Tag Archives: ClearOne Video Conferencing
Can a conference room truly be “intelligent,” to accommodate your connection, communication, and collaboration needs? Does such a conference room actually exist?
A conference room has to accommodate people at different levels, different skill sets, with different types of connection and communication needs – it could be a local connection point to locally present from your own device, or to bridge someone at a remote location for audio/video conferencing. The life of a conference room is always busy…it must be set up efficiently to accommodate a variety of user needs. This new conference room model has become known in the industry as the “all-in-one conference room”.
As an AV Integrator, what does it take to cover all these possibly functions of the all-in-one conference room? You may want to ask yourself the following questions:
In-Room Local Meetings
One of the major applications of these all-in-one conference rooms is local, in-room presentations and sharing. Wired connections are a thing of the past, legacy systems which also have the challenges of different formats, types of connectors, etc. Wireless collaboration technology has taken over the way participants share and collaborate information.
• Does your conference room support cross-platform Windows, Mac, iOS, Android devices for presentation?
• Can multiple users share and collaborate information simultaneously? 4-6 simultaneous participant connectivity is common.
• Do you need white boarding / annotation functions?
• Is your conference room content secured? Can it generate a dynamic PIN for your session?
• Can your conference room capture the content from this meeting? Does this capture include audio, video camera and data for future use?
• Can your room stream this content live and/or on-demand?
Audio calls are still a favored method of communication, to join a webinar or to connect with someone who does not have a video-enabled device.
• Do you have a professional audio system to handle modern room acoustic challenges?
• Is it designed to cover participants who stand/sit away from the conference room table?
• Does it support PSTN and/or VOIP Connectivity?
Can this all-in-one conference room host a web conference? Times have changed. Web conferencing is now much more productive with video and media collaboration, rather than simply being an audio call. The true advantage of web conferencing is its ability to accommodate a large number of participants.
• Does your room support simple plug-and-play connectivity from your laptop to host a conference?
• Does your cloud application support cross-platform BYOD?
• Do you have a professional camera and professional audio support to deliver your message loud and clear?
Video conferencing adoption has grown immensely in recent years and it will continue to do so. All of us are aware of the benefits of video conferencing.
• Your room must be capable of interoperating with other manufacturer’s solutions.
• H.323/SIP and H.460 support is required to ensure a smooth connectivity to legacy systems.
• Modern-age conference rooms require recording and archiving of conferences for future use.
• Streaming of conferences is often required for overflow rooms.
• Conference rooms must be equipped with multi-party capability to connect multiple locations at the same time.
ClearOne COLLABORATE® Pro 900 offers a complete media collaboration solution to meet today’s diverse organizational demands for conferencing, collaboration, and communication.
Its versatile design makes it ideal for multiple applications including videoconferencing, professional audio conferencing, wireless presentations and collaborations, training, corporate announcements, etc.
• Brings traditional SIP/H.323 videoconferencing and cloud video collaboration into a single appliance for multi-site collaboration with up to 25 sites.
• Award-winning Beamforming Microphone Array and market-leading CONVERGE® Pro DSP mixer for best-in-class professional audio.
• Perfect for both single-site and multi-site interactive collaboration.
• Multi-purpose solution for multiple applications – videoconferencing, professional audio conferencing, wireless presentation and collaboration, capture and recording station, streaming and distribution.
• Multi-source collaboration with simultaneous capture of up to 4 video input sources.
• Single point of support and maintenance for your complete collaboration and conferencing needs.
ClearOne recently held their Asia-Pacific 2014 partner conference in Hong Kong, to discuss the company vision and market strategy. Over 75 partners attend the event, with some coming from as far away as Saudia Arabia, South Korea, and Japan. Many of the partners commented on how ClearOne has transformed from a simple audio company, into a global company that provides voice and visual communication solutions.
Zee Hakimoglu, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of ClearOne demonstrated the latest innovations such as Spontania, COLLABORATE® Room Pro, and the VIEW® Pro, and discussed the strategies for the sales teams, and channel partners.
We want to thank all those that attended the conference.
Beamforming arrays date back over 100 years, and were first used in the military for determining the bearing and location of aircraft, ships, and submarines. Until the mid 1970’s, when microprocessors became widely available, these arrays were 100% acoustic and fairly primitive. Modern software development and digital signal processing techniques have substantially advanced the state of the art of this technology. With good design and engineering, it’s now possible to employ an advanced microphone array system to capture desired sounds and produce a highly intelligible, superior-quality audio signal.
