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On The Bleeding Edge

June 20, 2012 | William Zimmerman
InfoComm12 logo.jpgInfocomm 2012 Wrap Up

20th June 2012

As a consultant and designer of video conferencing and telepresence systems, it's my job to keep up on the latest product releases and trends. As part of this, I made my way to sunny Las Vegas to attend the Infocomm trade show held from June 13th until the 15th. This was my first trip back to show in about a decade.

One thing trending right now is the touch screen display with integrated white boarding software. Data collaboration is becoming more important and the tools to do this are becoming cheaper and easier to use. In the near future, I believe, there will be more of an emphasis on collaboration rooms and less emphasis on room based telepresence systems. I picture a collaboration room being less formal where participants are encouraged to stand up and get active. Touch screens fit perfectly into this theme, allowing people to whiteboard, manipulate and share data with the far endpoint. These rooms also work better with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) as the data sharing can happen over tablets and phones, not just room to room. Unfortunately, now that there are several vendors, each with some sort of flavor of proprietary white boarding and collaboration software, we're heading down the path that we are on in regards to telepresence and video conferencing products not being interoperable. For me, it will have to be a case by case study with clients to get the best solution for their intended use.

Another current trend I noted at the show is that companies are moving away from promoting telepresence room systems in favor of software based, or "cloud" video conferencing products. Only Cisco displayed a complete three screen telepresence system at Infocomm. Radvision, now part of Avaya, displayed a modified three screen system and AVI-SPL showed off their new, one screen Chameleon product. There has been quite a bit of contention and disagreement between these new so called software systems and traditional video conference products out there. In my opinion, it's incredibly counterproductive for these companies to argue with each other and obscure the facts. A question that comes up often is "What is telepresence?" and it's been watered down to the point that customers are led to believe that telepresence can be had on your tablet. To some, it's just a phrase, but to me it goes deeper than that and clarity should be made on exactly what a product is and exactly what the pricing model is.

Vaddio just came out with and displayed at the show a great set of products combining what you would think was standard video conferencing gear. However, the real beauty is that it is all USB connectable. This equipment will translate well into the idea of collaboration rooms as described above. Not everyone wants to sink tens of thousands of dollars into codecs and prefer the use of a computer to do their video conferencing with. Along with a PTZ camera, Vaddio has also introduced microphones, a mixer, a lavalier mic, a bridge and a web interface control. I hope they had a great show and attracted a good bit of interest. While their products are not priced for the home teleworker or casual user, they are attractive to corporate customers for in-office use.

One thing I did find interesting is the lack of anything at all to do with living room video conferencing. Last year Cisco, Logitech and Biscotti all introduced home video conferencing products. Cisco has already discontinued their UMI product and I know Logitech's Revue has not had good sales to date. I think a company like Blue Jeans or another cloud bridging company could finally make some headway in this space as the product needs to interoperate with other devices and systems.

One final item of note until the next time. Surprisingly, there was only one company at the show with lighting specific for video conferencing, Brightline. Lighting is too often overlooked, but it is one of the most important aspects of an effective video conference. Brightline has introduced the i-Series, a moderately priced product specifically for teleworkers or people who use video conferencing at their desk in the office. I was able to demo the product and appreciate the simplicity of it. With a built in dimmer control, you are really able to dial in a good brightness level, at the right color temperature before your video meeting so once you connect, you will look great on screen.

Brian Hellard Headshot.jpg
Bryan Hellard is the President of True View Video LLC, a telepresence consulting and design company located in West Chester, Ohio. Bryan can be reached via email at [email protected] and on twitter @bryanhellard

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