Microsoft Lync is an amazing unified communications and visual collaboration tool that continues to see major adoption across all areas of business. However, there are integration challenges with traditional endpoints and other standard-based video systems. Ray Beaulieu, Senior Director of  Network Operations and Infrastructure at Charles River Labs, talks about some of these challenges as well as gives insight on how the Acano solution helped solve these challenges.

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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.

“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.