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Cisco’s Susie Wee and Array’s Herold Williams are about to



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cloud and SaaS security

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Let’s toss some fresh ideas around.



Telepresence Options SUMMER, 2014 FEATURES


LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER ........................................ 4

STREAMING VIDEO.....................................36

TELEPRESENCE ENTREPRENEUR...................................... 6

Herold Williams rides again! Side Article: Array’s Equal-i Technology: What’s the Big Idea? By Howard S. Lichtman

PROXIBID: How video streaming their auctions amped their revenues By Andy Howard

MAKING IT EASY .......................................40

TELEPRESENCE INTRAPRENEUR....................................16 Cisco’s Susie Wee leads from the Front. Side Article: Cisco Spring Roll and Augmented Collaboration What’s the Big Idea? By Howard S. Lichtman

What is new and cool in room control By Lindsey Adler


TELEPRESENCE ROBOTICS .............................................30

DISTANCE LEARNING ................................54

State of the Industry, 2014 By Andra Keay

NYU’s global classroom By Andy Howard



A look inside the world’s biggest pro-AV shop By David Maldow

Reality Check 2014 By Tim Kridel


CATALOG www.telepre





2014 Issue



Flip this magazine over to see our comprehensive 2014 Telepresence and Videoconferencing Catalog


5/28/14 9:42 PM

Summer 2014



elcome again to Telepresence Options Magazine, our yearly reference work covering the latest and greatest in telepresence, videoconferencing, UC, Streaming Media, telepresence robotics, visualization, and all things related to visual collaboration. Our cover stories profile two landmark breakthroughs in visual collaboration: Cisco’s Spring Roll and Array Telepresence’s Equal-i Technology. Equal-i is the brain child of Herold Williams, the quintessential telepresence serial entrepreneur who invented the TeleSuite and founded the industry, while Susie Wee, who leads the augmented collaboration effort at Cisco, is perhaps the visual-collaboration industry’s most successful serial intrapreneur. It’s a fantastic juxtaposition that their multi-year development efforts both emerge out of stealth at essentially the same time.

Howard S. Lichtman, Publisher

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In the spirit of full disclosure I must confess that I have a conflict of interest in choosing Array Telepresence as the cover story. While I have no trouble defending the importance of Array’s contribution to the field, I am a minority owner, investor, and board director at Array and have been close friends with Herold Williams for over a decade since we worked together at TeleSuite. I can still remember the day in 2004 when Herold sketched out on a blank piece of copy paper his concept for deploying immersive telepresence in regular rooms using existing videoconferencing gear. Herold was ahead of his time, and it wasn’t until 2011 when the technology caught up with the concept. Herold called me and said he was ready to solve the industry’s most vexing problem. I began to help immediately, providing introductions and other assistance. Array became a client of our visual collaboration consultancy, the Human Productivity Lab, and almost a half-dozen members of our Human Productivity Lab “Dream Team” have helped launch the company through investment, strategy, product management, legal, marketing, talent acquisition, analyst relations, and a dozen other roles. Along the way I doubled down and became an investor, a board director and Array’s C20, a title that describes my dual role as chief commercial officer and chief creative officer at this endeavor. For two years the job didn’t take up too much time until about six months ago, when our engineers had their last major breakthough and our prototype Image Improvement Processor began working as advertised. Since then, Array has grown rapidly, gearing up for made-in-the-USA production and dramatically improving the world’s 2,000,000 HD videoconferencing systems. Fortunately, and unfortunately, Array has required more and more of my time. So it is with mixed emotions that I hand the publisher’s mantle and day-to-day operations of Telepresence Options to Managing Partner and Associate Publisher David Maldow, who stands ready and capable to continue the firm’s growth. And grow it does! Our little boutique publishing company continues to improve its coverage of visual collaboration and grow the most sophisticated audience in the world. The brand will undergo a makeover in the coming months with a new look and feel, updated website, more authors, and expanded coverage. I’ll still be around to help David when needed, weigh in occasionally on topics of interest, and wear my “Publisher Emeritus” t-shirt to the board meeting.

EDITORIAL PUBLISHER Howard S. Lichtman HSL@TelepresenceOptions.com ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER David Maldow EDITOR Steve Wilson Webmaster & Social Media Specialist Ana Perez Marketing and Business Development Manager Christina Gray ADVERTISING Info@TelepresenceOptions.com +1 (512) 828-7317 ART & PRODUCTION ART DIRECTOR Everard Strong, www.Big-E-Productions.com Sean Misa suite 27 www.suite27designs.com SUBSCRIPTIONS Telepresence Options, 43861 Laurel Ridge Drive, Ashburn, VA 20147 www.TelepresenceOptions.com/ Magazine Tel: +1-512-828-7317 (8:30am – 5 p.m. EST) Fax: +1(480) 393-5435 GENERAL INQUIRIES Info@TelepresenceOptions.com REPRINTS & PERMISSIONS Info@TelepresenceOptions.com Telepresence Options is published once a year at a rate of $10 by the Human Productivity Lab. Copyright © 2013 Human Productivity Lab. All rights reserved.


Before I go I want to thank all our readers, subscribers, sponsors and advertisers who share our enthusiasm for helping the world collaborate more effectively at the speed of light. Telepresence Options

www.scribd.com/Telepresence %20Options


Telepresence and Videoconferencing Catalog Howard S. Lichtman, Publisher Emeritus



Summer 2014




Herold Williams is the quintessential entrepreneur, telepresence or otherwise. Array Telepresence is the 20th company he has started since he was 21 and his second telepresence venture. He has never worked for anyone other than himself. He is 64 years old now and remains sharp, creative, and focused and he’s about to revolutionize telepresence yet again!



Rides Again!

Profile and Interview by Howard S. Lichtman, Publisher, Telepresence Options. In the spirit of full disclosure, Herold’s longtime friend and business partner in Array Telepresence and thus uniquely positioned to tell his story.

Summer 2014



erold understands the human body in a telepresence setting with an architect’s eye and an inventor’s passion. He knows exactly how many degrees you’ll turn to look at someone in front of a conference table, right down to the individual pivots of your neck (25 degrees), torso (25 degrees) and chair (25 degrees). He knows how to seat you so that whether you’re tall or short, you won’t be off his preferred vertical eye-line of 46 ½ inches from the ground by more than one or two inches, making you both seem and feel more natural on video. He can tell you the specific horizontal and vertical gaze angle from the camera in every major telepresence group system from each specific seat. Then he can tell you the specific percentage from each specific seat that Array is better.

replicated the human factors of participants: life-size images, fluid motion, superb acoustics, concealed eye-line cameras, and a seamless 16-foot video wall. The system achieved usage five to ten times that of traditional videoconferencing, and big, namebrand companies like 3COM, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Cigna, GlaxoSmithKline, and AOL-Time Warner began buying dozens of systems. HP and Cisco quickly copied his split-table environmental telepresence approach and telepresence went from zero to the speed-of-light with an estimated 10,000 multi-camera, multi-codec telepresence group systems connecting the globe today. Williams and the TeleSuite team also created one of the world’s first managed Video Network Operations Centers to keep in check

Williams, on-screen (third from left) in an early TeleSuite, circa 2002.

Williams consulted with DreamWorks on what became HP Halo. He also created the world’s first surgical telepresence environment at Barrow Neurological. But he’s mostly called the “father of the telepresence industry” for his revolutionary 1998 invention of TeleSuite, the world’s first commercially successful life-size telepresence environment. When the rest of the videoconferencing industry was focused on miniaturizing equipment and getting the cost out of the $25,000 videoconferencing codec, Williams went in the completely opposite direction, creating room-sized environments costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that 8

The TeleSuite Video Network Operation Center (Circa 2006) was spun out as Iformata Communications when Polycom bought Destiny Conferencing and recently acquired by AVI-SPL.

all the multi-vendor IT gear under the hood of any telepresence environment. Polycom bought Destiny Conferencing, which held the intellectual property, customers, and manufacturing capability for the TeleSuite from David Allen, Williams’s business partner, in 2007 for $57 million. Williams had been diluted out of the company by then and saw very little from his revolutionary work. Yet he never got telepresence out of his system, always noodling with the big idea of how to create cost-effective telepresence environments in www.TelepresenceOptions.com

TOP: The view into the world’s first telepresence surgical educational environment at Barrow Neurological Institute. RIGHT: The surgeon’s view into the neurological surgery classroom.

regular conference rooms using existing videoconferencing codecs. By 2011, he had the time, a friend helped him secure some strategic funding and he launched Array in stealth to revolutionize things again. Array’s R&D lab is in a non-descript, two-story building in West Chester, Ohio, almost halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton. Williams’ desk faces the pastoral serenity of the woods seen through an entire wall of windows along the back. A fascinating assortment of tech, low and high, fills the rest of the room: Different-size tables in various stages of assembly, videoconferencing systems, flat-panel displays, curved displays, and the tools and machinery required to manufacture precise components from scratch on-site.

and whose intellectual property has sold for 8 figures. From little old West Chester, Ohio where Herold can stay involved with his kids and grandkids Array is connected to the world. The company is a true virtual organization using visual collaboration to connect up a rapidly-growing high-quality team. Tier-one engineers in Grass Valley, California who cut their teeth building highly-available video platforms for the broadcast industry. Lens designer in Boston, productization experts, channel sales, business development, and contract manufacture in Denver, management and marketing in Northern Virginia, and product management in Connecticut.

Telepresence Options sat down with Williams when he was visiting Williams has been hard at work on Array for three years, designing Northern Virginia for an Array Open House event in McLean and building prototypes for camera housings, board enclosures, outside of Washington DC. and display stands. Williams and Array are the videoconferencing industry’s equivalent of Jessie James and Monster Garage, except it TELEPRESENCE OPTIONS (TPO): How did Array Telepresence is a kinder, gentler grandfather slicing, dicing and pro-modifying come about? What was the impetus of the idea? visual collaboration environments while inventing his own tech for HEROLD WILLIAMS (HW): The years that we spent trying to added horsepower. When Williams wanted to test curved displays get TeleSuite accepted in the market were somewhat frustrating before they were announced over a year ago, he and Bryan Hellard, because we were a small company with technology and concepts his senior engineer and long-time collaborator, disassembled a 55- that were before their time. We were able to prove highly immersive inch flat-panel display and fashioned the LED LCD innards into a telepresence and we got quite a few Fortune 100 companies curved wooden frame they built themselves just to test the effect. interested in the concept. However, we constantly found that after When he realized the logistical challenge of demonstrating Equal-i there was buy-in of the value proposition, the implementation on the road, he designed and built a fascinating feather-weight, problems began to manifest themselves immediately as companies full-size portable conference table that, when fully assembled, started to understand the costs in physical space and room weighs about the same as a Cannondale racing bike and folds up remediation around creating a 400+ sq. feet required for the into a shipping case smaller than a tuba. “split-table” approach of the TeleSuite. But don’t mistake Williams for just an inventor that likes to tinker. He has the business acumen you would expect from someone who has raised and deployed hundreds of millions of dollars in capital Summer 2014

We constantly had the same objections and questions from our clients’ executives, managers and employees and it went like this: We love what telepresence does for us. We love the fact that you 9


So what’s the Big Idea?

