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Executive Interview with Akihisa Obara, Senior Marketing Manager, Video Conference, Professional Solutions Europe

April 8, 2009 | Chris Payatagool

Akihisa_Obara.jpgCourtesy of VideoConferencing Insight Newsletter

Akihisa Obara has loads of marketing experience. He marketed data processing equipment and equipment to manufacture semiconductors before joining the Sony group responsible for Global Marketing of Video Conference equipment in 2005. He took up responsibility for EMEA marketing in May 2008. The editor interviewed Akihisa Obara at Sony Europe offices in Basingstoke, UK on 19 April. This is what he told us.

Editor:
Sony has a rich heritage in High Definition video. How is this brought to bear on Sony videoconferencing products.

Obara San: You are correct Richard. Sony was one of the original developers of High Definition AV systems, Sony has been producing HD equipment for professional broadcasters since the 1980s. Sony is unique in offering a 'glass to glass' HD capability for professional markets and consumers. These extend from image capture (broadcast and consumer cameras) to display (LCD TV and projectors), PCs, gaming consoles and of course videoconferencing.

Most TV viewers in Europe and much more than the majority of users of videoconferencing are still watching Standard Definition pictures, which with the PAL TV system means 625 lines interlaced. Sony believes everyone will eventually move to High Definition with 720 progressive scan or 1080 lines. Sony aims to make this possible for all videoconferencing users.

Editor: What is your top of the range HD videoconferencing product today?

Obara San: Our top product is the Sony IPELA™ PCS-XG80 Version 2.03, an enhanced High-Definition (HD) videoconferencing terminal that delivers CD-quality audio and strong, robust HD video, audio and data transmission over 768 kbps on IP and ISDN networks.

This offers a video resolution of 720p and 1080i. We expect most users to be satisfied with 720p resolution because 1080i requires approximately 2Mbps of bandwidth. 720p provides 2.2 times the definition of Standard Definition (4CIF) videoconferencing and can be viewed on a 16 x 9 without stretching the picture.

We believe 720p on the Sony XG80 codec is perfect for any Telepresence installation. And people who have seen the XG80 working with the 3-D display technology of Telepresence Technology are very impressed. We have sold quite a few of these Teleportel 3-D systems in Europe and expect to sell even more in 2009 as they become better known. The best feature of them is that participants view each other naturally at eye-to-eye level.

The PCS-XG80 HD camera adopts the Sony developed 'BrightFace' TM technology that produces clear images even when used in rooms with less-than-ideal lighting conditions.

We also offer a very good 3 CCD (not CMOS) module HD camera for capturing 1080i video - the PCSA-CHG90.  This can also capture the exceptional HD images using the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*(R) lens.

Editor: What are the other great features of the Sony XG80 codec?

Obara San: The feature which is most improved in the new Version 2.03 software for the XG80 is the QoS over the Public Internet and other "best-effort" IP networks. An estimated 5% to 25% of data packets sent over such networks can be lost causing video frame freeze, error propagation, and audio glitches. For this reason, QoS (Quality of Service) and packet-loss robustness features are very important for videoconferences conducted over such IP networks.

Many videoconferencing endpoints "conceal" the error by ensuring that packet loss does not destroy wide areas of the video image, but this results in a lower frame rate as the increased amount of intra macroblocks requires more bits to carry the video frames.

Sony has developed new QoS features using a different approach: "Recovering" the error rather than "Concealing" it, and thereby maintaining the quality of realtime communication.

For this reason we think the Sony XG80 offers better QoS than other HD systems. Polycom, who have used a similar approach to Sony's, can almost match our superb QoS.

Editor:
Is it correct to say Sony older systems already offered exceptional QoS?

Obara San:
Yes, it is. Sony PCS Series videoconferencing systems use a range of QoS features including Real-time ARQ (Automatic Repeat reQuest), ARC (Adaptive Rate Control) and FEC (Forward Error Correction) to optimise audio and picture quality under a wide range of real-world network conditions. These are used in 'hybrid' mode, combining the strengths of each mechanism to assure the best possible audio and video quality, even under changing IP network conditions.

Editor:
Do you offer HD audio quality?

Obara San:
The Sony PCS-XG80 has been completely overhauled with V2.03. Our customers will now benefit from the compatibility with the MPEG4-AAC- LD and MPEG4-AAC- LC format which we have built into the product, meaning they can communicate with a much greater number of endpoints with high quality CD audio sound.

Editor:
And Sony multipoint functionality?

Obara San: Sony Videoconferencing can bring together up to 6 sites into one conference and still deliver the best video and audio quality per individual site using H.264 video and MPEG-4 wideband audio. High bandwidths as high as 768 Kbps per site can be achieved in a 6-site multipoint conference. One can have six sites using continuous presence and ten sites if voice-activated is used.

Multipoint conferences can be setup between any mix of audio and video conference systems, connection over IP, ISDN or telephone networks. Software or Hardware options for MCU functionality need to be installed.

About Videoconferencing Insight Newsletter

Videoconferencing Insight is a well established newsletter for the user of videoconferencing and unified conferencing systems which has reported on the industry from a user perspective since May 1996. To increase access to the Newsletter, Videoconferencing Insight became a webzine in August 2002. It is published online on Wednesday of each week at www.vcinsight.com and read in more than 60 countries around the world.

In addition to the user application case studies, interviews and industry news published weekly, the web site contains a reference data bank of 400 user applications in 25 vertical user categories such as manufacturing industry, financial services, hospitals, telemedicine and education. Potential users of videoconferencing are invited to examine these case studies in order better understand the benefits of using videoconferencing for themselves

Contact:
Richard Line, Editor,
Videoconferencing Insight Newsletter,
Web site: www.vcinsight.com
Telephone: 44 (0)1273 381 300








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