VOLUME 17 NUMBER 1 Spring 2019
DATA LAKE VIDEO FIRST IN EDUCATION
EMERGING COLLABORATION TECHNOLOGY IS EXPANDING POSSIBILITIES INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
ENTERPRISE TEAM-CHAT SOLUTIONS
AN AV TECH’S GUIDE TO SWIMMING IN A DELUGE OF DATA
THIS IS THE DO-OR-DIE YEAR
8K DISPLAYS: AWESOME POTENTIAL, BUT…
ADVANCES IN DISPLAY TECH MEAN BETTER PICTURE QUALITY, BUT THERE ARE STILL SOME TRADEOFFS
David Danto Director of UC Strategy and Research Poly
From The Desk Of The Director Of Emerging Technology: An overview of what this issue has in store. By David Danto
Brynn Beal Solutions Architect Dimension Data North America
Understanding AV-Over-IP: A primer on integrating IP-based products into systems and how AV-over-IP differs from traditional AV. By S. Ann Earon, PhD
12 BIG DATA
Data Lake: An AV tech’s guide to swimming in a deluge of data. By Case Murphy
All Voices: A marketplace of ideas is always superior to a monopoly on them. By David Danto
S. Ann Earon, PhD Founding Chairperson IMCCA
Christopher Maione, CTS-D, DSCE, DMC-D President Christopher Maione Associates
Video First In Education: Emerging collaboration technology is expanding possibilities inside and outside the classroom. By Brynn Beal
Designing Bluetooth Into AV Systems: How to use consumer-friendly wireless tech in commercial-grade meeting spaces. By Rob Sheeley
24 TECHNOLOGY David Maldow Founder and CEO Let’s Do Video
Case Murphy 20-year UC veteran
8K Displays: Awesome Potential, But…: Advances in display tech mean better picture quality, but there are still some tradeoffs. By Joel Silver and David Danto
The Changing Face Of The Office Floor Plan: This ain’t your daddy’s (or your) workplace. By Christopher Maione, CTS-D, DSCE, DMC-D
28 ANALYSIS Rob Sheeley CEO and President Williams AV
Joel Silver President and Founder Imaging Science Foundation, Inc.
Enterprise Team-Chat Solutions: This is the do-or-die year. By David Maldow
From The Eye Of The Law: The possible challenges and risks for early adopters of emerging technology. By Josh Srago
Software vs. Appliance?: A range of voices weigh in on the continuing debate. By Marc Cooper
Josh Srago Award-winning AV professional
Ira Weinstein Founder and Managing Partner Recon Research
The Last Word: The yin and yang of emerging technology. By Ira M. Weinstein Spring 2019
From The Desk Of The Director Of Emerging Technology An overview of what this issue has in store. By David Danto When I joined the Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA) as one of its Executive Board Members in 2007, I was asked what I wanted my title to be. It didn’t seem appropriate to be the CIO or CTO of a small nonprofit industr y association, and plain old “technology guy” seemed downright stupid. We came up with the title Director of Emerging Technology because that was the best description of what I did. As a longtime industr y end user, consultant and analyst, and now as Director of UC Strategy and Research for Poly, staying on top of emerging technology was at the core of what I did and now still do. In all the roles above, I’ve had to understand which new technologies, ser vices, advancements, products and strategies are hitting the market at any given time. Which ones are game-changers? Which ones represent new and better ways of handling some past task? Which ones are just plain bull? Getting to those core answers, and incorporating a new way of working into my daily schedule where I could do so, helped me to become the “digital immigrant” I am today. In the IT/AV space, there are many fellow “digital immigrants,” as well as digital natives and the Luddites—the last are the old-school people with their heads in the sand who refuse to do anything that veers from what they’ve always done. This issue of IT/AV Report is definitely not directed at that group (whose members probably don’t even understand why we’re talking about IT and AV in the same sentence). If we are to remain relevant in the IT/AV space, we have to be aware of how technology is changing more rapidly today than at any time in the past. We have to understand the changes—embrace the good ones and reject the bad ones—all before the next change comes barreling down at us. So, in this, the first edition of IT/AV Report that I am responsible for editing, I felt it appropriate to focus on this changing landscape. We’ll be covering how “this isn’t your dad’s AV industr y anymore” by discussing 8K displays, Bluetooth audio in conference rooms, big data, Team Chat for the enterprise and much more. In “Viewpoint,” we’ll open an old wound—namely, software versus hardware. Have we finally reached a tipping point where collaboration endpoints can and should be general compute engines, or is there still life in the appliances that the industr y grew up on? Also, starting with this issue, we’ll introduce a couple of recurring columns. In the first, Josh Srago will fill us all in on his legal perspective regarding our corner of the technology world; in the second, longtime industr y analyst and icon Ira Weinstein will have the last word on whatever strikes him as most important among the topics we’ve covered. As for me, I’m ver y proud to have been given this responsibility for our industr y. I won’t let you down. I’ll be sure to bring our readers the best perspectives from the best sources—wherever they might come from. (Look for my opinion column, “All Voices,” on page 16 in this issue, as well.) It’s not hard to reach me if you need me. Write to Sound & Communications, Google my name or just find me walking the aisles at any given trade conference (CES, NAB, Enterprise Connect, InfoComm, LDI, and on and on…). I’ll be the one walking quickly, scoping out booths for the emerging technology, and tr ying to see if it’s a fit or a flop.
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A primer on integrating IP-based products into systems and how AV-over-IP differs from traditional AV. By S. Ann Earon, PhD AV-over-IP is an expression used to describe the distribution of audio, video and control signals over a network using IP switching and configuration protocols. The network in question can be a local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN) or the internet. Over the last few years, there has been a gradual replacement of traditional AV infrastructures with IP-based infrastructures. Distributing AV-over-IP has many advantages: • AV-over-IP offers significant cost savings versus the use of traditional AV switchers. • Systems are more scalable and flexible because switching configurations are not confined to standard port limitations. • IP switches allow for longer cable lengths to be run using standard Cat5e cable. Integrating an appropriate AV-over-IP system into an AV environment helps ensure that future flexibility and scalability will be a priority, and it keeps integration and operating costs down. The goal is effective use of low bandwidth, no latency and high AV How AV-Over-IP Works quality. There are two types of networking methods: circuit switchOrganizations want to leverage their data ing and packet switching. AV has primarily used circuit switchnetworks as the transport infrastructure for ing for AV switching networks, and IT has traditionally used AV, as well as to transport email, voice over packet switching for data networks. In a circuit-switched network, IP and file transfers. Scalability, flexibildedicated point-to-point connections are made to distribute streams ity and reach are benefits to streaming of data. In a packet-switched network, data is sliced into small packets audio and video information over the and delivered to various destinations that request the data. network. The key advantage of packet-switched networks is that they allow With the development of AV-overmany ser vices and users to share the same infrastructure. Traditional AV IP, IT professionals can manage switchers have typically offered uncompressed video switching and have their AV network with familiar rarely relied on coding to compress and transmit the AV and control signals. switched technology and not AV technology has become more IT-capable. AV hardware can now encode and worr y about costly port decode AV and control signals so they can be transmitted over a packet-switched expansions when growth network. To distribute AV signals over a packet-switched network, the signals must occurs. pass through a dedicated encoder that converts the signals to an IP-compatible packet format. To receive the same signals on a display or speaker system, a decoder must also be used to convert the packets into compatible AV signals for a display or speaker system to process.
Traditional AV vs. AV-Over-IP
AV-over-IP differs from traditional AV due to the evolution of the following parameters: scalable switching, distance barriers, video standards and interoperability. • Scalable switching: Many organizations are replacing traditional AV infrastructure with IPbased AV infrastructure. Matrix switching allows all combinations of transmitters and receivers to be resolved inside one box. Advanced products can perform processing operations, instead of just S. Ann Earon, PhD, is President of Telemanagement Resources International Inc. (TRI) and Founding Chairperson of IMCCA, the nonprofit industry association for conferencing, collaboration and unified communications. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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Criteria For Vendor Selection
making any input available on any output. With IP packet-based switching, the number of sources attached to the IP switch is no longer as limited. When physical ports run out, multiple IP switches can be connected to expand. This much more convenientTo determine which vendor ly allows the number of ports required for scaling. Sources and destinations can to select for your AV-over-IP be added without the need to overhaul the matrix switcher. With AV-over-IP, the deployment, review the criteria rate of inputs to outputs can also be tailored. It is possible to have many inputs below. Determine if those bidding and a few outputs, or the reverse. for your work meet the criteria and • Distance barriers: With traditional AV, there is a distance limit will connect you with previous custombetween boxes. IP-based AV can be transmitted over copper (categor y) ers for independent feedback. cable and over fiberoptic lines. The categor y (Cat5, Cat6, etc.) cable has a maximum distance of 100m, but it is possible to switch and • Bandwidth requirements: Any technolrepeat in series. Use of AV-over-IP increases flexibility by overcomogy selected should meet all bandwidth ing limits to the number of sources and destinations, as well as by requirements for both primary and remote conquering distance limitations. sites. This includes determining the amount • Video standards: Some AV-over-IP products use standardsof bandwidth required for video and multimedia based packetization for transmission over IP networks and needs. compatibility with IP switches. Other products use pro• Configurable: Any system should be easily configprietar y packetization schemes, which also work on IP ured to address growth and change without the need networks and standard IP switches, but do not work to add additional equipment or significantly alter what is with other products on the market. currently installed. Standards-based schemes provide the potential for • Conformity to existing networks: Most organizations do interoperability between products. Standards-based products tend to have a road map that provides not want to have to rebuild their networks to handle AV and greater infrastructure-migration benefits. It multimedia images. Instead, it is important for them to be able to is important to use standards that adhere use existing networks with minimal disruption. to published, open specifications, and not • Control: Be sure all the AV-over-IP solutions offered by the manujust to alliances that do not publish their facturer can be configured and controlled using the same platform. protocols. This will simplify deployment, operation and maintenance. The right • Interoperability: Interoperability system will also provide monitoring, troubleshooting, remote assistance refers to the potential for the streams
and schedule call launching. Automation and ease of use are key to success, especially as the systems are scaled for larger deployments. • Ease of use and deployment: Find a unified control platform that works across all the manufacturer’s solutions. The platform should also allow easy upgrades and have good troubleshooting capabilities. Speak with the manufacturer’s customers to determine their satisfaction with deployment and ease of use. • Experience: Select a vendor with real-world experience with proven installations and customer testimonials. Evaluate system performance, manufacturer and dealer support, and ease of deployment and use. • Full suite of solutions: Look for vendors that offer a full suite of solutions to meet AVover-IP needs. Be sure the vendor of choice offers a wide range of options so you are not steered to just what they offer, which may or may not meet your needs. • Image and video output: One parameter to focus on is how the image and video output is perceived by those viewing the screen. Although this may be a subjective evaluation, it is important that the image be robust enough to satisfy the communication requirements for video and graphic displays. To provide a technology comparison of different vendor solutions, it is best to do so against a signal from a PC. • Scalability: Growth is an important factor for most organizations. Installed systems must be easily expandable without the need for major changes in order to scale to meet user needs. • Security: AV-over-IP implementations should include security features to deter hackers from penetrating the network. This includes media and management stream encryption, access controls and digital content protection. • Standards-based: Seek manufacturers that provide standards-based technology and that are active in standards-based organizations that work to improve standards and facilitate interoperability throughout the industry.
of data to work with a broad base of technology and to offer converged infrastructure. Interoperability is not just determined by whether the packetization scheme is standardsbased or proprietar y. Interoperability also does not establish whether a product is secure. Some vendors’ AV-over-IP encoders and decoders are tightly coupled, meaning they must both come from the same vendor. The main reason for this coupling is to provide customers with guaranteed performance and specifications. This also allows for easy setup and increased ease of use. Some vendors offer encoders and decoders that work with other vendors’ products. These products emphasize interoperability and the ability to use a wide range of features and functions from many vendors. And some vendors’ products offer both tight coupling and interoperability. This allows features and capabilities from a wide range of vendors to be leveraged.
