Yearly Archives: 2013
Written on October 14, 2013 at 11:12 am, by ClearOne
This post continues our discussion on addressing what needs to be done with audio to make it effective in all situations so users can clearly hear everyone involved in audio and video conferencing calls.
Audio Is The Foundation
Humans can tolerate visual interference – a grainy image, untrue colors, and jerky images. But, the audio must be high quality in order for listeners to perceive the words. Decades of research have shown how specific types of signal degradation affect perception. This research has been used to produce telecommunications networks that are optimized for transmission of high quality human speech.
One study, conducted by TRI, had 100 participants view video and evaluate the quality of the image as they thought the bandwidth of the video was being altered. In reality, the bandwidth allotted to audio was changed. The participants perceived the video improving as the audio improved, even though no changes were made to the video quality.
Audio must be high quality in order for people to perceive the words. Speech can tolerate some clipping or the loss of an occasional syllable, but time lag is intolerable to listeners during conversation. When the range in the voice is muffled and speaker identity and intelligibility are affected, calls are no longer understandable. All these factors make audio quality an extremely important component of a video conference. Lowered speech intelligibility will inevitably obscure natural communication, take focus away from important aspects of the meeting, and cause fatigue.
The way audio is handled in a video call can also be an issue. The quality of speech transmitted over a local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN) can be impacted by the way audio packets are handled. Compression and decompression of audio is a standard part of a video conferencing system, and can be a source of reduction in audio quality. Complete loss of some audio packets during transmission over the pubic Internet may also occur. As a result, the audio signal may suffer in quality and delay. In some instances, to optimize audio in a video conference, a full duplex voice telephone circuit is used to carry the audio portion of the conference. The independent channel can also be helpful for troubleshooting if participants have difficulty with the LAN or collaboration applications during a meeting. As an alternative, a company can pay a service provider with Quality of Service (QoS) technologies like Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Differentiated Services or DiffServ, which allow audio and video data to be transmitted with a guaranteed level of quality.
Achieving Audio Quality
The goal in any video conference is for the participants to feel they are in a meeting room with good acoustics and do not feel distracted when others whisper, tap pens or rustle papers. If a room is properly equipped and designed, meeting participants should not have to worry where they sit or stand in order to be heard. They should feel as if everyone is in the same room, even when communicating from a distance. Achieving quality audio is dependent on both the right equipment and the proper environment.
Room design is an important component for quality audio. A room with hard surfaces everywhere results in too much echo. When setting up a room for a video conference, consideration must be given to whether there are reflective surfaces near the microphones and speakers, whether there are sources of noise coming from other equipment or SS systems, and how well the room is sound-insulated from adjoining rooms. For some rooms, a premium or installed audio system may be appropriate.
Check for symptoms of bad acoustics by clapping your hands. If it sounds like you are in an empty barrel, garage or basement, you need acoustical treatment of the room. Your goal is to achieve a sound that is relaxing and inviting. The next step is to look at your meeting room and check for hard floors, hard walls and the presence of undraped windows. Hard surfaces are part of the cause of bad acoustics. The secret to making your room better for audio or video calls is to have soft surfaces that absorb sound. Carpeting, upholstered surfaces, and draperies are examples of how to soften a room to achieve better audio. But changing a room is not always practical or desired. A professionally installed system is designed by an integrator to mitigate noise and echo while optimizing desired sound.
Acoustical wall panels will also help achieve proper sound in a room. Never let two opposing walls remain without absorption. Acoustical treatment attenuates the reflected sound and increases the usable distance between sound sources and receivers. This will increase the audio quality over a wider seating area.
ClearOne’s new Beamforming Microphone Array automatically configures to room acoustics with twenty-four microphone elements, steering its pickup pattern towards participants in the room and rejecting unwanted noise and reflections.
Many systems today use simple microphones with little directional sensitivity. While these microphones capture sound from all directions, they do not adequately suppress ambient noise. New microphones are being developed to optimize directional sensitivity. Installing the right audio equipment and treating the room will help optimize audio quality.
This process does not have to be expensive. One end user solved the audio problems in a room located in a parking garage inexpensively by hanging lined draperies on the wall. The small changes worked and resulted in acceptable audio during a video conference. Small adjustments to the room can make slight audio improvements, while solutions ranging from speakerphones to professionally installed systems can bring the greatest improvements to conferencing sound.
