Mobile Business – Videoconferencing on the move

30 Mar 2011

From FaceTime on the iPhone to professional systems that allow workers on the move to communicate via video, the era of affordable and mobile videoconferencing has arrived.

Once videoconferencing consisted of expensive screens and cameras that only wealthy multinational organisations could afford to invest in. Then things changed – broadband became more prevalent and in a post-9/11 world, not to mention a succession of bad winters and volcanic ash, videoconferencing is increasingly becoming a must-have for businesses and executives themselves.

Most people today who have a broadband connection use Skype to keep in touch with loved ones. For businesses, it is a good way to cut down on air travel and forward-thinking companies are looking into it as a way of boosting customer services.

With the greater affordability of videoconferencing, the trend has been also towards high-definition (HD) solutions in boardrooms. The result is videoconferencing is no longer tied to conference tables, but can happen anywhere, whether through a smartphone, a netbook, an iPad 2 or via the TV in your living room.

Videoconferencing solutions

According to Niall Hennessy of Arkadin, companies are already seasoned enough to know that Skype isn’t always the ideal solution for managing customer relationships or conducting meetings with important clients.

Arkadin, which resells Webex, Microsoft Live Meeting and Vidyo technology, looks after firms who want to connect offices but also individuals on the road.

“Many firms use legacy systems from Polycom and Tandberg but there are also new affordable alternatives for firms that don’t want to make big capex investments,” said Hennessy.

“We’re seeing many executives beginning to take videoconferencing on the road, especially with devices like the iPhone 4 with FaceTime, or they use their laptops.

“Many of the new systems involve downloading ActiveX software onto your laptop and away you go. Latency issues mean Skype isn’t always going to be the answer for businesses so they need something that guarantees quality of service and which also allows you to collaborate, bring up documents or applications so that people on the other side of the conversation can view.”

Hennessy said solutions like Vidyo and LiveMeeting mean firms can connect workers to videoconferencing for a nominal sum per month, rather than the tens of thousands of euro that would have been spent in the past on these systems.

Flexible options
Technology distributor Steljes has signed an exclusive deal with AVerMedia to distribute the new H Series videoconferencing system in Ireland. The system requires low bandwidth for high-performance videoconferencing.

Designed as an ‘out of the box’, IP-based solution, the H Series is easy to transport and can be set up in any suitable environment, flexible enough to fit any videoconferencing room.

It is said to be ideally suited for small to medium-sized businesses who need the benefits videoconferencing brings – such as reduced travel costs and improved productivity – and for educational establishments that want to embrace a more collaborative way of teaching and learning, but were unable to afford existing systems in the market.

The H Series consists of two models – AVerComm H100 and AVerComm H300 – offering high-quality videoconferencing that is as easy to use as making a phone call. Both systems include everything a user needs in a videoconferencing product – HD720P @30fps resolution, two-way content sharing, 5-megapixel PTZ Camera and an embedded 10w speaker in an exclusive presentation hub.

The AVerComm H100 offers point-to-point videoconferencing, making it ideal for deployment in branches, remote offices, home working and conference rooms. The AVerComm H300 offers session recording and a four-way MCU for multi-point videoconferencing functionality.

“The AVerMedia H Series will open up new market opportunities for our reseller partners,” said Greg Tierney, business development director at Steljes.

“There is a growing demand for affordable and easy-to-use videoconferencing solutions and AVerMedia has met this need with a value for money range that is perfect for new VC users in this market. The AVerComm H series will take the videoconferencing market to the next level.

“With no required service and maintenance contracts or additional licensing fees, the total cost of ownership is significantly lower than comparable videoconferencing solutions available on the market today.

“With many Irish companies looking to maximise their return on investment with low-cost solutions, this is the perfect time for AVerMedia to launch its new videoconferencing solutions.”

Interactive screens

Tierney added that Steljes also distributes SMART interactive screens that enable two-way interaction to allow executives in the middle of a videoconferencing engagement to collaborate on documents on a large 70-inch screen.

“The technology enables both ends of the conversation to manipulate a document simultaneously and this is being used for a variety of purposes in the business world, particularly for brainstorming sessions.”

He said that the technology has been employed by BT in Northern Ireland and the UK, and it is beginning to filter into medical and education applications.

“We have examples in Ireland today where it is being studied by fire and rescue groups, education and in the corporate space,” Tierney added.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years