26.08.14

Integrate 2014: Collaborate and communicate

AUTHOR: Inavate
Unified communications was the topic of discussion on the first day of Integrate 2014.

Integrate 2014 is being held from 26th August 2014 till 28th August 2014 at the Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park in Australia. From the first day of the exhibition, InAVate APAC takes a look at the focus all parties involved with professional AV are placing on collaboration and communication.

Unified communications specifically was a topic that was being discussed at one of the Future Trends Talks discussion organized by the IMCCA, which is a non-profit organization aiming to increase awareness regarding the unified communications and conferencing market.

Jeremy Horey, global practice director for communications and end user computation, identified the key characteristics of unified communications as presence, escalation, collaboration and convergence. Essentially users should be given the freedom to take their conversation to richer mediums at their discretion, have the ability to share information in any way across platforms.

Over the course of the years unified communications has been influenced greatly by consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets which are becoming the primary mode of communication employed by end users. Mobile devices are outselling PCs by two to one and there are already 2.5 billion tablets and smartphones shipping yearly.

The end result of the prevalence of smart devices is an end user who is tech savvy and used to communication through different mediums in different formats. Manufacturers and solution providers at Integrate confirm that a homogeneous consumer profile for unified communication end users is hard to draw. But what they do know is that the end user is demanding easy to use, fast, mobile communication and collaboration tools.

The truth of the matter is that no one product or solution is able to meet the needs of every end user at present. Multiple vendors are pushing multiple solutions each with its own pros and cons. End users need to cherry pick from the best of breed that is available. Speakers at Integrate 2014 also stressed that end users need to employ better planning when looking to implement unified communications.

The planning is essential because interoperability is not a feature that is currently present in the unified communication solutions and is also not something that is being worked on according to Michael Chetner from Acano. Unless one contender establishes itself as the de facto choice users will continue to find themselves in walled gardens. New entrant to the scene Microsoft Lync is making a strong case to be considered as the leader of the pack but other solutions for unified communications are all still in the hunt.

Lync has been adopted by many manufacturers who are putting out their own hardware to take advantage of Microsoft’s software application. Crestron for one showcased their Crestron RL communication solution prominently at their booth at Integrate. But lack of interoperability and a myriad of choices means that third parties will be needed and required to implement and deploy unified communication solutions even though manufacturers would like to serve up a one size fits all answer.

The conferencing part of unified communications may be particularly suited to the corporate sector for use in boardrooms. But the collaboration aspect is one that can be applied to a much broader set of applications. Many manufacturers were showcasing collaboration products that can be used in different sectors such as education.

Extron Electronics displayed their Teamwork 601 wired solution for collaboration. The product includes a presentation switcher and “Show Me” cables that come with play buttons allowing users the easy ability to switch sources from one PC to another. HDMI and VGA inputs are both possible and the setup also includes a Cable Cubby enclosure.

Interestingly, Extron were also showcasing the recently released SMP 351 streaming media processor. While not essentially a collaborative tool, the product is nonetheless aimed at the education market for lecture capture. Integrate 2014 was one of the first appearances of the Extron SMP 351 in Asia Pacific.

Christie was shining a light on their Brio range of collaboration tools. Designed to address meeting and classroom settings, the Brio range delivers a wide range of functionality. Brio also has the ability to let devices connect wirelessly and hence allows users to bring their own device to the party. Also interesting to note are the whiteboard and annotation features which seem targeted squarely at the education market.

Lastly, Kramer also showed off their Collage and Connect series of collaboration solutions. The former in particular offers a wide range of functionality that includes compatibility with Windows, iOS and Android devices as well as sharing to the cloud.