Finally, there is no substitute for proper speech etiquette. Anyone speaking should use a normal speaking voice, with no need to shout or whisper, and always direct his or her voice at a microphone. The right audio system, with intelligence provided to automatically correct microphone gain without causing unnecessary pumping noise, is the approach to take for optimized audio. With intelligent systems presenters are able to stand or walk around a room without being tied to a lavaliere microphone or having to directly speak into a microphone.
Awareness of what needs to be done to achieve good quality audio is the key to video conferencing success. Good audio solutions for every conferencing application – with or without video – are important to successful calls.
S. Ann Earon, Ph.D., is president of Telemanagement Resources International Inc. and Founding Chairperson of IMCCA, the non-profit industry association for collaborative conferencing. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written on October 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm, by ClearOne
Do you have screens outside for your digital signage?
If you do or if you’re planning on deploying signage outdoors, take a moment to look over this infographic so you have a good idea of what’s in store.
Beating the Elements with Outdoor Digital Signage [Infographic]
Compliments of Digital Signage Today
Learn more at DigitalSignageToday.com/Outdoor
Contact us today to see if we have a Digital Signage solution that’s right for your business.
Please let us know your thoughts and comments on outdoor Digital Signage in today’s world and we’ll be happy to join the conversation.
Written on October 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm, by ClearOne
Most business users are familiar with audio & video conferencing and have experienced both technologies in a variety of situations. But, many users forget that these technologies are only as good as the audio foundation. Audio quality can be impacted by the type of device used to participate in the calls (i.e. using hands-free devices like speakerphones or cell phones versus using non-hands free devices like telephone handsets). Too often microphones are not properly placed to hear those talking and users attempt to use a variety of audio devices, including cell phones, to connect someone into a video call. Voice quality in a video conference is impacted by the acoustics of at least two rooms – the caller and the listener. The purpose of this paper is to address what needs to be done with audio to make it effective in all situations so users can clearly hear everyone involved in audio and video conferencing calls.
Audio, that is voice, is almost always deemed the most critical portion of any conference. Without audio, the meeting loses nearly all value. A variety of equipment might be involved to hold an audio conferencing call or add audio into a video call, including telephone handsets, speakerphones for use by small groups, installed audio systems, microphones, mixers, and controllers to initialize and manage the call speakers. The quality of the voice transmission line is crucial to the success of an audio conference. A regular (analog) dialup telephone line is often all that is needed to conduct a successful audio conference. But users should be wary of individuals calling into an audio or video call on their cell phone. Both the quality of the line they are on and their location (driving in a car with a noisy truck passing them, near construction sites, etc.) can negatively impact the overall quality of the call. While many people use their telephone systems for three-way conference calls, and sometimes to even link multiple sites, a multipoint conference, of more than three sites, often requires an audio or video bridge to link sites together. A number of telephone and bridging service companies offer multipoint audio, data and video conferencing services. Calls can be established through an operator or on a dial-up basis. Keep in mind the call is only as good as the audio foundation. A noisy, hands-free conferencing connection can negatively impact the entire call, whereas video can sometimes be forgiven when lacking certain quality.
Audio Endpoint Equipment
Today, most audio conferencing endpoint products (speakers, microphones, and audio mixing controls) are full-duplex systems, providing the same kind of interaction one gets from the telephone, with important improvements.
Users can interrupt one another at any time, speaking and hearing simultaneously (known as a full-duplex call), and both users can be heard simultaneously without echo (call feedback often caused by speaker/microphone placement). Communication seems as natural as being with the person in the same room.
A properly chosen and configured full-duplex conferencing endpoint will ensure that high-quality audio is captured at the endpoint even when the room is reverberant or contains noise sources like a projector, HVAC noise, outside traffic, etc. Audio conferencing endpoints can be categorized as personal conferencing devices, tabletop conference speakerphones, and professionally-installed conferencing systems. Personal conferencing devices include one or more microphones, a speaker, and signal processors. They are designed to be used by a small group of people (one to four). Tabletop conference phones have a built-in speaker that can produce a higher sound output volume than the personal conferencing products, and they may also support expansion of the microphone pickup area through the use of expansion microphones or attachment of conference phones. Professionally installed audio systems offered today support arrays of microphones that can be placed around a large conference table to handle large groups of participants. The microphones used by professionally installed systems are generally permanently installed in the conference table or on the ceiling. There are also wireless microphone systems that are designed to use with professionally installed audio conferencing systems.