New Opportunities With AV-Over-IP
Using AV-over-IP provides opportunities for new applications including IPTV, digital signage and streaming. • IPTV: Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is a system through which television ser vices are delivered over a packet-switched network such as a LAN, WAN or the internet, instead of being delivered through traditional cable television, satellite or terrestrial formats. IPTV is widely deployed into end-user premises via set-top boxes or customer-provided equipment. IPTV is often used for media deliver y on corporate and private networks. IPTV is noted for providing live television and live media, time-shifted media (record-andreplay shows) and video on demand (whereby users can browse and view from a stored-media catalog). • Digital Signage: Organizations can configure AV-over-IP streaming platforms to tap into any enterprise
digital signage system. Organizations can now decide exactly what is on the screens in their enterprises at all times. Networked AV content can be shared on displays in the lobby, screens in conference rooms, in break rooms and in training areas. Content can also be played from personal devices. Each location can have access to the same content at the same time. All that really matters is that the network is designed
to handle the data load. • Streaming: Streaming is a technology used to deliver content to computers and mobile devices over the internet. AV-over-IP technology takes streaming to a different level. Instead of placing transmitters and receivers at all the devices in a room, the AV-overIP model calls for an encoder at each source device and a decoder at each destination device. The encoders and
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decoders are all connected to standard Ethernet switches. This allows organizations to connect as many encoders and decoders as the network design allows, and the ability to scale up comes at a lower cost. Streaming allows users to access content before the entire file is downloaded. It delivers data as needed. The streamed data is automatically deleted after it is used. Livestreaming is used for internet content delivered in real time as it happens. It is popular with live television shows and sporting events. Streaming, designed for audio and video deliver y, is now being used for gaming and apps. Downloads are quicker and use less data with on-demand streaming resources. A core set of features and functions are downloaded, and then new content is streamed as users need it. entirely segregated networks that never coexist with packets of data Encr yption technologies exist for many aspects of AV-over-IP from an organization’s data or commuproducts, and they address multiple components of AV system nications network. Alternatively, existdesign. For security against hacking of the boxes, encr yption is ing infrastructures of network cabling available on the command-and-control signaling to the devices. and switching are often used for AV-over-IP This includes turning the stream on or off, switching what is applications. AV-over-IP implementations can being displayed and encr ypting the video stream itself. Some be done without compromising IT network seproducts provide support for third-party devices that use curity. The ability for many organizations to use digital key exchanges for encr yption. AV, communications and data together (known Many customers are concerned with High-bandwidth as convergence) is a major benefit and reason Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which is designed organizations are looking at uniting their AV and IT to protect content as it travels between devices. networks and operations. It is important to leverage HDCP-compatible products are locked and can only advanced network security technologies like 802.1x aube accessed once authenticated. These products thentication, AES content encr yption and active director y offer restrictions on how content can be viewed, credential management. altered, multiplied or extended. Most traditional AV products and AV-overThe Future Of AV-Over-IP IP-based products have command-and-conThe future of AV-over-IP presents opportunities for both ventrol ports that allow for remote control of dors and users. UK-based research firm Futuresource, in a newly the boxes. These command-and-control announced study, found that sales of AV-over-IP products (encodfunctions can be protected with encr ypers and decoders) are experiencing a year-on-year increase of 130 tion, permissions and passwords. percent, and AV-over-IP is enabling a whole new era of AV control and AV-over-IP can be deployed on distribution. Expect explosive growth in networked AV-over-IP deployments this year. AV-over-IP is in the early adoption stage, but it will become mainstream over the course of the next five years. The Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA) did its own appraisal of the future of AV-over-IP in its 2017 AV Industry Outlook and Trends Analysis (IOTA) Global Summary, which provides an economic outlook for the industr y through 2022. According to the report: • The cloud will increasingly become more common in IoT (Internet of Things)based AV solutions, which will reduce operating costs. • The global AV industr y generated $178 billion in 2016. While revenue from European operations decreased, the Asia-Pacific region experienced significant growth. The industr y is expected to generate an additional $5 billion with an annual increase of 4.7 percent through 2022. • Security, sur veillance and life safety solutions generated $14.7 billion in 2016, with 50 percent of that total spent on security cameras. By 2022, the AV market will grow to $22.9 billion, with the bulk of that gain going to AV capture and production equipment. AV revenue from hotels, casinos, resorts and cruise lines will increase to $14 billion by 2022 from $7 billion in 2014. The healthcare market will also see double-digit growth. Understanding AV-over-IP—and the implications it has on organizations’ AV and IT infrastructure— will help organizations to adapt to the future convergence of technologies and AV applications in meeting environments more effectively.
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An AV tech’s guide to swimming in a deluge of data. By Case Murphy
The simple definition of a ‘data lake’ is a storage repository that holds a large amount of data in its native format.
Where are you right now as you read this article? Are you are sitting at a coffee shop or on the showroom floor? Maybe you’re relaxing at home, sitting in your parked car or at any one of a thousand locations where you might have a free moment. I wrote this paragraph on an iPad, waiting for my six-shot Americano (don’t judge me) at a small coffee shop in middle America. I finished the article in the wilds of Minnesota in between video meetings. What I’ve described isn’t a radical shift in the way we work. We have operated this way for more than a decade. Most of us knowledge workers are now a collection of remote-working, mobile-wearing, flex-time-needing, Wi-Fi-loving, 5G-wishing, high-performing individuals who bring their own devices and personalities to the job ever y day. The way we work isn’t the big myster y that I’m tr ying to solve when I wake up. The important question that I want answered is why we work this way. Why do I choose one app over another? Why do I always walk down the same path to get to my desk? Why do I like using my iPhone earbuds more than my Bluetooth headset? And why do I always leave them in my pocket when I do laundr y? This fundamental change in my thinking is important as I shift from looking at AV as a product or a ser vice and begin understanding that AV is an experience that integrates with the lives of employees and customers. The AV industr y and its products, designs, support and ser vices are in a necessar y paradigm shift—from contained content consumption to a geographically diverse connected experience. The impressive fact is that we already have the information we need to move
Case Murphy has 20 years’ experience in the unified communications industry leading teams at multiple For tune 100 companies. His focus is on continuous product lifecycle and a people-led, tech-empowered user experience. For more information, go to www.casemurphy.com.
for ward. It is what we do with this information and how we analyze it that will create the next level of personalized customer experience. We are inundated with data points daily. Ever y device, product and platform we touch wants to gather or give information. At times, I find myself struggling to tread water in a deluge of data. Perhaps it’s time for a swimming lesson. Over my career leading the AV experience at several large companies, I have learned that using data helps direct and enhance product lines and ser vices. There was some rough sailing in the beginning—to say the least—but, as I have grown in this space, I’ve learned a lot along the way and want to share some lessons. Before I go on, I will add that, to keep this shorter than a Tolkien chapter, I’m skipping over the legal/governance/privacy issues and focusing on data. That’s not to say that those issues are not important—trust me,
they may become your biggest challenge. But rather than focus on those, today I am simply sharing my roadmap and examples of how I am using data to enhance the customer experience in both physical and virtual meeting spaces. Ready? Let’s jump in and learn how to swim.
Lesson One: Don’t Be Scared To Get Wet: Product-Usage Data And Where To Put It
We need to start swimming somewhere. Where better to start than a data lake? The simple definition of a “data lake” is a storage repositor y that holds a large amount of data in its native format. In this context, let’s just say it’s a big hole where we can dump water (or data). Unlike a data warehouse that uses a hierarchical structure like files or folders, a data lake is flat. Having no waves makes it easier to swim, right? Keeping this analogy going, looking
at a large body of water can seem intimidating when one is new to swimming. So, we should probably build a dock. What’s great about having a flat lake is that we can build any kind of dock we want. Let’s define the dock as the tools and technology that enable the analysis and aggregation of data across products and platforms in an attempt to understand the user experience. Simply said, we can use this data to develop a better product. Why is this construct important in the AV world? Let’s break it down. In my opinion, we need manufacturers to build telemetr y into their products. From face detection in cameras to AI chipsets in media players, we are seeing this become a reality. However, issues continue to exist centered on retrieving the data in a useable format. Many times, the data can only be retrieved using a proprietar y or third-party platform. This might be useful at first, but it quickly becomes a roadblock. As more companies bring on data scientists
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AV incorporates a collection of data points from multiple products and individual experiences.
and specialists, it will be important for them to collect usage information quickly and in its raw format. REST APIs are useful, but they often limit us to how others have formatted and used the data. This can make waves in the lake.
Lesson Two: Getting Comfortable In The Water: Cross-Product Data Usage
Now the water’s above our waists, and we’re gathering data on specific product usage. But how many enterprises are just using one platform or one product? The second lesson focuses on taking in data from multiple products and using that data to understand and build a better experience. The best way to explain this lesson is to examine a use case. To make it simple, let’s look at UC client usage from one individual: Swimmer One. We can see Swimmer One is using her UC client, but, instead of using her computer audio, she is having the client dial back into her cellphone. This may be an issue, as this behavior will add an additional cost to the company while VoIP usage is free. There could be many reasons why Swimmer One is doing this. Is there lowerquality audio on her laptop over VoIP? Did her headset disconnect, or did the client crash? Maybe she doesn’t know her behavior adds cost. In my experience, this is where cross-product data can help us. With the ability to take data from multiple products, we start to have deeper insight into Swimmer One’s user experience. Let’s say in this case we have data from the UC client in a call and data from her laptop client. The laptop client shows that no headset is attached to the device. With both datasets being sent to the data lake, we begin seeing correlations between both product experiences. Maybe we need to order her a headset, send a notification with information on where she can get one or ask her neighbor to quiet down. Here’s one more example of cross-product data analysis. Let’s take the data from the camera in a conference room. That camera can tell how many people are in the room at a given moment. I can take the data from the room-booking platform and match that to how many people the room holds. Just like that, I can begin solving meeting room space issues by right-sizing the experience. The next step would be to use artificial intelligence (AI) to do that work by nudging users to choose the right room in the first place. You can begin to see that there are no limits to what we can discover about what our users need and what we can do to enhance their experience.
Lesson Three: Learning A Swimming Stroke: Combining Product Data With Other Contextual Data
Now you’re comfortable in the water. This is an exciting place to be! After working out some of the foundational items, you’re ready to start swimming in your data lake. This is the opportunity to start leveraging other data platforms to receive a deeper context to the experiences we are creating. The easiest way to explain this is by examining datasets that, as AV people, we often don’t use. For instance, let’s look at data from a human resources platform. We can take the information found there and begin to build personas around our users. We can create a persona for ever yone from remote workers to executives and across tasks. Defining these personas allows us to turn a product experience into a personalized experience. This is when things get interesting! Take remote workers as an example. If we dive into the data, we begin to understand they will need a certain device or software. If we dig further, we could possibly discern they will need tools that allow them to work anywhere without restriction, or that they will be using their mobile app more than anything else. These personal details will allow us to engineer solutions that give our users what they need, when they need it.
Other contextual data we can look at is physical movement through the office. Using heat mapping, we can see what spaces are being underutilized or overutilized. We can analyze environmental platform data at the same time and make decisions on where and when to cool, heat or light a meeting space. We can even use this data to prioritize which conference room spaces are slotted for a refresh to maximize impact. We can also see that a certain persona may prefer one conference room over another. We then can investigate the reasoning behind these behaviors and take that feedback to engineers who will enhance and personalize the experience with the next iteration in our product lifecycle.