The view from a standard Pan-Tilt-Zoom videoconferencing camera showing the enormous virtual distance.


robably the biggest knock against immersive telepresence has been the cost in gear, bandwidth and physical space. Enter Herold Williams and Array Telepresence. The company has developed a revolutionary Dual-Camera and Image Improvement Processor called Equal-i. This technology perfects the videoconferencing scene in any room with an elongated table. It also works with any videoconferencing codec that accepts HDMI or HDCI camera inputs in use in an estimated 2,000,000 conference rooms around the world. Array conceals the Dual-Camera between two displays at eyelevel, each camera head capturing half the participants at the table. An Image Improvement Processor (IIP) filled with FPGA and dedicated geometry-warping chips in between the camera and videoconferencing codec perfects the scene by bringing the farthest participants “up close and personal.” This increases the amount of pixels on the farthest participant’s 10

face by six and a half times that of a standard Pan-Tilt-Zoom videoconferencing camera. The size of farthest participant is “Equal-i-zed” to the size of the closet participant. Being able to center the camera at eye-level between the displays improves vertical eye-line and enables stand-up capture. Meanwhile, pulling the farthest participants “up-close-andpersonal” creates a more “across-the-table” meeting format. The IIP powers dual displays that use a single codec to combine scenes from both camera heads into one for the trip across the wire. The Equal-i IIP on the other side splits them back across dual displays, doubling the screen real estate with no impact on network bandwidth. If you don’t have an Equal-i set up on the other end, the site receives a “cropped and stacked” version of two rows of four to six+ participants depending on the size of the table. Though you lose the effect of dual displays, you still end up with a better experience than a PTZ camera because the facial features are more discernable. www.TelepresenceOptions.com

The Equal-i 2S Dual-Camera brings the farthest participants “up close and personal,” improves the eye-line, meeting format, and powers dual displays using a single videoconferencing codec.

Most multi-site meetings involve three locations, which is where Equal-i excels. Powered by the speedy and thorough FPGA chips, the system “crops and stacks” incoming and outgoing images before handing the scene to the videoconferencing codec. With a second codec it can marry three Equal-i systems in “telepresence multi-point,” creating “global round tables” with each of the screens displaying half the participants in each remote location. Throw quad displays and video walls into the mix and it gets even more interesting. Summer 2014

THE ECONOMICS The product is a dream come true for Pro-AV and systems integrators. Refreshing an existing videoconferencing system (or building a next-generation Equal-i room from scratch) drives a lot of associated spending. The camera and the IIP cost $13,995, making it feasible to cost-effectively upgrade and refresh dozens, hundreds or even thousands of systems in the larger organizations that use video. Array launched Equal-i at InfoComm in June and is gearing up to deliver systems this fall. 11

feel like you’re really meeting with someone face-to-face, but can’t you do that in our regular conference room? Can’t you do that with the videoconferencing gear and conferencing tables we already own? The unfortunate answer was always no. It was always in my mind that something needed to be done to create an immersive experience in a regular conference room and the value and utility that would provide.

When I say our $14,000 Equal-i System added to an existing codec produces a scene that exceeds the quality of these $300,000 systems, I don’t just make the claim lightly. The resulting image is measurably and demonstrably better. Better eye-contact, less horizontal gaze angle, concealed camera, stand up capture, less real estate, less bandwidth, and a better “around-the-table” format for local interaction.

TPO: What’s the pay-off for the companies that upgrade their telepresence and visual collaboration capabilities? HW: What we proved at TeleSuite was that if you improve the human factors of the experience, people will use it a lot. During a time that the average usage of videoconferencing was around 15 hours, per endpoint, per month we had TeleSuites averaging 150 hours a month. We knew that we were on to something. It was a matter of getting enough scale and getting enough systems out to build a company.

TPO: What were some of the complexities that you had to overcome to develop Equal-i? HW: One of the biggest concerns was what type of architecture would we implement? Would it be PC-based? Would it be software? Would it be dedicated hardware? We knew that we had to build our own camera because we were revolutionizing what a videoconferencing camera is, what it does and where it goes.

Getting back to the conventional conference room, they’re nearly all the same because of architectural best practices. They’re typically elongated rooms, with a width that is probably in the range of 25 percent narrower than the length. There’s typically an elongated table, seating a number of people in two rows and perhaps one person on each end.

We are creating an entirely new class of products in visual collaboration that we call: Image Improvement. Yes, we build a camera, but what we’re really about is improving the scene before we hand it to the videoconferencing codec for the trip across the wire.

We’re doing very sophisticated image improvement and equalization, custom algorithms applied to the images in order to improve the scene and create improved multiMost people don’t know it but the world’s first comThey continue to be that way. There mercially-available H.264 HD Video Codec was built by point experiences. In order to are some changes afoot to reconsider Herold Williams and Dr. Stephan Wenger in 2004 and avoid even a single frame buffer that shape and size, but essentially delivered 2048 x 768 across a 16 foot video wall and and to keep additional latency there are about 2,000,000 conference could connect TeleSuites in five separate cities together nearly non-existent, we decided on rooms out there today with HD using IP multi-cast. dedicated hardware using FPGA video conferencing endpoints at programmable chips, geometry the end of an elongated table. The industry has tried to solve processors, all married into a fabric of high-speed hardware. this problem with robotic cameras that triangulate on whose speaking but in many ways it makes the problem worse. Nothing TPO: You had to build a lot of your own parts. You had breaks a sense of immersion like obvious cameras panning, to machine the camera yourself. Can you give me some tilting, and zooming in the front of the room or a constantly background on what that’s like and some of the complexities changing perspective on the other side. They have their uses, involved? notably distance learning with big classrooms but you’re not HW: There were no real comparables out there, so we were not going to feel like you’re in the same room with someone if the taking another piece of hardware or a codec and redesigning it “Bad Robot” is there as well. and making it slightly better. This was new, clean sheet of the paper approach to these issues and so to answer the question, Our goal was to overcome the lack of immersion and leverage the what were the biggest complexities? It was figuring out how to do overwhelming uniformity of the conventional conference room it! Typically cameras are designed and built for mass production, with its boat-shaped table and create an experience that rivals so you have the advantage of essentially all of the methods that and exceeds the quality of the only viable alternatives to improve are out there to marry pan-tilt-zoom lenses to camera boards the videoconferencing experience: the $300,000+ multi-camera, and camera sensors. What we were doing was something quite multi-codec group systems: the Polycom RPX, the Polycom OTX, different. We had to work with custom optics and integrate them Teliris Express and VirtuaLive, DVE Immersion Room, the Cisco tightly with our camera in order to marry the experience to the TX9000 series. That uniformity has been the videoconferencing Image Improvement Processor. Creating the dual-camera required industry’s biggest obstacle and we just completely flipped it into very intricate and precise machining and tolerance for the camera a strategic competitive advantage. heads. We had to design lens, rapidly prototype parts some using 12


3D printing, and much custom fabrication using a network of world-class US-based contract manufactures that are gearing up to move from prototypes to real production. TPO: What does the technology road map for Equal-i look like? What’s next? HW: We are already working on a single screen system that uses dual cameras set up on the right and left hand side of the display at eye-line.

product over and above what we can do ourselves. TPO: What’s next for Array in the short term? HW: The thing that I am most excited about is the ability to show Equal-i off to the Pro-AV and System Integration community at InfoComm in June. We are giving telepresence back to the integrators with a high margin product that drives a lot of associated spending. We are also giving architects and videoconferencing room designers a sharp tool to dramatically improve the quality of their rooms cost-effectively. Now that we are no longer operating in stealth, we are starting to talk to potential partners and vendors interested in integrating Equal-i into their offerings. We are talking to enterprise customers that are interested in upgrading dozens and hundreds of rooms to Equal-i for a fraction of the cost of alternatives using the video-conferencing gear they already own. And we are starting to experiment with how the Equal-i System can be integrated into existing telepresence environments and with different display technologies: projection, curved displays, video walls. We think we might be able to help improve a lot of the visual collaboration environments like Oblong Mezzanine, Prysm’s Collaboration Wall and Cisco’s Spring Roll.

A prototype of the upcoming Equal-i 1S Team Table which places one eye-level camera on each side of a single screen display. The bigger the display (80, 90, 100+ inches) the better the capture perspective when shooting “crossfire”across the Team Table

We are also identifying even more advanced and higher resolution sensors to 4K and assessing 4K to be able to meet 4K when it lands in the board room and conference room. We see extraordinary efforts by the consumer television manufacturers around 4k and getting the cost out of 4K displays. We think there will be an interesting play as companies refresh their meeting rooms and consider 4K displays rather than 2K and so we really want to be ready to embrace 4K as codec manufacturers start to marry their solutions with displays that are already available today at great prices. We will be continually evaluating how our system can be enhanced over time, what we really want now is serious feedback from end-users on how our current feature set meets their needs. We will also be looking to work with innovative visual collaboration designers that will inevitably create solutions that value-add the

Summer 2014

We are also working on a single-screen system that uses two cameras: one on each side of the display at eye-level that “crossfire” to capture the other side of the table. This shines for a number of growth areas in videoconferencing: Team Tables, where the existing paradigm of putting a PTZ camera or webcam on top of a display where the participants are only 4-5 feet away is a wholly unworkable methodology. The upcoming Equal-i 1S will allow for eye-line capture and will provide the best experience anywhere. The other important trend we support is larger displays. Our “capture-from-the-edge-of-the-display-at-eye-line” approach works better than a PTZ because you are getting a more “head-on” view of the participants across the table. The bigger the display the better quality perspective for a head-on capture so the technology scales nicely as the price on 80, 90 and 100+ inch panels continues to drop. Even though Equal-i will work with any elongated table we have reference designs for a number of optimal tables that both optimizes the Equal-i experience and moves data to 21-inch displays between each participant where fine detail is more easily read. We plan on adding additional environmental telepresence options in 2015 at equally revolutionary price points. That should keep us busy for a while. TPO ABOUT THE AUTHOR In the spirit of full disclosure, Howard S. Lichtman is a Board Director, Investor, and C2O at Array Telepresence, president of the telepresence and visual collaboration consultancy Human Productivity Lab and, coincidently, publisher of Telepresence Options. Since he has known Herold for over a decade, was vice president of business development at TeleSuite and has been intimately involved with Array he couldn’t think of a better person to write a profile of Herold and conduct this interview.


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14 Minnesota


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www.TelepresenceOptions.com India

Array Traditional Video Telepresence Conferencing Rooms vs

Array Telepresence is changing visual collaboration with its breakthrough technologies – the Equal-i 2S dual-camera and Image Improvement Processor (IIP). Array enables immersive telepresence in existing rooms that far exceeds the quality of both traditional videoconferencing and $300,000+ telepresence group systems.

Array Telepresence is Measurably Better:



The view from a sTandard PTZ camera wiThouT array

array’s equal-i 2s dual-camera imProving The image and sPreading The scene over dual disPlays using a single videoconferencing codec

arraytelepresence.com info@arraytelepresence.com phone 800.779.7480

Summer 2014






leads from the front


N INTRAPRENEUR is an entrepreneur within an organization. The term is less known because intrapreneurs are much rarer jewels. Many entrepreneurs get frustrated with bureaucracy, but intrapreneurs like Susie Wee, CTO of Networked Experiences at Cisco and the executive behind Spring Roll and Augmented Collaboration, have cracked the code.

