Enterprise Connect 2014 Recap

As I boarded my flight home from Orlando last Thursday I sifted through all of the great things I saw while at Enterprise Connect as well as the fantastic customer and partner interaction I had. Enterprise Connect continues to grow in its size and scope and is quickly becoming THE show for unified communications and collaboration.

Looking back at all the sessions, keynotes, and vendors there were several key trends that emerged from the show that are worthy of discussion.

Lync Domination
The adoption of Microsoft Lync as a full unified communications solution continues to accelerate. At IVCi’s booth this year there were so many companies looking for guidance on how to integrate Lync into the rest of their technology stack (room video conferencing, mobility, etc). Nearly every conversation we had in the IVCi booth focused, at least, partially on Lync. In Gurdeep Singh Pall’s keynote he revealed that 60% of enterprises have deployed or are planning to deploy Lync. Based upon the interactions at show, this does not seem unrealistic. Beyond the countless deployments, it was clear from the number of solutions on the show floor featuring Lync integration that its presence is ever expanding.

Single Solution, Not So Fast…
Manufacturers have been touting the concept of a single solution for many years. They wanted users to implement their solution across the board and rely on one source for everything, namely because it would lock their users in. However, it was clear that this trend is just not happening. In both my own interactions as well as in numerous panel discussions, the topic of single source came up. Ultimately, organizations are implementing multiple solutions for a myriad of reasons. The end result is a lot of technology that simply does not talk to each other properly. Providers like Acano are looking to be the connection between many of these environments and help to provide a more, pardon the pun, unified solution.

WebRTC…Getting There
This year’s WebRTC conference within a conference was another sell out with standing room attendance for most sessions. More and more vendors are turning to WebRTC to help solve interoperability challenges and to create a single click solution. Many manufacturers are embracing this technology (Unifiy’s Project Ansible is entirely WebRTC) but challenges continue. Browser ubiquity is not there yet, Chrome, Opera and Firefox are supported, but others are not (Internet Explorer, Safari). Even within the browsers supporting the standard we are seeing a bit of a fork in terms of functionality. Chrome now supports two-way content sharing, which is a big development, especially for content centric collaboration sessions. This functionality is not yet available in other WebRTC implementations. WebRTC is making major strides but it has not truly arrived at the level of ubiquity it needs. The next year should be interesting to see how this develops.

It’s All About the Experience
From the keynotes to the show floor; many were speaking less and less about the thechnology and more about the user experience. This is perhaps the most promising trend in the industry as manufacturers are really starting to focus on the user and not whiz-bang features. The proof will be in the pudding, but this is an exciting trend that I certainly hope will continue.

For someone who has worked in the world of collaboration and unified communications for a number of years it is easy to get carried away by the latest cool technology but this year I was just reminded by how “cool” collaboration technology is and how much it has become a part of business.  I look forward to this year’s developments and Enterprise Connect 2015. See you there!

What interested you most at Enterprise Connect? Tweet us @IVCiLLC!

Webinar Recording – Global Trends in Distance Learning

On March 4th, IVCi and Polycom hosted a webinar covering Global Trends in Distance Learning. The session was presented by Marci Powell, Polycom’s Global Director for Education and Training. The webinar provided some insightful content on the latest trends in Distance Learning as well as some really amazing examples of how different educational organizations are applying the technology to their curriculum.

SLIDES PRESENTED:

WEBINAR RECORDING:

The 2014 Lync Conference in Review

“Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.”
            – Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

There is no denying that Microsoft Lync is experiencing explosive growth as a unified communications solution for organizations large and small. From IM and presence to full enterprise voice and HD video conferencing, Lync provides a total communications solution.

Last week Microsoft held its 2nd Annual Lync Conference in Las Vegas. This conference nearly doubled in size from 2013 when it was held in San Diego. This massive increase in attendance is a strong endorsement of Lync’s growth and presence in the market.

