Videoconferencing and Streaming – What is the difference?

Look at videoconferencing like you would look at any other meeting.  People get together and interact with each other and collaborate using input from a computer, document camera, projector or white board.  Look at streaming like a broadcast or one-to-many speaking event.  The big difference is that in a videoconference everybody is interacting with each other like any other meeting.  In streaming, there is no interaction. It’s a one-to-many communications like a television broadcast.  The streaming presenter can still use input from a computer, document camera or white board but he or she is the only participant showing this input.

Article_75_Stream & videoconf_FINALThis brings us to the second question — When do you use videoconferencing and when do you use streaming? Videoconferencing is an interactive meeting whereby participants communicate with each other just like any other meeting.  Streaming would be used for a one-to-many scenario.  For example:  A quarterly financial report or major announcement to hundreds or thousands of investors.  In a stream participants cannot interact they can only observers the presentation.  There is also a major cost difference.  Cost per participant in streaming is very low compared to a videoconferencing event.

The third question – Where do you go to get help with videoconferencing and streaming?  We recommend a hosting company that does both.  They can certainly guide you to the right solution for your particular event or application.  The problem in going to a videoconferencing only source is that their recommended solution for everything is only videoconferencing and cost can get out of control.  The problem in going to a streaming only source is exactly the same, their recommended solution for everything is streaming, when your application really needs videoconferencing.  The good news is there are several firms that do both and do them efficiently with great customer service and guidance.  Below will help guide you to the best solution:

VIDEOCONFERENCE:

–          Interactivity or real-time input from participants is required

–          There is a limited number of participants – No more than 20

–          The agenda  requires decisions to be made by the participants, i.e. board meeting

–          Participants have web cams or mobile devices with web cams

STREAMING:

–          No interactivity or real-time input required by participants

–          There are many participants

–          No decisions are needed by the participants

–          Participants have no web cam or video access

One more question:  What can you stream from?  Answer – Just about any computer or mobile device with a mic and camera.  You can also stream from a standard videoconferencing CODEC or camera.  If you are sharing input from a computer, it’s best to stream from a computer or videoconferencing CODEC with a VGA computer input port.

 

 

 

Why it’s a good idea to videoconference outside of your network

Early in the development of videoconferencing, manufacturers made units with proprietary algorithms.  This meant that each end point could only connect to the same equipment from the same manufacturer.  This was all right if a company with multiple locations and only needed to meet with participants within their own geographic footprint.   Over time this became impractical.  It would be like having your phones connect only to parties within your company.

It’s critical that any communication technology needs to connect outside of your network.  Imagine if email, cell phones, instant messaging, texting and faxes only worked within the company’s network.  This company would quickly go out of business.  If you call, email and text outside of your network wouldn’t make sense to meet customers, investors, suppliers, partners and others critical to your company’s success in a videoconference?

Firewall systemToday the good news is that companies making videoconferencing equipment all build to the ITU, International Telecommunications Union, standards. This makes it simple to connect anywhere in the world to any equipment including some of the new videoconferencing mobile apps.  The only constraint a company has in videoconferencing outside of their network is the firewall, which is very simple to work through by adjusting firewall settings.

This brings us to the ever expanding videoconferencing applications — Here are some real world videoconferencing applications where companies are connecting outside of their network every day:

  • A medical college is using a standards based mobile app to meet with interns in hospitals statewide.
  • An aerospace engineer meets with clients in Europe to present schematics from his computer.
  • Doctors routinely meet with patients in a nursing home outside of the hospital’s network.
  • One law firm is using a standards based mobile app to connect to conference rooms for depositions.
  • A recruiter interviews job candidates all over the world by connecting to public videoconferencing rooms.
  • A not for profit substance use organization counsels clients in local jails outside of their network.
  • A technical service company gets support from vendors using a standards based mobile app on an iPad.
  • A national distributor trains resellers outside of their network on new product offerings.
  • A construction company has safety training from headquarters to 9 remote job sites simultaneously.

The list of applications is growing every day. Standards based videoconferencing is changing the way we communicate and the way we conduct our daily business – All outside of our networks.

Videoconferencing Progression – As compared to cell phone progression

It’s hard to believe that the first cell phone call was made forty years ago in 1973.  A Motorola engineer by the name of Marty Cooper called Joel Engel, a colleague at Bell Labs, and said, “Joel this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone — a real handheld portable cell phone.”  Fast forward 20 years from that first cell phone call and many of you may be old enough to remember the first hand held mobile phone, known as “The Brick” by Motorola. This was the beginning of the migration away from mounted and fixed cell phones in our cars, to the pocket size smart phone we now take for granted.