Also known as spatial filtering, beamforming can be applied to both sound waves and radio energy, and thus is sometimes discussed in the context of cellular telephones, wireless networking, biomedicine, sonar, seismology, and even radio astronomy.
This paper focuses exclusively on beamforming as a method of sensing and filtering acoustic waves for enterprise video and telephone conferencing applications, and describes emerging techniques and technologies to improve the capture and processing of acoustic patterns, and the clarity of human speech in corporate conference rooms.
Acoustic Beamforming Theory
Research Scientist Andrew A. Ganse of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington explains that “The basic point in beamforming is, when you set multiple transducers next to each other sending out signals [or listening for sound waves], you’re going to get a kind of interference pattern, just like you see in a pond when you throw several stones in at once and create interfering ripples. If you select the spacing between your transducers and the delay in the transducers’ signals just right, you can create an interference pattern that’s to your benefit, in particular one in which the majority of the signal energy all goes out in one angular direction.”
By combining elements [i.e., antennas or microphones] in a phased array, so that signals at particular angles experience constructive interference while others experience destructive interference, beamforming can be used to achieve spatial selectivity and elimination of unwanted signals.
Beamforming microphones are part of a larger family of mics considered to be high-directionality, or perhaps ultra-directional microphones, due to their stunning sound quality, advanced performance, and similarities to phased-array radar.
As all sound professionals know, an omnidirectional microphone is one that picks up sound from all directions. The disadvantage of omni mics is that they often result in a sound feed that is reverberant, or hollow, and full of ambient noise from all directions in a room. A basic directional microphone still in common use today is the cardioid mic, perfected in the early 1940’s. Cardioid mics sound less reverberant and less noisy than omni mics because they attenuate off-axis reflected audio and noise by reducing sound pickup from the sides and rear. But cardioid mics have limited selectivity or filtering capabilities, which can be surpassed using beamforming technology.
Beamforming can be used to select, or focus on, just those sounds or voices that you want conference participants to hear, while rejecting all unwanted sounds. Selecting desired sound sources and rejecting undesirable sounds has been the goal of audio engineers for most of a century. With acoustic beamforming and integrated digital signal processing made possible by modern microprocessors and software, this is now technologically possible.
Traditional directional microphones may be used in conferencing applications to perform limited spatial filtering to improve audio quality. These microphones have an acoustic pattern that selectively picks up desired sound waves in one region of space and rejects others.
Beamforming is a signal processing technique carried out by a processor using input from the beamforming microphone array. The signals from the various microphones are combined such that signals at particular angles experience constructive interference, while others experience destructive interference.
Superior spatial selectivity can be achieved using beamforming techniques so that certain regions (sound directions) can be amplified, and other regions can be significantly attenuated. Beamforming processing components can also be configured to attenuate unwanted sounds originating from the direction of a door or window into the conference room.
To adjust and tune the directionality of the array to focus on desired sounds, a beamforming array system adjusts the phase and amplitude of the sounds reaching each microphone, to create a pattern of constructive and destructive interference in the wave front. Information from different microphones is then combined such that the expected acoustic pattern is preferentially processed and fed into the conferencing audio stream.
Advanced beamforming techniques employ interference patterns to change the directionality of the array, so that information collected from the various microphones can be combined to give preference to the expected acoustic patterns. Adaptive beamforming algorithms may also be included to automatically adapt to different situations and environments.
The most advanced, state-of-the-art enterprise video and teleconferencing systems today employ professionally engineered beamforming microphone arrays and associated components and processors.
The Emergence of Beamforming for Conferencing Applications
It’s common practice in audio/video teleconferencing systems to deploy a grouping of cardioid microphones, placed on a tabletop or mounted in the ceiling. When each directional mic is properly aimed at an individual and connected to a professional conferencing mixer, excellent audio pickup can be achieved. Similar results can be accomplished with wireless lapel or hand mics.
In a boardroom environment, however, there is frequently a desire to maintain a clean, cultured, corporate image, and a collection of microphones resting on tabletops or hanging from ceilings can be visually disruptive and damaging to interior designers’ esthetic goals. Integrated three-microphone arrays offer a reduction in the number of visible microphone elements, but nonetheless have a hard technical look that may also inhibit an ultra-clean, styled appearance.
Other disadvantages of tabletop and ceiling microphone strategies include the extra work that goes into maintaining numerous microphones, checking wireless batteries and sound levels, the inconvenience of worrying about whether everyone has remembered to clip on their wireless mics, whether any noise is being introduced, and constantly optimizing mixer levels. There are also high costs associated with mics, mounts, stands, cables, installation, and upkeep.
