Author Archives: Adam Kaiser

Video Conferencing Every Time, Every Space

August 26th, 2013 | Posted by Adam Kaiser in Industry News | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

There are numerous statistics that discuss the proliferation of video conferencing into conference rooms and other meeting environments. Every year, some analyst or video evangelist says, “This is the year video is going to explode!” While video continues to grow at a steady pace, that “explosion” of mass adoption and ubiquity has yet to happen. Right now, only 5% of conference rooms are equipped with some form of video conferencing. This leaves a lot of room for growth!

A typical situation for an organization implementing video usually follows this formula; ten conference rooms have been identified as “video rooms” and will be outfitted with high-quality video conferencing systems from manufacturers such as Cisco or Polycom. This company, however, has another 50 rooms that are used for smaller meetings, huddle sessions, or other forms of collaboration. The cost of equipping each one of those smaller rooms with the same video systems creates budget constraints. Consequently, at this point most companies are forced to leave those rooms without any video conferencing.

If one takes this limited roll-out approach and multiplies it across every organization out there, the ability for video to be truly everywhere becomes almost impossible. So the question becomes, how should the market address this?

Enter the telyHD Pro from Tely Labs. This unit is capable of full 720p HD video conferencing and can be attached to any display (via HDMI). Best of all, it’s under $1000. In addition to the low cost, it is also capable of connecting to standard video conferencing infrastructure (via the SIP protocol) and is natively integrated into the Blue Jeans Network for full interoperable video.

A recent white paper from Wainhouse Research highlighted these smaller meeting rooms and how the availability of a low cost video conferencing system opens up huge possibilities.

These solutions specifically do not offer the high cost ‘luxury’ features such as industry-leading video resolution, full motion dual stream video, optical and motorized pan/tilt/zoom cameras, support for multiple microphones, integrated audio mixers, or multiple video/audio outputs. What they do offer is a solid collaboration experience, including in some cases interoperability with standards-based systems, at an easy-to-afford price. –Wainhouse Research

These types of systems present “good enough” video conferencing; quality that provides a suitable experience but not on the same level as an enterprise grade video conferencing system. In many cases, however, that is ok. Organizations can connect these smaller rooms and help increase overall collaboration across the entire business.

With millions of conference rooms sitting without video connectivity, the introduction of a low-cost unit has the potential to help video spread like wildfire!

Infocomm, the largest industry tradeshow for all things communications, was held earlier this month. The show focuses on audio visual technology including the technologies that are used to build collaborative room environments.  Major visual collaboration vendors also setup large booths to showcase and demo their recent offerings to the public and their partners. This year, a trend that we have consistently been seeing in video came to fruition.

In a previous post, we discussed the move of video conferencing to software and virtualization. At the show this year, a plethora of products were announced that follow this exact model. Rather than provide a breakdown of every company and their new solutions, let’s take a look at the common themes throughout all of the announcements.

Software Based
Each new product and solution that was announced was entirely software based. What does that mean? Gone are the days of specialized hardware or DSPs that are purpose built for a particular video conferencing application. Instead, manufacturers are writing software that can either be loaded on off- the-shelf servers or deployed on virtual servers. A significant benefit to this trend is increased scalability, can easily add or delete users without having to purchase more hardware. Not only does this help reduce the costs associated with video it allows more people to access to the technology.

It’s About Collaboration
Video conferencing vendors are beginning to recognize that simply meeting via video isn’t enough. The need for users to collaborate with others on documents and deliverables is growing in importance. Nearly all of the software based announcements included features around content sharing, annotation and white boarding and even the ability to store perpetual notes in a virtual room that can be revisited. These features will elevate video from individual meetings to on-going collaborative sessions that can start and stop organically.

Go Mobile or Go Home
Not surprising, mobile devices took center stage at Infocomm and all of the video related announcements included significant functionality around them. For a short time, the ability to simply join a video meeting on your mobile device was enough. Users were blown away by the convenience of being able to join from anywhere. However, early solutions provided limited functionality for those mobile attendees. Manufacturers have realized that simply joining from a mobile device is no longer enough. End users want the ability to join, share content, control the meeting and have no restrictions based on their device. Some really exciting features include the ability to connect to meetings with multiple devices, screen share directly from a tablet or smartphone, and more.