Motorola_Brick_Phone_Video_Cell_PhoneEarly adapters paid a premium for the privilege of having the great flexibility of the Motorola hand held cell phone.  “The Brick” weighted over 2 pounds, cost thousands for dollars and had a battery life of 35 minutes. In spite of this, cell phone technology exploded with great creativity and technological advancement.  There are many reasons for this accelerated advancement.  One big reason was the cell network and cell towers that connected seamlessly to land based phones.  Users didn’t worry or think about how they called, they simply dialed any number and connected.  Early in cell phone development the only constraint was a limited cell tower footprint — later this became a moot point.

By comparison, videoconferencing had a fundamental disadvantage as it developed. Early on manufacturers produced products that work in proprietary algorithms.  Early adapters were forced to buy brand A or band X as these systems would only connect within each manufacture’s own family of products.  Customers using the equipment experienced low use and a limited or no return on investment.  Additionally they connected on cumbersome networks through the phone company’s Central Office on a dedicated circuit.   Proprietary algorithms stunted the development of videoconferencing and thus it did not have the quick and explosive advancement as seen in cell phone technology.   Videoconferencing development was a slow and expensive slog forward.  Today just about all of the early manufactures are out of business.

Videoconferencing advancement started to get traction in the late 90’s only after the ITU, (International Telecommunications Union), established the standard algorithms.  Once this happened manufacturers were free to build in this standard on a more competitive level.  The clunky $65,000 dollar proprietary “legacy” videoconferencing system was quickly replaced by the $8,000 dollar “set-top” unit built on the new ITU algorithm standards. The computer was eliminated from the CODEC and video conferencing quickly evolved into an appliance similar to your VoIP phone.

Today we are full circle and ironically videoconferencing in now part of your cell phone or smart phone.  However, as they say — history repeats itself.   Now we have a variety of videoconferencing apps for the iPad, iPhone and Droid.   Guess what! – Most of these apps work through proprietary algorithms, the same scenario that stunted the development of videoconferencing in the first place.  This writer believes the applications that don’t adapt to the ITU standard will eventually collapse in the market place.

Let’s go back to the cell phone comparison.  If you are subscribing to or purchasing a videoconferencing app for your cell phone and it does not work within the ITU standard, it’s like selling you cell phone service and saying to you, “It will only connect to those with the same model cell phone and same service provider.” Would you buy that cell phone or cell phone service?  — Nobody would.

It’s the same for your computer.  For example WeBex and GoToMeeting both do videoconferencing, but they cannot connect to each other or connect to the videoconferencing standard.  Although they work great now, inevitably these business models will collapse.  Currently it’s very easy to videoconference and share content through any system through the ITU standard.  Users don’t have to worry about what service is being used.  There are videoconferencing apps that seamlessly connect to the standard.  I can make a video call from my cell phone right to the board room with a standards based videoconferencing CODEC, and the boardroom can share content right to my cell phone.  In the end the last apps standing will be on the ITU standard and history repeats again as it always does in technology.

 

 

 

 

Videoconferencing – The ultimate amenity for office space

In almost 20 years in selling videoconferencing technology our clients are really teaching us how powerful it can be.  One of our clients is the Akron Global Business Accelerator in Akron Ohio.  The Accelerator is a state-of-the-art center serving as a catalyst for driving and developing technology-based entrepreneurial innovation. The nonprofit program was created as a cooperative partnership between the City of Akron, the Akron Development Corporation, the University of Akron and the State of Ohio. Today the Accelerator is helping high-tech organizations in leading edge industries including:  Biomedicine; Advanced Materials (Nanotechnology); Alternative Energy Sources; Information Technology; and Instruments-Control Technology.

SkyscrapersAccelerator partners converted the former Goodrich warehouse into usable office space.  When the videoconferencing system was installed, we suggested opening it as a public room for an additional income stream.  Our client respectfully disagreed and said they want to keep their video conferencing room as a no cost amenity for the tenants.  There was a grand opening and tour of the newly renovated facility in 2006.  Since then this is one of the most successful business incubator projects in the county.  Occupancy is busting at the seams, and they are planning expansion.  The videoconferencing room is used constantly.  Small tech companies can now meet face to face worldwide with customers, partners, vendors and those critical to their businesses.

We manage and maintain a pubic videoconferencing room in Independence, Ohio. Our partner is a financial consulting firm with sub-tenants in their office space.  This is a public room for rent; however they offer sub-tenants free videoconferencing.  Needless to say, they have no problems attracting high quality sub-tenants. When space is available it’s quickly rented after seeing the public videoconferencing room.

