Without a doubt, one of the greatest advances in the use of technology was the development of the video conference. There is an enormous amount of value in the ability to look into the eyes of the other users sharing the conference with you. The technology has not always been available, of course. What was once seen only in the video phones of the Jetsons cartoon is now more-or-less available to any interested person. The capability of speaking with another person electronically with video support was actually born around the same time as the television. In Berlin, Germany, in the late 1930’s a basic analog version of the videophone was available to the public at the central post office with the ability to speak to the several cities in Germany.
From the 1950’s through the 1970’s several systems were developed, but they all failed mostly due to the lack of supporting networks. Just like the telephone decades before wasn’t able to flourish until enough lines were erected to support widespread use. It was not until the 1980’s with the adaptation of the ISDN network that what was known as digital telephony became possible and communication between personal computers was beginning to become popular. In 1986, AT&T/Bell Labs introduced a full-motion video conferencing system, but it was not until the 1990’s when Internet Protocol (IP) based networks joined together to form what we now know as the Internet, that personal computer video conferencing became available to anyone.
In the present technology-enhanced environment, businesses can conduct important meetings, presentations, and negotiations over vast distances in real-time with almost no limit on the number of people involved. Each participant can see and hear the others, share files, and can even take part in the sharing of ideas through whiteboard-type drawing sessions. This is the standard of video conferencing today, and it is done with the support of two main types of system. The first is the traditional Standards Based System that involves the installation, or temporary set-up, of specialized hardware for each group of participants, in an office or other location. The second type is a hosted method known as a Managed Based System. This type uses equipment already in use by the participants, like personal computers, tablets, smart-phones, or other mobile devices. A third party whose software is used over the Internet to provide the features of the conference manages the video conferencing. Both of these systems are equally useful and each has benefits that make it better suited for one set of needs or another. Rethink Innovations can supply you with either system, and a brief explanation of each will make selecting the best system for your needs possible.
The LifeSize Bridge is one of the best Standards Based systems available and supplied by RI. It is promoted as a “hardware-based multiparty calling solution”, meaning that each point of contact for the conference (eg: a computer running one of the standard operating systems) is connected to a port on a hardware device that is then clustered with other similar devices anywhere in the world. Specialized cables do not need to be run to each point to use this system; it can be incorporated into your existing network in the server room. The units supplied come in a variety of upgradable capacities from 8 to 16 ports and can be clustered up to 10 units with a special license. This specific system can be expanded up to 48 participants on a single call or even hundreds when cascading multiple LifeSize Bridge systems. Using this variety of options, you can customize your installation to fit your specific needs.
Because this is a video conferencing system, the quality of the video and audio is, of course a main concern. One of the benefits of a Standards Based System like the LifeStyle Bridge is the high quality video supported. There is an encoder for each participant that supplies custom bandwidths, frame rates, and resolutions for a variety of screens, up to 1080p and 720p60 without loss of capacity or capability. Video is supported for Standard and High Definition (HD), regular and Widescreen. Audio is crystal clear with wideband audio mixing and background noise reduction. These are benefits exclusive to a Standards Based system because the quality of the audio and video is standardized at the unit hardware.
With this system, you get the features required to run scheduled or impromptu conferences. Participants log in, at different levels, to a utility that provides incredible control and features. Thousands of virtual meeting rooms can be used, with customizable drag-and drop layouts, each with their own address. Interactive overlays, split screening and multi-language support are some other features supplied specifically by the LifeStyle Bridge that make it particularly desirable. Even though listing these features may sound something like a commercial, the real point to understand is that the features are hardware based making them the same for all participants and this is one of the main reasons to choose the Standards Based system. Especially in the case of a permanent installation, or one where a variety of features for conferencing is desired, this type of system is optimum. LifeSize Bridge, offered by Rethink Innovations, has a price per port that is reportedly the lowest in the industry, offering full HD at 1/3 the price of its nearest competitor. If accessibility from a wider variety of devices, and locations, or video conferencing on the move is a concern- a Managed Based system like the LPS Connect may be a better choice.
The main premise behind a Managed Based system is that the end point for the participant can be any supported device and the conferencing is managed by software at a central location. Aside from the wider variety of accessibility options, the ease-of use is probably the main reason businesses choose this option. Another unique feature is that for companies already using a Standards Based system, a Managed Based system can be incorporated to extend functionality. Unlike the former type, this type of system can be implemented immediately without any installation. A business can have any participants using a desktop or laptop computer at their office, home, or any travelling location, participate in conferences. In fact, any computer or mobile unit with Internet access can be used. A participant could even gain access to a conference with their smart-phone on a commuter train if they chose.
The Managed Based system distributed by RI is the LPS Connect. It supports PC’s running Windows or Mac operating systems, iPads and iPhones or Android devices like tablets or smart-phones. The client software for this system is free and easily accessible. The mobile applications are all downloadable, as are the browser plug-ins. All that is needed is for the organizer of the conference/meeting to email a link to the invitee. Once the participant clicks on the link they will be required to download the client software if it is their first time attending. Once the client is installed, they will be provided with access to the specific virtual conference room that they are interested in. The LPS System uses the power of The Cloud to support its capabilities.
Although the video and audio are only as good as the equipment of the end user, it is not usually this quality that attracts users to this system. Nevertheless the quality is still of the highest available for mobile technologies, and High Definition is available for those devices capable of supporting it. Some of the same screen overlay and split features offered by the other system are available with the LPS Connect system. The client software is easy to learn and use, and has many security features of Standards Based systems.
In the end, systems, the Standards Based system, the LifeStyle Bridge, and the Managed Based system, the LPS Connect, are capable of supporting high-quality video conferencing services. They are both supplied here at Rethink Innovations and either can be adjusted to most company’s budgets. The choice of one over the other is dependent solely on each businesses specific need. If you desire a permanent installation, one that can supply very high quality audio and video capabilities, or a system with a wider variety of configurability and customization, then a Standards Based system is probably the best choice. If it is ease of use, a small learning curve, and accessibility from a wide variety of computers and mobile devices, then the Managed Base system is optimum. Whichever system your company chooses you can be sure that the ability to conference face-to-face over distance can only improve your business overall.