The electronics that support full-duplex audio systems process audio signals to separate the signal that originates from a local person speaking into a microphone from the sound coming from a far end talker that is played through the local speakers and is subsequently coupled into the local microphone. This is called Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC). Professionally installed audio systems may also include an additional technology called feedback cancellation. A feedback canceller may be required when a presenter needs his/her voice amplified into a local conference space so listeners, who may be in the same large room or auditorium, can still clearly hear the presenter’s voice. Amplification of the local presenter’s voice in the local room may result in a high-pitched squealing sound called feedback if there is positive gain between the microphone and the speaker. ClearOne’s Dynamic Automatic Resonance Eliminator (DARE) feedback eliminator uses proprietary adaptive algorithms that have evolved from ClearOne’s years of experience and expertise in echo cancellation technology. These algorithms eliminate feedback by rapidly identifying a feedback node and then placing a narrow-band filter at that frequency without the need for additional feedback elimination equipment.
For a very large auditorium, a professionally installed system may also need to include a time delay function that delays the local presenter’s voice by a programmable amount. This allows an installer to guarantee that a listener at the back of a large auditorium does not hear the presenter’s amplified voice (which is transmitted at the speed of electrical signals through the audio systems) followed by a delayed version of the presenter’s live voice (which takes longer to reach that person due to the fact that the acoustic sound travels more slowly than the electronically captured version of the presenter’s voice).
We’ll continue our discussion of effective audio for video conferencing in next week’s blog. In the meantime, we want to know your thoughts about addressing how to make audio effective in all situations for your end users. Sound off in the comments below.
Zee Hakimoglu – CEO & President of ClearOne rings the closing bell for the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square.
Written on September 10, 2013 at 11:31 am, by ClearOne
ClearOne, Inc. [CLRO], a global company that designs, develops and sells conferencing, collaboration, streaming and digital signage solutions for audio and visual communications, visited the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square on September 9, 2013. In a speech, Zee Hakimoglu, CEO and President of ClearOne, said that the company is in a position for accelerated growth and in honor of the visit, she rang the Closing Bell.
View photos and video of the event here
Written on September 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm, by ClearOne
The Beamforming Microphone Array — Pro-Audio with beamforming and adaptive steering technology and ClearOne’s next-generation Acoustic Echo Cancellation
The ultra-sleek design fits into any conferencing environment and delivers the clearest audio pickup available with adaptive acoustic processing. Twenty-four microphone elements can steer its pickup pattern towards participants in the room and reject unwanted noise and reflections, thereby offering superb and unmatched performance for group conferencing environments.
- Beamforming & adaptive steering technology
- Next-generation Acoustic Echo Cancellation
- 24 microphone elements
- Mono and stereo modes for diverse applications
- Flexible mounting for ceiling, tabletop and wall modes
- Works with CONVERGE® Pro products: 880, 840T, 880T, 880TA
- Expandable for larger room applications by daisy-chaining up to three arrays per CONVERGE Pro unit
- Adaptive acoustic processing automatically adjusts to room configuration for best possible audio pickup
- Replaces up to 10 traditional microphones, with twice the pick-up range
- WARRANTY: 2 years, From date of purchase
Written on September 3, 2013 at 10:29 am, by ClearOne
Last week, we discussed how the use of video conferencing has the potential of increasing productivity and efficiency by reducing unproductive travel time, preventing meeting delays, creating shorter & more structured meetings, and providing faster exchange of information. With video conferencing, and the data collaboration tools that are now used with it, individuals can get information when it is easiest for them, on a real-time or delayed basis. By increasing usage of video conferencing, organizations will quickly see a financial return on investment. This is part two of our series on driving video conferencing ROI. Part one can be found here.