At this year’s conference, newly named Skype and Lync VP Gurdeep Singh Pall took to the stage to deliver this year’s keynote address. From the beginning there was a clear message that Lync and Skype are truly coming together. The presentation began with a look at the growth both Lync and Skype have been experiencing. One particularly amazing statistic was that one third of all global long distance calling occurs via Skype.

Lync has become Microsoft’s fastest growing business unit with yearly revenues now exceeding $1 billion and the business unit has seen 38 consecutive quarters of double digital growth. Additionally, 60% of enterprises have or are deploying Lync. The focus on the conference then shifted to some of the latest product and technology updates. Derek Burney, Corporate of Vice President of Strategic Relations and Solutions for Lync and Skype, took the stage to conduct the demos. He focused on several key areas:

Mobility:
Lync now supports iOS, Android (now both smartphones and tablets), Windows, and Mac OS X. In a matter of moments, Burney created a meeting with every compatible device in one session. Key features now available in Lync mobile include:

  • Content viewing (native for Powerpoint)
  • Invite additional participants from the app
  • Anonymous Join

Microsoft is sending a clear message in that mobility and cross platform support is incredibly important to their strategy.

Interoperability:
As part of the demo, Burney was able to invite a TANDBERG (clearly didn’t want to mention Cisco’s name) video conferencing system right into a Lync session. The connection was seamless and the quality was quite good.

Skype to Lync:
At the 2013 conference, audio and IM between Lync and Skype clients was demoed. Burney brought things up another notch and demoed a video call between Skype and Lync. The message here is that connecting an enterprise platform to a consumer platform creates incredible opportunities for B2C communication. This functionality will be released later this year.

Embedding Video Anywhere
As many other communications vendors have presented, this demo featured a website (in this case for a healthcare network) that allowed the user to have a real-time video conversation right on the site. Most vendors have chosen to go with the open standards WebRTC protocol to achieve embedded video. Microsoft has chosen not to embrace WebRTC and instead has created its own JavaScript APIs to achieve this. It should be interesting to see how this impacts the adoption of WebRTC.

After the technology demo ended, two large scale Lync customers (Herb Keller, VP and CTO of Adventist Healthcare & Dean Leung, CIO of Holland & Knight) were invited on stage to discuss their particular use case. This discussion begins at around 42 minutes in the video and is a fascinating look at how two very different types of organizations have integrated Lync into their business models and workflows.

In closing, Gurdeep Singh Pall discussed Microsoft’s vision of communications for the future. This includes total integration across all platforms with context. Meaning, systems understanding who is involved in meetings and providing context based searching and alerts (see 01:05 in the video). Finally, Microsoft’s goal is to have 1 billion users of their communications platforms in the next ten years. They are calling this next era, Universal Communications.

We live in some amazing times with amazing technology and tools. Microsoft’s goals are ambitious but have the potential to connect people like never before!

Endpoint Evolution: The Cisco MX300 G2

When it comes to video conferencing everyone seems to be talking cloud based services and mobility. These are certainly the big trends of the moment but it is important to remember that room based collaboration is not going away. Colleagues still want the ability to grab a conference room and initiate both local collaboration sessions as well as connect to remote participants via video.

Back in October at the Cisco Collaboration Summit, several announcements were made regarding Cisco’s video portfolio. The overarching theme was to make collaboration simple. One of the hardware solutions announced was the MX300 G2. This solution is scheduled to ship to customers this month.

The G2 really represents the evolution of room based visual collaboration. The device is an all in one solution that features a 55” display with several mounting options (wall mount, floor stand, wheel base), a high definition camera with 4x optical zoom and a wide angle lens, significantly enhanced audio and integrated cable management for simplicity.

The unit is controlled by a large 10” touch display that features an  easy to use interface. This new software will be making its way to Cisco’s other hardware solutions providing a consistent experience across their entire portfolio.

Other features include the ability to host up to four party calls (connect with up to three other video systems) as well as a second display option.  The second display can be dedicated for content only as well. Finally, the system can be upgraded to support full 1080p.

