Author Archives: Lisa Avvocato

Video Enabled Supply Chain Drives Retail Growth

September 12th, 2013 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Cisco | Telepresence | Use Cases - (0 Comments)

The benefits of visual collaboration are expansive and cross just about every job function and industry. European retail giant Kingfisher recently sat down for a Cisco case study to discuss how collaboration technologies have helped overcome challenges in their supply chain,  improving profitability and shortening product development cycles.

One of the biggest challenges Kingfisher faced was how to connect direct sourcing suppliers located in Asia, with buyers and quality control teams located in Europe.  Not only was travel time consuming and expensive, the entire product design process was lengthy and cumbersome as people had to physically handle product prototypes, artwork or packaging before providing feedback.

As a result, Kingfisher decided to implement Cisco Telepresence systems in six locations across Europe and Asia. The business case was undeniable. It was calculated that 85% of products could be physically taken into one of these rooms which would help “take weeks, even months off of time to market, resulting in millions of pounds of additional revenue,” according to Richard Oats, Synergies Director at Kingfisher.

The results have been just as remarkable. Rapid and effective problem solving is accelerating products’ time to market, along with helping cut costs and increase revenues.  For example, a team in charge of developing a range of power tools is able to meet frequently and on very short notice to address any issues which keeps the project moving forward.  Additionally, Kingfish has been using video to standardize procurement practices by allowing buyers from all of the operating companies to collaborate with each other.

Watch the video below for more details on how video has helped improve Kingfish’s bottom line.

Video Conferencing Security Basics

September 10th, 2013 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Cloud Services | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Video conferencing security continues to make news every now and then. Last year, it was HD Moore who hacked into conference rooms around the globe and this year German magazine Der Spiegel said the NSA hacked into the United Nations video conferencing system. In the wake of these events, many users of video conferencing get worried and some get downright paranoid.  However, video can be extremely secure if it is configured properly.

All standards-based video conferencing systems include 128-bit AES encryption which secures the audio and video data being sent between users. Encrypting the audio and video packets prevents hackers from seeing where the data is going or what the contents are. According to an article from the EE Times, it would take one quintillion (1018) years to crack AES encryption using a brute force attack meaning the data is highly protected.

So if AES encryption is so strong, and most video systems support it, why do there continue to be stories of systems getting hacked? Because faults in configuration create weaknesses that leave systems vulnerable to attack.

The most common, which also happen to leave systems the most vulnerable, are leaving systems outside of a company’s firewall and having systems configured to automatically answer calls. This allows virtually anyone to dial into the video conference system undetected because there is no firewall to prevent unwanted access and the only visual evidence that a call has been connected is a tiny light on the camera.

While these are the most severe configuration issues, a recent post on No Jitter mentions other common faults that can leave video systems vulnerable. These include:

  • Using outdated video systems that don’t support encryption
  • Failing to use the most current software on video systems and other devices
  • Connecting to other devices like gateways or video bridges that either don’t support or have encryption turned off
  • Failing to use proper passwords, not changing passwords often enough, or failing to keep those passwords secure

So, what can be done to help keep video conferencing environments secure?

One of the best things to do is  invest in a firewall traversal device such as a Cisco VCS Expressway or Polycom VBP. This allows devices to remain behind a firewall but retain the ability to connect to the public internet. As a result, members located on an internal company network can connect with other participants located outside the network without compromising the network’s security.

An alternative to investing in hardware is to subscribe to a cloud-based managed service. These services provide access to a team of highly trained video professionals that will ensure every call is connected in a secure manner, as well as, confirm all endpoints are configured to security standards.

Additional security options include:

  • Change encryption settings from On (If Available) to On (Required) to require encryption for every call
  • Disable auto-answer functionality
  • Disable far end camera control on the system
  • Close camera shutter when the system is not in use

As with anything, there is a balance between increased security and added functionality. Restricting access to only users located on the internal network provides the highest security but is not very functional. Leaving video systems on the public internet makes it easy to connect with users outside the network but presents numerous security and privacy risks. Every organization is different and the best video networks fall somewhere in between. The bottom line is there is a way to have a highly functional video conferencing environment while mitigating many of the risks that leave a network vulnerable.

Security Consultation

Enter Your coSpace: Where Ideas Thrive

August 28th, 2013 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Collaboration | Industry News | IVCi | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

As an employee of a visual collaboration organization I often take for granted the ease of access to video solutions and the fact that everyone I interact with on a daily basis is on video. In most organizations video conferencing deployments are often limited to a subset of users. For example, middle management or functional departments like sales are given video due to their high proportion of remote team members.

