June 2016 - Advanced AV

The Web Real-Time Communication Revolution

Innovators are constantly looking to improve online communications. The next wave in internet communication is hitting mainstream business in the form of video conferencing embedded directly into your browser. Also known as Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), this open-source technology has gained steam over the past few years and will increase efficiency and streamline communication processes.

Increase Adoption Rates

WebRTC allows browsers to participate in voice calls, video conferences, and data sharing operations directly without applications or plug-ins. Because of its ease of use and cost efficiency, WebRTC is currently enjoying an explosion in popularity; according to some models, the WebRTC sector may be worth a staggering 4.45 billion dollars by 2020. Experts attribute the trend to a few key factors:

Cost. As far as communications go, WebRTC remains the most cost-effective option for businesses of all sizes. Desk phone services are disappearing as companies realize that hard-wired communication devices run them an average of $25 a month per employee. Soft phone connections (ones that use the internet) cost an average of $15 per employee. Open-source technology like WebRTC is free, so businesses only need to pay for a reliable internet connection.

Functionality. Today’s workforce is increasingly mobile, and employees are no longer chained to their desks. Companies need innovative solutions that employees can use from their own mobile devices. WebRTC provides companies with the flexibility they need to communicate with their widespread workforce.

Internet and cloud-based communication systems allow managers to track their data in real time. For example, a manager can analyze data to determine the optimum length of communication for closing a sale based on the data of their best salespeople.

Familiarity. As younger generations enter the workforce, internet-based communication is the norm, not the […]

By |June 28th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

How Big Data is Changing the UC Landscape

The field of Big Data and Analytics grows simultaneously more advanced and more accessible every day. Most industries are finding great potential in its offerings. Unfortunately, as avenues for data collection continue to multiply, it’s hard to keep track of all of them at one time. Unified Communications (UC) technology is just one of those avenues, and too many solutions providers are failing to apply proper analytics to the data it generates. Those that do, however, are setting the pace for Big Data UC standards and reaping the benefits that come with it.

Reporting That Leads to Operational Efficiency

Texas-based VOSS is an example of a company that has adopted an analytics-facing focus, which allows their UC users to check out analytics reports on their systems and subsequently focus on better operational efficiency. What VOSS has found is that when an enterprise at large can analyze internal user data, small trends show up in reports that might not have been obvious otherwise. For example, usage data may inform a company about software tools provided to employees that are being either over or under-utilized. This knowledge helps the organization make better business decisions about which software licenses to renew or drop for specific users.

It can be helpful to look at productivity levels when implementing new solutions. Introducing too many new tools at once can be overwhelming for employees and make them less productive, which defeats the purpose of UC solutions in the first place. On top of that, by looking at correlations between tool selection, usage, and productivity, managers can begin to see what works best and start offering only necessary tools and bolstering worker productivity.

Complete Communications that Improve Collaboration

The point of UC is essentially to break down […]

By |June 23rd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

The Rise of Ransomware: What Higher Ed IT Teams Need to Know

As the world grows more and more connected, the amount of valuable data—and the number of cyberattacks on that data—also grows. In early 2016, the University of Central Florida experienced firsthand how sought-after that data can be after hackers gained access to 63,000 Social Security numbers belonging to current and former students and staff. While the breach didn’t include credit card, financial, or medical information, it does serve to highlight how vulnerable the IT infrastructures of institutions of higher education can be, especially in relation to the rising problem of crypto ransomware.

What is Ransomware?

With the explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), the propensity for consumers to store valuable, sentimental, and encrypted information on personal devices has gone through the roof. While this data isn’t always universally valuable, most users would be devastated to lose it; ransomware uses this idea to its malicious advantage.

Unlike traditional types of malware, ransomware doesn’t aim to extract valuable information of any kind. Instead, a ransomware attack aims to lock down a computer, making every bit of essential information stored on the hard drive inaccessible until the hacker’s demands are met. The computer and everything on it is virtually held for ransom, as its name suggests. In an interview with Wall Street Journal, Chris Stangl, Section Chief of the FBI’s Cyber Division, recently described ransomware as a “prevalent, increasing threat” that is expected to worsen as the year goes on. 

Back it Up—or Pay the Cost

The reason that ransomware is so devastating is that there’s is nothing anybody can do to disinfect your computer—not an IT staff, not the Geek Squad, and not even the FBI. Short of wiping the hard drive clean or paying the ransom, the user is […]

By |June 21st, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Vital Questions to Ask a Prospective Managed Services Partner (MSP)

Enterprises hoping to maximize return on their AV tech investments are increasingly turning to managed service partners (MSP) who will offer continued support and specialty services after the purchase of their products. The devil is in the details, however, and those considering signing with a prospective MSP should make sure they ask these vital questions before they pull the trigger.

What Exactly Does the SLA Cover?

Knowing everything that your service level agreements (SLA) cover (and don’t cover) is the first step in figuring out whether or not your prospective MSP is the choice for your organization. An SLA will detail everything from security features and guaranteed response times to accountability assignation in the event of a situation. Nebulous SLAs can cause confusion, on the other hand, and systems may remain down for much longer than they need to as both entities try to figure out who is responsible for doing what. Other provisions, such as equipment loans in the face of repairs or replacement, can also be hammered out in the SLA. Perhaps the most important thing to remember and to consider is whether or not your MSP is willing to customize its agreements and services to suit your specific needs—the best ones will.