As part of Cisco’s promise to make collaboration easier, the MX200 G2 can be installed in under 10 minutes.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of the MX300 G2 (and will be added to other Cisco systems as well) is Intelligent Proximity. This feature allows meeting participants to pair their tablet (iPad for example) directly to the endpoint and receive and interact with content being shared on their device. This creates a personal experience in a group setting and allows each user the ability to manipulate the content in such a way to help them fully understand what is being presented.

Click HERE to learn more!

Etiquette – Infographic Comments Feed 2

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Top AV Trends for 2014

With 2013 solidly in our rear view, 2014 is presenting some exciting new developments in the world of audio visual integration and technology. Based on what happened in 2013 from a product perspective, as well as new habits of users, we see several key trends emerging this year.

1. Content is King
For many years, AV rooms have focused upon the users participating in the meeting and ensuring that they look and sound as good as possible. Especially in rooms that feature video conferencing, clarity has been a priority. The world is changing quite rapidly and with the maturity of big data, the content of a meeting is becoming just as, if not more important, then the participants.

Meeting participants will want to review items as simple as a spreadsheet or as complicated as a 3D rendering of a new product. Providing the highest fidelity visualization of this data is a trend that many manufacturers have focused on. Solutions from Cyviz, Oblong, and others have brought data front and center through the development of high resolution displays and content centric interfaces. Additionally, the added resolution of 4K displays will only help to enhance the viewing of content that requires the highest fidelity including medical imagery (MRIs, etc).  

2. Collaborate Anywhere
The elaborate conference room with the latest in AV technology is certainly not going away but many organizations are looking to expand beyond that. Collaboration rooms, huddle rooms, teaming spaces or whatever you want to call them are emerging as the next phase of AV for many organizations. These implementations are often quite simple; a display with some sort of content sharing device. Furniture is plays an important role in these spaces as well and companies such as Steelcase and Ashton Bentley are focusing on delivering the type of furniture setups that help enhance the collaborative experience.

3. BYOD in the Room
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has come of age and countless organizations are now supporting a myriad of employee owned devices including tablets and smartphones. Users are empowered to connect to their corporate email, load personal and company apps, and interact both inside and outside the company. Solutions continue to come to market that allow individuals to bring their device into an AV integrated room and interact with fellow participants and content. 2014 should see this trend continue.  Crestron’s AirMedia allows up to 32 meeting participants to share content simultaneously from iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows devices. They can also receive content from the room and interact with it.

4. 4K
More affordable 4k displays (displays with resolutions of 4000 pixels) are making their way to the market and have already started to reach high end consumers. 2014 will see 4K integrated into more and more AV rooms. On the consumer side the challenge is the availability of 4k content. This is changing rapidly, though, with several streaming services announcing plans to offer this. Netflix has recently announced that its original series, House of Cards, will be shot and produced in 4k for its second season. This will then enable Netflix to stream it in 4k as well. With consumer adoption coming at a rapid pace, 4k will find its way into a myriad of applications in both the professional and consumer world.

5. Wires are so 2013
2014 will continue the trend of wireless communications protocols taking over in AV integrated rooms. Recently, 1080p streaming has been announced from several manufacturers. In addition, wireless audio continues to improve. Even consumer technologies have added wireless content capabilities, including the AppleTV and Chromcast from Google.

Not only will technology trends influence AV in 2014 but so will users and their habits and preferences. By this time next year we could see incredibly high resolution content as the norm and many of the familiar AV signals (audio, video) moving in a room without wires. It’s an exciting time for the industry and the end user!

So Many Clouds, So Little Time

2013 brought about even higher adoption of cloud based services across nearly every technology industry. From accounting software to streaming music to video conferencing and collaboration, the cloud has clearly come of age. What can be confusing about cloud-based services is the different ways they are deployed both internally and externally. The three types of cloud deployments are public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds. To help you understand the differences, here are the definitions and examples of the three types:

Public Cloud
Public Clouds provide services over the public Internet. These types of clouds provide access to a significant amount of shared resources and can more easily provide scalable capacity. As an example, if a website is having a special event and expects a spike in traffic, public clouds can be configured to provide that needed capacity at the right time and then be scaled back. Additionally, public clouds make it easy to collaborate with other people and organizations, as the service is accessible to all.