In a typical video environment, most companies use a mix of hardware devices and software, often causing interoperability issues. Conference rooms normally have some sort of standards-based video system from Cisco or Polycom, while desktop and mobile users have various software applications. Additionally, many organizations have Microsoft Lync clients that are sitting dormant either because the organization doesn’t know how to implement the client, or the client doesn’t interoperate with their current video deployment.

Today, Acano announced general availability for their revolutionary new product that solves many of these challenges, and unites previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies into coSpaces. IVCi is always looking ahead to the next big technology and we are excited to announce that we are one of the first partners selected to resell this solution.

So, what exactly is a coSpace?

It’s a virtual meeting room, only radically better. Users can connect with any device or application they have, ranging from a standard video conferencing endpoint to Microsoft Lync or their web browser. Acano also offers native iOS and Android apps that allow users to not only join from their smartphone or tablet, but also split how they attend. For example, if I am connected to a meeting from my desktop system but have to leave the office, I can “throw” the call to my iPhone with a push of a button and without disrupting the meeting. Then, when I get to my destination, I can throw the call back to my iPad.  Or, if I am in a busy area, I can view video on my iPad while sending audio through my phone. That brings new meaning to our mission of Collaborate Anywhere!

coSpaces also go beyond a virtual meeting; they provide a dedicated space for people to organize and exchange ideas by storing chat logs, meeting notes, and more. Users can create as many coSpaces as they need, one for every project, supplier or team, and then invite participants to join.

Acano’s hardware is based on standard Intel processors (similar to those found in a laptop computer) but have been modified specifically for video and collaboration. Based on the hardware and their specially designed software, a single Acano server can handle up to 2500 users, making the solution extremely scalable. Now, every user in an organization can have access to video. Furthermore, all of the inactive Lync clients floating around can be effectively utilized to drive collaboration.

Acano overcomes technology barriers allowing you to work wherever your ideas and creativity thrive. See for yourself with the demo performed at Infocomm below.

To learn more about Acano visit our website.

Be Two Places at Once with the Roominator

August 2nd, 2013 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Cloud Services | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

Strap on your Roominator and get ready, because now you can be in your office and running down the streets of Manhattan at the exact same time! Gone are the days of jugging work meetings with personal commitments. The Roominator, coupled with the Blue Jeans service, allows collaboration whenever, wherever, and with whichever device they please.

So say goodbye to the days of stuffy conference rooms and poor video connection. Blue Jeans provides high-quality video collaboration that expands the boundaries of video collaboration to the outdoors while the Roominator provides a business like setting to conduct your meeting. You simply set up a meeting using Blue Jeans’ web interface then can instantly connect with someone via smartphone, tablet, or laptop, from the beach, soccer practice or even the delivery room!

Need proof?  Watch the video below. I mean, its on the internet, so it has to be real! Right?

Stay in Place and Cut the Waste

July 25th, 2013 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Government | Video Conferencing - (0 Comments)

The federal government has experienced the benefits of video conferencing and now new legislation is being introduced to demand it. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania has introduced a new bill, the Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act of 2013, into the House of Representatives that encourages the usage of collaborative solutions, such as video conferencing, to reduce the amount spent on travel by federal agencies. If this bill passes, at least 50% of federal travel expenditures will be cut, saving taxpayer dollars.

Many of the benefits of video conferencing have been mentioned in the bill. While it will not only save money, it will also cut down carbon emissions as there will be less of a need for travel. It will also help in facilitating staff training, meetings, and enhance employee productivity.

The bill cites previous legislation, like the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which required every federal agency to establish policies that enable remote working and greater flexibility in management of the federal government’s work force through the usage of telework programs. Combining the intentions of these two bills will ultimately create a beneficial system.

Other governments worldwide have already discovered the benefits of using video conferencing. The UK government put Operation StepChange into effect in order to plan for the chaos of the 2012 London Olympics. This plan encouraged business professionals to change their working practices and utilize video conferencing, particularly with the excess amount of tourism in London. There is also discussion of making this change permanent, depending on the plan’s success, “Depending on the success of Operation StepChange, there are those who advocate making these reforms permanent. This could transform the civil service as we know it – and that is getting the interest of some of Britain’s political classes,” says Max Smolaks.

The introduction of this bill indicates that video conferencing has become a priority for the political system in the United States. Hopefully, the United States will pursue this need as other countries have and encourage the use of video conferencing in order to gain greater sustainability and create a more efficient workforce.