Profile and Interview by Howard S. Lichtman, Publisher, Telepresence Options.

Summer 2014


SOME OF THE SPRING ROLL TEAM: Edwin Zhang – Experience Designer and co-founder, Abu Aikepaer, Susie Wee – CTO of Networked Experiences and co-founder, Zhishou Zhang – Principal Engineer, Rachael Scott, Ming Zhu

WEE HAS BEEN INTRAPRENEURING at some of the largest tech firms on the planet in the world’s best labs focused on telepresence, multimedia, HDTV, software-defined networking, and a dozen other disciplines clustered around visual collaboration. When she’s not playing hockey… a college athlete at MIT she’s still on the lookout for someone with some ice when she has the time. That’s right, Ms. Wee, epitome of genial politeness, isn’t afraid to “clang and bang” with the big boys and girls.

The HP Halo Studio (pictured) debuted at $550,000 per room, and $18,000 per site, per month, and a waiting list.

Wee worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an intern and HP Labs in Palo Alto for her first job after graduating from MIT with her Ph.D.. When HP inherited what would become Halo from DreamWorks, the company leaned on the Labs to take Jeffrey Katzenberg’s pet project and turn it into a globally replicable product value-added with HP intellectual property. The HP team beat Cisco to market with Halo in December of 18

2005 with a six-seat group telepresence environment that had an MSRP of $550,000 a room with another $18,000 per room, per month for network and management. Customers began buying them and loved the experience: bullet-proof reliability, flawless video, great data collaboration, the best graphical user interface for video calling ever, best integration of a ceiling visualizer, and the first inter-company directory of business partners to easily connect with. It offered a glimpse into a future where I can call you from my conference room and we can have a conversation and do work as if we were in the same physical space and it just works every time. Shortly after HP Halo took off at HP, so did Wee, plucked from HP Labs into a vice presidency on the business side of HP in 2008 where the word “Experience” shows up for the first time in her title. Having the word “Experience” in her title and the end user at heart is a trend that continues to this day. In 2012, after a year of settling in at Cisco and taking the reins of a newly formed collaboration experience team, she had an off-site kick-off meeting at a team member’s house where the first order of business was creating their strategy and priorities. A few months later they took on the challenge of figuring out why they all needed to meet in person. Creating an environment where they could replicate the collaborative dynamics of “shoulder-to-shoulder” work (but augmenting it with tools, ease-of-use, information resources and apps) became their goal. www.TelepresenceOptions.com

Wee and her colleagues Qibin Sun, a Distinguished Engineer, and Edwin Zhang, an experience designer, applied for and won a $1,200,000 grant from the Cisco Tech Fund that John Chambers set up to encourage just this type of intrapreneurship. Not a bad result for less money than Cisco probably spends on toilet paper a year. This intrapreneurship thing might have some legs! The fund was started two years ago and is directed by Joel Bion, SVP of Cisco Research and Advanced Development, and David Ward, SVP and Chief Technology and Architect Officer of Development. It has 113 projects in the works and has funded 10 percent of them to a total of about $20 million so far. Spring Roll is the first project they have gone public on so another hint they know they have a hit on their hands.

kit, plus a unified GUI for the whole experience with some initial Apps layered in. Apps that bring BYOD mobile devices to the party integrate remote users through Cisco WebEx, interactive whiteboarding, and more. It already plugs into Cisco TelePresence, so it can reach any Cisco TelePresence system, endpoint or mobile client. Cisco gave the world its first glimpse of Spring Roll at CiscoLive in May, where pictures show dozens of DevNet software developers pressing in, trying to no doubt figure out what’s the business equivalent of Candy Crush once employees get the ability to buy apps for the conference room on the company account.

The off-site that started it all. This is what knowledge work looks like.

It’s not just a big idea, it’s a whole bunch of big ideas going on simultaneously in a proof-of-concept that you can just feel straining on the leash. Telepresence Options spoke with Wee about Spring Roll, her gig at Cisco, and where she thinks the future of telepresence and visual collaboration is headed. What follows is the abbreviated version. You can get the full story at www.TelepresenceOptions. com/SusieWee Clanging and Banging – Susie credits hockey at MIT for instilling in her the importance of team work. Over the course of our interviews she requested multiple times that we recognize the work of Edwin Zhang, Qibin Sun, and the rest of the Spring Roll team.

The name Project Spring Roll came from the fact that the original Cisco Tech Fund project was approved in the spring (April 2012) and Susie’s team uses agile methods with rolling iterations. And, according to Susie, spring rolls are tasty and the name had a bit of an Asian flair, which matched her innovation team which is based in Shanghai. Right now Spring Roll is just a proof-of-concept project on steroids that combines a life-size head-to-toe telepresence environment and a sophisticated user interface and set of collaborative tools that both simplifies and improves collaborative sessions both locally and with remote participants. The telepresence conferencing capability alone has a slew of innovations: a shoulder-to-shoulder telepresence environment that is optimized for interactive whiteboarding and large format data visualization. Throw in a video wall that displays the entire remote scene and its jaw dropping. But wait, there’s more. Wee gave me a sneak peak of a video showing a remarkably advanced user interface and software tool Summer 2014

TELEPRESENCE OPTIONS (TPO):What were you up to in academia and how did it shape your path? SUSIE WEE (SW): When it came time for me to pick my PhD thesis at MIT, I got to work with an amazing professor, William Schreiber. In the beginning of his career he took black and white television and made it into color television. In the middle of his career, he made black and white printing into color printing. He pioneered the technology to print color newspapers. At the end of his career he made television into high definition television (HDTV). When I was looking for a PhD thesis advisor, he was actually retired. This was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He was a little bit dissatisfied with the direction that HDTV was going, so he actually came out of retirement, took on me and one of my colleagues as his last PhD students, and we did our PhD theses with him on HDTV. At that time, computers could not process video in real time. In order to compress HDTV video frames, we would write our software and let it run overnight, hoping our code was working correctly and no one else would kill the job. Then we’d go back to the lab in the morning and if all went well we would have a handful of processed frames to analyze. 19

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Summer 2014


What is Cisco’s Spring Roll and Augmented Collaboration


Commentary by Telepresence Options Publisher, Howard S. Lichtman

THERE IS AN APP FOR THAT! DevNet developers at a Spring Roll demo at Cisco Live! learn how to write apps for the “iPad of the Conference Room” and begin thinking about how they might connect the room seamlessly with the rest of Cisco’s video estate.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? There’s a lot of big ideas going on simultaneously here: Stand-Up Presentation and Data Visualization—A significant percentage of executives are “stand-up presenters,” which means they prefer to speak, whiteboard, work with slides, and similarly command attention to reinforce their message. Anyone who has seen John Chambers present, or Susie Wee present, or me for that matter knows that it hard to keep a good man (or woman!) down! Stand up presenters “lead from the front” and a significant amount of presenters utilize data visualization to enhance the audience’s comprehension and retention of their material using images, visualizations, video, handgenerated graphics, and annotations the way an artist paints with a variety of brushes. Interactive Whiteboarding & Hand-Generated Graphics – In a virtual environment you want to replicate all the usual and customary tools in their usual and customary format. 22

That means you don’t want users to try to whiteboard with a mouse. The multi-site interactive whiteboard has been the biggest disappointment in collaboration. No one had really done it right although SMART’s Lync Room system got a little closer. The ability to whiteboard interactively, save your work product to a file, and annotate over images and documents are definitely power features because, especially in knowledge-based work like internetworking or genomics, for example, there are concepts that are almost impossible to explain without the use of hand-generated graphics. Annotation is a powerful tool in a variety of settings. Head-to-Toe Telepresence Layered with Augmented Reality— Spring Roll is one of the best environments we’ve seen that provides a head-to-toe view into a remote location, an area that has also been the focus of the telepresence work at Microsoft Research, which calls their goal the “Magic Window.” The view into the remote scene is one benefit, but expect Spring Roll’s computing capability and sensor network to layer in helpful information, customized menus and toolsets, translation capabilities and more. www.TelepresenceOptions.com

Edwin Zhang, Experience Designer, and Qibin Sun (inset), Distinguished Engineer, both live from Shanghai!

Large-Format Data Visualization, Interaction and “Bring & Fling”—You need a big canvas of pixels to let multiple participants share multiple data inputs at the same time. You also need a big canvas for data persistence. That is, you want to be able to “paste” the electrical equivalent of a flip chart to the wall so it stays fresh in the group’s memory so it can be frequently referred back to. “Bring and Fling” is the name for allowing BYOD participants to share content on the big screen from their preferred device. Yep. Spring Roll has it. Integration with the Rest of Cisco’s Video Portfolio— The platform was built on Cisco TelePresence so, if productized, expect to easily connect from “The Boardroom to the Browser” with Cisco multi-camera, multicodec group telepresence systems, videoconferencing room systems, the desktop, mobile video for tablets and smartphones, robotic telepresence, and WebEx. The iPad of the Conference Room—Most people haven’t realized the value of having an interactive display in the conference room. The Summer 2014

conference room display is one of the most important screens in most knowledge workers’ lives, arguably just as important as their television, tablet, or smartphone, with one of the most lucrative demographics on earth: educated, frequently wealthy, knowledge workers buying trillions of dollars of plant, property, equipment, and services for their companies, organizations, and governments. Connect a touch-sensitive screen to a computing capability and now you have a platform for Apps: marketing, business-to-business commerce, data analytics, data visualization, entertainment, gaming, room control, and dozens of other app categories. Expect a knife fight over who controls the portal into and out of the conference room.

AUGMENTED COLLABORATION DESIGN PRINCIPLES 1. Seamlessly integrate the physical and virtual worlds. 2. Engage participants with appropriate communication channel, media representation and interaction interface. 3. Better align collaboration tools with the thinking behaviors of people. 4. Content is more valuable with context. 5. Make people better collaborators.

For now Spring Roll is a proof-of-concept warming up on the pad but it is going in so many right directions simultaneously that it’s hard to imagine that lots of it isn’t going to stick in a big way. Why? Because they put the experience first.


It was pretty early for HDTV, and we didn’t even have HDTV displays or HDTV cameras. We had to work with studios to get high-quality video, and a high-quality video display cost a hundred thousand dollars. We were really working ahead of the technology. I remember naysayers questioning why we were working on HDTV. “No one can see the difference anyways.” It took another decade or two for HDTV to go mainstream, but everyone can see the difference now.

making Shrek and he had a requirement that he had to review every single frame himself. The speed at which the studio could produce movies depended on the speed at which Katzenberg could review and give feedback to the team. So he had his IT guys build a very high-quality studio to allow communication between two places. This is what became known as the HP Halo system. They were looking for partners to help bring this to market because DreamWorks makes movies and doesn’t sell video products to enterprises, so the partnership made a lot of sense. At the time I was in the mobile and media systems lab and eventually became the director of the lab, but when DreamWorks came along I made a big bet and put most of my lab on it. We started developing some awesome technologies for what is now immersive telepresence. The key there was that we challenged all the assumptions we had made around the user experience and technology of video networking and video conferencing. All the systems were really fighting against limitations of hardware and bandwidth, which was quite limited at the time. We changed all the assumptions by using studio-quality movie cameras and codecs and fat network pipes- this is now used in HDTV. It was all about thinking of the user experience first then developing the technology to deliver that experience.

