BroadSoft Connections News: Cisco Concentrating on Collaboration
We bring you all the latest Cisco collaboration news from BroadSoft Connections 2018
The BroadSoft Connections event is normally dominated by communication based topics. We bought you the news yesterday relating to Cisco’s new Cloud Calling Application and BroadCloud Calling being added to the Flex Plan, but today collaboration technology took centre stage.
Cisco have made some major product announcements to bolster their proposition in collaboration and meeting rooms. During this year’s Connections event UC Today spoke to Lorrissa Horton, the General Manager for Webex Teams, and Tom Richards, Director of Product Management for the TelePresence Systems Business Unit, to get more information on the latest news and take a look at the collaboration market in general.
Firstly, Cisco have continued their strong provision within the meeting or huddle room space. Targeting the smaller meeting with up to five users they have announced the release of the brand new Webex Room Kit Mini. Although one target market for the new kit is the micro space, Cisco have still chosen to make a host of enterprise class features available within the solution. It will leverage AI technology within its cameras and microphones to try and create an identical experience to those generated by Cisco’s more enterprise level meeting solutions. As well as being suitable for small enclosed spaces, Horton explains that due to its innovative design features it would also be ideal for use in large open plan offices where a smaller meeting area is needed.
“With the Room Kit Mini we have really focused on having that advanced microphone array which captures all the audio directly in front of the device while being able to ignore all of the background sound you don’t want within a space. So now you can take any TV you have in a space put a Room Kit Mini on it and use it for conferencing without having to worry about all the sound in the background.”
The system enables various features all designed to maintain Cisco’s ethos around meeting simplicity. Webex Room Kit Mini will ‘wake up’ when participants enter a room, or its proximity, to completely remove the configuration element and it will also enable the ‘one button’ principle for joining meetings.
The cameras will also enhance the capabilities for video framing and definition, allowing all participants to be represented on a group video call. A persistent problem within professional meeting spaces, framing of video can now be massively improved by innovative solutions utilising the most advanced camera technology. Richards tells us more about how the Webex Room Kit Mini leverages a common chipset which Cisco have unified across their collaboration hardware portfolio, offering various advantages.
“One of the key criteria on which we selected that chipset was that it was capable of doing some pretty serious processing for AI. That means things like, not just face detection, but facial recognition are possible across all of the camera enabled devices. The hardware is future proofed. We also want to examine other possibilities as we move forward around recognising what people are doing within a meeting.”
The capabilities of the hardware allow Cisco to explore the possibility of being able to understand behaviour within a meeting, whether that be engagement with the subject matter, for example.
We also used Connections 2018 to take a closer look at the new Webex Share device. Many screens utilised within organisations have little, or no, capacity for collaboration. Cisco are aiming to rectify this for Webex Teams or Webex Meetings customers with the new device.
Webex Share is an adapter that enables users to transform any HD television or monitor into a collaborative tool. Reducing the requirement for additional cables and dongles, Webex Share wirelessly pairs with the Webex applications, running on either mobile phones or laptops, allowing participants to seamlessly share content. The premise is a well-established one, with Apple TV offering similar functionality for Apple devices in the consumer space. Horton is incredibly excited about the opportunity for the Webex Share.
“I actually think Webex Share is going to be phenomenal, it’s going to be huge – We think the Webex Share will do to HDMI cables what the iPhone has done to the camera industry. You will not need HDMI cables and you will not need to worry about dongles. It will make it so easy to share to any screen in any room.”
Considering the proliferation of Cisco solutions within business the new Webex Share device could hold huge relevance around the globe.
We also wanted to speak to Horton and Richards to understand more about the Webex Teams proposition to the industry in general. It’s an extremely competitive market, Slack continues its impressive growth and the increasing focus placed by Microsoft on their own Teams offering makes the environment for collaboration solutions a crowded one.
Both Richards and Horton believe Cisco’s position is a strong one, despite the crowded market. The industry has seen a recent development with providers trying to round of their own portfolios so that they can offer an entire provision of UC services. Horton provides some more details.
“You are seeing that convergence because it is no longer just about having one capability. Our differentiator is not just a unified client, it’s the entirety of our portfolio. It’s the pairing to your desktop phone, it’s the ability to use all of these devices and the extensive hardware range we have. All of the intelligence capabilities are only available if you can combine all of these areas together and we can do that for customers.”
No other portfolio is as comprehensive as Cisco’s. From endpoint hardware right through to collaboration and communication software Cisco are able to offer their customers innovative offerings in each area. Richards explains that being able to offer that holistic portfolio allows Cisco to provide real innovation to customers when it comes to product interaction and integration.
“Nobody else has a portfolio of devices that can get into every space. We want to be in every space and allow users to stay within one application. My user community has one application where they can work, meet and collaborate in any space they walk into, maintaining the same user experience. That’s what is going to make the difference.”
The additional focus on collaboration at this year’s Connections event is a clear indication of Cisco’s target trajectory, not only for BroadSoft, but for the brand as a whole. Offering a holistic integrated range of solutions in every area of technology maintains their position as a powerful and influential force.