“Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.”
            – Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

There is no denying that Microsoft Lync is experiencing explosive growth as a unified communications solution for organizations large and small. From IM and presence to full enterprise voice and HD video conferencing, Lync provides a total communications solution.

Last week Microsoft held its 2nd Annual Lync Conference in Las Vegas. This conference nearly doubled in size from 2013 when it was held in San Diego. This massive increase in attendance is a strong endorsement of Lync’s growth and presence in the market.

At this year’s conference, newly named Skype and Lync VP Gurdeep Singh Pall took to the stage to deliver this year’s keynote address. From the beginning there was a clear message that Lync and Skype are truly coming together. The presentation began with a look at the growth both Lync and Skype have been experiencing. One particularly amazing statistic was that one third of all global long distance calling occurs via Skype.

Lync has become Microsoft’s fastest growing business unit with yearly revenues now exceeding $1 billion and the business unit has seen 38 consecutive quarters of double digital growth. Additionally, 60% of enterprises have or are deploying Lync. The focus on the conference then shifted to some of the latest product and technology updates. Derek Burney, Corporate of Vice President of Strategic Relations and Solutions for Lync and Skype, took the stage to conduct the demos. He focused on several key areas:

Mobility:
Lync now supports iOS, Android (now both smartphones and tablets), Windows, and Mac OS X. In a matter of moments, Burney created a meeting with every compatible device in one session. Key features now available in Lync mobile include:

  • Content viewing (native for Powerpoint)
  • Invite additional participants from the app
  • Anonymous Join

Microsoft is sending a clear message in that mobility and cross platform support is incredibly important to their strategy.

Interoperability:
As part of the demo, Burney was able to invite a TANDBERG (clearly didn’t want to mention Cisco’s name) video conferencing system right into a Lync session. The connection was seamless and the quality was quite good.

Skype to Lync:
At the 2013 conference, audio and IM between Lync and Skype clients was demoed. Burney brought things up another notch and demoed a video call between Skype and Lync. The message here is that connecting an enterprise platform to a consumer platform creates incredible opportunities for B2C communication. This functionality will be released later this year.

Embedding Video Anywhere
As many other communications vendors have presented, this demo featured a website (in this case for a healthcare network) that allowed the user to have a real-time video conversation right on the site. Most vendors have chosen to go with the open standards WebRTC protocol to achieve embedded video. Microsoft has chosen not to embrace WebRTC and instead has created its own JavaScript APIs to achieve this. It should be interesting to see how this impacts the adoption of WebRTC.

After the technology demo ended, two large scale Lync customers (Herb Keller, VP and CTO of Adventist Healthcare & Dean Leung, CIO of Holland & Knight) were invited on stage to discuss their particular use case. This discussion begins at around 42 minutes in the video and is a fascinating look at how two very different types of organizations have integrated Lync into their business models and workflows.

In closing, Gurdeep Singh Pall discussed Microsoft’s vision of communications for the future. This includes total integration across all platforms with context. Meaning, systems understanding who is involved in meetings and providing context based searching and alerts (see 01:05 in the video). Finally, Microsoft’s goal is to have 1 billion users of their communications platforms in the next ten years. They are calling this next era, Universal Communications.

We live in some amazing times with amazing technology and tools. Microsoft’s goals are ambitious but have the potential to connect people like never before!

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.

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

School Days 2.0: Connected, Borderless, and Highly Inclusive
Just as the Internet of Everything is disrupting so many other areas of our lives (not to mention business models), its ever-expanding wave of network connectivity promises to upend education as well. Within the context of learning, the very definition of schools, students, teachers, and classrooms is being challenged. Now, your classroom is wherever you happen to be, and your lessons often take place when you want them

How Technology has Changed our Daily Commute Forever
Mobile technology and connectivity has, and still is, changing the daily commute for workers. It’s a combination of smarter, smaller more portable devices and faster, more widely available connectivity that is driving this change in behavior. Commuting on public transportation is a very different experience today. Almost every kind of public transport now either gives passengers access to Wi-Fi or they can use mobile data networks. Similarly, Social media is a booming interactive tool for travel companies to interact with their passengers, alerting them to disruption, delays and fixes.

Building a Successful Mobility Roadmap
Specifically, today’s mobile landscape is demanding constant evolution. From listening and responding to the mobility needs of employees to deploying home-grown apps, a flexible and holistic roadmap for mobility and mobile apps is essential. While mobility continues to be a growing trend that offers businesses new opportunities, many companies have yet to fully realize the true potential of mobility.

Teledermatology as reliable, efficient as in-person consults
Remote consultations from dermatologists using a smartphone app have proven reliable and efficient at prioritizing inpatient consultations for patients with skin conditions. Outlining their study results in JAMA Dermatology, researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that this method can help deliver dermatology care more efficiently in busy hospital settings.

How Video Makes a Difference in the Way I Work
87% of remote users feel more connected to their team and process when using videoconferencing, according to a Gigaom report on video conferencing and business collaboration published last month. Video gives people insight into people beyond the meeting agenda. These little pieces of information give perspective on someone’s day and they open opportunities to know more about people with whom you are spending virtual time. Similarly, with multitasking at epidemic proportions, collaborating via video helps you know that the people on the other end of a call are paying attention.

As advances in technology have made remote healthcare and treatment more accessible, the question of insurance reimbursement for these services continues to be top of mind. In 2012, we featured a post regarding telemedicine reimbursement. In the 18 months since that post was published significant progress has been made in the area.

When looking at reimbursement it is important to understand what types of programs and institutions are eligible and what that truly means. At its very core, reimbursement in the telemedicine world requires insurance companies to pay the same fee for telemedicine services that would otherwise be covered with an in-person visit.

Programs that could benefit can vary from state to state but generally reimbursement is available through Medicare, Medicaid, Private Insurance, and Federally Qualified Health Centers.

From a private insurance standpoint, a significant number of states have made reimbursement a mandate; however, there are still many states that haven’t made this mandate law.  Similarly, from a Medicaid perspective many states have mandated reimbursement and there are several currently proposing reimbursement.

It is clear that many have recognized the value of telehealth and that recognition continues to drive more and more legislation to provide equity between in-person and remote visits.

Check out the info graphic below for a quick summary of everything you need to know about reimbursement!

Education today is at a tipping point. The ability to visually collaborate, share knowledge, and connect to the world is empowering educators to transform the learning environment thus motivating, and engaging students of all ages. The innovation occurring globally surrounding video-enabled blended learning or blended learning is worth the examination as we see implementation across all academic levels.

From dedicated studios and innovative classrooms to mobile devices, video conferencing today is dramatically enhancing and redefining teaching and learning. In fact, some say that the proliferation of videoconferencing affords flexibility and accessibility thus revolutionizing how educators teach and students learn. According to Gartner, mobile video users will grow from 429 Million to 2.4 Billion in 2016.

Join IVCi and Polycom for an informative webinar covering the latest trends and best practices in distance learning and visual collaboration technology.

In this session you will learn:

  • What this new video-enabled education environment looks like.
  • The role BYOD plays in blended learning environments.
  • How visual collaboration solutions can redefine teaching & learning.

Space is limited so reserve your spot today!

Global Trends in Distance Learning Technology
[Click here to Register]
Date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Time: 2:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM Pacific (US)

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