As Far as the Eye Can See
As previously mentioned, these new software platforms are lowering the cost of implementing video across all users in an organization. Beyond that, the importance of being able to extend visual collaboration to anyone outside of the organization has become a major feature. All solutions are allowing anyone to join via a web browser, a UC client, or a myriad of other solutions currently in use. Instead of requiring uses to take special steps to join a meeting, they can join with whatever software, device, or solution they are currently utilizing.

The transition to software in collaboration is happening quickly and the latest solutions are a testament to that. With this new model, the development time for new features and support is rapidly increasing so users will have access to the latest tools as soon as they are available. It’s an exciting time for people everywhere as their ability to be connected is increasing exponentially!

American Telemedicine Association’s policy guys, Jonathan Linkous, CEO, and Gary Capistrant, senior director of public policy, are back with another monthly installment of This Month in Telemedicine.

They’re predicting an additional 30 to 40 million Americans will be added to Medicaid roles by next year, and there are now 20 states looking to expand Medicaid coverage to accommodate this surge. Better start preparing now, says Linkous. “I think next year we’re going to see a whole different world, in a few short months it’s happening so the time to gear up is now,” he says.

Funding Opportunity
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation has just launched another billion dollar funding opportunity. It’s looking for “big, bold projects,” particularly any that will be actionable on a multi-state level. Letters of intent are due by June 28, and the full applications are due August 15.

Austin Meeting Recap
Linkous and Capistrant also discussed the ATA’s recent meeting that was held at the beginning of May in Austin, Texas. During the meeting, the first of four best practices was released. They’re for state Medicaid programs, and the ATA has been working with special interest groups and refining the guidelines, and they should be available soon. They cover specialties such as telemental health, home telehealth and remote monitoring, school-based telehealth, and specialties like diabetic retinopathy.

The ATA also distributed a draft version of their state best practices guidelines, which is now being reviewed by special interest groups. Additionally, a new and expanded version of their toolkit is now available on the ATA website.

“We try and provide more information for you all to use,” says Capistrant. “But also to try and act as a clearing house and identify what the various states are doing so that all the other states can benefit from that without duplicating efforts or trying to draft something from scratch.”

Federal News
On the federal level, the ATA is very focused on dealing with getting Medicare coverage approved, and some opportunities for Medicaid as well. The bill sponsored by Senator Scott Thompson is working its way through the system, but because that bill is more of a big-picture attempt to solve and clarify telemedicine issues, the ATA felt the need for a bill that would deal with smaller-scale issues that could move quickly and be approved relatively easily. To that end, they’ve been working with Congressman Greg Harp, R-Mississippi, to assemble a package of incremental changes. “Hopefully, [it will be] easier to get support and budget estimates,” said Capistrant. They’re also hoping to be involved in physician payment reform.

As discussed during previous ATA webcasts, 104 counties lost Medicare coverage in February because of redesignation as metropolitan areas. The ATA is working on restoring coverage to the affected counties. The ATA is also working to remove some major barriers, like metropolitan area access, stroke diagnosis, and services for homebound patients that aren’t currently covered by Medicare. Homebound patients present a particularly strong argument, says Capistrant. “They’re not in the position to travel to a doctor’s office, so there’s a compelling clinical case for care in the home.”

Bipartisan Effort
There’s bipartisan interest in telemedicine, says Linkous, which is something the ATA has cultivated. “We’ve always made sure this is a bipartisan effort,” he says. “We’ve worked very hard to avoid any type of partisan positioning.” The ATA has had congress people of both stripes approach, and voice support for telemedicine.

In state action, Georgia and Alabama both have proposals from their respective medical boards under review. They’re improved versions of past proposals although still there are still issues: they don’t deal with the full range and diversity of telehealth uses and situations e.g. emergencies, and also interpretative services such as cardiology, radiology, etc. For example, in Georgia, telehealth ICU would require patients to I.D. every health practitioner who had previously served them, which is a burdensome task for all involved.

In the Alabama proposal, telehome care is exempt from rules if delivered by a licensed homecare health agency but community health centers and physician practices are excluded.

The pair also took issue with certain language in both proposals, identifying it as “anti-telehealth”; particularly requirements for prior physician-patient relationships, meaning the physician has to see patient in his or her office first. “That’s a code word for people who want to kill telemedicine,” says Linkous. ”It’s about protecting your market and protecting yourself from competition that telemedicine provides. And when you do that, there are 5.5 million Americans received teleradiology services and they’re gone, they don’t get it anymore because of the prior physician-patient relationship [requirement].”

