Being successful in the market today is very closely related to how well retailers are responding to evolving technology and customer needs. Likewise, how retailers implement these technologies today will play an important role in how they accommodate future technology demands.

The retail industry is full of amazing use cases for collaboration technology. The Infographic below explores some of the latest trends in technology used in retail and the types of solutions being utilized.

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If you’re interested in learning more about collaboration trends in retail and how IVCi can help you implement those technologies, tweet us @IVCiLLC or click here to send us an email.

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Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the week’s best articles surrounding collaboration.

7 steps to unified comm – and control over mobility services
In the three years since passage of the Telework Enhancement Act, government agencies have been spending a significant share of their time and budget to make sure they have what they need to support their exploding mobile workforce. Even so, all too often, agencies have launched mobile and collaboration technologies irregularly and without coordination, largely because new requirements popped up or budget became available.

Staying Ahead of the Collaboration Requirements Curve
Collaboration applications have a purpose: to bring people together whenever there are decisions to make and information to share. The experiences of our customers have shown that regular fine-tuning of a collaboration infrastructure is necessary in how IT organizations look at optimization. Using Optimization services can pave the way for a smooth transition – and prevent unpleasant surprises — when new applications are ready to move into production.

Bringing healthcare services to students at school
For communities that don’t have access to local healthcare providers, or for families that simply can’t afford to visit doctors and specialists, the local public school can be the primary healthcare provider for their children. Unfortunately, the healthcare services available in these schools are often limited. To help increase the access to quality healthcare services, many schools are looking to telemedicine solutions. Utilizing advanced video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions connected to scopes and other medical devices, these telemedicine solutions enable an on-site nurse or aid to consult with a nurse practitioner or doctor via video to deliver care to a student.

3 Tips for Overcoming Open-Space AV Challenges
One of the many challenges facing commercial audiovisual professionals today is the lack of space for installed equipment. The move to open space in the corporate world has burdened many design engineers with the challenge of where to put the gear. Today’s office spaces are taking on the characteristics of living rooms, home-style kitchens and dens. Gone are the cookie-cutter, four-walled conference rooms and cubicle spaces. This switch in office design is pushing us in the AV industry to change our traditional approach to system integration.

What Is the U.S. Digital Government Office?
According to a press release from Rep. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), “Studies show that 94 percent of major government IT projects between 2003 and 2012 came in over budget, behind schedule, or failed completely.” Congresswoman Eshoo, a member of the communications and technology subcommittee, along with Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.), proposed that a U.S. Digital Government Office be created to fix what has become a major problem for the federal government. The bill, known as the Reforming Federal Procurement of Information Technology Act (RFP-IT), would be a key step toward eliminating wasteful spending in the government.

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What is Call Control?

Call control, by definition, is the process used in communication networks to connect, maintain, route, and terminate connections between endpoints. It is a tool by which organizations can achieve different features or results.

What Does Call Control Do?

Call control provides intelligent traffic and routing and is required for communication beyond point-to-point IP dialing; meaning you have to remember and then enter a 12 digit IP address to connect over video. Here are the tops ways call control can enhance an organizations collaboration environment:

  1. Enable External B2B & B2C Collaboration: Call control provides an easy and secure way to connect with business partners and customers located outside of the network. It allows internal users to stay behind a firewall while still connecting over video allowing users to connect with anyone.
  2. Mobile & BYOD Communication: Call control allows voice or video calls to be routed to multiple devices simultaneously. For example, a call can ring on my desk phone, desktop client and iPhone and I can answer on the device I have available. If I am at my desk I can answer via my desk phone, at home I can answer via my desktop client, and if I’m on the road I can answer via my mobile phone. This eliminates the need for multiple phone numbers.
  3. Unify Disparate Communication Platforms: Call control provides a link between voice, video, IM & Presence clients and allows users to collaborate seamlessly among these applications. For example, colleagues can initiate a conversation through IM then switch over to an audio or video call with the click of a button.
  4. User Friendly Dial Plan: Instead of dialing a phone number or video IP address, users can simply click on name and automatically connect to the call. This can be formatted in a name@company.com address for external video calls and can be added to a global phonebook for internal users.

How Do I Get Call Control?

Call control is not a box with a vendor’s name on it; it is a process that can be performed by several different types of architecture. Determining call control technology depends on the use case and application. Ask yourself the questions below:

  • Do you have existing video endpoints or are you looking to purchase them?
  • Do you wish to communicate with business partners and customers who are external to your network?
  • What are the call patters? Are they point-to-point or multipoint?
  • Do you use IP, H323ID/Alias or SIP URI Dialing?
  • Are voice and video platforms integrated? Is this an objective?

