Silex featured in Wainhouse Research
The Four C's at InfoComm 2016 – Part II
Observations from infoComm16 related to four topics: Cameras, Cloud, Collaboration, and Cuddle Rooms. This post discusses collaboration and "cuddle rooms;" my previous post covered cameras and the cloud.
Collaboration: infoComm is an AV show first and foremost, and display technology (hardware and software) is one of the show stoppers. At the high end of the collaboration market we saw half a dozen exhibitors showing solutions that bring together various combinations of interactive displays, video conferencing, data manipulation, visualization, and command and control. While expensive, systems from Cyviz, Datapath, Oblong, and Prysm have found a home with energy, military, healthcare, engineering, and government customers. These leading vendors over the past year or two have moved workspaces to the cloud and made versions of their applications available on personal computers and mobile devices. The Datapath booth had an impressive demo from software vendor LayerLogic, where the windows on the display not only showed inputs from multiple PCs, but also enabled feedback from the touch display to control those devices (launch PowerPoint, Excel, etc.)
Clearly in the Collaboration space is Nureva, whose booth featured a completely new product – the HDL300 audio conferencing system. This as a DSP-intensive, 15,000 MIPS sound bar ($3,000) typically mounted on a conference room wall and connects to a user’s PC via USB. The system emulates having 8,192 microphones in the room and provides remote listeners with spatial sound. I stood outside the demo room and listened with a headset to the conversation taking place; the sound clarity and sense of space was spectacular. Nureva also showed off a new release of its Nureva Span system – a platform first introduced last year that replaces walls with sticky notes and flip charts or dumb whiteboards with a virtual canvas that’s projected onto a wall. The shared content then lives in the cloud. A new and mobile configuration can project a 30-foot ideation / brainstorming space on three adjacent 10-foot canvases like the walls of a 10x10x10 room. On a totally different front, I experienced a 3-D, 4K video conferencing session in the TrueConf booth. Since the technology requires the user to wear glasses, I believe the applications will be highly specialized. In this case, I got to watch a surgery up close and very personal. TrueConf, which offers both a CPE and cloud-based version of its collaboration solution, also demoed two-way content sharing with a Polycom system and streaming to devices from Cisco and Yealink.
Cuddle Rooms: “Cuddle rooms” (pun intended, stay tuned) have moved to the forefront for conferencing and collaboration decision makers, as customers increasingly think about the cost and complexity of evolving from deployments of a few dozen high-end conference rooms to hundreds or thousands of small meeting spaces that include some level of enterprise communications technology. Related, at WR we’ve started to refer to a new category of products as Group Add-On Devices. These typically connect AV peripherals to a PC via USB, but other vehicles for connectivity are possible. Customers today seem to be split between two strategies: 1) equip the room with everything, including the computer and all the peripherals and let users “just bring yourself (JBY);” 2) equip the room with all of the audio-video collaboration peripherals and have the users bring their own codecs, typically a laptop or tablet or even a smartphone (BYOC in my parlance). The two strategies have different implications for cost, security, and manageability.
Another strategic decision has to do with Skype for Business. Do we want to use SfB in the conference room, and if so, do we want to deploy dedicated SfB appliances, run SfB on standard computer platforms, or deploy industry-standard video conferencing systems that can also run SfB natively?
The sample of cuddle room systems discussed here shows the diversity of solutions found on just a small part of the infoComm show floor.
Arrive Systems demonstrated a variety of table top and wall-mounted JBY and BYOC solutions supporting wired and wireless connectivity. Huawei did not exhibit but showed us in the hallway their new, Android-based TE10 camera-microphone-codec (a 720p all-in-one device), due out later this fall with an MSRP of ~$750. Huddle Room Technology, a new company based in Italy, showcased an unusual wireless device that can encode / decode all the video streams from multiple cuddle room participants and composite them into one stream that feeds a video conferencing codec. The visual effect is similar to what you would see if multiple remote participants were connected via an MCU or Skype AVMCU, but this time, everyone is in the same room. You don’t all have to cuddle around a single webcam. Logitech of course was showing its ConferenceCam and Logitech Group product lines. Silex appeared in the innovation showcase, as the company introduced its new series of all-in-one, center-of-table video conferencing systems (triangular and square versions) designed with multiple touch screens and cameras. StarLeaf meanwhile introduced the GTm 5140 room system ($3,995) that runs Skype for Business natively. The 5140 is a little sister to the company’s GTm 5250 ($8,950), both of which are managed by StarLeaf’s Maestro management platform.
Collaboration and Cuddle Rooms: What we see here at infoComm is tremendous innovation taking place at both the very high and very low ends of the collaboration price spectrum. Customers have never seen such a plethora of options, and it’s not just a matter of price or performance. We now have an exploding set of features and functions and configurations. Even more interesting, most of the products touched upon in this review rely on the cloud to provide better customer service and support and to speed deployment cycles. If there is a fly in the ointment, it’s the threat that the vendors are too far in front of their customers. Vendor: “We’ve seen this before but don’t worry, this time it’s different!” Hmm ... haven’t we heard that before?