Return On Investment
Understanding the value obtained by implementing video conferencing helps management understand why video conferencing should be viewed as a necessity, not just a nicety. While many view the benefits of video conferencing to be measured with soft dollars, in reality those who have identified useful applications have had no trouble developing a return on investment to justify both their initial capital expenditures and their ongoing recurring costs. By calculating a return on investment it is easier for management to see the value of video conferencing and, thus, understand the need to continue growing the use of the technology. Without understanding this value what often happens is that when one champion of the technology departs another is not easily found. When value is understood everyone wises to claim the deployment and usage of video conferencing as their idea!
Types of return on investment (ROI) calculations for video conferencing include travel cost savings, increased productivity, and time efficiency.
Travel Cost Savings
Using video conferencing can reduce travel costs. By using video, trips can be avoided, thus saving the cost of travel. For example, one company found they achieved a return on investment after only 67 days because they paid for their equipment by not traveling.
By increasing productivity an organization can improve their response time to market or the time it takes to handle repairs. A package goods company used video conferencing to increase productivity enabling them to get a product to market three months sooner, which resulted in productivity & cost savings of millions of dollars. The sooner they get their products to market, the greater the revenue.
Business Case Example
Using video conferencing to squeeze more hours into a day allowed one organization to accomplish more in a shorter time period. This improved time efficiency resulted in more business being accomplished and improved the bottom line impact for the firm.
Following is a sample business case formula for calculating the return on investment for video conferencing. This formula can be used in its entirety or broken apart, depending on the application requiring justification.
Videoconferencing Cost Justification Explanation of Categories and Formulas
A. The number of meetings held during the course of a year that could be displaced by videoconferencing is generally 20 to 50 percent.
B. Estimate the overall average meeting length. Videoconferences tend to be 20 to 30 percent shorter than in-person meetings.
C. Estimate the overall average number of attendees at a meeting. Videoconferences range from two to 20, but the average is four to six participants.
D. The number of meeting attendees who travel – usually 50 percent of the total number of participants.
E. Based on an overall annual remuneration of $60,000 (including bonuses) for the average attendee, add 30 percent overhead for benefits and divide by 1,900 hours worked per year. The average hourly compensation is $40 / hour.
F. Multiply the number of meetings by meeting length by average number of attendees by average wage per hour (A*B*C*E).
A. The total trips between two sites being analyzed (number of travelers * the number meetings or A*D).
B. Total travel costs including ground travel (personal mileage, rental car, taxi), airfare, meals and lodging.
C. Multiply number of roundtrips by the average cost per roundtrip (G*H).
A. The average length of time it takes a traveler to travel to and from the remote site.
B. The inverse of the time a traveler is actively pursuing work-related activities while traveling. If a traveler works 50 percent of the time, the traveler is non-productive 50 percent of the time.
C. Same as the average attendee wage (E).
D. Total trips between the two sites being analyzed (G).
E. Multiply the average travel time by the percent non-productive travel time by average traveler wage per hour by number of roundtrips (J*K*L*M).
A. Multiply number of meetings displaced by the videoconference meeting length (A*B).
B. Based on average facility / equipment costs of $100,000; a 50 percent utilization factor (4 hours per day); and with capital costs amortized over 5 years (includes accepted depreciation standards) – the cost per hour of one videoconferencing room is about $20 per hour (2 rooms are required).
C. Average cost per hour of usage is $75.
D. Add equipment / facility costs and transmission costs (P+Q).
A. Add annual meeting costs, annual travel costs and cost of non-productive time (F+I+N).
B. Add annual meeting costs and annual videoconferencing costs (F+R).
C. Subtract the cost of videoconferencing meetings from the cost of displaced conventional meetings (S-T).
Expanded Video Applications
Video conferencing technology provides a powerful communications tool. There are many ways to make the most out of the technology. It is not just a meeting tool. Once the equipment is in place, video conferencing can be used as a production facility. Use video conferencing equipment to record content, stream information to many, produce information, and create “webinars”.
Video conferencing sessions can be recorded for playback at a later date. This feature is useful for individuals unable to make the meeting or for archiving information to be viewed at a later date.
Meeting information can be sent (streamed) over existing networks to multiple sites, allowing them to view the meeting real time and not leave their work locations. This allows for increased meeting participation from those at a distance.