Lesson Four: From The Doggie Paddle To Synchronized Swimming: Leveraging Contextual Data With Smart Metrics And Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
We’re swimming! Now we’re ready to master those strokes. We’re gathering data from multiple products and platforms and using that data as needed. We’re analyzing and using it to guide the enhancement of our user experience. We can now compare data from the time a meeting is scheduled to start with the actual time a meeting connects. If we see a gap in those times, we could conclude there may be issues
with the ease of starting a meeting. If we add contextual data that shows it is mostly the finance persona in this gap, we can focus in on what those specific users will need to optimize their performance. Perhaps we should emphasize training. Maybe we have the wrong tool in place. What is clear is that using this data will improve decision-making as it pertains to how we enhance our room design or why we place digital signage in a certain location. What are the next steps? We want to leverage this data to do more than just enhance the experience. All this new cross-product contextualized information can be used to control costs, drive sales or create a better work/life balance. We can align this data with business goals to make sure we are driving change. The possibilities for enhancement are nearly endless. The next few years will continue to be an exciting time for our industry. The rate of technical change is always increasing. To stay ahead of the changes, we must use data as a tool to help ensure we are making user-impacting decisions as quickly and effectively as we can. It’s certainly not easy to achieve the level of usefulness we require from the data lake. There is a lot of work to do to change technology and culture. But, in the end, it will be worth it. Then, once we’re done swimming, we can contemplate dipping into a hot tub full of AI.
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A marketplace of ideas is always superior to a monopoly on them.
By David Danto As the new Editor of IT/AV Report, I’m adding a few recurring columns that will be clearly marked as opinion pieces, just as this one is. I would argue that, yes, although we in the industr y want to read about new technology, we also want to know what others among our peers are thinking. Indeed, when I worked as a collaboration consultant, the question I was most often asked was, “What are the other guys doing?” We all inherently want to learn from others’ successes and mistakes, desiring to stand on the shoulders of those before us to reach those higher heights. IT/AV Report partakes in that spirit with its “Viewpoint” section, which I was honored to coordinate and/or participate in many times in the past. That section will continue well into the future. After all, getting ever yone’s thoughts on a curated topic helps frame the issue in a manner that is unique. However, going for ward, we’ll extend the coverage of opinions to include industr y leaders and obser vers who can fill us all in on what’s happening and how they see it affecting what we do. Famous (infamous?) AVtweep Josh Srago decided to leave his role in the AV industr y about a year ago to pursue a law degree. He felt that no one was really looking at our technology space from the perspective of what is legal. He’s not a lawyer yet—in fact, he doesn’t even play one on TV at this point—but his unique perspective has been tremendously insightful as regards an aspect of what we do that’s long been ignored. We’ll share his opin-
ion contributions on an ongoing basis. Famous (infamous?) industry analyst Ira Weinstein offered his observations from his chair at Wainhouse Research for years, and he’s now begun his own firm, Recon Research. Weinstein has always had a unique perspective on the AV and collaboration space, and he can always be counted on to drive to the core of an issue with unmatched speed. We’re giving him a page at the end of this issue, as well as future issues, to deliver the last word on the topics we’re covering. Although I’ll edit both of those contributions for style and grammar, their thoughts will come to you unedited. What good is hearing only one idea—only one voice— when we all seek the opinions of our industry peers to help shape our own thoughts? I encourage others in our industr y to reach out to me and share their views, as well. Within the space constraints of our biannual publication, I’ll do my best to make this a forum where all opinions are welcome. It will never matter if you work with me (in my day job) or work for a competitor. It won’t matter if I agree or disagree with you. It would do the readers of this publication a disser vice to restrict the opinions published only to those with which the Editor agrees. Sadly, forums of this type are becoming less common in our industr y. Conferences that used to include sessions and programming by partners that represented the best and brightest in their respective fields now no longer have those partners. Some organizers feel they can do it “just as well themselves,” and maybe save a couple of pennies in the process. That’s a sad commentar y on our industr y. As soon as one restricts the source of opinions to only oneself, attendees of and participants in one’s events are stuck with blind spots that can result in problems they never saw coming. I certainly hope this trend is temporar y and can be reversed. It’s instructive to remember that the best managers are the ones who hire the brightest people and just let them shine. The employees look good, and the managers look great for having recruited them. The super visors who want to micromanage and control ever ything are never as successful or as appreciated. The same principle applies to conferences and seminars. If an organizer brings in the associations and partners that represent the best and brightest in the space, then both they and the organizer shine. If the conference or seminar is restricted to only the organizer’s voice, then one loses in quality what one has gained in control. In that case, the attendees and participants will see the difference—I guarantee it. “All Voices” used to be a part of our industr y’s mantra. Ever yone was welcome at the table. Now, the opportunities to participate have diminished. In this publication, I promise to make sure that ever y voice will have the opportunity to be heard going for ward. Reach out and share your opinions; participate in the conversations that shape our industr y. You’ll always be welcome here while I’m in the Editor’s chair.
David Danto has more than three decades’ experience providing problem-solving leadership/innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds. He now works as the Director of UC Strategy and Research for Poly, and he’s the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology.
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By Brynn Beal The advent of robust, video-first technologies is changing the traditional classroom, in both primar y and higher education. This transformation—from a technology perspective—is redefining student and faculty interaction, as well as reshaping the physical classroom and the student engagement process. Where we are today and what’s happening on the horizon are exciting realities that students, teachers, parents and the firms that provide educational technologies should take notice of. Today, schools can connect and leverage resources better than they’ve ever been able to before. Several cloud-collaboration technologies are competing for mindshare in the marketplace; the primary benefit is enabling students to learn anywhere, on any device. Applications developed by Microsoft, Cisco, Slack, Google and others allow for on-demand meetings, continuous workstreams, chat/messaging and integrated video. This supports the concept of flipped learning— defined as “a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed
Video First In Education Emerging collaboration technology is expanding possibilities inside and outside the classroom.
into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.” With these applications, education can be facilitated beyond the walls of the classroom in a persistent and secure space. Students are now enabled
to work with peers outside of their own districts and universities, and teachers can cooperatively lecture with colleagues in their field who may sit on the other side of the world.
User Experience Is The Differentiator
I personally heard a vendor presenting its technology to a customer and a group of salespeople a few weeks ago, and the opening portion of the presentation boasted, “What sets our technology apart is the seamless and highquality experience.” That was a strong statement. I thought to myself, “I’ve heard quite a few vendors make this same statement in the last six months.” Maybe the differentiator doesn’t lie in the technology itself. Maybe we look at what’s happening at the end-user level to make better recommendations for the evolving student and faculty environment. The power of choice is an incredible privilege to give a child. Collaboration tools, now more than ever, are providing students in K-12 and university environments the ability to choose how
Brynn Beal is a Solutions Architect at Dimension Data North America, a global systems integrator and proud member of the NTT Group. She has been in the technology industry in both sales and technical roles for 10 years. She loves black licorice, New Yorker cartoons and staying current on technology trends.
power of sway often can come from the students. Andrew Crawford, CIO of Christopher Newport University, in Newport News VA, commented, “Our students bring the technology to us. We’re a face-to-face campus—small class sizes with no online course offerings. The adoption of technology by the faculty has been a result of the students using tools to augment their classroom experience and bringing new applications to our attention that they’ve found to be successful [in their use of collaboration].” He went on to add that the school’s faculty now employs collaboration technologies to offer virtual office hours, provide training online and asynchronously communicate among colleagues. Their adoption has grown with the increase in student use.
Being An Effective Education Partner they learn, improving outcomes for all. By offering them options around how to obtain, consume and retain course material, students have become more motivated and collaborative, regardless of personality type and learning style. Technology providers like Microsoft and others are embedding features that support physical and learning disabilities, and they’re implementing proven techniques to improve reading and writing. Blackboard, commonly used among K-12 schools and universities, has features that accommodate hearing, visual and physical disabilities.
Evolving Education Environments
Beyond student agency and choice, the physicality of schools is changing. I spoke with Mike Sylofski, Managing Coordinator of E-Learning Ser vices at Northeastern Regional Information Center (NERIC), in Albany NY, and he explained that schools are seeing different furniture layouts to facilitate a more modern educational experience. For example, the teacher’s podium is removed, and flexible, comfortable seating is provided in a design that can be changed often. Huddle spaces are becoming more common, with the ability to video-enable the space wirelessly www.ITAVReport.com
and with one touch. Polycom released a USB video bar with plug-and-play functionality that transforms a small room into a video huddle space. Cisco has updated several endpoint technologies to allow for a simple, consistent video experience that can scale from a small class discussion to a large lecture. But how quickly are these changes happening? What are the barriers to change? Even though it’s much easier to connect with colleagues today, given the tools we have in our hands, adoption of the technology depends on the demographics of the school or university. At a recent IMCCA event panel discussion that explored the shift in collaboration adoption among enterprise organizations, a panelist commented that adoption is challenging among organizations because of the stark differences between gen Z, millennials, gen Xers, baby boomers, etc. Another panelist spoke up and voiced his disagreement; he pointed out that adoption of technologies in the organizations where he has worked (and led teams) was solely dependent on the buy-in from a group of key individuals who have influence or power. In the university setting, that
An increase in adoption combined with an often-fragmented deployment of technologies brings the need for visibility, security and simplified management of these tools. It sounds much easier than it is, which is why there are a number of organizations focused on providing managed ser vices to offload these efforts. An increase in subscription-based consumption, combined with a move to cloud-based technologies that are integrating into more tools ever y day, calls for a partner that can help with the administration and management—improving end-user adoption, optimizing spend and increasing ROI. Looking ahead, technology solutions in education will continue to improve rapidly. We’re seeing advances in both the bridge between asynchronous and synchronous learning and applications that bridge the physical and virtual learning spaces. With a device in ever y student’s hand, campuses will have to become more digitally intelligent. Whereas that’s a wild reality for people who, like me, didn’t even have a desktop computer in college, it’s an endless horizon for our children. We should all be excited to keep watching this space as it grows and turns all of us into students of the technological advances along the way. Spring 2019
Designing Bluetooth Into AV Systems How to use consumer-friendly wireless tech in commercial-grade meeting spaces. By Rob Sheeley Bluetooth has become the wireless audio standard built into all of our wireless devices. With more than five billion Bluetooth devices forecasted to be shipped this year, it’s an integral part of our ever yday lives. However, the idea of Bluetooth being used in the world of commercial AV has always been considered crazy at best. As a wireless consumer audio standard with a ver y limited broadcast range and nominal audio quality, it always seemed best suited for personal headsets and Bluetooth speakers in consumer applications. However, as Bluetooth has grown to become the most adopted wireless audio standard in the world—and the one used by all of our customers—it’s no longer something that we can ignore. This article will focus on how to design a Bluetooth network into a meeting space and how to integrate it into an audio system design. I’ll cover the basics of Bluetooth, the connection process, Bluetooth profiles and integrating a Bluetooth Wireless Access Point (B-WAP) into your meeting room space. The B-WAP integration discussion will cover B-WAP location determination, cabling consideration, transmission distances and how to integrate the B-WAP into an AV system. Using a B-WAP in this manner will exponentially increase the ease of use for end users. It represents a simple, wireless connection between a user’s device(s) and a meeting room’s audio system. The keyword is simplicity. The B-WAP is designed to streamline the process of making conference calls in meeting rooms with a computer, laptop and/or mobile phone. Making a conference call will now be as easy as tapping the Bluetooth connect button on the user’s device. Adjusting the volume, muting and connecting can all
be done on the standard volume control on the user’s device. Understanding and incorporating this technology will be well worth the effort.
A typical B-WAP.