Susie Wee experimenting with streaming media to mobile devices (HP Jornadas) at HP Labs circa 2000.

TPO: You were at HP Labs when it was the first pure research lab to look at immersive telepresence. What promising tech died on the vine and what made it out alive? SW: I was at HP Labs for 10 years and when I first got there in 1996, most people were working on imaging research and I joined to do video research in areas like video coding and video transcoding. In my research we were anticipating a world where video would be all-digital, from video capture to video storage and transmission to video display, even though at that time most things were analog. So we were leaping ahead and thinking about the algorithms that would be needed in an all-digital world. Another exciting project was mobile video. Back then in 1999 or so cellphones were only starting to have cameras in them and the most advanced mobile technology was in Japan. We formed a partnership between HP and NTT DoCoMo to anticipate a world with mobile video and we developed a 4G mobile streaming media content delivery network. Many of these technologies are used for video delivery today. After that, we worked on what’s now known as immersive telepresence. Jeffrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks had a couple of studios, one in the UK and one in California, and he needed to make his movies working in those different studios. He was 24

TPO: What do you do at Cisco? What is Spring Roll? What was the impetus of the idea? SW: When I first came into Cisco, I was “CTEO” for collaboration. My boss and I made the title Chief Technology and Experience Officer since he knew about my passion for technology and user experience. Then about a year-and-a-half ago I moved to the central CTO office so that I could take this experience-plus-technology approach and apply it across the whole portfolio, extending beyond collaboration. I’m now the VP and CTO of Networked Experiences. I always tend to have “experience” somewhere in my job title. My team and I are working on innovative end-user experiences, such as Augmented Collaboration. We are also looking at the user experience associated with managing and operating networks, especially in the world of software-defined networking. We have a Network UI Toolkit called NeXt for visualizing network topologies for SDN to help network operators to design, deploy, monitor and troubleshoot the network. My team and I have also created Cisco’s new developer program, Cisco DevNet, aimed at developers who want to create solutions based on Cisco technologies, thinking ahead to the world where the network is a true platform for innovation. We just had our first DevNet developer conference and hackathon at Cisco Live and it was an amazing success- it’s incredible to see the appetite of the developers who want to build innovative solutions around the network with software-defined networking, indoor location and mobility, collaboration, and the Internet of Things. Now we’re focusing on creating new end-user experiences on top of the network. We have an innovation project called Augmented Collaboration, and it’s codenamed Spring Roll. It has 10 HDTV screens in two rows of five screens with an IR-touch bezel around the outside frame making it all a multi-touch surface. The screens are arranged in an L-shaped configuration. Four of the screens are www.TelepresenceOptions.com

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on one side, two of the screens are at 45 degrees, and then the other four screens are at 90 degrees. On one side we use six screens to show full head-to-toe telepresence video. We find the head-to-toe telepresence video provides a very natural communication experience with the people in the remote site because it conveys context and body language in a way that is superior to more typical head-andshoulders video. People can move around the room freely without the boundaries of fixed seating locations, and this allows people to interact much more naturally.

video telepresence products so that we can integrate a video and interactive content collaboration experience like Augmented Collaboration.

Another big area is not only looking at a single mode or device for collaboration, but using multiple modes together by using different devices at the same time. We have a feature called intelligent proximity that automatically pairs your device with the telepresence environment that you’re in and allows you to start using At Cisco Live – The DevNet developers press in to check out your device in the same context On the other side of the L we Spring Roll as the broader collaboration have the four screens used for session. If you want to walk interactive content collaboration. Both rooms see the exact same up to the board, you can do that. But if you just want to text content collaboration screen where they can share presentations something into your device and contribute to the session, then and write on a white board. You can flip through presentations you can do that too. What we are starting to see is that people have very easily with a two-finger swiping gesture. You can annotate different modes of collaboration going on at the same time. These and draw on the slides and on the whiteboard, and people on tools can come together, and you can use the best technology each side can do it simultaneously. In addition, we integrated a for the right task at the right time. Instead of being completely mobile device experience with an iPad client. This allows you to separate experiences, they should be seamlessly integrated. participate in the meeting without having to run up to the board to contribute, providing a new means of natural interaction through I’m going to bet that even higher resolutions such as ultra HD will your personal device. The iPad client lets you participate in the become more important, especially as we have more affordable content collaboration portion of the meeting when you are in one large displays, higher network bandwidths, and more head-toof the Spring Roll rooms or when you are outside the rooms joining toe telepresence video experiences. There will be new touch and into the meeting through a regular telepresence or WebEx session. gesture technologies to improve input to mobile devices—this will greatly improve how we interact with mobile devices today The biggest challenge in creating Spring Roll was around user and with our broader collaborative environment. We’re going to experience simplification- we wanted to create an inviting have more sensors on mobile devices and in the environment to experience that was simple and easy to use and we wanted to hide help people interact more freely and naturally as we enter the the technology that was needed to deliver it. When people come world of the Internet of Things. Also, robotics will play a larger into Spring Roll they feel good and know they are in a designed role in providing natural communication experiences, as it will experience. Their eyes light up in the same way they did when help people have a physical presence in remote locations and they first saw HDTV and immersive telepresence. give them the ability to move around that remote location. The challenge behind all of it is not only to develop the technology, HSL: Final question: What do you see the future of but to drive it from a user experience first perspective. The telepresence and visual collaboration? future is bright, and all of these technologies are going to help SW: First of all, at Cisco the commitment to collaboration is very provide even better interactive collaboration experiences in the strong. We don’t want to just have people go into big expensive years ahead. TPO rooms and then be able to collaborate. We want you to collaborate when you’re mobile with your iPhone, iPad, Android device, or laptop, and still have a full collaboration experience. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Also, we’re looking at lowering costs to make this more accessible to more people. In terms of the broader industry and where things are going, something that we’ve shown with augmented collaboration is that if you do touch and gestures very well, you can have a more natural experience. Touch is what enables you to get that whole interactive experience. We’re actually integrating touch into our 26

Howard S.Lichtman is the publisher of Telepresence Options, president of the visual collaboration consultancy Human Productivity Lab, and a board director at Array Telepresence. He co-founded a company in 2001 that built visual collaboration environments with stand-up presentation, IP video over QoS networks, interactive whiteboarding, and large format data visualization. At the time, he was unable to even conceive of augmented reality, bring & fling, iPads, or Apps.


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few years ago, Texai, Sheldon’s proxy on an episode of the Big Bang Theory, made for a good punchline. These days, telepresence robots do a whole lot more than just make us laugh. As the number and variety of such robots continues to grow, it’s a safe bet that telepresence robotics is tracking the same evolution as the mobile phone—emerging as a field with a wide range of functions and applications.



The $5995 VGo is used in dozens of schools to help kids like Lyndon who can’t attend due to medical issues.

Telepresence robotics is at an inflection point. Costs are dropping and market penetration of supporting technologies is increasing. The smart phone, tablet and rise of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement has helped make visual collaboration technologies affordable. Many telepresence robot companies are leveraging the ability of the consumer to provide devices that used to be central but can now be considered peripheral. Just add a tablet or smartphone and voila! You now have a telepresence solution mounted on a telepresence robot, tripod or mobile mount.

The $69,500 Ava 500 from iRobot offers autonomous navigation to drive itself to its destination, collision avoidance to do it safely, a telescoping frame to interact with standing or seated colleagues, and integrated Cisco TelePresence to seamlessly plug into corporate video estates.

Summer 2014

However, there’s a tradeoff here. Developers can reduce cost by letting customers use their own devices, but that can lead to headaches and development costs as they must adapt their equipment to work with the growing range of available devices. Suitable Technologies has just introduced a consumer-priced telepresence robot at $1995 ($1495 pre-order) that includes the screen as part of the device. Meanwhile, The Beam+ and its direct competitor, The $2499 Double (and most likely The Fellow when released), both require you to “add tablet.”

The $149 Romo and the $299 Botiful use your smartphone as the video platform One example of this increasing market stratification is the rise of head/neck robots (as introduced in last year’s State of the Industry). Alongside small mobile telepresence robots like Botiful and Romotive are a stream of “life-casting” remote-operated robot 31

mounts or tripods aimed at very diverse markets. The $499 Kubi from Revolve Robotics is for business meetings. The $299 Swivl is for education and distance learning.

The Kubi “head and neck” robot has found a calling in allowing executives to work from home but still be available to colleagues who drop by to chat. The company has also developed a user interface that allows remote users to login to a variety of strategically positioned Kubis.

The process of finding the right niche can take a bit of trial and error. Certainly some of the companies have had to pivot over the last couple of years when initial markets weren’t ready. For example, Revolve Robotics first targeted the grandparent market with Kubi. The trouble was the average grandparent wasn’t as comfortable or interested in using a moving telepresence platform. Not yet, at least. I suspect this dynamic will change as more tech-savvy baby boomers age. Meanwhile, the current strong growth of video conferencing in the enterprise led them to untapped demand in business scenarios. A popular application is users that usually work in an office leaving an active Kubi on their desk when working from home. An opportunity for telepresence robotics providers is to find these new adjacencies, like education, where there is a good balance of technology awareness, comfort and need.

London’s Tate Museum recently made headlines with the announcement of robot tours of the museum collections “after dark.” The robots, equipped with spotlights, come out at night to offer a museum experience that feels like a clandestine visit, a heist of some kind. The idea was the award-winning brain child of The Workers digital design group, whose clients included the London Olympics. The National Museum of Australia has taken a more traditional approach, in partnership with Australia’s leading research agency, the CSIRO. The robot accompanies education staff through the galleries, taking remote visitors on a virtual tour of the museum. While the robot is guided by the museum staff, the panoramic-camera controls let visitors view what they choose. The presence of a human guide lets them ask questions as well. The ultimate goal is that all Australians with Internet—especially in rural areas—should be able to access and experience the widest range of national treasures, despite the “tyranny of distance.” Sometimes, particularly for temporary events, trade shows, or exhibitions, it’s worth having several telepresence robots around. Suitable Technologies recently made 50 Beams available for rent at the RoboBusiness2013 conference in Santa Clara. Visitors from all over the world were able to stroll around the expo floor talking directly to exhibitors and attendees. That’s the kind of unique perspective a telepresence robot can give to users. You need to consider sociability and presence too. Phone and video calls can achieve a certain amount of presence, but adding physicality with even a small mobile robot or head/neck mount

The National Museum of Australia’s telepresence robot lets participants use the panoramic camera to view what they want while the Tate Museum in London’s upcoming program will let remote visitors wander the galleries unattended with spotlight-equipped robots at night.