Video conferencing technology can be used as a production facility to produce content to be disseminated to employees and customers. The information produced can be archived for retrieval at a later date or streamed to individuals as needed. Save time with HR training by using video conferencing equipment to present and record company policies. Create a special CEO message and send it out to all employees.
Video conferencing systems can be utilized to create events over the web where the video, the audio and the content are shared with distant participants. Known as “webinars”, these events are often used to share information given by a subject matter expert or to provide training.
Video Conferencing Applications
The four top applications why video conferencing is installed are: management meetings, sales & marketing meetings, for engineering, manufacturing or production, and for training. This does not preclude other groups from using the technology (i.e. the HR department, the legal department, and finance), but studies conducted by TRI have shown the primary reasons why firms install video conferencing relate to the top four applications noted above.
Additionally, video conferencing has been used for a variety of other applications including product demonstrations to new customers, “townhall” type meetings and HR training. Given the longevity of video conferencing usage, all industries have developed useful applications for video conferencing. It is no longer a matter of if you will use video conferencing, it is only a matter of when. Make your video conferencing system work for you to get your message to everyone, internally and externally.
The future of video conferencing is bright. Dynamic changes in the global communications environment – decreasing network & equipment costs and the need for businesses to compete in a global economy – will help propel the adoption and usage of video conferencing at a rapid rate. It is important for organizations to develop a plan to efficiently and effectively measure the ROI for video conferencing to ensure its successful and ongoing usage.
Users need to the get benefit of quality technology that works flawlessly, is easy to use, and designed to meet ongoing needs. Management wants to quantify cost savings and feel the technology is positively impacting the bottom line.
S. Ann Earon, Ph.D., is president of Telemanagement Resources International Inc. and Founding Chairperson of IMCCA, the non-profit industry association for collaborative conferencing. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Download the full whitepaper “DRIVING VIDEO CONFERENCING ROI” here
ClearOne Announces New Pan-India Distribution Agreement with Enkay Technologies for COLLABORATE Video Conferencing Solutions
Written on August 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm, by ClearOne
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — August 27, 2013
ClearOne (NASDAQ: CLRO), a global provider of audio visual communication solutions, today announced its new distribution partnership with Enkay Technologies. Under the terms of the agreement, Enkay will distribute the full line of ClearOne’s video conferencing solutions to its integrators and dealers throughout the Pan-India region.
“Enkay Technologies is a trusted Pan-India distributor with 30 years of experience representing a wide array of cutting-edge solutions, covering many vertical markets and applications,” said Zee Hakimoglu, Chairman and CEO of ClearOne. “Enkay’s position as India’s leading integrated converged solutions provider makes them a perfect partner for ClearOne’s soft-codec-based COLLABORATE video conferencing portfolio.”
COLLABORATE brings together ClearOne’s industry-leading professional audio with its cutting-edge video technology for a complete video conferencing solutions portfolio, spanning mobile and desktop applications, room systems, infrastructure and management.
“ClearOne represents global leadership in the AV industry,” said Mr. Dayal Hemrajani, Chairman, Enkay Technologies. “Partnering with a manufacturer of their reputation to introduce a best-in-class solution such as COLLABORATE to our partners will notably change the Indian video conferencing market.”
# # #
ClearOne is a global company that designs, develops and sells conferencing, collaboration, streaming and digital signage solutions for audio and visual communications. The performance and simplicity of its advanced comprehensive solutions offer unprecedented levels of functionality, reliability and scalability. More information about the company can be found at www.clearone.com
About Enkay Technologies
With over 30 years of experience and great collaboration with world leaders, Enkay Technologies has developed a wide array of cutting-edge products and solutions comprising of Data Networking, IT, Unified Communications, Contact Center, Audio Visual System Integration, Video conferencing, Security Systems & Solutions. More information can be found at www.enkayindia.com
Please find the printable release with included financial tables in our Investor Relations area at the link shown above.
Written on August 26, 2013 at 9:51 am, by ClearOne
In recent years, the growth of video conferencing has been driven by:
+ a drive to control costs
+ a need to reduce response times
+ decreasing costs of video conferencing technology
+ negative events (i.e. war, weather & illness)
+ mergers & acquisitions
+ corporate downsizing
Drive to Control Costs
Most organizations are interested in controlling costs to remain competitive and positively impact the bottom line of the organization. Using video conferencing helps control costs by minimizing the need to constantly travel and improving communications between sites.