Bluetooth technology was originally developed as a short-range wireless communication technology designed to replace cables—the ones responsible for physically connecting electronic devices, such as keyboards, digital tablets, headsets, speakers, printers and other devices, to a PC. In today’s world, all mobile devices have Bluetooth, and the wireless connections are likely higher-bandwidth multimedia streams. The goal of a B-WAP is to provide a secure, long-range wireless connection—an audio bridge, if you will—between a mobile device such as a laptop or smartphone and a room’s audio system. It becomes a simple wireless connection between devices and a room’s audio system. The Bluetooth RF transceiver in the B-WAP operates in the unlicensed ISM band centered at 2.4GHz—the same range of frequencies used by microwaves and Wi-Fi. The transceiver employs a frequency-hopping technique to combat interference and fading. Bluetooth devices are managed using an RF topology known as a “star network.” A group of devices synchronized in this fashion form a “piconet”— a network including one master and up to seven active slaves; additional slaves may be out there, but they are not actively participating in the network. The B-WAP becomes the master device in the network. All other devices connected to the B-WAP are slaves. In order to provide a secure connection, the B-WAP will allow only one slave to connect to the system at one time. On the B-WAP Bluetooth network, the physical radio channel is shared by the group of devices synchronized to a common clock and frequency-hopping pattern. The B-WAP provides the synchronization references. Devices on the Bluetooth network use a specific frequency-hopping pattern, which is algorithmically determined by the master device. The basic hopping pattern is a pseudo-random ordering of the 79 frequencies in the ISM band. The hopping pattern may be adapted to exclude a portion of the frequencies that are used by interfering devices. This adaptive hopping technique improves Bluetooth technology’s coexistence with static (non-hopping) ISM systems, such as Wi-Fi networks, when they are located in the vicinity of a Bluetooth network.
The Connection Process
All Bluetooth devices have a unique 48-bit address, commonly abbreviated as BD_ADDR. This will usually be presented in the form of a 12-digit hexadecimal
Rob Sheeley is a serial entrepreneur who has founded, sold and acquired multiple companies in the AV industry. He holds numerous patents in camera control technology, video display and software IP. He now serves as the CEO/President of Williams AV.
value. The most significant half (24 bits) of the address is an organizationunique identifier (OUI), which identifies the manufacturer. The lower 24 bits are the more unique part of the address. Thankfully, the B-WAP can be given a user-friendly name such as “ConferenceRoom100” for easy identification. Creating a Bluetooth connection between the B-WAP and a Bluetooth device is a multi-step process. The first step is the inquir y: If the B-WAP knows nothing about the device, it must run an inquir y to tr y to discover the device. The B-WAP sends out an inquir y request, and any device listening for such a request will respond with its address, possibly its name and any other information. The second step is the paging, or the connecting step between the B-WAP and the Bluetooth device. Before the connection can be initiated, each device needs to know the address of the other (found during the inquir y process). After the device
has completed the paging process, it enters the connection state. Once connected, a device will remain connected until it is no longer actively participating. All end users have to do is tap the Conference100 Bluetooth icon on their device and they are connected. Whereas consumer Bluetooth devices are designed to automatically pair with each other once the two devices have been “bonded,” an enterprise-grade B-WAP is specifically designed not to use auto-pairing. This feature proves ver y effective in a corporate/enterprise environment, where the decision to pair your device with a room’s audio system should be a conscious choice. And whereas consumer Bluetooth devices stay paired until they are out of range, the B-WAP automatically disconnects the user when the audio or video conference call is completed. In the case of streaming audio, end users can easily disconnect the audio signal when they are done. That way, the system becomes immediately available for the next user. As stated earlier, the B-WAP only allows one device to be connected at one time. Each time someone connects or disconnects from the Bluetooth network, an audible tone is sounded through the speakers to alert ever yone of connection or disconnection status.
Bluetooth Network Considerations
Bluetooth started out as a short-range networking solution where, in the best of conditions, you might be able to achieve a 10- to 15-foot range from the transceiver. The B-WAP for professional audio is a long-range, omnidirectional, class 1 solution designed to provide total room coverage. In a typical corporate or education environment, you can easily achieve a broadcast coverage pattern of up 100 feet. In a wide-open, low-interference area such as an auditorium, lecture hall or outdoor venue, the coverage pattern can reach up to 300 feet.
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The coverage pattern of a typical B-WAP.
Like any wireless access point system, the goal is to on the aptX HD codec. The aptX HD codec is the high-deficentralize the location of the B-WAP to maximize the nition version of the aptX codec that Qualcomm developed a Bluetooth broadcast coverage. So, whenever possible, the few years ago. The goal of utilizing the aptX HD codec was location of the B-WAP should be as close to the center of to significantly improve the audio quality with a higherthe room as possible. Wireless signals tend to spread the quality 24-bit/48kHz audio stream. This is done at a slightly signal downward, so it’s best to mount the B-WAP as high higher bitrate by increasing the bandwidth of the Bluetooth as possible to maximize coverage. We recommend mountstream. The result is excellent audio quality, low latency and ing it on the ceiling. The B-WAP can be directly mounted ver y little background noise. to a single-gang electrical box (if conduit is required), or it Professional B-WAP solutions offer a simple and secure way can be mounted directly to a sheetrock ceiling or wall usof delivering wireless Bluetooth functionality in enterprise ing screws and anchors. If mounted to a suspended-tile or conferencing environments. Users don’t have to do a massive locked-in, mineral-tile ceiling, make sure adequate support upgrade to their current audio system, and integrators can has been added behind the ceiling tile. B-WAPs tend to be easily add it into new room designs. This technology will begin ver y light, weighing less than eight ounces. A standard showing up more frequently in enterprise environments as usCat6 cable provides the power to the B-WAP and also ers and integrators experience the simplicity of installation and distributes the audio input and output and control signals the power and value of the wireless solution. back to the headend unit. The cable distance between the B-WAP and the control unit can be up to 150 feet. Another thing to consider during BWAP placement is that wireless signals can pass easily through open space and even through sheetrock walls. However, these same signals can be blocked by steel beams, concrete, brick, wire mesh, and even windows and mirrors. If any such materials are located in the room, plan accordingly to prevent any possible signal blockage and interference. In large lecture halls or auditoriums with higher ceilings, larger space coverage and a multitude of other wireless equipment, the best placement location for the B-WAP might be in the front of the hall, next to the presenter’s work area. The presenter is typically located where the connected device is located, so this is a great choice for placement. In order to meet the needs of the professional audio integrator, we need to provide the highest-quality audio signal. The Bluetooth transceiver in our B-WAP is based A diagram of a prospective system.
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8K Displays: Awesome Potential, But…
Advances in display tech mean better picture quality, but there are still some tradeoffs. By Joel Silver and David Danto This year’s CES show—the 52nd in its history—continued the transition of this exposition from a “products” show to a “concepts” show. As the topics get more amorphous, it becomes obvious how hard it is to demonstrate new solutions using a conventional physical booth—one can’t very well showcase artificial intelligence (AI) or 5G with a model holding them in his or her hands. But then, bucking the trend, there are always the latest displays to touch, feel and, of course, see. At CES 2019, industr y people and the media gathered around, ogled and drooled over a number of displays that all boasted the newest and hottest feature: 8K resolution. Yes, some of the images were fantastic and certainly created a “buying lust”—even among the financially challenged press corps. However, there were some striking differences in the quality of the images on the various displays showcased. Mixed in with the standouts were 8K models whose picture quality was soft and fuzzy, artifact-ridden and downright fatiguing to watch. Once again, hyping the hottest buzzword didn’t necessarily equate with having the best product.
Perceived Picture Quality
8K, in and of itself, is no nir vana. Perceived picture quality is always going to be dependent on the quality of the content, the quality of any devices processing the image, the quality of the medium that brings the image to the display and the manufacturing quality of the display itself. Yes, 8K displays can be awesome, but, with distribution challenges and hardly any native content, taking the leap to 8K today in the commercial integration world would likely be foolish. In order to understand where and
how 8K fits as the latest entrant into the display world, it’s helpful to look at the “Space, Light and Time” classification of digital displays. After all, digital TVs (DTVs) are simply machines that turn bits into pictures—they transform digital data into physical images using space, light and time. Space: The number of visible lines or pixels onscreen. Light: How bright the picture is, and how many colors are visible onscreen. Time: How many pictures are flashed per second; in other words, “temporal resolution” or frames per second (fps). The first digital displays—released in 1982—digitized our old analog TV images (the ones that used either 525 or 625 TV lines.) So as better to understand how these displays evolved into 8K TV, let’s start at the beginning with how analog displays brought pictures into our homes and trace the evolution of these space, light and time parameters to our current era of ultra-HD displays, including 8K. ANALOG TV Space: Either 525 or 625 horizontal lines top to bottom Light: Tube TVs (CRTs) had a brightness of only 100 nits, but had unlimited steps between black and white Time: Either 50fps or 60fps, unchanged since the 1930s STANDARD-DEFINITION DIGITAL REC. 601 Space: 640x480, or roughly 300,000 (.3K) pixels to process Light: 100 nits, 220 steps from black to white at 8-bit, CRT TVs’ phosphor-based colors Time: The same 50/60fps since the 1930s HIGH-DEFINITION DIGITAL REC. 709 Space: Up to 1920x1080, or roughly 2,000,000 pixels (2K) Light: 100 nits, 220 steps from black to white at 8-bit, but somewhat improved to 1990 CRT colors Time: The same 50/60fps since the 1930s ULTRA-HIGH DEFINITION—2012 SPECS BT.2246-1 Space: Up to 8K—roughly 33,000,000 pixels Light: Up to 10,000 nits, roughly 1,000 steps from black to white at 10-bit, roughly 4,000 steps at 12-bit Time: Up to 120fps. “Temporal resolution” is finally improved—and sports look awesome!
Beauty & The Beast
The first thing to realize about any DTV is that creating perfect analog pictures using bits will never happen. DTV deploys elementar y calculus using “points” to emulate a “cur ve,” and the cur ve can never be completely smooth. But with more points from higher bit depths, and more places to spatially posi-
Joel Silver is the President and Founder of the Imaging Science Foundation, Inc. (ISF), which incorporated in 1994 to introduce image-quality-improving calibration services into HDTVs. There are now more than 12 million HDTVs shipped each year under license to the ISF.
tion them at 8K, intelligent processing at 8K can deliver the best TV images ever seen—but only if the TV’s processing is up to this massive challenge! In this sense, 8K processing is a case of “Beauty and the Beast.” 8K technology can produce beautiful images, but the image quality can be so high that it creates a whole new set of problems. Each of the display parameters identified above—space, light and time—presents its own Beauty and its own Beast. Space: The Beauty—Evolving from .3K to 8K provides the potential for smooth, artifact-free pictures if processing deploys sufficient power and speed coupled with intelligent algorithm engineering. The Beast— 8K reveals poor processing like a jeweler’s loop reveals defects in diamonds. Light: The Beauty—Even a 1,000nit TV is 10 times brighter than our old TVs, and 2,000-nit TVs were all over CES 2019. Those TVs can use up to 200 times more steps from black to white and can create color and light transitions that are more lifelike and relaxing to watch than ever before. The Beast—Brighter TVs reveal motion artifacts and poor color transitions that induce user fatigue. Time: The Beauty—We have been
watching 60fps since 1939. HDR’s space, color and light have revolutionized watching movies in our homes. 120fps will do the same for sports. The Beast—Double the number of frames per second increases the cost of processing and the challenges for engineering intelligent algorithms.