In contrast, a modern beamforming mic array delivers the ultimate in convenience, speech intelligibility, sound quality, and reliable communications. Beamforming arrays are less visually intrusive, and when mounted strategically, can disappear unobtrusively into the background.
With an array on a conference room table or mounted on ceiling or wall, the various microphone elements in the array, along with associated steering algorithms, digital signal processing, and echo cancellation can “zoom in” acoustically on individual conference participants and deliver sound quality that is superior to traditional conference room sound-gathering methodologies.
World’s First Professional-Grade, 24-Element Beamforming Microphone Array
The convergence of modern conference room interior design with advances in acoustic technology and digital signal processing is accentuated by the recent availability of the ClearOne 24-element Beamforming Microphone Array, the first solution of its kind in the professional audio industry.
Made possible by ClearOne’s beamforming technology, digital signal processing, adaptive steering – think of it as smart beam selection, and next-generation acoustic echo canceling processes, the 24-element Beamforming Microphone Array system is a groundbreaking, integrated teleconferencing system consisting of microphone capsules, on-board-processing, advanced software, and a connected digital electronics mixer stack.
As many as ten traditional microphones can be removed from a conference room and replaced by the sleek, attractive enclosure of the beamforming array. The on-board intelligence, spatial filtering, and signal processing capabilities of the integrated system give it twice the pick-up range of other microphones and significantly reduce height, distance, and angle constraints.
Each Beamforming Microphone Array unit operates in collaboration with a ClearOne CONVERGE® Pro conferencing system, which shares processing tasks and provides echo cancellation, noise cancellation, filtering, gating, level control, and adaptive acoustic modeling to deliver the most natural conferencing audio experience possible.
The combined beamforming and signal processing technologies automatically steer tightly-focused audio pickup beams towards people speaking, and filter out unwanted sounds and reflections to reduce room noises and eliminate those hollow reverberant sounds that commonly plague conference room environments.
Beams that would be aimed towards unwanted regions, such as windows, doors, or noise sources, can be disabled by the installer in software. Up to three beamforming arrays can be attached to each supported CONVERGE Pro system, and as many as sixteen beamforming arrays along with six required CONVERGE Pro conferencing systems can be networked together to provide coverage in multiple regions, rooms, or portions of a building.
Simplicity and Ease of Installation
The ClearOne Beamforming Microphone Array is a plug-and-play device that can be easily configured, customized and installed. Minimal configuration is required, since the technology is completely internalized. The array’s sophistication, and its associated software, processors, and electronics are so intelligently implemented, that a technician with average audio conferencing skills is capable of performing the installation and configuration.
+ The ClearOne Beamforming Microphone Array is no more complicated to install and setup than any other microphone. Integrators experienced in the installation and configuration of typical conference microphones can easily configure the array.
+ The only connections required are a single Power over Ethernet (PoE) and one audio connection to the expansion bus of the CONVERGE Pro unit. No custom cables, no wiring terminal blocks, or any other onnections are needed.
+ Although completely customizable to meet the needs of nearly every application, the ClearOne Beamforming Microphone Array default configuration works right out of the box. Unlike standard conference microphones which require experience in configuring proper gain structure between devices, the Beamforming Microphone Array is pre-configured to work directly with the internal gain structure of the CONVERGE Pro. When installed according to ClearOne guidelines, the only adjustments will be minor gain changes to customize levels for your application.
The Ultimate in Teleconferencing Sound Quality
In the world of professional audio and video teleconferencing – beamforming microphone arrays and their associated mixers, digital signal processors, and echo-canceling functions represent the newest, most advanced technological innovations, breaking new ground for teleconference sound fidelity, clarity, and intelligibility.
Modern beamforming technology has the proven ability to surpass traditional techniques for clearly capturing and reproducing human voices in conferencing applications, and rejecting unwanted sounds, to optimize collaboration and understanding among conference participants.
When conveniently installed in conference center ceilings, walls, or tabletops, beamforming microphone systems deliver the best, most unobtrusive options for the physical placement of microphones, making them the superior choice for flawless conferencing audio in any setting.
This post continues our discussion on the value of standalone video endpoints.
Cloud-based video conferencing gives organizations the benefits of video conferencing without major investment in infrastructure or network that is often required for many deployments. Cloud-based services deliver the value of high-quality video conferencing without the upfront costs for equipment and staff that are usually needed to set up and manage video calls.
Cloud-based services make video easily accessible to anyone, anywhere whether they are using video in a room, at the desktop or on a mobile device. Video service in the cloud offers opportunities for businesses of all sizes to access video conferencing technologies in a way that is easy to use, affordable, and not dependent on in-house IT resources.
