Report from Wainhouse UC&C summit

Video streaming is increasingly becoming an important part of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) strategies as end users deploy solutions for training, employee engagement and marketing purposes, according to a host of speakers at this year's UC&C Summit.

A varied spectrum of communication and collaboration technologies - as well as methods of deployment and approaches to integration - were covered at the two-day event.

However, streaming solutions stood out as increasingly important part of a number of end-users UC&C strategies as well as being the focus of four dedicated talks at the event held at the NH Barbizon Palace hotel in Amsterdam, January 28 and 29.

As video streaming gains acceptance and use cases increase it is also working its way to become part of wider video strategies.

Much of the focus was on organising, making sense of and making best use of a wide variety of video options in the enterprise.

On the one hand this is a positive trend: video is here, it’s being generated and it’s being watched. On the other, some very valid concerns about usability and fatigue were raised.

Enterprise video needs to engage employees and allow interaction by encouraging comments, "likes" and video sharing.

These tools, born and nurtured in social media channels, demonstrate how much affect the needs and wants of "Generation Y" are having on the market.

Patrick Stewart-Blacker, workspace technology specialist at SB Solutions, argued that business communications were evolving along with the people that that used them.

In the same vein as the BYOD trend, Steward-Blacker argued that these employees want the same standard of tools in their professional lives as they are used to in their personal lives.

He also raised Barco’s Click Share product which, due to Barco being a sponsor of the event, was demonstrated alongside the Wainhouse conference programme.

Stuart-Blacker argued that the key to Barco’s development of the well-received Click Share product was to "do its homework".

Users want technology that works and engagement in meetings is lost when technology is a barrier.

But, he said perhaps the most important move by Barco was to consider not just end users but IT departments, which are protective of their networks and suspicious of external, unknown devices sitting on them.

Technical considerations were also raised by a number of speakers with Andrew Davis, senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research dissecting trends in video compression standards; noting major interoperability challenges still present in the market.

Davis raised the H.265 standard as the "next evolution of video compression", detailing recent Cisco and Vidyo demonstrations which saw resolution and frame rates maintained with half the bandwidth requirements.

Johan Chr. Bernhoft, senior IO-engineer tasked with managing a project for onshore and offshore deployments of visual communications and telepresence for Odfjell Drilling, explained the bandwidth challenges he faced, noting that he was watching the development of H.265 with interest.

On the subject of interoperability, over the two days many of the end users voiced concerns that they were essentially having to act as integrators to tie disparate systems together.

Whilst this enabled them to choose best of breed technologies a lot suggested they would welcome a solution that could be delivered by one vendor.

When looking at wider, all-encompassing UC&C strategies and deployments an overwhelming majority of end users were tying systems together with Microsoft Lync.

Another consideration that was raised by more than one speaker, and even members of the audience, was the often overlooked cultural and regional differences in acceptance, attitudes and even laws associated with enterprise communications deployments.

Bart Matens, telecom manager at RWE / Essent has been involved in the deployment of a videoconfencing solution for what is one of Europe’s top five gas and electricity companies and an employer of 72,000 people.

Deployment challenges included integrating Polycom, Sony, Cisco and LifeSize endpoints. Interestingly Martens said the company was migrating to LifeSize and moving away from Cisco because the licensees were too expensive.

Part of the deployment included personal web cams that switched on when the employee logged on. In Germany this feature had to be disabled due to German law.

Martens, alongside a number of other end users, noted that barriers to implementation weren’t limited to technology integration; but were found in changing the culture of employees to encourage them to make use of the full power of the technologies on offer.

The summit clearly outlined the opportunities, increasing acceptance and rapidly evolving technologies present in the UC&C space.

But it didn’t shy away from the challenges and the fact that recession and struggling economies were making their mark.

Wainhouse figures depicted a muted outlook for end point deployment after years of fairly steady rises with Imago’s James Vickerage pointing out that "recession can make people sit on their hands".

For AV integrators, probably the most important message to take away is there is plenty of room in this market for companies who have the vision and skills to tie together complex solutions from a multitude of vendors. End users are often filling this gap but, in many cases, do so reluctantly.

This report appeared in What's New Pro AV, a new publication from the creators of InAVate. Click here to read the full magazine including reports from ISE 2013 and associated conferences as well as details of the InAVation Awards 2013.

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