8K Conclusions & Future Potential
Here is what is important to know about 8K displays for the immediate future: n There is far more to 8K than just less-visible pixels. Improved control over motion in space, plus precision modulation of light and color, produces an improved digital-to-analog conversion that is clearly visible, even to the casual viewer. n If video processing is superb in time, space and color, then 8K pixels enable visibly smoother transitions and deliver more analog-like pictures. n Motion artifacts may still occur, but they are one quarter the size and therefore less visible. n 8K 120fps will redefine “temporal resolution” and revolutionize watching sports on TV. n At first, only the tier-one TVs will look awesome with 8K, whereas many TVs will look worse with 8K. We will get what we pay for. Don’t go shopping at Costco for the cheapest 8K display out there and expect it to perform
commensurate with all the hype of the best displays. 8K displays showcase what the planet’s best engineering teams can accomplish with spatial resolution. They exhibit vastly improved space, color and light. These qualities will only improve as the manufacturers keep improving the products and features. However, with the lack of consistency, lack of content, lack of standards around deliver y and just the simple newness of the devices, we wouldn’t recommend them for commercial applications just yet. When the units are actually available, the first wave of 8K buyers will be people who want to be able to say they purchased and installed “the best there is.” These implementations will be solely for bragging rights. As the other elements come together, expect 8K to follow the same commercial path as HDTV and ultra HD: prices will come down, peripherals and processors will improve, and content will be more available. It is at that point that 8K TVs should be given serious consideration in commercial applications. But as for CES 2019, many of us left the show feeling like we, once again, need to get new TVs. After all, someone has to remain on the bleeding edge— and it might as well be us. At least it beats buying “The White Album” again in yet another audio format.
The Changing Face Of The Office Floor Plan This ain’t your daddy’s (or your) workplace. By Christopher Maione, CTS-D, DSCE, DMC-D Offices today are sporting a new generation of design that favors collaboration and inclusion. These spaces focus on light, flow, flexibility, technology and communication. By flattening the hierarchy of corner offices, private offices and cubicles, the changing face of the office celebrates transparency and creates environments that cater to the needs of the team, treating team members as people as much as employees.
Let’s Take A Tour…
Welcome to our new office. Please have a seat in our lobby area, which feels a lot more like a five-star hotel than a reception area. Cue the super-friendly and helpful staff: “Can I get you a water, coffee, latte, cappuccino or (depending upon the time and nature of your visit) a cold beer?” Walking around the office, you will see that either we just moved in or we recently renovated—and, in doing so, we ripped down all the walls that separated the spaces, and we now feature a completely “open” office floor plan. In some cases, we’ve even ripped out all those ugly things over our heads. I believe you used to call them “dropped ceilings.” Private offices? Not so much. We feel they were restrictive, almost like “isolation caves,” and definitely not in line with the collaborative environment we are fostering. Instead of offices, we have air y, open workspaces, where ever y desk has adjustable sit-to-stand surfaces. We even designate many desk areas as flexible spaces, so you can move freely from desk to desk. For the generations that have grown up working around communal tables at Starbucks, our design offers more amenities, better lighting and infinitely better acoustics. We have a variety of touch-down areas for our team—spaces where we can informally meet away from the distractions of our desks. We are communityminded and environmentally friendly, so we have forgone the pulp-eating copiers and printers in favor of PDFs or collaboration tools such as Google Hangouts,
Microsoft Teams and Dropbox, just to name a few. As for the rows and rows of file cabinets, we threw them all away and moved our document storage to the cloud. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a formal, stuffy boardroom; gone are the traditional, four-walled, 20-person conference rooms. Instead, you’ll see that we gutted those rooms and changed the exterior walls to glass fronts so we could enjoy the natural light. Our current mix of conference spaces now includes collaboration rooms, huddle rooms, team rooms, soft-seating lounges, rooms for private phone calls, break rooms, pantries and open spaces that are flexible for meetings or hosting events. If you want to reser ve a conference space, you can book any space on your computer, tablet or phone using our app, or just walk up to one of those cool touchpanels outside the conference space and book it from there. Green means it’s open; red means it’s already booked. Oh, and by the way, if you book a room and then don’t show up there, the occupancy-detector system detects that and frees the room up after 15 minutes (and you are classified as a no-show). If no-showing becomes a reoccurring problem—you know what they say, “Three strikes and you’re out”—you might not have the opportunity to book a conference space in the future. All of our conference facilities include videoconferencing, but not that bulky, expensive stuff. We use cool, hip, software-based platforms such as Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting and Webex. Did you want water? A snack?
Christopher Maione is a recognized leader and expert in the AV industry with more than 28 years’ audiovisual expertise. His forward-thinking and progressive approach to business led him to found and become Managing Partner of one of the world’s leading AV consulting firms, earning the company accolades as a leader in AV solutions and technologies. Maione now focuses his attention representing owners and end users on large-scale technology projects. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some peanuts, licorice, trail mix or yogurt? We’ve got some healthy options, as well as many ways to caffeinate your day. Our coffee bar is always open, and the pantr y is stocked. Don’t worr y—it’s all free and just part of our plan to make you feel comfortable and relaxed…to make you want to stay. To make the environment productive as can be, we added a sound-masking system that greatly enhances the acoustical environment, reduces distractions, improves privacy and negates other unwanted noise throughout the space. For your listening pleasure, our overhead speaker system offers up a variety of tunes, and it is voice-activated or can be programmed. You’ll even find we have a game room where you can take a break by playing some video games or brain-
storm ideas over pool, ping pong or darts. And if you need to chill, melt down or just relax, feel free to visit a wellness room or spend some time in one of our meditation spaces. Our work environment is dynamic. We don’t want our team coming to work each day to some dungeon of an office.
The Lesson To Learn
The office of today supports an ever-evolving workforce. By offering something for ever yone, these environments are blending the needs of a diverse workforce and catering to baby boomers, gen X, millennials and the up-and-coming gen Z. The goal is to create spaces that are inviting and technically sound— and that reflect the personality of the companies that built them. The lesson for AV consultants, AV integrators and end users involved in planning office floors and conference facilities is to keep in mind that your clients have changed. Because most of us involved in office planning are on the more senior side, we need to recognize the next generation has different needs than what we have been designing and implementing for in the past. I would encourage you to ensure a fair mix of end-user clients are represented at your spaceplanning meetings. Listen to what they have to say about what they need (and don’t need), and work to create a working environment that will fit their requirements. Their needs are much more informal, social and collaborative as compared to the prior office topology. And don’t forget space for the bike racks!
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Enterprise Team-Chat Solutions This is the do-or-die year. By David Maldow
Will Team-Chat applications like this be our future?
The hype and excitement around Team-Chat platforms might be unprecedented in the business-collaboration space. Some proponents go so far as to say it is the biggest thing since email, whereas others go further and say it will be bigger than email! On the other hand, it is still ver y new, and many have questions and doubts—particularly when it comes to enterprise deployments. This year, the time for speculation will end as we learn whether the hype is real, whether Team Chat is just a fad and whether it is suitable for enterprise.
What Is Team Chat?
Internet chat is not a new thing. In fact, the first internet chat room was used a year before email was invented. We’ve always had chat, and Team Chat isn’t really anything more than chat reimagined with a project-based workflow. Yet, for many, this slight tweak to the most basic internet communication
technology is absolutely magical. With traditional UC chat clients, you have a “buddy list” of colleagues, with chat messages being in the context of the person you are messaging. Regardless of whether you want to discuss sales, product development, marketing, finances or any other business matter, you click on the name of the person to whom you want to talk and send a chat message. Team Chat turns that dynamic on its head by creating channels for each project or discussion topic. When you want to discuss Project X, you put your message in the Project X channel and ever yone on the team sees it; this saves you from having to send multiple UC messages or a group email. It allows a live, continuous, on-topic team discussion over the entire course of any given project, or in perpetuity for ongoing projects. Small teams using Team Chat report that it improves team productivity,
which is obviously the primar y goal of any collaboration tool. Perhaps just as importantly, however, users like using Team Chat because it gives them the freedom not only to work remotely, but also to work on their own schedule, without slowing down the pace of the team. The Team-Chat workflow provides a number of other benefits; chief among them is the ability to review an entire project histor y, including shared files, simply by scrolling up or using the search engine. However, up until now, we have been seeing these benefits only from teams in small to medium businesses.
The Enterprise Team-Chat Debate
There are several legitimate concerns about the viability of Team Chat in enterprise. It originally entered our space as a small-to-medium-business tool. The earliest entries in the market simply weren’t designed with enterprise’s security, manageability and scalability
David Maldow has been covering the visual collaboration industry and related technologies for more than a decade. His background includes five years at Wainhouse Research, where he managed the Video Test Lab and evaluated many of the leading solutions at the time. He has authored hundreds of articles and thought pieces for LDV and other publications, including Telepresence Options, for which he was Managing Partner for several years. He often speaks at industry events and webinars, as well as hosting the LDV Video Podcast.
requirements in mind. Some tools are “enterprise ready,” but the first Team-Chat apps simply were not. The market is attempting to address this in two ways: First, existing Team-Chat vendors are adding features and capabilities to create enterprise-facing versions of their apps. Second, vendors already in the enterprise collaboration market (such as Cisco and Microsoft) are creating enterprise-ready TeamChat apps from the ground up. This does not end the debate, however. Although we can certainly address the technical issues required for enterprise readiness, we also have to determine whether the workflow, in itself, is appropriate for enterprise. A chat channel with five team members is easy to keep up with, but what if the team has 50 members? Can the chat be moderated to keep it manageable or will it become spammy chaos? A small business might have five to 10 active projects, which means it would have five to 10 chat channels to manage. An enterprise might have thousands of active projects. Can that be broken up and managed, or will people become lost among thousands of channels? On the one hand, it seems clear that Team Chat is a great tool for small teams, and enterprises are made of small teams. On the other hand, many small-business tools simply do not scale for enterprise. Until Team Chat is proven to scale, the question remains open.
Why The Team-Chat Hype?
There have been countless collaboration tools over the years that promised greater productivity and more worker freedom. Why is it that Team Chat has gotten so much hype as compared to other collaboration tools? The main reason for all the media attention has been its viral growth. Slack (the original breakthrough ser vice in the space) is the fastest-growing software as a ser vice (SaaS) startup in histor y. It also boasts an incredible conversion rate of 30 percent of its “freemium” customers to paid customers, as well as an unbelievable 93-percent userretention rate. Clearly, it’s wor th paying attention to something here. Perhaps even more compelling is the way this growth was obtained. It was almost entirely grassroots. Typically, collaboration is a C-level purchase, and adoption programs are required to get the working teams onboard with the new technology. In other words, an organization must push its workers to use the technology in order to get its money’s worth. With Team Chat, adoption comes from the ground up. The ser vice was spread virally by the workers themselves, from team to team. People simply like using it and see the benefits quickly. With this kind of growth and adoption, it’s no wonder that we are keenly interested to see whether this is just a fad or whether it’s the future of workplace collaboration, particularly in the enterprise.
2019 Is The Time To Shine…Or Not
This year, enterprise organizations are starting to make the plunge into the world of Team Chat. Microsoft shared that it has 60 enterprise customer organizations, each with more than 10,000 active Team-Chat users. The experiment has begun, and we are now awaiting the results. We can’t know for sure what will happen, but the likely options include the following: • Team Chat completely fails in the enterprise. It remains an internal-only team tool for small and medium businesses, whereas enterprise Team-Chat solutions are replaced by the next fad • Team Chat takes over the world. It becomes the default business communications tool, replacing UC and even email for internal and external communications. • Team Chat joins our toolset. It doesn’t fail, but it doesn’t take over. • Something new and unexpected hits the market and renders this entire discussion moot. What does this mean for today’s enterprise collaborators? It is the classic early-adopter dice roll. If you get in early and it works, you have a head start on the competition. But if it turns out to be a fad, you have wasted time and you’ll have to catch up. I believe the concerns about enterprise scaling and manageability can be addressed by proper Team-Chat app design and user best practices. But I’d proceed with caution until the workflow has been proven in the enterprise.
Team-Chat options certainly are not lacking.