Meet the New IVCi!

May 8th, 2013 | Posted by Adam Kaiser in Industry News | IVCi - (0 Comments)

Meet the New IVCi

There is fundamental shift going on in the world of visual communications and collaboration. With the advent of mobile devices and the cloud, a day doesn’t go by where a manufacturer doesn’t announce a new video or collaboration service or offering. At the same time, major manufacturers are pushing their technology (mostly at the desktop) as the be all end all for collaboration. However, we believe collaboration is much bigger than that and can happen anywhere.

BrandLaunchIVCi has always focused on trying to deliver the best solutions to address the business needs of our customers. We begin every engagement with a thorough assessment and understanding of our customer’s goals. This is something we have done for quite some time and the result is a solution that can deliver the desired outcomes.

With that we are incredibly excited to introduce you to our new brand. With over 18 years of experience, we have witnessed the power of collaboration and its ability to help our customers move their business forward.  Our new brand is focused 100% on collaboration. We believe when organizations embrace collaboration across their workforce, something truly remarkable occurs. Individuals come together with common goals and their collective power can accomplish far greater things than each individual on their own.

This new brand is just the beginning. Our mission is to enable our customers to improve their business and their bottom line by unleashing the collective power of their people through collaboration. As a collaboration company, IVCi will bring many new and exciting products and services to the market. As a collaboration company, we will help organizations work together in new and exciting ways. As a collaboration company, we will change the game.

Customer Service is Going Virtual

April 8th, 2013 | Posted by Adam Kaiser in Use Cases | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

“This call may be monitored for quality assurance.”

How many times have you heard that throughout your life? The reality is, as technology continues to change at a rapid pace, the way we communicate with our vendors and service provides is rather primitive. When the cable bill arrives with the wrong charges (surely that never happens!), one has to pick-up the phone only to wait on hold for twenty minutes to ultimately get a resolution. Or maybe a recent purchase for a child warrants some technical support; again a phone call and wait time must be endured. At the same time, it can be very difficult to explain a problem to a support agent by merely describing it.

For years, there has been talk about moving video technology into a business to consumer world. But, what does this mean? Simply, customers could connect to the very same contact center they call now, but speak to the appropriate agent via video. The advantages of this are significant! Suddenly, all customer service interactions would benefit from everything video conferencing has to offer. The agent can work with the customer and gain a better idea of their understanding of a particular topic. Second, the customer can point the camera at the item being discussed (extra parts to a new toy that don’t seem to have a use) and immediately give the agent better insight into the issue. Finally, video could put a more personal face on what can seem like a very impersonal interaction.

While video contact centers have been a topic of discussion for a while, why is now any different? There is a convergence of several key market and technology trends that could make this idea a reality.

The Proliferation of Video, Everywhere
Video is truly everywhere. Consumers are already accustomed to communicating with family and friends over video. Whether it is via a social network, Skype, or another service, video has truly gone main stream. At the same time, many people are used to going to work and using video as a tool to complete assigned projects and tasks.

Mobile Devices
The explosive growth of mobile devices, such as smart phones and tables, has put multiple video enabled devices into nearly everyone’s pockets. A user can grab their phone and make a video call just as easily as a voice call. These devices have not only helped make video ubiquitous, they have also made video far more accessible than ever imagined.

Advanced Contact Center Technology
Even though most customer service interactions have been limited to voice, the technology driving these connections is rather advanced. Many organizations had implemented technology that allows them to hire the most talented support agents and place them anywhere. In addition, these solutions are able to route calls intelligently to both an available agent and the most skilled agent for the issue at hand. Customers have become far savvier and do not accept being transferred multiple times. Technology has helped route customers to the right person at the right time.

WebRTC
WebRTC has been discussed many times on this blog and the technology is one of the main catalysts of the video contact center. If a user requires help, the desire to spend 15-20 minutes downloading an application to their computer or smartphone is nonexistent. With WebRTC, one click could immediately initiate a video call right in their browser. With no downloads needed, the customer would get near immediate access. Unfortunately, there is no technology that can eliminate wait times completely!

As all of these elements come together, the promise of the video contact center is very real. The ultimate question comes down to the customers themselves. Will they embrace this type of interaction and will they push the vendors they do business with to implement this technology? What do you think? Would you welcome the opportunity to get support via video?