Polycom's RealPresence Immersive Studio conference room system
High-definition video conferencing technology continues to spread across the globe, and it is one of the most powerful collaboration platforms available to the government. Since this technology is constantly changing, let’s take a look at what’s out there today.
Lifesize provides on-premise and cloud-conferencing services, and one of the company’s more unusual users is the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). Situated in western North Carolina, the tribe has 15,000 enrolled members across 56,000 acres, and video conferencing is an important means for the tribe to collaborate among its various divisions.
The EBCI uses a Lifesize Room 220 (an HD conference room endpoint with an eight-way embedded MCU) and a Lifesize ClearSea on-premise video conferencing infrastructure solution that includes support for smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs.
Jeremy P. Brown is the A/V administrator of the EBCI, and he was candid about what led him and his team to choose Lifesize for the tribe’s conferencing needs.
“First and foremost, it was [Lifesize’s] ability to do a demo without our network team destroying our firewall,” he said. “Their products worked right out of the box. A close second was their ability to provide flexibility to their bridge ports. When they rolled out the UVC platform, that was a big decision maker for me.”
The UVC platform has one bridge port that supports one HD room system, or two webcam-based desktop/laptop users, or four iOS/Android/Voice users.
“I cannot begin to tell you the importance of this in allowing us to get more out of our investment,” said Brown. “[Also], their room systems have the 2nd Generation Phone, which is so user-friendly it’s crazy. It also provides a sound quality I’ve not seen in any other system.”
The EBCI conducts conferences on a weekly basis and has five codec-based room systems for the conferences.
“Our investment in UVC ClearSea and UVC Multipoint have allowed me to create the same number of ‘virtual’ meeting rooms that our desktop and mobile based users meet in on a weekly basis as well,” Brown said.
This area of EBCI’s video teleconferencing deployment is growing as, it deploys room codecs.
The AV equipment used in conferencing is the most exciting development for the EBCI. “We’re in contract now to add a sixth room to our grid that will have Crestron control and DM video processing and scaling, Biamp audio, Christie Brio, and several other technologies that will allow our ICON 800 to interact with dual 70-inch Smart Boards,” Brown said.
Lifesize Icon is another product the company thinks is effective.
Lifesize Icon with Apple-Data capability
“Lifesize Icon is the simplest and most intuitive video calling solution on the market, and companies of all sizes in a variety of industries have adopted this system for their video collaboration needs,” said Simon Dudley, a video evangelist for Lifesize.
Icon is supposedly as easy to operate as a smartphone―with the added bonus of face-to-face interaction that improves productivity and promotes connected relationships.
Lifesize Icon is targeted at organizations that want to extend high-quality video conferencing to their employees without the cost and complexity of traditional systems. It has an HD pan-tilt-zoom camera, dual monitor support, point-to-point and group calling, data sharing up to 1080p30, and single-button recording and streaming.
Polycom also offers comprehensive conferencing solutions.
“Polycom’s EagleEye Director is a camera that automatically zooms in on the person speaking,” said Julie Basa, director of corporate communications for Polycom. “It locates active speakers and, through simultaneous voice triangulation and face-finding, accurately crops their images in the display.”
“The core components of Polycom’s offering include the RealPresence platform, which acts as the unifying hub for the environment, and the video endpoints that best fit the users’ needs―whether they’re in a conference room or on the go,” Basa said.
The Polycom RealPresence platform is standards-based and interoperable with solutions from other vendors, providing connectivity regardless of device type, protocol, network type or available bandwidth.
Polycom has RealPresence solutions that fit various environments, such as groups, single desktop users, the Cloud Axis Suite for secure video collaboration and a mobile version that works with tablets and smartphones.
The most popular product by Revolabs for use in small-to-large conference rooms is the Executive Elite four- and eight-channel wireless microphone system. Designed to incorporate both video and audio conferencing, Executive Elite uses a range of microphones to tailor the sound specifically for the application. These include omnidirectional, directional, gooseneck and wearable microphones, including some mics that are wireless with rechargeable batteries.
Revolabs Executive Elite audio conferencing system
Tim Droddy, business development manager at Revolabs, said that Executive Elite features ease of use, high-end security with 256-bit encryption, and the ability to place the remote antenna up to 300 feet away from the base unit for ease of installation without sacrificing sound clarity or intelligibility.
“Revolabs’ Designed-for-Speech technology delivers wideband frequency response, which improves the intelligibility and presence of speech and enables the microphones to pick up the entire spectrum of the human voice, allowing participants to experience audio quality that closely resembles the authenticity of face-to-face conversations,” Droddy said.
The Executive Elite is targeted at conferencing venues that have the potential to incorporate video applications.
“We enhance the audio quality of any conference, while allowing participants to be anywhere in that space and still be heard,” Droddy said.
Biamp Systems’ equipment has been installed in a diverse range of government institutions such as the Offices of Veteran Affairs, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Federal Courts, U.S. District Courts, state- and local-level courts, Department of Defense for projects within all five branches of the military, the General Services Administration and the FBI.
Biamp’s Audia and Nexia product lines have been used in the federal government market.
Biamp TesiraForte family of audio conferencing products
“The typical approach was when a project exceeded one Nexia unit, the project naturally evolved to an Audia project given the combination of required features and capabilities,” said Michael Frank, mid-Atlantic regional manager for Biamp Systems.
“The courtroom and justice center projects within the government market have unique, specific requirements and are automatically Audia projects,” Frank said. “Given the courts’ recording requirements, CobraNet capabilities are needed for third-party recording capabilities, which are done and stored in computers. As our Tesira product line increases in preference within the government market, we anticipate that the preference for Tesira projects will lead our product mix in this market. This is especially true with the latest introduction of TesiraForté to the Tesira family.”
TesiraForté offers versions specifically designed for conferencing, whether for a VoIP system or standard telephone service.
“Organizations gain the functionality needed without paying for what you don’t. It’s easy to design, implement, and manage the conference solution needed,” Frank said.
FUNCTION, FEATURES, VALUE
Frank’s advice to government customers are to focus on function, features and value.
“[Look for] products that are innovative but built on proven technology, that have extensive warranties, and are out in the field working reliably well beyond the expiration date of the manufacturer's warranty,” he said. “This means that features like acoustic echo cancelling work every time. They need products that are fair in cost, and backed by manufacturer support for the life of the product. They need access to training so their people―who both use and support these products―can continue to do so as the needs change and grow, whether within a building or across a campus.”
MORE INFO Biamp Systems: www.biamp.com
“Typical government replacement cycles are years longer than the average lifespan of technology equipment,” Frank said. “With Biamp’s reliability, it is common to see our equipment employed years past our five-year warranty.”
With so much choice in the market, how do government organizations select the best equipment for their needs? It is certainly worth evaluating both on-premise and cloud-based video solutions.
Frank also offers some advice.
“Conferencing systems need to provide users that winning combination of equipment that is technologically advanced, flexible enough to evolve with future needs, and reliable enough to simply work without concern,” he said.
Indeed, with government spending under scrutiny, government needs to gain the greatest efficiencies on the budgets spent―getting the most for less.