Total Pageviews

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Video-enabled UC Easier Said Than Done!

If “a picture is worth a thousand words"(spoken or written), what’s a video worth? 
That’s a good question now, because desktop PCs and smartphones can add video exchanges and videoconferencing to other unified communication (UC) options. The answer, of couse, depends on the individual end user’s information needs of the moment, but making such communications capability a simple “click” to switch to video conferencing is a bit more complicated than voice conferencing.
Business communications are moving beyond wired messaging and voice calls to wireless Internet connections with mobile devices that support visual, audio, and video user interfaces. The rapid consumer adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets is dramatically expanding legacy forms of business communications to multimodal unified communications (UC). With more personalized choices in mobile devices, often described as “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device), the power of desktop computers and telephones has been extended to mobile consumers for accessing information, performing self-service transactions, and being able to flexibly communicate with people and interact with online applications on a personalized basis.
What this really means is that such flexible business communications have to be available easily, selectively, and consistently, to all types of end users, whether within an organization (employees), or outside an organization (business partners, customers). As both communications and business process applications move from premise-based hardware and software to Internet-based public, private, and hybrid clouds, UC-enabled interactions can now be offered more easily and cost-efficiently as hosted/managed services, also known as Unified Communicaitons as a Service (UCaaS). While telephony system providers are trying to migrate their legacy voice technologies to cloud services and integrate with IM platforms such as Microsoft Lync, they are also trying to add video options as well. By its very nature, video is more complex than just voice, and making it simple for end users as part of a UCaaS offering is a challenge for legacy telephony service providers.
Different video strokes for different folks!        
At the individual end user level, business communication needs will vary with the roles that an end user plays in a business process. Such use case requirements will be different for vertical markets, as well as the BYOD choices of individual users. Providing such flexibility, especially for users outside of an organization, can best be done in a hosted/managed service environment, where the service provider has the tools and expertise to manage and change the spectrum of communication options that are required by different classes of end users.
Such flexibility has been extended to include video conferencing interactions, where people may be “on” or “off” camera, but can still be connected in real time for voice conversation, while exchanging any form of visual information related to the discussion. The big breakthrough, then, is that people can now dynamically and flexibly communicate and exchange information with others any time, from anywhere, and in any mode that is appropriate to the involved end users.
So, when it comes to implementing the power of both video and UC to existing business communications, a UCaaS provider with solid video experience is a practical resource available to any size organization. One of these vendors is Yorktel, which notes, “Once called the video industry’s best kept secret, Yorktel is best known for making complicated simple.” As a vendor agnostic video provider, Yorktel works with industry leaders including Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, and Vidyo. While not as well known as some of the larger video vendors, Yorktel’s customers include Fortune 500m and federal agencies. The importance of having a UCaaS provider with a solid foundation in video was reinforced in Yorktel’s announcement at Enterprise Connect 2014 regarding their VideoCloud service. VideoCloud integrates with enterprise platforms like Microsoft Lync for specific vertical market use cases that need video, such as the booming telehealth industry, and integrates with specialized video endpoint devices like iRobot  for manufacturing, and VideoKiosk for a variety of government, retail, and banking vertical markets.

Video conferencing for meeting rooms, desktops, and, now, mobile devices
While UC has been talked about for a long time in conjunction with real-time voice telephony for voice conferencing, video conferencing capabilities have been extended from traditional room based systems, to desktop PCs, but, most importantly, to individual end users with mobile smartphones and tablets. This opens the door to satisfying the need for traditional face-to-face meetings with more cost-effective, conferencing options that go beyond just voice, thus minimizing the time delays and costs of traveling to a meeting.
Adding video conferencing to the list of UC-enabled capabilities of any multimodal device means that users can simply “click-to-video conference” contextually in their preferred mode of being “on” or “off” camera. Connecting via the Internet, e.g., using WebRTC, increases ease of use as well as lowered connectivity costs. However, things are not that easy to implement, and the complexity of communications technology to selectively integrate and exploit video as a service when needed, has to be simplified for real world use. That’s where Yoktel’s experience comes into play to help customers extend existing communications to include flexible use of video.
UC-enabling video conferencing capabilities allows end users to start from simple messaging contacts to IM to voice connections to video connections from a common user interface.
Video conferencing at the infrastructure level
While making things simple for end users is most important when it comes to increasing adoption, there is unfortunately a need to ensure that infrastructure integrations are taken care of.
There are various factors affecting the use of video that add to integration requrements, including:
·        Video conferencing requires both voice and selective use of video to show visual information, i.e., “on camera” options for conferencing participants, and particpant connectivity with different endpoint devices
·        Video connections have no standard codecs access
·        Integration of video conferencing with online business process applications requires APIs for “click-to-videoconference” option to be embedded within the applications
·        Video output will have to accommodate different user endpoint devices that hav different size screens and different operating systems
·        Video content display may require authorization at the individual participation level
·        Video conferences require management controls scheduling, invitations, notifications, who is on or off camera, who can speak and when, etc.
·        Video content that will be dynamically presented during the video discussion must be easily generated and accessible as an option to authorized participants
Yorktel prides itself on its years of experience in handling such requirements and simplifying customized usage for different types of end user applications. As the business communications market increasingly moves towards a combination of BYOD devices, unified communications, and cloud based business applications, Yorktel is prepared to assist different vertical market customers of any size through this evolution.