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makes the experience all the more personal and engaging. Large telepresence robots talking to humans can be even more persuasive. Now we’re beginning to see robots talking to robots at conferences, remote operators in various parts of the world meeting through this new physical medium. Offices around the world are replicating this dynamic, remote workers having meaningful social or business exchanges with colleagues by logging on to available robots increasingly available in multiple offices, cities and countries. A lot of innovation and communication takes place at the water cooler, and mobile telepresence can recapture these natural interactions in our increasingly technologically mediated global village. Sometimes these natural interactions are something you can’t experience without a robot. Henry Evans created Robots4Humanity after a brainstem stroke in 2001 left him a mute quadriplegic. But with a telepresencerobot, he can interact with the world. After regaining a small amount of movement in his head and one finger through intensive rehabilitation, Evans connected with the team at Willow Garage, one of the leading labs in the world doing pure research on robotics, and asked for a robot to help him in his daily life. He says the most important thing to him is the independence of being able to scratch a simple itch. Now a telepresence robot like the BEAM lets Henry not only scratch himself but also deliver TEDX talks. Evans has regained more than presence or action, he’s regained participation.

The scale of the telepresence and teleoperation axis can be defined by the amount of two-way communication happening. At one end, you have broadcast only or passive reception. At the other end of the scale you have two-way communication: you can both talk and listen, or you can both touch and feel. Most devices only allow one or two forms of interaction—you can talk and listen or move and touch. Very few devices give you feedback across multiple modes of presence. This is where the future lies.

The DaVinci Surgical System from Intuitive Surgical offers a glimpse into the degree of precision that remote teleoperation is capable of today.

In the social or business world, imagine the equivalent of adding a handshake to the telepresence robotics gestural repertoire. Or perhaps a pat on the back. If forty percent of our communication is non-verbal body language, there’s lots of room to improve telepresence as we increase feedback and converge on teleoperation. In the teleoperation space, feedback is a critical component of the sort of sophisticated systems that let us to do robotic surgery. Intuitive Surgical is one of the companies providing a mediated-manipulation experience where a surgeon is able to operate inside the body by proxy of the machine guiding the tools. The surgeon is teleoperating, literally, and also able to receive haptic feedback from the tools and operation.

The iRobot’s tablet app lets you navigate to a remote location with the push of a button or you can drive it yourself if you prefer.

Telepresence roboticists have added mobility to presence. Now the next evolutionary steps are autonomous navigation and remote manipulation. Making social interactions more intuitive, adding smart guidance and automating procedures are bound to become part of the complex plane of telerobotics. On the autonomous navigation front iRobot has recently made the Ava 500 generally available. This $69,500 next-generation bot can be sent to a remote office by touching the location on a digital map. The Ava will navigate itself to the location using collision avoidance to avoid humans and obstacles. 34

Telerobotics will enable experts to guide distant, dangerous or previously impossible operations in the real world. A blend of guided and automated operation will generate entirely new industries in the 21st century. Multiple new systems will emerge offering unique blends of feedback and teleoperation features for an increasingly diverse set of uses. TPO


Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, the industry group. She has degrees in Human-Robot Culture and Communications, and is the founder of Robot Launchpad, for startups, and cofounder of Robot Garden, a new robotics hackerspace. Andra is also a core member of Robohub, the global site for news and views on robotics.


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n the early 2000s, Proxibid, the most trusted online marketplace for buying and selling highly-valued items, added functionality to stream live auctions online. The move made sense given that many auctions in the Proxibid Marketplace feature heavy equipment (tractors, 18 wheelers, etc.) and a light audience of potential bidders. If more people could see what was on the block, they’d be more likely to bid.

How Streaming their Auctions Amped their Revenue

Sure enough, streaming the auctions substantially opened up the pool of potential bidders. When streamed, some auctions have seen up to a 40 percent increase in revenue. Proxibid had created a game changer for itself and its customers.

By Andy Howard

But this was not a normal environment. Proxibid has some very specific requirements based on its business model. For example:


As the solution become more successful, Proxibid needed to scale it to meet the demand it had created. The Content Delivery Network (CDN) it was working with had some major problems during a network upgrade, which caused issues with several Proxibid auctions. The team realized it was time to take a step back and analyze their entire streaming strategy.


The provider has also been extremely responsive from a support perspective. Any time an issue is found, it can be quickly analyzed and solved. The system now returns over 99 percent reliability. Proxibid is extremely pleased with the capabilities, and moving to the new provider even saved them thousands of dollars per month. However, they will continue to push the envelope to provide the most innovative streaming solution in the industry. For example, one of the biggest challenges is getting the stream from the auction site to the CDN. As you can imagine, some of these auction sites are in rural areas with limited connectivity. Therefore, Proxibid is evaluating cellular bonding solutions that can bond cellular connections from multiple providers to increase the overall bandwidth by five to six times. Additionally, they are looking toward the future and evaluating mobile streaming, which will also require a shift to using Adaptive Bit Rate technologies.

Adding a streaming capability to Proxibid’s website jacked revenue and opened up the auctions to more bidders.

• • • •

The end-to-end latency of the stream needed to be 2 seconds or less. Anything else would cause the video stream to be too far off from the real-time auction application The system needed to utilize the current workflow that Proxibid had successfully implemented because in many cases the auction site initiated the stream themselves It needed to be highly reliable, and issues needed to be quickly recognized and fixed – this was revenue impacting! The system needed to be future proofed to provide the ability to add additional functionality in the future, such as mobile devices

The two-second latency requirement was the toughest to meet. Typically, streaming video on the Internet is not low delay in order to build in buffering to ride out the inevitable issues with the “best efforts” nature of the Internet. So Proxibid was really pushing the envelope - typically, Internet streaming will have a delay of ten to forty seconds. After interviewing every major CDN (and receiving a lot of “you are crazy” responses), we ultimately found a vendor that was willing to work with us. They tuned their servers and created a custom player for us with low delay settings. After much trial and error and testing, the solution works great and delivers the two second latency. The workflow requirement was as important as the delay. In many cases, Proxibid handled higher-end auctions with its own staff and equipment, so they had the technical expertise to setup the encoder and make sure it was working properly with the CDN. However, many customers in more remote locations had to broadcast the auctions on their own. Therefore, to make it as easy as possible for these customers, they simply go to a web page (with a custom embedded encoder), enter the unique auction number, and press Start. Again, the provider ended up customizing their solution to meet this need, so no re-training was necessary on the customer side. This also allows the system to scale without the need for additional resources from Proxibid. Summer 2014

Bidders can pop the streaming window out and maximize the screen to get a feel for the crowd. Check out that beard on the guy in the blue shirt.

In the end, the new system has given Proxibid’s customers 99 percent reliability, ensuring they can reap the benefits of a timely, low delay live stream. An auction stream with the potential to pull in 40 percent more revenue makes a big difference when you’re auctioning, say, a $500,000 truck. It just goes to show that improved video streaming isn’t just great for customer service or corporate communications—it’s also a way to make money. TPO

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Andy Howard is Managing Director of  Howard & Associates, a practice director at the Human Productivity Lab,  and an IP video expert with specialties in streaming video and building video call centers. Mr. Howard has been at the forefront of digital video since its inception, with a focus on helping clients improve their internal and external communications with video. Mr. Howard has helped hundreds of large corporate, government, and educational customers architect and implement enterprise-wide video deployments. Mr. Howard is a highly regarded IP video expert, industryveteran, and a frequent speaker at leading industry conferences


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MAKING IT EASY What’s New and Cool in Room Control BY LINDSEY M. ADLER

“New York is on the line,” the secretary called. “Do you have to put them on the contraption?” That cringing response came from slimy ad man Pete Campbell on a recent episode of Mad Men that brilliantly portrayed the early struggles of conferencing technology in 1969. Communicating between bicoastal offices has surely come a long way since the days of Sterling Cooper and Partners. America’s favorite television office team would be amazed at the simplicity and clarity of today’s conferencing capability. It’s a far cry from huddling around a phone and yelling over each other amid constant gripes about the bad audio from across the line. People now share pitch-perfect audio and crystal-clear video from pole to pole with the click of a mouse, tap of a finger or swipe of a hand.


onference rooms are where a great deal of this magic is made, making conference room control systems essential to business communications. These systems used to be limited to more basic automation features. But with the convergence of AV and IT technology, room control has led visual collaboration to a golden age of collaborative, unified communications. “When it comes to the technology itself, the control system is there to provide a high level of automation programming,” says David Thorson, senior manager, programming and architecture for AVI-SPL’s Technology Solutions Group.


All in the GUI

Control systems design places top priority on providing an intuitive experience for the end user, creating a clean, uncluttered and consistent look and feel. “Far too many visual collaboration environments are complicated to operate, which leads to a ‘tax’ at the beginning of each meeting in setup and connection time,” says Sean Goldstein, vice president of marketing at Crestron. “A control system can eliminate that complexity, making a room that is incredibly easy to use.” Ease of use can make or break a conference room control system. Joe da Silva, director of product marketing for Extron, says such systems should have a low-impact, consistent and intuitive user interface—technology that’s as transparent as possible. “The control system needs to allow users to concentrate on their www.TelepresenceOptions.com

No matter what type of user, sometimes less is more, and a key panel with 10 buttons will suffice. Thorson describes the concept as don’t clutter the user with what they don’t need, “but don’t limit them either.” He says a good control system should be very customizable. A dashboard solution founded off an InfoComm standard is the most adaptable option AVI-SPL offers users, ideal for both copilots and pilots. A bad interface can put the whole One of the features common to all the major control system manufactures is variety. success of this major technology Small, medium, large, wired or wireless, on the table or on the wall, portrait or landscape. investment at risk, says Frank Here is Extron’s line up. Pellkofer, co-founder and CEO of Utelogy, an open-standards, cloudmeetings instead of being distracted by the technology,” he based AV control and management platform. “Making it easy to says. “Just as a quality telepresence provides consistent meeting use and ubiquitous throughout your enterprise not only ensures experience, control system designs and user interfaces should success, but invites new value for the enterprise, encourages present a comfortable and familiar experience for users from innovation and different thinking on collaboration and using room to room, across the enterprise.” the technology behind it,” he says. AVI-SPL uses extensive standards for defining usage parameters, including graphic design guidelines to make users comfortable with a system’s interface at first glance. Often, their interfaces are designed like popular consumer interfaces and websites. AVI-SPL employs five different GUI themes, from a flat design common on mobile devices to a more photorealistic theme. The company has also developed a program called AIR (automation interactive ranges) to help define the type of user a system will be engaged with. AIR identifies three types of user based on experience level: autopilot, copilot and pilot. Copilots may want to select what technology they wish to receive a call on. Pilots, running the presentation or meeting, are typically hands-on enough to run a highly technical room. “We’re talking about the end user before we’re talking about what the system should do, or what technology is in the room,” explains Thorson.

When AVI-SPL built their Cameleon Telepresence solution, one of the features that drew the most praise was the custom designed control system. Summer 2014

The cloud-based Utelogy platform provides room control on commodity tablets with rapid changes that can easily be pushed out to every room. Pellkofer believes control system GUIs are headed for global standardization. “You can carry your presentations, your unified communications platform, or whatever with you on your control interface as you go into a telepresence room, regardless of where in the world that room is located,” he explains. “You still have the same interface in San Francisco as you have in your London and Shanghai offices. Gone are the days of many different user interfaces around the world within the same organization. Today, a standard UI delivered in moments to any corner of the world is real, easy and affordable. Total control of not only the telepresence system, but all of the AV, all of the room environment and all of the software-based things that I, as a user, may want with me on a given day is possible.”