Any large office space with common conference room facilities has a major opportunity to offer tenants a no cost amenity like videoconferencing. This could be a powerful magnet to attract high quality tenants.  Additionally a common area conference room can be a public videoconferencing room for non-tenants.   Property managers can list the room with the international videoconferencing room brokers and develop a passive income stream, while offering tenants free access.  This will give the office building owner a clear and decisive edge over neighboring properties.  Many shared office space developments have videoconferencing, but this is charged as an a la cart item for the tenants. One popular example is Regus with almost 2,000 locations.

Property managers are missing a powerful amenity without a common videoconferencing room.  It has a profound impact on occupancy.

Videoconferencing etiquette — Why it’s important

Video conferencing is just like any other face-to-face meeting and should be treated accordingly.  Many are used to audio conferencing, and the statistics on why an audio conference is so ineffective are shocking.

 Here is what people do during an audio conference, (Survey Source – Raindance Communications):

–          70%  Doing unrelated work

–          69%  Looking for the materials discussed in the conference

–          50%  Reading and/or sending e-mail or instant messages

–          37%  Eating

–          36%  Muting the call and talking to someone else

–          27%  Surfing the internet

Portrait of happy smiling businesswoman and colleagues on background, at officeYou cannot get away with any of the above items on a video conference because they will be seen and even exaggerated.  Video conferencing cameras exaggerate everything.  Did you ever hear this one?  “The camera adds twenty pounds to my weight.”  Other exaggerations include our faces.  Depending on how you are framed on your web cam, others at the far end may be seeing you on a 60” flat panel display with full audio.  Your head could be viewed bigger than real life.

Here are some rules of thumb to make sure you have successful video conferences:  Frame yourself properly, so others can see your face.  Make sure there is no light coming from behind you like a window with no blinds. Cameras adjust automatically and will adjust to the light creating a silhouette of you.  You will look like someone in the witness protection program.  Make sure your room has adequate lighting.  All video conferencing systems have a way to check your mic and audio.  Make sure you complete the proper testing before your meeting.  If they don’t hear you, and you don’t hear them, you are not part of the meeting.

With the mechanics of a video conference out of the way, on to etiquette:  Like any other meeting follow the introduction protocols.  Make sure everybody knows who is attending the video conference.  If you are controlling the meeting make sure everybody introduces themselves.  When listening, look at your screen. When talking look right into your camera.  This is critical because if you don’t look into the camera your eyes will be looking off to the side and it will seem like you are lying.  If you are on a multi-site call and using continuance presence, which means everybody is seeing everybody else simultaneously, like on Hollywood Squares, pay attention.  If you start to yawn or your eyes wonder off everybody notices and perceives that you are bored with the meeting and you don’t want to be there.  Finally, if you are conferencing from you home office, wear pants.  Sounds stupid to say, but one of our clients was meeting from his home office with executives in China.  He got up to grab some coffee, leaving the other side laughing.  He had a nice shirt and tie with his boxer shorts.  Remember; treat the meeting like any other physical meeting.

 

The companies making and selling video conferencing – Do they use it?

It seems obviousYou would be surprised.  Often they don’t use what they make or what they sell.   One manufacturer gave an update on their product line to resellers using WebEx.  A reseller pitching a major prospect on a large video conferencing deployment couldn’t meet with the prospect via their own video conferencing equipment because they did not use it.  Needless to say they did not get the account and lost it to a much smaller provider who did use it and in fact closed the deal on a video conference using their own equipment.  Do not buy any video conferencing equipment from any manufacturer or reseller who does not use the technology in their day to day operations.  How can they be of any benefit to your enterprise in video conferencing deployment when they clearly do not believe in the technology?  Frankly they have no business making or selling video conferencing technology if they don’t use what they sell.

Radvision_Yaniv_levi_iPad2_Scopia_Mobile_V3The first question any potential company should ask the manufacturer or reseller is — How do you use video conferencing in your day to day operations? The second question is — How has your organization benefited? A sales person selling video conferencing should have a public video number on his or her business card.  If they don’t, consider purchasing video conferencing technology from another vendor.  We purchase video conferencing technology every day from manufacturers and distributors.  We only work with companies that use what they sell.  It’s very easy to get things done and build solid working relationships with these companies.  It’s no coincidence that we get very good service with knowledgeable resources.  The best analogy we draw from is corporate aircraft.  Certainly you can bet that Gulfstream uses Gulftstream equipment in their fleet and Lear Jet uses Lear Jets in their fleet of corporate aircraft.  The sales person calling on large enterprises who can afford to buy them arrives at the appointment via their own equipment.