Examples of public cloud services included Salesforce.com (one of the first commercial available public cloud services) as well as IVCi’s own Cloud Video Experience (CVE).

Private Clouds
Private clouds provide services over a private network. In these deployments, organizations must make the investment in the infrastructure and technology, negating a significant portion of the cost savings associated with public cloud based services. Private clouds are preferred when organizations want complete control over security and customization.

Examples of private clouds include financial organizations that provide secure systems to their employees in order to maintain compliance with federal privacy regulations.

Hybrid Clouds
Hybrid clouds deliver services via a combination of public and private clouds. There are a number of reasons an organization would want to create an environment like this. For example, a company might want to leverage a public cloud service (in this case let’s use Rackspace’s Public Cloud Storage service as an example) for older archived data while building and maintaining a private cloud for more timely and current business data. A secure VPN connection could then be established to allow data to move from the internal cloud to the archive in the public cloud at the appropriate time.

The cloud has come of age, as has its ability to be molded to fit the particular needs of many different types of organization. While it can be somewhat confusing to understand all of the deployment models, one thing is for certain: the cloud has truly redefined the way technology is deployed and consumed.

Webinar Recording – The New Healthcare Model

On December 11th, IVCi and Polycom hosted a webinar covering Collaborative Healthcare and its connection to Accountable Care Organizations & EHR Implementations. The session was co-presented by Dr. Deborah Jeffries, Polycom’s Director of US Healthcare and Cheryl Henshaw, Polycom’s Director of Grant Assistance. The session provided some insightful content on applying visual collaboration to patient care as as well as some of the grants available to help fund these initiatives.

SLIDES PRESENTED:

WEBINAR RECORDING:

Meet IVCi’s Cloud Video Experience

Today IVCi is incredibly excited to reveal our newest service, Cloud Video Experience (CVE). This new offering is a subscription based, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering that makes large scale and rapid deployment of video conferencing not only possible but extremely easy. CVE was built to address the key challenges organizations face with video conferencing implementations including:

1. Infrastructure – CVE provides cloud based infrastructure that supports video conferencing endpoint registration, the ability to assign a standard name to your video device (name@domain.com) as well as a global directory and B2B calling.

2. Scalability – All CVE devices and software clients are auto-configured with the click of a link in an email. There is no need to provision additional infrastructure or licenses, it all happens seamlessly.

3. Mobility – Personal Video Accounts, a key feature of CVE, allow users to easily video enable laptops, tablets, and smartphones with full video conferencing capability. These users are able to connect with other users seamlessly.

4. Interoperability – Virtual Meeting Rooms enable multiple users to meet in one “meeting space” in the cloud. These rooms support standard video conferencing systems as well as Microsoft Lync and WebRTC. And for those users who don’t have access to a device with a camera, the Virtual Meeting Rooms support standard audio dial-in.

Video conferencing continues to grow in usage and popularity and CVE is designed to make it easy for organizations of any size to experience the power of visual collaboration.

Here is some additional detail about CVE:

The New Healthcare Model – Webinar

Healthcare reform is quickly changing the face of medicine. With so many changes in regulations and insurance, the ability to not only deliver the highest quality of care, but doing so in the most efficient manner possible, is now more important then ever.  Collaborative care is transforming how patients are treated through the continuum of care.

Join IVCi and Polycom on Wednesday, December 11 at 2:00 PM Eastern for an informative webinar covering the power of collaboration in the delivery of healthcare.

In this session you will learn:

  • How Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) are redefining care coordination.
  • The role visual collaboration can play in EHR roll-outs.
  • Reduce unnecessary readmissions through better collaboration.
  • What grant funding sources are available to drive these initiatives.

Space is limited so reserve your spot today!

Collaboration Trends in Health Care Delivery
[Click here to Register]
Date: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Time: 2:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM Pacific (US)

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