Will Remote Monitoring and Testing Be Provided?

A good MSP will provide both remote testing of each component of your AV system as well as monitoring of the system’s overall status. Closed-loop tests will periodically power up and exercise critical systems, actively reporting on and weeding out problems such as deterioration of image or microphone quality. If one of these systems or its components is acting wonky, you’ll want to be notified in real-time so that you can initiate repairs […]

By |June 16th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

The IoT Has Arrived: What AV Pros Need to Know to Prepare for a Connected Society

The connected society is upon us. In the last year, the Internet of Things (IoT) has gone from an ambiguous buzzword and the technology behind connected home appliances to a growing network of sensors, wearables, and data-driven devices that are poised to change the world. Every corner of society is going to be connected in one way or another, and the AV industry is no different.

Teleconferencing rooms and telepresence robots on campuses and universities are just two examples of how the IoT is transforming the audiovisual industry. AV professionals looking to stay on top of their game are going to want to brush up on and pay attention to six different IoT-specific skills:

IPv6 Standard

As more devices become connected to the Internet, more addresses need to be assigned to these devices. The protocol has traditionally always been IPv4 (you may recognize the IP address “127.0.0.1” as home, for example), indicated by four sets of numbers ranging 0-999. Unfortunately, the old protocol essentially became obsolete in 2015 when North America ran out of IPv4. IPv6 is the replacement standard, and should provide an almost infinite amount of addresses for future devices. IPv6-enabled implementations are already required of vendors working with public sector clients, and will soon become the dominant standard everywhere else.

Wireless Networking

Everything nowadays is wireless. Customers and users from the ground-level up to the C-Suite are beginning to expect as much from their AV solutions. Telepresence robots are controlled wirelessly and represent a more complicated end of the spectrum, while a mere absence of wires in the meeting room represents the new, simple standard moving forward.

Power Over Ethernet (PoE)

For those devices that are not wireless and connect via copper cabling, the ability to power them with […]

By |June 9th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Telepresence: Changing the Face of the World as We Know It

Technologies such as audio, video, the internet, and advanced robotics are changing the face of the world as we know it. Advancements in those technologies have led to lower prices and better quality, allowing users to see and hear crystal clear images and audio, and providing an immersive experience—as if they were in the same room with one another. The essence of telepresence is this: an experience akin to augmented reality where connection and collaboration over long distances are (ideally) indistinguishable from a geographically proximal meeting. Universities and higher education institutions around the globe are beginning to catch on, providing telepresence rooms to connect different researchers all working on the same projects, albeit in different parts of the world, as well as support for telepresence robots that now afford distance learners a virtual campus experience.

Telepresence Rooms

Telepresence falls into two different categories: robots and rooms. Telepresence rooms are gaining in popularity in business and academia as unified communications solutions because the products have become so refined and affordable. In the past, two researchers wishing to share findings with one another would either have to wait for a conference, a face-to-face meeting or suffer the grainy resolution and consistently dropped audio of video solutions of the past, which often rendered the experience useless.

Today new telepresence systems employ life-size HD displays with built-in, remote-controlled high-definition cameras and audio equipment supported by high-bandwidth connectivity. Scientists have helped to make these systems prevalent on campuses because sharing findings via new telepresence technology is strikingly realistic. The California Community Colleges Confer project is one current supporter of telepresence systems, allowing those within their system to meet and share findings remotely, while students from both the University of Melbourne and the University […]

By |June 8th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Balancing Connection in an Uber-Connected World

We all know the cliché. The woman who wakes up, reaches for the phone, checks her email, RSS feeds, social media notifications, industry news reports—the works—all before she gets out of bed. Or maybe it’s the man who, after the morning shower, sits down at the kitchen table with his family, buries his nose in his iPhone, and responds to industry partners, pays the household bills, and checks market reports while breakfast gets cold. As technology further permeates every aspect of our lives, many of us see versions of ourselves in these examples. Pew Research’s latest study on teen Internet usage reports on how often teens and adults find themselves online reflect that reality, adding, for the first time, “almost constantly” connected as a survey option. This survey option marks uncharted territory, indicating that we’ve become more connected than we ever have been before—but is all this connection a good thing?

“Almost Constantly” Connected is Becoming the Norm

The “almost constantly” option first showed up in Pew’s report on teens in April of 2015 and was used again in their December report on adults later that year. Almost a quarter of teen respondents, 24 percent, stated that they were “almost constantly” online while 21 percent of adults indicated the same. In comparison, 42 percent of adults stated that they go online “several times a day,” 10 percent reported “about once a day,” 6 percent reported “several times a week”, and 7 percent chose “less often”. Only 13 percent of adults in this survey reported that they did not use the internet at all.

Pew’s survey and reports were related mostly to usage of smartphones and other mobile internet devices, supported by findings from an earlier Pew Report that […]

By |June 7th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments
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