Our firm uses video conferencing technology every day.  We use the hosted service we sell, Scopia, to make sales calls and field service technical calls.  We use Aver and Radvision products in our board room.  In fact our boardroom is part of an international network of public video conferencing rooms for rent.   In our private office we have a separate desktop video codec with a dedicated public IP address to meet clients using our products.  Through the mobile apps we sell and the hardware we provide, we can meet via video with any client or prospect on a moment’s notice.  Clients can also call our office via video 24/7 to test their connections – And yes, our public video number is printed on the card.  Also printed on our card is our hosted service access for those who do not have video conferencing equipment.  Download our app at: www.tryscopia.com and call us for the meeting room number.  We will show you how we use video conferencing technology in our day to day operations.

The Business argument for video conferencing

The first thing you need to do is forget about how video conferencing works.  Think about what video conferencing can do; not how it works. Think about your business and how you communicate to the supply chain, key clients and other locations in your organization.  Your network, telecom, cell phones, company cars, and travel budget are critical and help your business grow and stay in business.   Look at video conferencing the same way you look at these other expenses.

Business_Argument_iStock_000022112075XSmallThe potential return on investment is tremendous, especially in small and mid-size enterprises.  Imagine what would happen to your business without email, faxes and cell phones.  Now image what you can to with video conferencing if you are a small to mid size enterprise.   Your sales forces can make more face-to-face calls in more places faster and more efficiently.  Customers and prospects do not need any video conferencing equipment – Only internet access and a computer, iPad, iPhone or Droid.  The average salesman can increase face-to-face time with customers by 30% to 50% with very little additional time with far less expense.  One small business eliminated the need for field techs to go on calls.  Salesmen have iPads and bring the field tech people with them via hosted video conferencing.  Clients are impressed with the efficiency and the salesmen are happy because they have an opportunity to sell other products and services on a trouble shoot call.

Another new developing application is found in healthcare. There are several companies designing doctor kiosks to be placed in drug stores –Kiosks have video conferencing.  Patients can meet with their doctors for a general check up and get their prescriptions right in the drug store.   Health costs are only going up.  This application will certainly have a major impact on keeping these costs down and leveraging the doctor’s limited time.

Mergers and Acquisitions are another very good application for video conferencing.  When two parties need to meet, standards based video conferencing makes this a simple process.  If one company has video conferencing in their board room and the other company does not.  No problem – There is an International network of public videoconferencing rooms that can be rented by the hour.  The principals, lawyers and accountants can meet face-to-face and collaborate with their computer input seamlessly.  The decision making process is compressed.

Look at how technology made our businesses more efficient.  Finding applications for video conferencing in your enterprise is simple.  You just need to think about what video conferencing does; not how it works.

 

Microsoft Lync – Why this is an important part of video conferencing in the enterprise?

Lync_PhotoMany large companies are embracing Microsoft Office 365 with Microsoft Lync.  Within the enterprise Lync is a seamless and very efficient way to video conference and to collaborate.  Additionally, the Office 365 program eliminates the entanglements of software upgrades and trouble shooting.  Users simply subscribe to the software and upgrades are automatic.  One company migrated 1,200 people to Lync and in the process eliminated 1,200 IP phones and replaced 38 IP sets in common areas and meeting rooms. This creates a tremendous savings in the enterprise. Since most companies are on the PC platform end-users adapt quickly and are provided with soft phones and headsets.  Lync can act as a PBX replacement and users seem happy to adopt the technology.  This adoption is critical to successful deployment with a tangible return on investment.

New features in Lync 2013 include:  Video preview; One-click meeting joins; Persistent chat; Shared OneNote for meetings; Gallery view; Lync Web App client and Improved mobile support for Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad,or Android device.

Here are some tips for building a successful Lync deployment(Provided by Enterprise Connect)

  1. Make sure Lync is the right option for you
  2. Define, document and prioritize your business objectives
  3. Assemble a strong cross-functional team
  4. Assign a Project Leader
  5. Recognize communication, training and change management as critical
  6. Monitor adherence to metrics.