Based on the answers to those questions, a visual collaboration technology partner can recommend the appropriate device. These can include Cisco BE6K, Cisco Collaboration Edge, Polycom Cloud Axis and Polycom DMA.

If you’re interested in learning more about call control or how IVCi can enhance your visual collaboration or unified communications experience tweet us @IVCiLLC or click here to send us an email.

In part one of this series we reviewed the 4 core design and technology components that are important for creating an effective AV room including video, audio, control and lighting. Although those are very important aspects of an effective environment, the technology “behind the scenes” is equally as important for creating a quality collaboration experience.

Understanding these background components is essential to recognizing what makes an AV room effective as a whole.

Wireless Mic Receiver: Used to pick up the signal broadcast by the mic transmitter and change it back into an audio signal. The output of the receiver is electrically identical to a standard microphone.

Audio DSP Processor/Mixer: A Digital Signal Processor, or DSP, is a special-purpose digital circuit that acts on digitized signals, such as audio. DSP circuits can replace traditional analog functions, such as filtering and more complex functions that are difficult to accomplish in the analog domain.

Amplifier: An electronic device for increasing the amplitude of electrical signals, used mainly in sound reproduction.

Video Matrix Switcher: A device for switching between multiple video sources including cameras, cable television, Blu-Ray, DVRs and more.

Control System Processor: A device that processes every signal sent out on an audio visual network and makes the signal available to all elements of an AV solution.

Surge Suppressor: An electrical device inserted in a power line to protect equipment from sudden fluctuations, or surges, in current which can damage equipment.

Codec: A device or program that compresses data to enable faster transmission and decompresses received data.

Seamless Video Switcher: A device used to select between several different video sources and, in some cases, composite video sources together to create special effects.

UPS Battery Backup: An electrical device that provides emergency power when the main power source fails. A UPS differs from an auxiliary or emergency power system or standby generator in that it will provide near-instantaneous protection from power interruptions, by supplying energy stored in batteries or a flywheel.

Video conferencing is moving from a nice-to-have to an essential business tool. This is, in part, due to the ease of which video solutions have become available along with the removal of many barriers to B2B video calling. Here’s a look at a few of the most prominent obstacles and what has been or is being done to overcome them.

A User Friendly Dialing Plan:
Placing a call over video used to be a complicated process due to the lack of a universal number system. Users had to remember an IP address, often up to 12 digits with no logical sequence. Today, there is more consistency video calling standards. Advancements in technology allow organizations to assign unique video addresses to endpoints or personal video accounts. These can be formatted like an email address and can use the organization’s domain name instead of having to remember a 12 digit IP address.

A High Quality Experience:
Technology itself has improved significantly since the birth of video conferencing, creating a stronger and more consistent experience. The shift from standard definition to high definition displays and codecs has allowed video conferencing to become increasingly more realistic. This is significant since eye contact and other visual cues play a crucial role in communication, collaboration and business meetings in general.

Interoperability Between Systems:
Interoperability was traditionally one of the biggest barriers to B2B video conferencing. Existing video solutions did not connect well with each other and in many cases didn’t connect at all. This severely limited the number of individuals who could use video, thereby inhibiting the effectiveness of video conferencing. The creation of video protocol standards along with interoperability bridges has created a much larger network of users who can utilize video, which increases the value of video to businesses.

Reliable High Speed Network:
Network issues can destroy a video call; from packet loss and frozen images to completely dropping the call. Successful video meetings require a reliable, high-speed network. Unfortunately, the bandwidth necessary for a solid call used to be very pricey. Today, the cost of bandwidth is decreasing rapidly as well as becoming more widely accessible.  

Security:
Massive traffic between a private business network and the public Internet can create both real and imagined concerns. Firewalls have always played an important role in protecting internal applications and data within an organization, however, these firewalls can present many challenges for B2B video conferencing by restricting access to who can and cannot be called over video. Thankfully, firewall traversal devices along with virtual meeting rooms have made it easy to connect with external video users without compromising the security of an organization’s network.

While there are still challenges to B2B video calling, it has gotten significantly easier. Businesses are able to connect with colleagues, partners and even customers easier than ever before and with continued improvements it’s only a matter of time before video calling is as easy as picking up the telephone.