From The Eye Of The Law
The possible challenges and risks for early adopters of emerging technology. By Josh Srago Technology is moving so quickly that it’s often difficult just to keep up with the current and emerging trends, let alone the outside factors. Your organization has to decide when it’s ready to take a leap of faith and move away from a tried-and-true solution that you’ve used for years, and instead implement one of these new emerging solutions. That decision isn’t easy to begin with. But what happens when, once you’ve made the decision to move for ward, something of which you had not been aware adds a complication—or, worse yet, makes it so you have to reconsider your entire deployment? This is the tech policy landscape that we are currently facing, in which laws are suddenly being written that alter how we must consider using emerging technology.
monitor and control. This suite of products is not uncommon in most projects being deployed today. So, what makes this project different? You’re deploying it after January 1, 2020. That means there is a whole host of new considerations centered on the types of laws going into effect and the challenges they might pose.
Let’s start with the fully networked system. Once 2020 rolls around, installing a device with an IP or Bluetooth address that can directly or indirectly connect to the internet will get a bit more complicated in California. In an effort to protect consumers, the legislature passed a ver y broad law that requires either that the device manufacturers ship them with passwords that are unique to each device or that the devices Your New Project For the sake of discussion, let’s say there’s force a password change prior to first use. Top-tier companies have taken device sea project in California where new systems curity seriously for years. They’ve changed are going to be deployed in February 2020. You’re currently working diligently to ensure all device passwords away from the generic options simply because it’s the right thing that you’ve selected the right products to serve your purpose. You have a new wayfind- to do. However, when it comes to smallerroom solutions, for which there isn’t much ing solution going in that ties into an app configuration (the bulk of the rooms in any on people’s phones, providing turn-by-turn project), most of the devices don’t require a instructions for how to navigate the new programmer and can be handled by a lead building. You’re also exploring a new software solution that provides facial recognition tech. That lead tech, however, might not be accustomed to configuring passwords for to identify who is attending each meeting. the devices, only ever having had to worr y But what you’re most excited about is the about remembering “admin.” fully networked system, with nearly every What’s not factored into this law is the device connecting to the network for you to Josh Srago, an award-winning AV professional with experience as a consultant, integrator, manufacturer and end user, is currently attending law school at Santa Clara University with plans to return to the audiovisual industry and aid with the quickly changing legal and regulatory landscape of technology. Any article written by Srago that includes statutory or legal analysis does not constitute legal advice.
idea of batch or system password changes. The law is concerned with the unique password of each device. What about the systems for which the system password is provided from a global software suite? What about systems that alter the individual passwords for each device from a central software platform? This is something that will be quite difficult and costly for all parties involved. Was this cost—not only in labor, but also in time—factored into the execution of the project? Designers and project managers are going to have to determine how each manufacturer is responding to this law and changing how passwords are configured within their devices to determine how to account for this change.
Privacy is not an inherent right when we’re out in public. It comes into play when we have a reasonable expectation of it. So, should we expect to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace? Facial-recognition software
is making waves these days as a secure way to authenticate our personal devices, such as cell phones or laptops. However, some are starting to look at it as an analytical tool to provide information on how system solutions are being used, and who is using them. We are swiftly reaching the point at which facial recognition can be applied to in-room conference cameras. It can allow organizations to know where people are, and those organizations can apply that knowledge to see how each individual uses meeting spaces. Is it OK for an organization to track its employees like that? What are the disclosure requirements? What if they work with law-enforcement agencies and share information? Constitutional considerations come into play when we start to track individuals in circumstances in which they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. It’s a more clear-cut problem if that information is then shared with law enforcement. It’s a massive gray area right now, with a lot of atten-
tion being paid by various government entities as regards the privacy rights of individuals. The emerging issue is that we don’t know how laws could shift in the future, giving us no way to advise clients beyond the immediate term. If a client deploys a system and a law is rewritten unfavorably toward it, what will it take to alter the system or take it down completely? It might seem far-fetched to think that solutions we provide might end up being illegal, but consideration must be given as we look at technology that prevailing laws have not considered at all or have, to this point, only minimally considered.
A hot-button topic for tech policy these days is consumer protection. The General Data Protections Regulation (GDPR) in the EU has sparked significant interest in updating data protection and privacy laws in the US. California has already passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA); it bears
some similarities to GDPR, but it offers its own twists. Thinking about our project, we have to begin by considering that wayfinding solution that will live on people’s personal devices. We have to ask, “If we use this solution, what personally identifiable information (PII) is accessed on the devices and stored?” Then, we have to ask who has access to that information. Next, we have to ask the technical questions about how that information is being transmitted, parsed, stored and analyzed. Finally, we have to consider whether we are operating in an opt-out-requirement state or an opt-in-requirement state. The new landscape for these regulations significantly alters the way we must approach system design and consider Systems as a Ser vice (SaaS). The trend has been to move the business model in that direction, but, if we are not abiding by the regulator y structure of the location where the business exists, we are opening ourselves up to ver y real issues.
Specifically, we want to look at the opt-in versus opt-out requirement. In an opt-in regulator y structure, we are usually not allowed to capture any personal information if the user has not provided actual permission to do so. In an opt-out structure, we can capture the information so long as the user is given notice that the information is being captured; however, the user may retract his or her permission for us to capture that data. Being as there is currently no national privacy law in the US (although one might be proposed in Congress soon), each state will have the ability to determine what’s best. If you do business with clients all over the countr y, you might have to know all the laws. If you do business with one client across many states, which law should you apply, and where?
Ignorance Is Damaging
The truth is, coming to an understanding of these legal challenges is something that just has to become part of our daily routine. We have to be able
to communicate these issues to our clients. We have to understand which party—manufacturer, integrator, end user or some combination—is responsible for ensuring the proper protections are in place. This might seem like paranoia. But the realities that come with supplying networked devices and software solutions mean not only that we have to think about what it takes to supply a functioning audiovisual ecosystem to meet client needs, but also that we have to think about what policies are changing the way these ecosystems can be deployed, configured and sold. You’ve heard for years that AV is becoming IT. The fact that we must now concern ourselves with the legal challenges that IT solutions already face makes this abundantly clear. Given how quickly the technology moves and how slowly the laws change, keeping our eye on both is a requirement, and we must be vigilant in tending to it. If not, we put our clients and ourselves at risk.
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Software vs. Appliance?
A range of voices weigh in on the continuing debate. By Marc Cooper Marc Cooper is a senior engineer at Citigroup responsible for global system conferencing standards. His years of experience span feature film sound recording, broadcast television production, and UC development and implementation within the enterprise.
This edition of “Viewpoint” focuses on industry trends in videoconferencing system solutions—namely, purpose-built appliances versus PC-based software codecs. We have seen these competing paradigms again and again over the years within the AV industry. This time, however, the issue has been made particularly interesting due to a proliferation of offerings from cloud-based providers like Zoom; the introduction of Microsoft Teams, which requires a Windows 10 platform; and the popularity of smaller, lower-cost huddle rooms. It is interesting to see the popularity and growth of PC-based software solutions as a competent offering for inexpensive small-room situations. And, yet, we are also seeing some very robust, purpose-built, appliance-based solutions at ever-lower costs. What is right for your organization? The answer might have a lot to do with how you are set up to run your service, how you manage your endpoints and support your clients, and what your end users require to conduct their business successfully. As someone who has been in this business for more than 20 years, I have seen videoconferencing room systems migrate in form factor. My first experiences required the integration of very large, standalone, appliance-based video codecs with displays, cameras, PTZ units, control systems, microphones, external echo cancellers, amplifiers, speakers, and network and dialing components. Each component was a standalone device that had to be incorporated into a complete system. It was complex, it was expensive, and it required tremendous resources to operate and maintain, and to support the end user. Eventually, manufacturers like CLI, PictureTel, Polycom and VTEL introduced integrated systems that bundled all these components into a complete box solution. Not too long after that, I remember seeing the first PCbased personal videoconferencing systems. They used PCs www.ITAVReport.com
(of course), and they came bundled with speakerphones and headsets, as well as small desktop cameras. They used the PC monitor as a display. I was amazed that the video communication could be ported to the computer—a device that I used for spreadsheets, word processing and email. At first, we used specialized Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) cards, and then we transitioned to audio- and video-over-IP. Initially, these PC-based systems were operated like all computers, using a mouse and a keyboard, whereas room systems had specialized interfaces that could be operated more comfortably at the table (usually with an infrared (IR) remote or a dedicated push-button or touchpanel). Now, we are seeing room systems that run on PCs, along with external mic systems and touchpanel interfaces that are more suitable for the conference room. Many of these PC-based soft-codec systems are tied to a powerful cloud-based service that has sophisticated backend management, including virtual meeting rooms (VMRs), call monitoring and routing, redundant reliable service and more. So, where is all this going? What should we be investing in and planning for? First, let me say that, in my organization, we have done a tremendous amount of work to develop support models for our appliance-based systems. We have dedicated support teams whose members know voice-over-IP (VoIP) and the associated hardware. We have standardized on a user interface that is in use globally. We have systems to monitor our endpoints and integrated peripherals proactively. We get great value from our built-in, high-end microphones and playback systems. In fact, we have been able to utilize new, smaller, purposebuilt, appliance-based solutions at a competitive cost. Changing to a PC-based software-codec solution would require a lot of planning, changes to our support models, and creative solutions to maintain the proper user experience and interoperability. The rate at which technology and the market are changing today is unprecedented. We all have to be prepared for whatever direction the market takes. Enterprise technology managers, product managers, engineers, manufacturers and end users are not excepted, either. It is important that all of us always keep an eye on maintaining/improving the user experience, regardless of the technology solution. The free market will dictate the products built and supported by manufacturers. Whoever creates that better, more affordable mousetrap will win. As managers and technologists, we must make sure that our solutions don’t fall short of our end users’ needs, regardless of the technology being used. As per the name “Viewpoint,” we have striven to get a variety of views, each a unique perspective that, often, is influenced by how the respondent is positioned within the industry. The participants are end users, manufacturers, service providers and an analyst. I hope each of these viewpoints provides some insight into trends, the pros/cons of the available solutions and the choices we face. Spring 2019
The close association between software codecs and huddle rooms is inevitable, given that the majority of articles and marketing materials regarding cloud video originate from the concept of the huddle space.
END USER Chris Frohne VP – Head of Global AV Services AllianceBernstein
Recently, the open floorplan has come to dominate corporate space planning, with huddle rooms outnumbering traditional, larger conference rooms. Deploying hardware solutions in huddle rooms does not make sense from a cost or support perspective. AllianceBernstein recently implemented our first software codecs into these collaboration spaces. We also took the opportunity to launch an enterprise account to the firm, including an associated Outlook plugin and mobile account. The results were immediate. These soft-codec huddle rooms, coupled with the mobile/ desktop solution, were instantly embraced across our organization. A key to this user adoption was the simple and familiar user interface across the soft-codec environment.
This success led us to consider the benefit of widespread implementation of this solution. We quickly began to develop a more integrated system that could bring software codecs to larger conference rooms. We have since added 100 soft-codec-enabled rooms globally, and we are on pace to add 100 rooms with the same capabilities over the next calendar year. Prior to launching a soft-codec platform, all videoconferences were scheduled and managed by our AV team. We managed an average of 4,000 to 5,000 videoconferences per month. Since the implementation of the soft codec, the benefits could not be clearer. Our number of videoconferences scheduled and managed has nearly doubled. Indeed, it is not uncommon to log 10,000 videoconferences a month. We’ve successfully accelerated the use of video, we’ve drawn closer to a fully self-service model, and we’ve enabled our entire global workforce to adapt and collaborate via video. This sweeping change will not eliminate hardware codecs. They will still have a place in our spaces that require a level of remote production that soft-codecbased solutions have yet to offer (i.e., far-end camera control, discrete audio controls, automated connections). Those spaces include boardrooms, multi-purpose areas and event spaces. However, their inventory will decrease, and their design will allow them to operate on both hardware and software platforms. We are actively working to refresh the control-system interface in these rooms to mimic the native soft-codec experience. This will present users with a familiar platform experience across rooms, desktop and mobile. Although hardware codecs remain useful, it is clear to me that software codecs represent the future. The palpable anxiety throughout the AV sphere pertaining to the traction of soft codecs seems shortsighted. Of the recent emerging technologies that have led AV and IT to collaborate further, the adoption of soft codecs is perhaps the best opportunity for AV to elevate itself from fifthwheel status within the IT space. The deployment of this technology into our environment encouraged—indeed, required—the AV, networking, security and client-services teams to align tightly to ensure we delivered a usable, secure tool that clearly improved our firm’s communication. Manufacturers, integrators and corporate AV professionals all bring unique and necessary skills to the table in this new era of workplace transformation. We have to test our assumptions and adapt, rather than fruitlessly fighting evolution. There’s exciting work to be done.