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Expanding out from the Control Panel – Crestron RL – the company’s Lync Room System brings Lync and control into the conference room. You could think of this functionality as a high-end concierge technology. “It’s now possible to deliver a white glove video operator/concierge button to a GUI for a given meeting with the button and then going away after the meeting is over and regular room use resumes,” says Pellkofer. “Basically, if you can think of a service, it can be pushed to a user instantly. And with an enterprise platform for control, those solutions can be pushed globally in an instant.”

Top Tier Capabilities

For Chris Neto, a consultant at AV design and engineering firm AV Helpdesk, high-quality video equipment and data capabilities are essential, but that managed white glove service differentiates these spaces from traditional videoconference rooms. These are the most high-end, posh rooms, where, “users expect to walk in and not touch anything,” says Neto. “Everything is driven by this white glove service that sits in the background and makes everything run. It’s not a Honda, it’s a Ferrari.” When it comes to advanced capabilities, control manufacturers all have their own bundles of features to wow users. For AMX, one of the most important advanced features is for the system to be IT-friendly. “A modern room control system cannot stand as an island outside of the corporate IT network—it must by fully integrated, secure, and be maintainable by IT staff,” says Mark Wilson, AMX senior product marketing manager. “Furthermore, AV assets like control panels need to be web-capable, giving meeting attendees the ability to access and share information from virtually anywhere, and securely.” AMX has also made security a major component of its Enzo platform, which purges all downloaded files and cached data when a meeting session concludes. This lets users enjoy “bring your own device” freedom without worry of repercussions. The BYOD trend has been changing room control on a broad scale, says Extron’s da Silva. “For years, we’ve dealt with dedicated, 44

fixed-location control interfaces,” he says. “Then designated iPads or tablets that could be misplaced or left uncharged.” Extron’s LinkLicense lets participants use their own device as a primary control interface within a visual collaboration application without having to customize or program the device any further. Crestron offers a range of solutions for BYOD to a meeting. AirMedia provides wireless presentation of PowerPoint, Excel, Word and PDF documents, in addition to personal images from an iOS or Android device, as well as PCs and Macbooks. Other presentation interfaces from Crestron include the Connect It and FlipTop, to provide wired connectivity for HDMI and VGA ouputs. Full integration of Microsoft’s Lync with Crestron’s RL room control solutions brings IM, voice, video and desktop presentations straight into the conference room. Crestron has also recently worked with Cisco to develop Smart Space, an open architecture conferencing and infrastructure solution that includs AV switching, touchscreens, codec, cameras, DSP, as well as a built-in program for system configuration and control. It also automates room acoustics for remote videoconferencing and local meetings. SMART Technologies has built a reputation on interactive whiteboard solutions, yet its SMART Room System for Microsoft Lync is noteworthy for the way it brings in local presentations, adhoc whiteboards, phone calls and videoconferencing capabilities. It also comes with its own touch-sensitive control panel. The SMART Lync Room Systems are comprised of an HD videoconferencing camera, an embedded appliance, either one or two large format SMART Board interactive displays, tabletop microphones, speakers and the control panel. “Customers have told us that this all-in-one approach creates compelling and productive meeting, while not compromising on consistency and reliability,” says Frazer Couzens, director of SMART Room Systems. “However, SMART acknowledges that not all meeting www.TelepresenceOptions.com

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spaces have the same needs; therefore, SMART offers the ability to extend its platform to further room control.” SMART offers the Microsoft Lync Room System Administrative Web Portal to manage room equipment remotely, along with its System Center integration for setting up automatic alerts. As an example, the system has a proximity detection feature, which senses if a room is occupied or not. SMART exposes this knowledge, via the standards-based RS232 protocol, to let system integrators control other elements of the room, such as lighting, temperature and shades. Additionally, SMART has released a new feature called Room View, which lets administrators configure what video sources are eligible to be shared in the Lync Room System, like Apple TV, document cameras, permanent computers, etc. Gesture technology brings the “wow” factor in the most advanced telepresence rooms that AVI-SPL installs, Thorson says. Mobile devices have created the expectation among users that any touchpanel should be gesturedriven. Thorson also cites streaming video to the touchpanels and AMX’s panoramic Modero X G5 as other advanced features. Voice control is another feature starting to roll out in the newer control systems. Users will be able to walk into a room and say “Call Dubai,” for example, and the control system will take care of the rest.

Truth in Action

As AV manager at the Moffitt Cancer Center, John Maass says he rarely trains a user for more than five minutes. “We do have individuals who need extra special care, but for the most part, we don’t spend much time on training.” For beginners, the system is much like using an ATM machine, a comparison that “people warm up to,” Maass says. “The Crestron systems take people step by step through each process, much like the ATM telling you to swipe your debit card. When we finish going over the control panel, we encourage them to go into an empty room and see what they can do.” Within the Ohio State system, the University of Toledo, College of Engineering, connects with a partner college electronically using telepresence. An instructor can lecture from either location, share slides or video content, and students can communicate and collaborate together in real-time. “We knew we needed some kind of control interface, and we knew we needed to think about compatibility for the future and how to make it continue to work as technology changed,” says Jonathan Rethorn, a high-performance computing specialist at University of Toledo. “Supporting the faculty in these rooms was a huge challenge because the control was not easy to use, nor was it easy to maintain. In fact, it was proprietary, which meant it was also expensive to maintain. Another hardware-based solution would leave the college in the same situation again in the future.”

The most effective means to establish how a room control system can make communications more successful is to take a look at a few of these environments. The Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL, has a total of 112 conference rooms in nine Utelogy’s software-based platform at buildings across five campuses, holding more University of Toledo was up to the task, than 5,000 videoconferences every year. One of The AMX Modero X Series G5 can performing control, AV switching, and the most impressive features of this project is be mounted portrait or landscape touch-to-talk. The result has been easy that just two people support all of these spaces. depending on the application and/or and more affordable. “This softwareavailable space. based control solution resulted in The systems were designed and integrated by a savings of more than $40,000 that AVI-SPL, employing control hardware and would have been required to purchase software from Crestron, including DigitalMedia, Fusion software the hardware for control and swap out some other hardware and the AirMedia presentation system. that was no longer compatible,” Rethorn says. “Not only did the solution provide capital savings, it also resulted in operational Most of the rooms use a DMPS-300-C presentation system to savings as it doesn’t require nearly as many support calls because combine AV controls, an audio amp, a six-channel microphone it is easy to use. We feel the solution has helped us to be on the mixer, an audio processor, switcher, and Crestron touchscreens. leading edge and given us a solution for the future. There are Since they are all HDCP compatible, users can plug in a Blu-ray some capabilities we don’t have today, like lecture capture, but player or other media player. Crestron’s Cisco Digital Media suite because we’re using a software solution, we can implement that is the backbone for videoconferencing and streaming. Meeting and other pieces whenever we want.” participants can stay at their desks and log-in to the conference using Microsoft Lync. ROI 46


The University of Toledo case illustrates one of the ways a room control system is well worth the investment. Quite simply, time savings is a meaningful metric in an education environment as much as in the corporate world. When meetings are more efficient, they start on time without technical hiccups to troubleshoot. “IT departments spend inordinate amounts of time chasing issues with older, non-networked AV systems; companies can save considerably by implementing more modern AV infrastructure that can be monitored and maintained over the IT network,” says AMX’s Wilson. Wilson cites energy savings as well, from using sensors and other automation features that power the systems down when not in use. Between the energy, IT support costs, and time efficiency provided by a room control system, “we have seen payback calculations ranging from as quickly as six months up to two and a half years,” says Wilson. “Regardless of the situation, the ROI on room control is always positive.” AV Helpdesk’s Neto points to the robust nature of room control systems and their ability to provide many real metrics to companies, from occupancy sensors, to lights and shades and room usage information. It’s easy to now see how a certain type of room is being used, all day, every day. “Even in small spaces, you can see how many times people check into those rooms,” he says. Neto sees Near Field Communications technology playing a big role in control and designing business spaces in the future, though he acknowledges the technology is not quite there yet. The ROI ties into the end user experience for AVI-SPL’s Thorson. “To me, the most important ROI is end user satisfaction. People are going to use the system because it’s easy, and it does what they want.” Thorson also cited the big data effect in terms of ROI, providing real measurements in dollars and cents. Crestron’s Fusion RV and AMX RMS are server applications that pump data in the background, so an administrator can see how many times videoconferencing was used in which room on a daily, monthly or annual basis. Businesses can also demonstrate how much a travel budget goes down as a result. “People that approve the budgets can say, ‘this makes sense, we want to build more [of these systems],’” says Thorson. Speaking from personal experience, Thorson says, “I use them seven or eight times a week. It keeps me out of the skies and my wife happy.” Now there’s an ROI to write home about. TPO


Lindsey M. Adler is associate editor for Systems Contractor News, Residential Systems, and Healthcare AV. She frequently writes about new products in both commercial and residential AV, unified communications, home automation, and energy management, as well as efforts to engage a younger generation of AV professionals.

Summer 2014




9 H.264 is arguably the dominant codec of the moment in terms of AV and IT vendor support. Though plenty of emerging codecs are vying for the top spot, H.264 will have the incumbency advantage for at least the next few years. That makes it a safe choice when buying video conferencing, digital signage and other AV gear today.

the way it delivers a video stream in different layers depending on network quality, available bandwidth, or the quality of the CPU. The codec can “scale” up and add additional layers, producing better resolution and frame rate depending on network quality and resources. That makes it a good fit for applications such as video conferencing, especially when they involve best-effort networks like the Internet and endpoints with big differences in processing power and bandwidth.

David Benham, Cisco’s director of telepresence technology, says H.264 is the codec that enterprises should ask for in new AV equipment, preferably with the flexibility to support higher profiles, and be at least upgradeable to H.265 High Efficiency “H.264 SVC is getting popular because of Microsoft Lync and Video Coding. He adds that some of the most recent generation Google+ Hangouts,” says Eric Yu, product management director of conferencing equipment can support H.264 High Profile and at AVer Information Inc. USA. “But Hangout and WebRTC are one or more modes of H.264 SVC (Scalable Video Coding). moving to VP8 and VP9 SVC, and eventually new integrated circuits will support it in hardware.” The Scalable Video Coding (SVC) extension gets its name from






Summer 2014


He adds that H.264 AVC is a must-have for enterprise decision makers for 2014, and so will 264 SVC Temporal if Lync is in their technology planning. “In late 2014 or 2015, H.265 and VP9 SVC hardware solutions will show up with their solution strength demonstrated,” he says. “That is when their popularity will be determined.” H.265 is a good fit for 4K video and thus for telepresence systems using that resolution to make the user experience seem even more lifelike. “We believe that H.265 will be adopted by the video conferencing market relatively quickly due to the significant bandwidth saving capabilities it delivers,” says Ori Modai, CTO of Radvision, an Avaya company. H.265 also is known as High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC), which refers to its ability to achieve the same resolution as H.264 High Profile while using half the bandwidth. “Enterprises needing to save on recurring bandwidth costs will want to pursue the rollout of H.265/HEVC in their AV equipment,” Benham says. “This is why you see mobile video aggressively demonstrating support for HEVC and why video providers [such as Netflix] are starting to stream some of their content in HEVC over the Internet.”