In regard to video conferencing there is only one stumbling block in using Microsoft Lync.  This stumbling block is the connection to installed standards based video conferencing cameras or CODECS.  The good news, this is easily resolved by purchasing a Gateway with a video conferencing MCU or bridge — Avaya / Radvision produces both.  The quality and reliability is superb with the Avaya / Radvision products.  Another solution is using a hosted video conferencing service, preferably one using the Avaya / Radvision products.  For mid-sized and small enterprises the hosted service is the most economical.  (If you use Microsoft Lync and need to video conference outside of your company — click here)

Is video conferencing really all that practical?

The same question was asked in the mid eighties when cell phone antennas started to appear in the middle of the back windows on automobiles.  Back then cell phones worked within a limited area footprint and they only worked from the car because they were mounted in the car.  The early adapters of cell phones certainly experienced more time savings and efficiency.  Sales people loved it – They can make more calls in an area and more spontaneous appointments with prospects and customers.  Service people loved it —They can confirm more appointments from the road or call customers to say they are running late.  Now it’s hard to imagine a cell phone tethered to a car with no access to the internet.

We are seeing the same thing with video conferencing. First you needed a dedicated room and technician to make the call.  Today you need an app on your smart phone or iPad and a child can make the call.  In the conference room the system is simple to install and simple to use.  Soon it will be hard to imagine how we managed without video conferencing in our homes or businesses — We will have video numbers for both.

Here are three clients who understand how practical video conferencing can be:

One of our clients is a nationally recognized medical college. Professors use our cloud based mobile video conferencing service to meet face-to-face with interns around the state. They can collaborate through their computers showing x-rays or other medical related material.  Professors can also use the cloud based service to accommodate a guest speaker in their lecture halls with standards based video conferencing capability built-in.  This is very practical – In fact this particular client is expanding this service to other departments.

Another client is a national manufacturer with 4 offices – Ohio, Florida, Texas, and California.  They serve key national accounts from all four locations.  Video conferencing allows this client to meet in all locations simultaneously to efficiently manage sales, inventories and deliveries better, serving their national clients.  They also have more management meetings without any travel between these locations.

We have a not-for-profit video conferencing customer who needs to meet with incarcerated clients throughout the state for substance abuse counseling.   They have three locations in Ohio.   Counselors save up to 20 hours per week travel time using video conferencing.  Staff meetings are also easy as the multi-site feature allows simultaneous connection between all three offices.  Counselors really depend on the technology now.  If a system goes down, they call immediately as this has a major impact on their efficiency.   If you don’t think you need video conferencing – Think again.  You may be leaving money on the table.

Can I rent videoconferencing equipment at a large hotel or convention center?

 Hotel_Meeting_Room_iStock_000021579016XSmallYes one can certainly rent video conferencing equipment in a larger hotel or convention center.  You will, however confront three problems — One of them is a very big problem!  Let’s address the big problem first – The Network or lack thereof.  These days’ most large hotels and convention centers have a network, but more often than not they cannot accommodate a video conference because their network is shared by other guests and there is no dedicated public IP address for an outside connection.  There are two ways to resolve this issue. One way is work with the hotel to make adjustments in the network. This is the hard way and there is a very good chance the network will fail.  The second and preferable way is to bring in your own network.  There are providers that can offer wireless dedicated bandwidth with a static, public IP address.  This will cost money, but if you want a good night’s sleep before your big meeting its worth every nickel.

On to the other two problems — One is where do you rent the video conferencing equipment and the second is the audio.  Generally the hotel does not have the video conferencing equipment, but they often work with an AV rental house that does.  This should be your first option.  Make sure the AV rental house has experience renting video conferencing equipment and has the expertise and technical staff to operate the equipment in the meeting.  Ok – Two problems are addressed including the first problem, the network.

We will assume that your video conference is in a large hall and the presenter, perhaps your keynote speaker is the one on the video conference. This brings us to the third problem – Audio.  Audio is in a video conference is critical.  Your entire video meeting will fail if the audio is poor.  Large halls in convention centers often have in-house audio, but this generally accommodates a presenter at the facility not on a video conference.  The AV rental house should have the amplifiers, audio mixers and appropriate speakers to produce clear and easily heard audio through a video conference in a large hall or meeting room.

Some convention centers do have the video conferencing in-house, but this is rare.  The centers that do, generally do a very good job.  One example of quality in-house capability is the John S. Knight Center in Akron Ohio.  They can move video conferencing to a large room or small room. They also have a knowledgeable staff. Their network accommodates video conferencing, and they are great people to work with. If you are planning a large meeting and need worry free video conferencing call Bill Stewart at the John S. Knight Center in Akron. You will get a good night’s sleep with no worries about your meeting.   This is how you contact Bill – 330-374-8922.  If you call Bill make sure you reference this article.