END USER Joshua Klempner VP, Global Multimedia Citigroup
Soft videoconferencing solutions will continue to come at us at a blinding speed. There is no turning back from the allure of next-to-free clients installed on already-existing platforms. The value associated with supposedly hardware-less endpoints is a tough argument from which to walk away. There is not much choice given the future outlook of the ever-shrinking hardwarecodec market. We will increasingly leverage these solutions—especially in the enterprise environment—but I have found that the excitement about quality and features can mask critical considerations that will make the difference between an efficient video network and one packed with landmines (for example, big hidden costs). Your vendor might or might not be able to alert you to, and guard you from, these pitfalls.
It takes significant focus—namely, evaluating the consistency of your end users’ platforms—to mount a successful effort that will create the user experience your CIO and senior leadership expect. Let’s take a look at some of the usual suspects. In a virtual environment, end users are expected to connect to, and work on, different workstations across an uneven environment. System deployments can often look the same, but, often, they contain mild variations to adjust for some kind of field condition that a given business has. Device profile setting requirements, even for similar peripherals like cameras and audio devices, can prove inconsistent from platform to platform. How specific is your enterprise standard, really? Are there multiple flavors of standards, as is so commonly the case in larger enterprise deployments? What about other applications that are pushed regularly to these thick and thin platforms that are now your video endpoint? These pushes occasionally rely on and change global settings that affect audio and video devices. How are you going to work with the desktop-support teams to lock down registry settings? Considerations like these can ruin any hope of a consistent experience for agile workers who depend on interfacing with different desktops, sometimes daily. Will function be maintained for a traveling executive who is using a “touchdown room” in a different region than the one in which he is normally situated? Speaking of support, consider what a global support model must look like in order to assist with all the hardware peripherals, some of which can be tricky to use. With video communications and conferencing, everything is happening in real time. Unlike with email messaging or other information systems, functionality cannot be corrected offline later; rather, it must be ready and working during the meeting or other event. Indeed, if a quality user experience is to be effectuated, then, if possible, all issues must be addressed in real time. All the above-mentioned requirements sound daunting—and they are. There is also tremendous upside, however. Most popular with the C-suite crowd is the attractive cost. It’s almost impossible to deploy hardware solutions at any real scale in a way that can compete with the cost of a soft-codec solution. Complementing reduced initial and reoccurring costs is the powerful integration that software clients can provide. The way forward demands a full set of tools that can seamlessly incorporate all the communications elements that our agile work demands: Presence, chat, screen-sharing and audio all have to be included, along with video on the desktop, with all elements working together. Another “must have” that software video meeting solutions and services can deliver is a truly mobile client. Mobility is no longer a “nice to have”; in fact, from executives to operational managers on the go, most everyone relies on it to ensure continuity of business and compatibility. In conclusion, software video solutions are no trivial matter. With sound planning and good corporate sponsorship, however, your organization can succeed in leveraging both technologies that are here today and technologies that will arrive in the future to support the way we meet and do business.
What Is A Software-Based Codec? What have been loosely called “software-based codecs” have been getting a lot more attention lately. The term is a bit misleading, though, because what typically distinguishes them from an appliance is not that they are software based; rather, what typically distinguishes them is creating an endpoint by layering software and hardware from separate companies. Typically, they 1. are based on PC or Mac hardware 2. are operated through a personal computer OS (usually Windows or MacOS) 3. have a meeting application delivered and managed separately from the OS 4. have cameras, microphones and speakers delivered separately, or as an all-in-one peripheral. This might be controlled like a normal PC, with a keyboard and mouse, or through a tablet. If a tablet is used, then there is often more layering—usually, a tablet running iOS or Android with a meeting application on top. Some vendors offer Windows 10 devices that have an integrated touch control. Advantages Of Appliances The appliance approach is just as focused on software, if not more so. The difference is that the hardware, embedded OS and application software are all worked on together and delivered as a single product from the vendor. As computing pioneer Alan Kay said, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” Delivering an appliance gives the manufacturer full control over the hardware and the operating system. This allows a single update regime, security patches, easier install, manageability and an end-to-end user experience. All the layers are controlled by the vendor and tested together. Meeting endpoints always have to have compute available to process audio and video with low latency, and this level of control makes it easier to deliver that reliably. Appliances can be designed to avoid the need for fans, which can create noise. They allow low-power modes with the screen and the processor turned off, where the rest of the hardware can quickly be powered up when a sensor detects people in the room. They do not expose an easily accessed power button on the tablet or device, which a user might use to turn off the system and, thus, result in the next room user being confused. They also typically require fewer wires, and they’re easier to deploy neatly and in a way that is easy to maintain. With an appliance, a customer gets a single source for support and service. Deployment & Management PCs are designed to either be used by an end user or be managed as a server. Some “software-based” meeting solutions are expected to be used directly by the end user with a keyboard and mouse. Depending on how the system is set up, the user might have to login before the meeting, thus creating delays. The user might forget to logout, install undesired software or leave the system in an unwanted state. If the operating system is not tightly managed, the end user might receive notifications about available software updates on which the administrator does not want the user to act. The other typical model is to treat the PC more like a server, hiding access to it and exposing only a tablet. Doing so can improve things, but it does not eliminate the need to manage the device and operating system; it also does not change the fact that it is still a PC in a public space, rather than a server that is physically secured. With an appliance approach, someone deploying endpoints does not separately have to manage computer OS software updates, tablet OS updates, and updates to the conferencing application on the PC and tablet. More sophisticated IT departments might have the tooling to do this, but the tooling might be separate for managing tablets and managing PCs, and, often, the tools are owned by an organization separate from that of those who manage the meeting software.
MANUFACTURER John Restrick CTO – Webex Devices Cisco www.cisco.com
Consistency Across Scenarios Another thing to consider is that most organizations have a variety of meeting spaces and, ideally, they want a set of products they can deploy across those spaces that provides a consistent experience for users and a consistent method of managing the devices. Appliances can cover this wide variety of spaces. Benefits of appliances vary, as different form factors cater to different needs. Benefits can include the following: 1. All-in-one devices can help lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and provide a simple, reliable install delivering an excellent experience. 2. Integrated kits can allow you to choose the display separately, while having the codec, microphones, speakers and camera designed into a single unit. 3. Standalone codecs can provide the audiovisual inputs and outputs to handle more custom or complicated spaces. When installing a training room, briefing center or boardroom, this is almost mandatory. Spaces of that sort are particularly challenging for a softwarebased codec.
A picture is worth a thousand words. That’s why it’s no surprise that videoconferencing has changed how, where and even when we work. Although appliance-based videoconferencing systems create more immersive experiences (think HD video and surround sound), they are often limited to room-toroom interactions. Today’s modern employee demands flexibility and immediacy. Personal and professional lives are becoming increasingly intertwined. Inspiration and unforeseen requests can strike at any time—and employees cannot afford to be confined to the four walls of their office. MANUFACTURER Whether they are answering a quick Michael Goldman question from a colleague while in line at Executive Director, Enterprise the supermarket, brainstorming with the Strategies & Development team before boarding a flight or presenting Crestron Electronics to the board while on a weekend getaway, www.crestron.com employees want the ability to do business on the fly. And that’s where software-based videoconferencing solutions come in. The proliferation of software-based players and technologies, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, makes it easier than ever for employees to collaborate and be more productive anytime, anywhere, on any device. And in a world in which the user experience reigns supreme, cloud-based videoconferencing solutions provide a consistent experience regardless of where
they’re deployed—whether they’re in the boardroom or in the living room. At the same time, software-based offerings provide a more collaborative and productive employee experience by giving employees the added bonus of being able to share screens, message one another and send documents. Our company has recognized the industry shift to software-based videoconferencing applications, which is why we created products that support the most popular third-party UC platforms. Although hardwired, appliance-based systems can—and should—continue to play a central role in high-stakes meetings that take place within the four walls of the enterprise, cloud-based offerings will become ubiquitous to meet the needs of today’s flexible work environment.
Conclusion Software-based codecs are being tried out by many companies. The ease of purchasing, and getting started with, these commodity-based hardware approaches has made them particularly popular with small and medium businesses (SMBs), departmental purchasers and in smaller meeting spaces. Deploying and wiring these components together, installing the software, managing them and maintaining them often proves more difficult than had been expected. Many customers who have gone down this path have started to look for solutions that are easier to deploy, manage and operate. Appliances are mature solutions that offer reliability, security and a consistently high-quality experience. We recommend customers take a close look at the breadth of rooms and spaces in which they wish to deploy, the experience they will deliver across those spaces, and their plan for maintaining and operating their systems.
When selecting a videoconference room solution, the dilemma of choosing an appliance solution (a standardsbased, single-purpose solution) versus a software-based solution (with either open hardware or fixed hardware) has created a paradigm competition. At Zoom, we believe flexibility, reliability, security and usability are all critical components of a great conference-room experience for both the end users and the administrators who deploy room solutions. Instead of focusing on siloed solutions, each of which has its pros and cons, we’re creating an ecosystem that allows our customers to tap into the best of these worlds. We see tremendous value in having flexible hardware options supported by a software-based room system, especially when it comes to large conference rooms, training rooms, etc. With flexible hardware, you can customize your AV for the space—rather than making the space work around the hardware—all while supporting use cases that were never previously possible. Many times, these spaces require additional monitors, microphones, speakers and cameras for
SERVICE PROVIDER Michael Brandofino COO Yorktel www.yorktel.com
SERVICE PROVIDER Esther Yoon Product Marketing Lead, Room Solutions Zoom Video Communications www.zoom.us
an optimal experience. An open-hardware ecosystem, paired with a software-based room system, makes this possible. From a scalability perspective, appliance solutions provide a lot of value. They’re typically easier to deploy and simpler to set up due to their single purpose and preconfigured nature. With the proliferation of video-enabled rooms— especially huddle rooms—driving the demand for simplified deployments with uncompromising quality, appliance-mode options provide standardized solutions that help organizations scale video across their workspaces. We’ve worked with leading hardware partners to deliver single-purpose, plug-and-play solutions that leverage many of the benefits of traditional appliance solutions. With our solution, we’re creating a paradigm shift in the options to which customers have access. You can now tap into the benefits of appliance solutions without losing the leverage of an open-hardware ecosystem to cater to the different needs and use cases of the enterprise.
I have always been a proponent of developing and leveraging software-based collaboration solutions. After all, on the surface, the benefits seem impressive, including the ability to deploy software solutions on your own servers, PCs and mobile devices. In addition, the ability to scale more easily and leverage virtual server technology to build high-availability collaboration platforms has opened the door for cloudbased solutions and services to take hold and, in many cases, to replace the legacy, purpose-built appliances that were a mainstay for the past 20 years or so. It would seem we are where we want to be. Well…not so fast. If we look at this from an operations perspective, there are some things to consider. As I listen to customers who are making the transition to huddle rooms with software-based solutions, we are beginning to see a few gaps; in fact, some customers are beginning to rethink their approach because of them. The gaps are in a few key areas: user experience, monitoring, and management and security. The user experience is the area in which we have been sold the idea that softwarebased solutions provide ease of use, flexibility and mobility. The challenge that has arisen is that “self-service” doesn’t mean “no service.” That is because we now have to support individuals and not the room. The purpose-built appliances have been designed for a specific function, with cameras and audio equipment tightly integrated to provide a consistent experience. That is no longer the case when you have USB devices connected to a PC or laptop that is running one or potentially more UC applications. Some of those other applications might be trying to use the very same camera and microphone that the collaboration software wants to use, causing a potentially inconsistent or poor user experience. From a monitoring and management perspective, it is relatively easy to capture information from a purpose-built device, many of which support Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to provide details about the performance of the device.