Need To Reduce Response Times
As the economy has become more global, with workers doing similar jobs scattered locally, nationally or around the world, there is an increased need to reduce response times. This holds true both for completing work more efficiently, but also solving problems. Using video conferencing can allow work to be accomplished and problems to be solved without the need for travel.
Decreased Costs of Video Conferencing Technology
Since its commercial introduction in 1982, the costs of video conferencing have dropped significantly. Hardware prices have dropped, resulting in anyone being able to afford the purchase of video conferencing technology. In many instances video is available as a standard feature
in devices (think tablets and cell phones). Additionally, no longer must users pay a per minute charge to use video. Instead, the use of video is bundled with the cost of the device or as part of a telephone line used for many purposes. Connectivity costs for video have dropped significantly as video connections have migrated from ISDN lines to dedicated IP lines and the Internet.
As weather has become more violent (i.e. tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.), war has raged, and illnesses have become more global (i.e. H1N1 virus) the desire to find another means to communicate has become a necessity. Video conferencing allows people to stay connected without the need to travel.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Video conferencing is now being used by organizations as they acquire or merge with other firms. With a global economy, mergers & acquisitions are rarely between two organizations located in the same city. Video conferencing has allowed easier transitions and reduced the need for everyone having to travel to complete a merger or acquire another organization.
As organizations have seen the need to decrease in size, video conferencing has proven a useful technology to communicate between sites. Understanding the current state of video conferencing and focusing on return on investment can help organizations increase usage of the technology and better understand its benefits. In many organizations, video conferencing is being viewed as a business necessity and efforts are in place to drive adoption and optimize usage of equipment.
The Current Situation
The use of video conferencing has the potential of increasing productivity and efficiency by reducing unproductive travel time, preventing meeting delays, creating shorter & more structured meetings, and providing faster exchange of information. With video conferencing, and the data collaboration tools that are now used with it, individuals can get information when it is easiest for them, on a real-time or delayed basis. By increasing usage of video conferencing, organizations will quickly see a financial return on investment. Users want technology that is transparent to them and easy to use, allowing them to conduct business independently and efficiently. Users want to improve productivity, increase access to subject matter experts, and allow meetings to be held when and where needed. While these factors may be difficult to quantify and place a dollar value on, there are return on investment formulas that can be used to cost justify the deployment and usage of video conferencing.
We’ll continue our discussion of driving the ROI of video conferencing in next week’s blog. In the meantime, we want to know how do you judge the ROI of video conferencing? What techniques do you use to drive the implementation of video conferencing into the workplace?
Written on August 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm, by ClearOne
Our ClearOne MagicBox office has moved to a new location and we’re happy to still be in beautiful Corvallis, Oregon. Here’s our new address so please update your records accordingly.
408 SW Monroe
Corvallis, OR 97333
phone: (541) 752-5565
Written on August 6, 2013 at 2:07 pm, by ClearOne
ClearOne would like to announce a new partnership with S.K. Macdonald, Inc. (SKMac) as the Manufacturer’s Representative in the US Mid-Atlantic states. SKMac will generate demand for the full portfolio of ClearOne’s video conferencing, pro audio, multimedia streaming, and digital signage solutions.
“S.K. MacDonald is a trusted AV industry veteran, with over 85 years building strong relationships with customers and manufacturers,” said Zee Hakimoglu, Chairman and CEO of ClearOne. “They are a well-recognized audio and video solutions rep, with a ‘no-compromise’ attitude on quality and a push for education down to the end-user level. This new partnership will prove to be a strong opportunity to build further relationships with SKMac’s broad base of value-added resellers.”
“We are thrilled ClearOne has selected SKMac as their rep firm for the Mid-Atlantic. ClearOne’s technologies and leadership position play to the strengths in our company, our resources and our expertise,” said Perry D’Angelo, President of SKMac. “There isn’t a better partner than ClearOne for audio and video conferencing, as we do battle in the Mid-Atlantic A/V marketplace.”