Phones. Do you need extra boxes, extra licenses, extra storage servers, custom integration services to use these features or are they just there?
Integrating your video conferencing and collaboration system with Microsoft OCS/Lync, your SIP Phone system, or having a video bridge that allows interoperability with systems from other vendors will give you more options for using the platform you have to communicate and collaborate, or more simply to get stuff done.
Download our Decision Guide: 10 Things to Consider to help you evaluate the right solution for your organization.
Any other things you would include in a list of key ROI drivers ? Comments Welcome !
An interesting discussion has popped up on LinkedIn in the Video Conferencing Professionals Group. Someone asked for advice about software-based video conferencing solutions and said he wanted to make a list of what was available in the marketplace.
Many users and vendors chimed in, offering names of packages, points of view, experiences, all the things that one might expect. And then the discussion heated up a little (as one might expect ?).
My read is that there is a basic distinction that is being lost in the noise when people answer the question: "What is Telepresence?"
If you ask an engineer who works on video, it has a pretty specific meaning and it has implications for standards, codecs, lines of resolution, bandwidth, and more. This point of view led one contributor to write:
"If we want to be honest, many companies are very deceptive about their features, approaches, functionality and pricing --
To illustrate. One company on this very thread suggests that its a Software based solution that promotes ease of use -- high definiton and H.264 for multi-party conferencing and operable as a SaaS or cloud based solution --
If you believe that, then you should also believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy."
In reality, he may be right. H.264 usually means a lot of bandwidth PER CONNECTION, and a 10-way call = 10x a lot of bandwidth. So is the company peddling fairy tales ? Since they were not identified by name it is hard to have an opinion.
But what if the company in question said: "We're flexible, we let you work with the tools and devices you want to work with, we can work in a cloud/SaaS model, we can do telepresence quality, we have collaboration tools, and more !" This may all be true, just not all true AT THE SAME TIME. Is it misleading, deceptive, etc. ?
I say no. Here's why. Back to the question of "What is Telepresence?" If you ask 1 million people who are NOT video engineers...
...you will get a variety of answers from an empty stare and shoulder shrug, to guesses about holograms and video conferencing. 99.99% don't care about the standards and codecs and such. (Disclaimer: statistic completely made up for emphasis, not empirically derived)
What do the 99.99% care about ? Communication and Collaboration.
- Can I sit down at my desk (or conference room) and use a tool to communicate with people?
- Is it intuitive enough for "everyone" to use?
- Can I invite people who don't have my brand of system into a meeting?
- Can I reduce travel?
- Can I overcome the limitations of voice-only communication?
- Will it work reliably?
- Can I manage it?
- Can I share my desktop?
- Can I chat?
- Can I schedule a meeting?
- Can I run a Webinar?
- How do I know the other party is ready?
- How will this integrate into my existing networks/security policies/applications?
- How much does it cost?
The 99.99% don't actually care about what the technology is, they care about what it does.
Who really benefits when you put true high definition on a video-phone with a 7" screen?
Better question: Who benefits when you put sharp, clear video on laptops, desktops, tablets, in conference rooms and clouds and share communication capabilities among all these platforms? A boatload of people. (Inappropriately graphic statement avoided)
So back to the question: "What is Telepresence?" Is it the definition that the .01% know to be correct and that the name was invented to distinguish, or SHOULD IT BE the "like I am there" communication capability that the 99.99% seek and find regularly in both traditional and software-based solutions: the ability to project their presence, via video conferencing and collaboration tools. I pick the latter, but then I am a bit biased since VeaMea develops and markets a video conferencing and collaboration platform that some might call a fairy tale.
Bottom Line: if you want to separate the myth from the reality, and decide for yourself, you can try it.
Ever wish you could wave a magic wand and reduce healthcare expenses ? You don't need to, TeleHealth / TeleMedicine technology is already working to do just that ! (I wonder if Congress reads our blog...)
Software video collaboration, video conferencing and web conferencing technology are being used to improve the efficiency of medical education and service delivery...TODAY.
- Medical residents attend classes via web conference so they can spend more time in the hospital and be available for patient emergencies (they also don't waste time driving to and from classes when they could be sleeping!)
- Rural hospital nurses attend continuing medical education classes remotely, so they can keep their skills sharp without leaving their hospital understaffed while they travel to the "big city" to attend a seminar
- Neurologists diagnose potential stroke patients remotely, allowing ERs to administer life-saving drugs sooner
- Patient follow-up visits in many specialties can be made without the patient needing to travel to the doctor's office (especially in rural areas this can be a long trip), leading to more consistent follow-up and better outcomes
These are just a few of the applications we have seen, but there are many more being used in the real world, today.
The American Telemedicine Association (http://www.americantelemed.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=1) has been working for 17 years to develop common understandings, procedures, and explore new ways to make medical care as easy to reach as turning on your PC.
Telemedicine technology was recently featured in the New York Times:
Have you experienced TeleMedicine in action ? What did you think ?