However, trying to monitor a PC that is running multiple applications with USBconnected devices is a difficult task. Currently, there is no good way to do so. About the best you can do is to know the PC is online and has the collaboration application running. Finally, security is another big challenge. Purpose-built devices are capable of being locked down and having encryption as a default setting. Although software-based solutions have the ability to do the same, the fact that they are running on a shared device, with potentially multiple applications, and multiple people who might have to be able to log in, poses some serious security concerns. I donâ€™t think this is an all-or-nothing decision for customers. There is a growing trend for what I would call a hybrid solution, where we have purpose-built devices but with the flexibility of running software-based collaboration tools. These new entrants attempt to take the best of both worlds in that they are better tuned to provide
a consistent experience and be monitored and managed, but they also can leverage the leading software solutions. The days of have one homogeneous collaboration platform are probably gone. It is important to keep the user experience and operational requirements front of mind as we design and deploy collaboration solutions, regardless of whether we use purpose-built appliances or softwarebased solutions.
are going after the conference-room and huddle-room markets, are enabling their appliances or applications on a plethora of hardware products (cameras, displays, audio systems, etc.). As the theory goes, these lower-cost implementations will give businesses the opportunity to outfit more rooms and increase user access. When enabling huddle rooms, companies must consider how they will be used; that includes being able to accommodate both internal and external communication. Collaborating with customers, partners, suppliers
SERVICE PROVIDER Tom-Erik Lia CCO Pexip www.pexip.com
Our company has an interesting vantage point on this subject, as we work with customers regularly who have invested in traditional hardware codecs from the likes of Cisco and Poly, and who want to extend the life of those assets. Those organizations chose hardware codecs because of the quality, reliability and security that they deliver, and those needs havenâ€™t changed. More often, companies find that their legacy video infrastructure no longer meets the needs of the organization. Whether the infrastructure faces end of life or the maintenance costs simply become too great, many organizations are looking to more flexible alternatives. The challenge becomes how organizations can get the most from their existing videoconferencing investments, while also meeting the needs of the future workforce. At the same time, we work with many organizations that realize the changing needs of their users, and which want to make video more accessible to them regardless of where they work. The rise of mobile workers has created new demand for flexible workspaces and collaboration tools that work across any device. Clearly, video plays a big role in both areas. Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts Meet are aggressively working to capture a major share of this evolving space. They, along with a number of other video providers that
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and other third parties is a regular part of many users’ workflow, and it’s important to choose tools that enable—rather than hinder—collaboration of that sort. When an employee is invited to a meeting hosted on a different videoconferencing service, he or she should be able to join the meeting with the technology and workflows to which that employee is accustomed. We believe it should be simple for anyone to join a meeting, regardless of where he or she is, and irrespective of which technology that individual uses. Silos inhibit growth and adoption. We don’t think there is a right or wrong answer in the debate about appliance versus software codec. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the user experi-
As a technology manager in the late 2000s, one of the projects with which we were tasked was designing and deploying a videoconferencing system for a research facility on our campus. This room was dedicated to the scientists using the campus to connect to their cohorts from China to Costa Rica, as well as other research centers. At that time, you had various vendors but only one path: hardware codec. If you’ve been in the audiovisual and UC space for 10 to 15 years, then you know what happened next. We had bids from several appliance manufacturers that varied from $10,000 to $50,000. Those prices included variations on the number of simultaneous connections, SD or HD, and the types of cameras. In the end, we went with a model that landed around $20,000, along with a $1,000 annual subscription for three years. Fast-forwarding to today, you have more than 200 softwarebased codecs (soft codecs) that not only are ubiquitous, but also use interfaces that typically are more intuitive. The remote control, which has been lamented about for being too cumbersome and difficult to understand, has been completely eliminated. The mobile applications of these soft codecs tend to be more user friendly and robust. Then there is the cost factor. The room I referenced earlier served an average of 10 scientists. At an average half-life of seven years, that system cost the college $27 per month per user. Today’s soft codecs are priced well below that—from free to $20 per month. This is not to indicate that videoconferencing hardware is completely dead. There are several use cases for designing a system with an appliance. For instance, the corporate boardroom that is used not only as a marquee room, but also for larger meetings and connecting several people remotely. There are some industries that rely on AV for secure connections, both from a network-security perspective and for the privacy of the room itself. The legal, government, medical and higher-education verticals all have laws that govern the information that is allowed to be released at various stages. Professionals in those areas rely on audiovisual integrators to create safe and secure rooms in which they can connect with clients remotely, but also privately. In terms of mass adoption and usage, soft codecs will continue to increase their gains on hardware. As outlined earlier, one of the main reasons is cost. Hardware-based systems have come down in price over the last 10 years, but there is still a significant commitment relative to space, time and capital when going down the road
ence. Participants must be able to join their meetings easily from wherever they are, on whichever device they choose, and know they will have a high-quality meeting experience. This intuitive, seamless experience is critical to driving user adoption and helping organizations get the most from their existing videoconferencing investments.
ANALYST Tim Albright Founder AVNation Media
of appliance UC. In addition, the rise of remote workers, cutbacks in travel budgets and increases in internet bandwidth also give soft codecs a significant advantage over hardware systems. The bottom line, as with any system, is that a thorough needs assessment will help drive your design. There will certainly be use cases in which an appliance makes sense for your client. It would also do your clients (and yourself) a service to educate yourself on the features, costs and deployment strategies of each of the software codecs available today, as well as the new ones that will come along.
OPINION: THE LAST WORD: THE YIN AND YANG OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGY (continued from page 42) The Yang: Customers entrepreneur came up with a ser vice Ahead Of The Technology that offered multi-source, multi-direcThe flip side is when the customers tion, simultaneous content sharing. (meaning those who use and depend We’re talking about real web conferon technology) are ahead of the curencing. He pitched his version of web rently available generation of it. A conferencing to his rather impressive few examples from the non-AV world roster of enterprise clients. The result? include the following: Bupkis. Nada. Nothing. The customers • Smart Homes: Homeowners today heard his stor y and liked what they are ver y interested in home automasaw, but the idea of sharing multiple
has reversed itself in one key area: The Huddle Concept. To be clear, I am not talking about huddle rooms—this isn’t just about meeting spaces. This is about The Huddle Concept, which is a topic I’ve studied and analyzed extensively for more than five years. The Huddle Concept is almost the opposite of the AV industr y norms for the last 50-plus
threads of content at the same time was more than they could bear—at the time. In the end, a truly emerging technology solution fell flat on its face. And so it went. The histor y of the AV industr y includes many examples of technology that either failed to gain market acceptance or gained acceptance only after many attempts, many years or many rounds of improvement. Sometimes, the form or business model surrounding those technologies had to change to attract serious buyers. What follows are just a few examples: quadraphonic sound, beta max video, dictation via speech recognition, machine vision, the entire “go to cloud” concept for collaboration, and IP, HD and now 4K videoconferencing. Perhaps today’s “yin” technology is artificial intelligence (AI), loosely defined technology that is sure to affect the AV industry in the medium-to-long-term future. Although HAL (the villainous computer that starred in “2001: A Space Odyssey”) might be decades away, today’s information workers are already thinking about loss of privacy and bigbrother watchdogs, as well as potential job losses to robots that have advanced capabilities. www.ITAVReport.com
tion. Yet, despite marketing hype to the contrar y, the currently available tools and systems are costly and complex. • Solar Power: Ever y year, without exception, I spend an hour looking into the viability of going “off the grid” and using solar power. Unfortunately, even today, and even with the available subsidies, the technology (or, more specifically, the cost/benefit ratio) is just not there—at least, not yet. • Electric Vehicles: Who wouldn’t want to reduce the costs of, and the emissions associated with, driving their car? And, full disclosure: I already drive an electric vehicle. However, for many people, the currently available technology doesn’t provide the range or the cost-effectiveness that they expect. In all of these cases, the customers’ (or the prospects’) expectations are ahead of the technology. The result? Bupkis. Nada. Nothing. The potential customers don’t make a purchase. Now, let’s go back to the AV/collaboration world. In my 25-plus years in this space, the technology has always been ahead of the market, resulting in a palpable technology-assimilation gap. But, in the last few years, the situation
years, as highlighted by Table 1. The entire concept of hosting informal, ad-hoc meetings in smaller, lightly equipped (and significantly lower-cost) meeting rooms took the AV industr y by surprise. The customers knew what they wanted, but they were far ahead of the AV vendors and channel partners. (An aside: This technology “lag” was not caused by technology alone. Many vendors, channel partners and others in the AV value chain made a conscious decision to maintain their traditionalsolution mindset to delay the inevitable revenue and profit reductions associated with selling lower-cost products and ser vices.) What does all of this mean? In its simplest form, success requires far more than just a great product or service. And simply offering some form of emerging technology doesn’t mean the money will start rolling in. The battlefield is littered with the remains of great companies that offered “emerging technology” solutions. Those few that survived and actually thrived understood that the key to success is providing solutions compatible with the user’s mindset. The “yin” (an emerging technology offering) without the “yang” (a ready customer) just doesn’t work. Spring 2019
The Last Word
The yin and yang of emerging technology. By Ira M. Weinstein
In my role as an industr y analyst, I am exposed to an amazing array of leading-edge, and often bleeding-edge, technology. Sometimes, the offerings are generally available; other times, they’re beta or alpha, or pre-alpha, or just barely beyond a mock-up. To be honest, I absolutely love it. What engineer wouldn’t love the chance to play around with the newest tech tools sporting the newest features and the latest workflows? Often, I’m lucky enough to be in on the ground floor of a new product or ser vice concept…an idea or notion that didn’t exist before. And I’m not talking about something evolutionar y like a smaller form factor, a higher resolution, a faster processing speed or an easier mounting method, either. I’m talking about an inspirational moment of greatness in which a problem (or an opportunity) is analyzed and a truly better solution is defined. Sometimes, I’m read into the solution; other times, I’m part of defining and molding the solution. Either way, these are the times that change lives. After more than 15 years helping companies define new offerings and performing hands-on testing of technology tools, I’ve come to realize that emerging technology can only emerge if the intended audience has the proper mindset.
The Yin: Technology Ahead Of The Customers
First, I am not minimizing the importance of a never-ending cycle of new products or ser vice offerings. It is critical that vendors, channel partners and even end users push the limits and dare to be different. That’s the only way to move things for ward. But, sometimes, the customers aren’t ready. For example, roughly 10 years ago, an innovative channel partner realized that what the industr y lovingly referred to as web conferencing was actually not web conferencing at all; rather, it was one-way screen sharing. So, this (continued on page 41) Ira M. Weinstein is Founder and Managing Partner at Recon Research, an independent research, advisory and consulting firm focused on enterprise communications. He is an expert on communication solutions, audiovisual systems, and unified communications products and services. During his 25-plus years in the industry, he has authored hundreds of articles and reports on the companies, products, services, trends and happenings in these markets. He is also a frequent speaker at industry events and conferences, sales kickof fs and other forums.
© 2 0 1 9 B o s c h S e c u r i t y S y s te m s , I n c .
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Topics featured in this issue include Understanding AV Over IP, 2019: The Do or Die Year for Enterprise Team Chat Solutions, The Changing Fa...
Published on May 14, 2019
Topics featured in this issue include Understanding AV Over IP, 2019: The Do or Die Year for Enterprise Team Chat Solutions, The Changing Fa...