• Royalty-free public license • Suitable for largescale deployments

• Not compatible with Enterprise grade video conferening devices.

H.264 SVC

• Allows non-transcoding multiparty conferencing • Built-in support for error resiliency

• Requires licenses from patent holders (not royalty free). • SVC-based conferencing solutions are stil priority (Lync, Vidyo) and not compatible with Enterprise grade video conferencing devices.


• Provides same quality • Requires licenses from patent holders. as h.264 AVC in half • Not wildly deployed the bit rate. • Not compatible with • Can support higher Enterprise-grade video HD resolution, as high conferencing devices as 8K • Requires higher CPU power • Not suitable for lower CPU mobile devices

But H.265 has a few challenges that limit certain types of adoption in the short term. For example, it’s compute-intensive, which makes it an unwieldy match for mobile devices, where battery life is in perpetually short supply. “The main challenge for the adoption of H.265 is the codec’s high complexity and the fact that most of the current video conferencing platforms are utilizing hardware-accelerated codecs that are not adaptable for H.265,” Modai says. “The availability of such devices tailored for H.265 is expected by 2015.”

The Rise of VP Codecs

Vendors don’t have to pay a royalty to use VP codecs, which helps make them attractive for consumer applications where every penny of price and percentage of margin are scrutinized. “We believe that VP8 will evolve in the consumer domain,” Modai says. “This codec and its successor, VP9, will be the main engine driving the adoption of WebRTC communication and streaming media.” VP8 also gets a boost from Google’s support, which includes using it in Chrome. “VP8 is royalty free, and it’s embedded in the browser that’s becoming the de facto standard,” says Ken Davison, CMO and senior vice president of sales at Magor. “Why wouldn’t you use it if you could?” For applications that require scalability, VP9 might be the better long-term choice. “VP8 doesn’t have scalability,” says Ofer Shapiro, Vidyo CEO and co-founder. “It’s frozen, so it won’t have it.” TPO


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tim Kridel has been covering the Pro-AV industry since 2003 for publications such as AV Technology, InAVate, Pro AV, Sound & Video Contractor, and Telepresence Options as well as InfoComm’s Special Reports series. Since 1998, he has also been covering the telecomindustry for a variety of publications and analyst firms. For more information, visit www.TimKridel.com


Summer 2014




How NYU is using Videoconferencing to create global classrooms By Andy Howard 52



ew York University’s campus sits on some of the most valuable slices of the Big Apple, yet it hasn’t been content to stay there. To prepare students for their future lives as global individuals, the university has put much effort into constructing a global network, building locations around the world. The university has created 13 global locations outside its core New York City address, including two degree-granting campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi. Additionally, NYU has 11 global academic centers in major metropolitan areas such as London; Paris; Florence; Madrid; Buenos Aires; Ghana; Washington, D.C.; Berlin; Accra; Prague; Sydney; and Tel Aviv. Increasingly, courses NYU students take have a growing global theme. NYU has reinvented its curriculum to support a more international outlook. But the classes don’t just talk about the greater global world; they bring the greater global world to class. NYU has incorporated online technology as part of its new role as a global university, but not in the way you may be thinking. Rather than creating the kind of massive and impersonal online classes so popular with many universities these days, NYU is replicating the brick-and-mortar, face-to-face university experience over the Internet. It’s an approach the university calls the global classroom. The global classroom has three key advantages over a more traditional academic set-up: 1) Students participate in the classes from multiple locations, providing different perspectives. 2) Multiple instructors may “joint teach.” Any given class could have professors from New York, London, Abu Dhabi or beyond. They bring not only different perspectives but multiple skill sets and expertise in particular disciplines. 3) Students can gather data locally and then compare it with their remote peers. NYU tested the system with a trial class, Where The City Meets The Sea, about how metropolitan areas work with the water systems around them. Three different professors with expertise in areas spanning marine biology to urban planning taught the course, and none of them were in the same city. But through this advanced video conferencing, they connected their classes into one.


The gold standard of an NYU Global Classroom is the Seminar room. They are equipped to ensure that the 16 to 24 students they typically hold can be seen and heard on the other side. Otherwise, an off-camera student would not feel part of the class and would fail to engage. To achieve this level of participation, Seminar rooms are set up as a dual-codec environments using the Polycom Architected Telepresence Experience system. The system uses two cameras situated to capture one half of the room apiece and then project those two images to the room in the other location. The room strategically positions ceiling and table microphones to capture the full audio in the room as well. This setup creates a “telepresence-like” environment that broadcasts the entire room elsewhere. Why doesn’t NYU prefer an “immersive” telepresence environment? Because it’s far too costly for the university to Summer 2014

duplicate the same room designs, furniture and other form factors from country to country, especially due to the real estate constraints in New York and other major metropolitan areas. Since the professors have enough on their minds as it is, Seminar rooms come with Crestron wireless touch panels to start the video conferencing, Blu-ray, document camera and other equipment. Just as helpful, these panels also display an interactive schedule, letting professors schedule the class (and the video conference session) in advance or on the fly with the press of a button. It’s a one-button-push approach to running a classroom, keeping the technology in the background so the class is focused on learning, not on the technology. According to Mary Killilea, professor for Where the City Meets the Sea, “I was surprised by how easy it was to feel like it was one class.”

NYU has attracted professors specifically attracted to this unique approach to global-minded learning, most notably philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, who left Princeton last year to teach in NYU’s philosophy department and law school. As he told the New York Times: “There’s an enormous value in having students interact not just with me, but with each other. What happens when you have a conversation about the most important questions facing us—gender, the environment, animal rights—with people coming from very different places?” Students have given the Seminar classes rave reviews as well, gushing about them in their evaluations. Tellingly, they don’t tend to talk about loving the technology, but about loving the global classes themselves. That’s exactly how NYU wants them to feel. Keeping the technology as invisible as possible helps create a more intimate educational experience. TPO ABOUT THE AUTHOR Andy Howard is Managing Director of  Howard & Associates, a practice director at the Human Productivity Lab,  and an IP video expert with specialties in streaming video and building video call centers. Mr. Howard has been at the forefront of digital video since its inception, with a focus on helping clients improve their internal and external communications with video. Mr. Howard has helped hundreds of large corporate, government, and educational customers architect and implement enterprise-wide video deployments. Mr. Howard is a highly regarded IP video expert, industryveteran, and a frequent speaker at leading industry conferences






hat a difference a year makes. And sometimes “At this point, we expect WebRTC to be adopted more on the not. Both apply to WebRTC, which, even as it consumer side, where Safari and Internet Explorer users are open builds market share, still lacks the reliability to downloading other browsers and in certain browser-controlled and support from Internet Explorer that many environments,” says Oded Gal, Blue Jeans Networks’ product enterprises require. vice president. “One example would be the Chromebook laptops thatgained traction in education.” Net Applications says Internet Explorer has a 58 percent market share on desktops using any OS. They put Chrome at nearly 17 percent of the global browser market. That’s slightly less than Firefox, which supports WebRTC, but nearly triple Safari, which doesn’t.

But other numbers suggest that the browser hurdle might not be as insurmountable as it appears. For example, StatCounter thinks Chrome was the most widely used browser throughout 2013. Chrome’s growing share of the browser market (and WebRTC) are getting a boost from the skyrocketing growth of the Chromebook cloud-based laptop market. Chromebooks represented 21 percent of all U.S. laptops sold in 2013, up from virtually zero in 2012, according to the NPD Group.


CAPTION 1: Active WebRTC Users in 2014 www.TelepresenceOptions.com

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CAPTION 4: Biggest WebRTC Adoption Barriers

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More consumers using Chrome and other WebRTC-enabled browsers creates opportunities for B2C applications such as customer service. “Many of our prospects for Avaya One Touch Video are looking to extend browser communications with Flash to a browser communications experience with WebRTC,” says Val Matula, Avaya’s senior director of multimedia technologies. “Fundamentally, these technologies allow businesses to communicate with customers within their browser window, with a potential purchase still in the basket or a form ready to be completed. Such enhancements help businesses avoid an abandoned shopping cart or an abandoned application due to a question.” Meanwhile, at least some Chromebooks are going to businesses. That adoption bodes well for WebRTC as a B2B medium, especially among enterprises that don’t want employees downloading software—such as Chrome—to company-issued PCs.

Voxeet CTO and founder. “It’s still not perfect, but it’s now stable and mature enough to fit our needs.” Fornallaz sees three areas where WebRTC could be further improved:

CAPTION 3: Number of End Devices by the End of 2014 • Support of more sampling rates (44,100 and 48000) that would allow his company to give better quality. • An acoustic echo canceller working on all Android devices. • Better performance on mobile devices. Blue Jeans’ Gal agrees: “WebRTC still needs to mature on the media handling side before it can be fully adopted for business purposes. Media improvements are needed around bandwidth management and echo cancellation.”

CAPTION 2: Will WebRTC emerge from the chasm in 2014? Chromebooks and WebRTC-enabled browsers on other devices are also ways for enterprises to extend video conferencing to all employees for less than if they had to equip all of them with specialized video endpoints. The technology to connect WebRTC to traditional video conferencing systems enables a variety of B2B and B2C applications. “You have to take enterprise-grade video and integrate it with consumer-grade WebRTC,” says Ken Davison, Magor CMO and senior vice president of sales. “Because we can support VP8 codecs and interoperate with H.264 at the same time, that’s an application we’re looking at. I see WebRTC having some really good apps in SMEs that can’t afford a contact center. They can put this in their support or sales process and go straight to a video session for a higher-value service offering.”

For some applications, WebRTC still lacks the reliability that prospective users want. One example is contact centers, which are concerned that browser lock-up would irritate customers and frustrate agents. “Do I think WebRTC is a great protocol? Do I think its objective is great? Yes,” says Matthew Lautz, CorvisaCloud president and CIO. “Do I think it’s ready for the contact center? No. I could not put it in a 500-, 600-, 700-seat contact center, or even a 50-seat, and have the level of reliability that our clients demand.”

Resistance is Futile?

Any discussion of WebRTC inevitably comes around to whether or when Apple and Microsoft will start baking it into their products. They’re certainly 800-pound gorillas, but so are a lot of other

Technology Improves, but Still Room for Improvement Over the past year, WebRTC technology has matured to the point that some vendors now use it to replace proprietary parts of their solutions. Voxeet recently replaced a multi-vendor solution with WebRTC as the foundation for the audio stack in its conferencing mobile apps and PC softphones. “WebRTC uses some of the best components available for audio: NetEQ jitter, the latest version of the OPUS codec and a strong transmission model,” says Larry Fornallaz, 56


keeping u in touch With or without wires, it’s what we do at AT&T. Whether you connect to immersive, desktop or mobile devices, AT&T Telepresence Solution can help you interview an IT director in India, brainstorm with the brand team in Brazil, confer with a consultant in Croatia, or settle with a supplier in Shanghai. AT&T Telepresence Solution gives customers a unique as- a-service approach and a range of flexible options – all delivered as part of an effortless video experience, and the opportunity to get the most value for their investment. Our vision is for our customers to connect whenever they want, to whomever they want, from whatever device they want. It’s a network of possibilities – helping you do what you do even better. See what’s possible for your business.

