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electrobins | March 6, 2007 at 01:56 amby
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As convergence brings voice, data, and video onto the same network, new technologies are rewriting the rules about collaboration—and not a moment too soon.
As globalization increases the need for communication among colleagues and partners, the likelihood increases that business discussions will encompass not just multiple people, but also multiple locations.
While today's meeting and collaboration tools provide a significant productivity boost, most users will admit these tools are still no substitute for in-person meetings. In the past, videoconferences in particular have been difficult to set up, challenging to use, and frequently unsatisfying in their ability to replicate in-person meetings and the benefits of face-to-face interaction.
In a conference room equipped with a television-set type unit, employees had to use remote control keypads to set up meetings. Even when set up correctly, all participants got was a view of another conference room with other participants seated around the table. The ability to discern facial expressions, so crucial in business discussions and negotiations, was minimal at best. Users had the option of adjusting cameras to pan, tilt, or zoom during meetings, which put emphasis on the technology, not the meeting, disrupting the natural flow of conversation and interaction.
To improve this situation, companies like Cisco are working on new technology that delivers a unique, "in-person" experience over the converged network. Using advanced visual, audio, and collaboration technologies, these new "telepresence" applications deliver real-time, face-to-face interactions between people and places in their work and personal lives. In some cases, these products use a room-within-a-room environment along with life-size images, and high-definition resolution with spatial and discrete audio to create a live, face-to-face meeting around a single "virtual" table.
The components of these systems utilize standard technologies in conjunction with specialized applications and hardware to create a unique, yet approachable solution using the network and unified communications as core components to deliver this new experience.
Telepresence systems incorporate the most up-to-date standards and technologies to offer the best audio and visual results:
* H.264 video codecs to offer the highest quality and lowest bit rate
* Session Initiation Protocol
* Native 720p and 1080p high-definition cameras
* Native 720p and 1080p high-definition encoding/decoding
* Low-latency architecture and low bandwidth utilization
* Wideband advanced audio coding with low delay (AAC LD)
* Multichannel spatial audio with echo cancellation and interference filters to eliminate feedback from mobile devices
* Optimized environmental conditioning to provide the best audio and video and overall user experience
These systems use the standard IP technology deployed in corporations today, and should run on an integrated voice/video/data network. Such systems support high-quality, real-time voice and video communications with branch offices using broadband connections. They also offer capabilities for ensuring quality of service (QoS), security, reliability, and high availability for high-bandwidth applications such as video, particularly high definition video, which can require 1Mbps to 5Mbps, depending upon the resolution.
These systems often include purpose-built office furniture, which incorporate cameras and displays, lighting, speakers, microphones, and projection capability into a specially designed table for larger rooms, or, in smaller configurations, with existing office furniture.
TelePresence applications incorporate a variety of new and existing standards-based software for accommodating converged voice and video transmissions, including:
* IP telephony: They work with IP-based phones and call-processing systems from the major networking and telecommunications vendors. This can simplify launching calls because it uses a telephone instead of a complicated remote control.
* Groupware: Integration with enterprise groupware solutions (such as Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes) accommodates easy scheduling of meetings and access to corporate information.
* Services: They should enable easy scheduling, management, reporting, billing, and metrics applications to ensure proper tracking and bill-back of activity on the system, as well as real-time support services.