Video conferencing was hailed as a key business tool at the Microsoft-Kathea customer summit held in Johannesburg in February.

Focused on new unified visual communication technologies, the conference was attended by more than 50 representatives from local enterprises. Speakers at the three-day event included Fred Baumhandt from Microsoft, Greg Drake from Kathea and Ismayeel Syed from Aviva in the UK.

“Video conferencing is very important to business, not just for true remote employee engagement and global collaboration, but also for accessing human resources regardless of whether based at HQ, branch office, working from home or travelling in between,’ explained Syed.

A renowned consultant in digital media and unified communications, Syed also urged companies to embrace free videoconferencing platforms such as Skype.
“Small businesses that have very limited budgets can rapidly deploy Skype for free and start visually collaborating. Once the mind-set has been switched to VC via Skype, more integration and third party add ons can be adopted to extend the experience,’ he said.

Enterprise broadcasting

Syed also talked about his own telepresence solution, EnterpriseTV, which allows companies to broadcast live to their clients at minimal cost.

“The beauty of EnterpriseTV is that it requires very minimum resources; you need only one camera and a green background, and the solution offers a plethora of collaboration features. EnterpriseTV has resonated a lot with over 500 South African customers we presented to during the summit and we look forward to the first few SA implementations of it,’ said Syed after the summit.

New products

Two major collaborative releases from Polycom (the EagleEye Director camera and the CX 7000 console) were showcased on the last day of the summit.

Built by Polycom and Microsoft, the EagleEye Director is a room camera tracking system designed to enhance video conferencing experiences through close-up views of every speaker in a video conference, regardless of their location or the number of people in the room. With fully automated camera pan, tilt and zoom motions, the EagleEye Director resolves the common problem in video conferencing of seeing all participants during a meeting, but not being able to see facial expressions of the person talking. By highlighting, zooming in and framing active speakers, everyone can clearly see critical facial expressions and read the subtle body language which enables deeper engagement and more effective meetings. An array of seven microphones in the base of the unit allows amazing results in rooms of all shapes and sizes, making it the ideal solution for large conference rooms, class rooms and board rooms.

The CX7000 was designed to be used in a similar manner to a traditional video conferencing system, but the cherry on top is that it is specifically optimised for Microsoft Lync. So in addition to regular video calling to other Lync users, CX7000 owners get a full Lync collaboration experience in the meeting room. This console combines all the powerful features of Lync with high definition (HD) telepresence, voice and an array of collaboration features. This allows users to join online meetings, receive and make Lync calls, share uploaded content and view or actively collaborate on any content shared by other participants. The system comes with a wireless keyboard, wireless mouse, omni-directional, an EagleEye View camera with built-in microphones, as well as a small footprint PC.

By Eddie Hatitye