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companies firmly behind WebRTC. “Detractors point to the lack of participation from Apple and wavering

CAPTION 7: Do You Anticipate any Major WebRTC Setbacks in 2014? CAPTION 5: What Markets will WebRTC Disrupt? support from Microsoft in the IETF and W3C WebRTC working groups,” says Cary Bran, Plantronics senior director for innovation and new ventures. “[But] the broad-based support of WebRTC in browsers from Google and Mozilla, telecommunications carriers like AT&T and major infrastructure providers like Cisco, the recent acquisitions by Oracle, seem to counterbalance any inhibitors to adoption.” Bran adds that the proliferation of easy-to-use APIs, the promise of

interoperability across operating systems and devices, and the benefit of scalable, over-the-top deployments that allow the reuse of existing infrastructure investments will accelerate adoption. It may not be unreasonable to suggest that Apple, Microsoft or both will eventually go with the industry flow because they won’t have any choice. “Developers will use SDKs to build apps that leverage WebRTC on the iPhone/Pad and Windows Phone,” says Peter Crocker, Smith’s Point Analytics founder and principal analyst. “Mobile OSs don’t need to support the technology out of the box due to the availability of Cloud RTC platforms and SDKs. Granted, users will have to download the app. “With more and more mobile users communicating using WebRTC-based apps, I think browsers that don’t support it will be at a disadvantage. Consequently, as the technology gains traction, Microsoft and Apple will have to support WebRTC.” TPO

CAPTION 6: Are you More Positive or Less Positive About WebRTC in 2014 vs. 2013?

Where Did We Get the Data? The statistics used to illustrate this article came from a survey of attendees to the WebRTC World Conference & Expo as well as opt-ins to the WebRTC World eNewsletters by PKE Consulting in February of 2014 for their 2014 WebRTC Outlook 2014 Report. The survey solicited both specific responses as well as open-ended questions. 105 responses were received with 60-70 percent responding to all of the fill-in questions giving a solid response from a sophisticated cross-section of industry participants.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR TIM KRIDEL has been covering the pro AV industry since 2003 for publications such as AV Technology, InAVate, Pro AV, Sound & Video Contractor and Telepresence Options, as well as InfoComm’s Special Reports series. Since 1998, he also has been covering telecom for a variety of publications and analyst firms. For more information, visit www.timkridel.com.


Summer 2014


The World’s Biggest Pro-AV Shop

(That does a whole lot more than Pro-AV)





AVI-SPL does a lot more than just ProAV and Systems Integration


VI-SPL is big! Six hundred million dollars a year in revenue in an industry where the next biggest competitor, the Whitlock Group, clocks in at $192 million and everyone else is under $100 million before you even get out of the top 10. The company is a fascinating conglomerate of diverse but related businesses in video communications.

AVI-SPL is big! Six hundred million dollars a year in revenue in an industry where the next biggest competitor, the Whitlock Group, clocks in at $192 million and everyone else is under $100 million before you even get out of the top 10. The company is a fascinating conglomerate of diverse but related businesses in video communications. Some are obvious: systems integration, visual collaboration, telepresence, unified communications, advanced visualization, telemedicine, digital signage, contact centers, houses of worship, government, military and universities. Some are natural outgrowths of the core: managed video services, cloud video services, rental of hotel AV equipment, online sales of projectors and other AV equipment, and production of stadium events and corporate events. Some are unique: building out the AV, digital signage, audio, giant video screens, and every other aspect of creating a large venue, casino or stadiums like Oriole Park.


Summer 2014

What’s most fascinating are the things that AVI-SPL gets to do because of its scale; unique product development, growth through acquisition, and massive international projects spanning dozens of countries. Let’s take a look inside: 61


AVI-SPL and its fellow integrators and managed service providers are the physical interface between what the customer wants and the hundreds of electronic widget makers who can give it to them. The integrator understands those products and services like no one else because it’s managing the entire process: research, product selection, integration, training, support, and ongoing service. This puts the company in a unique position to understand both customer needs and market trends at a huge scale, and to adjust accordingly. Understanding where AVI-SPL is heading is an important barometer to which trends have legs.

AVI-SPL BY THE NUMBERS 37 Offices 1800 Employees 230 Employees On-Site Daily at Fortune 50 Companies 8700+ Projects in 2013 86% of the Fortune 100 are customers 16+ Years AV Managed Service Experience 300,000+ Installations in 65 Countries 33% Faster Growth than AV Industry Average 50%+ of Projects Include Videoconferencing 7,000+ Service Contracts Currently Managed $602M in 2013 Revenue (Three times nearest competitor)

flavor at its global sales meeting this year, the UK contingent arriving in full force sporting Union Jack tuxedo vests at the awards gala.


When you are working in as many videoconferencing rooms as AVISPL (over 50% of their 8700+ installations in 2013 included videoconferencing), you are in a natural position to support the room as well. Enter Mike Brandofino, AVI-SPL’s video and collaboration chief.

Coming from a background as CEO and CTO of a managed video service provider gave Brandofino a feel for what videoconferencing customers want and need and the skill sets MODEST PLANS: GLOBAL PROVIDER THAT to make those services a reality. On the high end, its white glove SERVES AS A ONE STOP SHOP FOR EVERYTHING! managed services for multi-camera, multi-codec, telepresence So how exactly does AVI-SPL see as its role in the ongoing merger systems provide the anchors for a fully integrated environment of AV and IT? It has a modest goal: to be a single source for all including videoconferencing, desktop/mobile video and UC. things AV & IT with a global capability to get it delivered, installed, Obviously, installing “stuff ” is only half the puzzle. Without proper programmed, and supported. The company is moving forward on support, the tools will fail these plans, already boasting 28 offices across the United States to achieve adoption and and another six across Canada. Internationally, it’s been in Dubai use, which means the for years and is slowly flexing its international muscle. In January customer doesn’t get his 2013 the company opened a new office in London, including a productivity and process redundant Video Network Operations Center with European improvements and ROI hours and language support. The office has quickly become one of suffers. Unfortunately, you the busiest. You could see the company taking on an international still can’t just hook up a VC unit in a meeting room and expect nirvana. They still need to be supported behind the scenes through management platforms, infrastructure, training and support. “We are managing and connecting thousands of videoconferencing end-points daily for a very demanding Fortune 500 client-base,” says Brandofino. “We know how to make it work reliably, we know how to make it easy, and we know how to futureproof the installation so the customer can easily BIG VIDEO WALL: easy. Integrated with a global digital signage system: more complicated. Custom video content, motion graphics, update as the technology and project management from the same provider: Fascinating. changes.” 62



Summer 2014



The move to cloud video services didn’t surprise anyone at AVISPL. Indeed, they were the ones doing the pushing. AVI-SPL has been acquiring and building its own cloud video solutions for years. The company acquired video managed service provider Iformata Communications in January of 2012, which included the VNOC Symphony, a software platform that simplifies scheduling of videoconferences; provides management, monitoring and room sweeps to detect issues before they happen; and gives customers web tools and a collection of smartphone and tablet apps to simplify scheduling and management. The company has built on VNOC Symphony, adding Microsoft Lync support and room control. It can also customize functionality for individual customers.

is blocked. No more taping sticky notes over cameras or unplugging network cords “just to be sure.” Whether concerns of video spying are real or hype is irrelevant—users need to feel secure, and this device provides the feeling in spades. The product also shows how AVI-SPL listens to its customers, putting real money into developing internal solutions to meet those needs. Block ME product itself should find a niche, but the real story is how AVI-SPL isn’t just a reseller, but an innovator and developer in the VC space.


A Virtual Meeting Room is a cloud-based videoconferencing service that lets organizations roll out video calling to employees with the same simplicity as reservation-less conference calling. Employees gets accounts and their own Virtual Meeting Room URL. When they need to meet with a customer or partner on video, they send out their meeting room URL. The VMR handles the interoperability with the video devices of the other parties (Videoconferencing Systems, Lync, SIP, webcams, etc) and provides a link to download a WebRTC client so anyone with a webcam and Internet connection can join.


The days of videoconferencing to merely talk about work are over. Now we go to the collaboration room to really get work done. The trend is data visualization and in-room collaboration. On the high-end this includes 2D and 3D caves and video walls. On the lower it manifests as “Bring & Fling” solutions that let BYOD participants share data from laptops, tablets and smartphones to a common display, projector or video wall. AVI-SPL has expertise in these new technologies as well as its standard line of AV support.


The AVI-SPL UnifyME Virtual Meeting Room connects all kinds of video systems and AVI-SPL is offering to set up all their customers’ employees for free. Just pay for the usage.

AVI-SPL partnered with Pexip, a leading provider of virtualized videoconferencing infrastructure, to build a solution that matches all the functionality of the other leading VMR platforms. The company makes it easy to boot. It can give everyone in a client’s organization an account for free and only bill for usage. Their advantage? They already know the customer and the same AVI-SPL help desk supports the VMR platform as well.


AVI-SPL’s innovation in the video space isn’t just limited to services. The company has recently come out with a new hardware device called “Block ME,” which addresses security concerns in sensitive meeting rooms. The device couldn’t be simpler—of its two impossible-to-miss lights, the green one indicates the video system is open to receive calls and the red one indicates the system 64

As visual communications—especially between customers, vendors, and partners—becomes more important, expect AVI-SPL to become more important as well. Deloitte connects 225 clients per month using video, up from 185 last year. That trend, along with “Bring & Fling,” video call centers, visualization, and a dozen others that leverage the convergence of AV and IT, bode well for AVISPL. Because at AVI-SPL it’s not Pro-AV OR IT… It’s AND! TPO

ABOUT THE AUTHOR David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the  Human Productivity Lab  and an associate editor at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration/ rich-media solutions. David focuses on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better understand their visual collaboration options including video call centers, video network operations centers, and B2C strategies. You can follow David on Twitter.com/LetsDoVideo.





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Summer 2014




Summer 2014


H u m a n P r o d u c t i v i t y L a b. co m

Scott and Rebekah AllendeVaux, the former CEO and President of Managed Video Service Provider Iformata Communications, provide enterprise technologists the recipe for building or upgrading a Managed Video Network Operations Center. The AllendeVauxs are principals in AllendeVaux & Company and run the Managed Video Network Operation Center practice at Human Productivity Lab.

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Summer 201 4 By Scott and Rebekah All endeVaux Scott@Hum anP




Profile for Telepresence Options

Telepresence Options Magazine - Summer 2014  

The 2014 issue of Telepresence Options Magazine and Catalog has arrived! Once again, we bring you the only print publication focused on vide...

Telepresence Options Magazine - Summer 2014  

The 2014 issue of Telepresence Options Magazine and Catalog has arrived! Once again, we bring you the only print publication focused on vide...