Applications For Standalone Systems
A large pharmaceutical firm used a standalone video unit when there was a need to have a subject matter expert, located in a foreign country, participate in a seminar held in the United States. The availability of a standalone video unit made it easy for the firm to connect the individual into a call. A phone line was used as a backup in case the video call failed. There was no worry about in-house infrastructure or the need to find a firm to host the call.
The value of a standalone video unit was useful to engineers from a packaged goods company who needed to immediately focus on an assembly line problem. In the past, traditional video conferencing units and in-house infrastructure issues made it difficult to handle problems with a moment’s notice. Video conferences had to be planned.
Standalone video units, with an embedded MCU, recording & streaming capabilities, make it easier to hold a video call when needed. Cloud service offerings can be used to reach outside firms (B2B) or consumer locations (B2C). Now true video conferencing portability is a reality.
ClearOne’s COLLABORATE® Room Advantages
ClearOne COLLABORATE® room solutions are standalone, serverless video units that offer best-in-class video conferencing and collaboration at a price-point and feature set vastly superior to competing room conferencing solutions. Collaborate Room systems are available for small to large sized rooms. These systems are plug & play devices that are easy to set-up, operate and upgrade. ClearOne’s COLLABORATE® offers the following advantages:
+ Self-contained, Serverless
+ Multi-standard – H.323 and SIP
+ Embedded MCU
+ Embedded Recording
+ Embedded Streaming (both uni-cast & multicast)
Deployment and usage of video conferencing systems no longer need to be difficult. No longer is there a need to invest in cumbersome in-house infrastructure, nor is there a need to deploy systems that are time consuming and difficult to install when considering video conferencing at secondary sites. Standalone, server independent deployment is now available to allow organizations to grow their adoption of video conferencing and offer easy to use, full-featured, technology. These systems are designed for small and medium-sized organizations or for secondary sites of larger enterprises.
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.
As organizations continue to deploy video conferencing units in a wider variety of conference rooms there is a desire to install systems that are standalone endpoints, which don’t require the need to invest and deploy a cumbersome in-house infrastructure. Additionally these server independent units provide flexibility, immediacy and portability.
Even though there is a growing trend to desktop and mobile video conferencing, there is still significant demand to conduct conferences in pre-set rooms or executive offices equipped with dedicated devices with higher quality audio systems and cameras.
Standalone video systems can be used to host small conferences with their embedded MCU (multipoint control unit) and provide recording and basic streaming services. When needed, these systems can use cloud services for better reach and capacity for both B2B (business-to business) and B2C (business- to- consumer) use cases.
The concept of standalone endpoints marries well with the BYOD (bring your own device) trend and can reduce cost and complexity for SMB (small/medium businesses) and secondary sites for larger organizations.
In the earlier days of video conferencing many room systems were large and unwieldy appliances with complex user interfaces. This resulted in video conferencing being cumbersome and not user friendly. The appliance was eliminated from room based systems when video conferencing set top boxes were introduced. These units were easier to install and sat on top of a television monitor. Eventually there was a drive to PC-based systems with self contained codecs that worked with web cams. Software based video conferencing products were bundled with a camera and microphones.
Standalone video endpoints were initially designed to sit on the desktop for personal participation in a video call. Today these standalone video endpoints are useful in any room, on any desktop and as a mobile app. for a variety of B2B and B2C applications.
The technology has evolved from large, cumbersome systems to systems that are stand-alone and portable with all functionality bundled into the system. This evolution now makes it possible to install self-contained, full-featured video conferencing systems wherever they are needed.
Standalone video endpoints are inexpensive and easy to set up. They provide flexibility and allow for instantaneous meetings in the office or away from work (mobile and serverless), since the technology is easy to install and inexpensive enough to allow installation at secondary sites (i.e. home and smaller office sites). Users like the immediacy of the technology and are using these units for a variety of applications. No longer is there worry about cumbersome in-house infrastructure or the need for a multipoint control unit.
Until the advent of self-contained systems, organizations wishing to connect more than two sites together had to use a multipoint control unit (MCU) to make these connections. Standalone systems now have an MCU embedded in them, thus reducing the complexity and cost of using an external MCU and avoiding firewall issues.
Additionally, these units offer the value of recording and basic streaming services so information from meetings can be saved and others, at a distance, can view the meeting either as it happens or afterwards.
We’ll continue our discussion of the value of standalone video endpoints in our blog next week. In the meantime, what are your thoughts about Video endpoints? What value does it add to your clients? We’d love to read your thoughts in our comments section.
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