Crestron Mercury Review: Tabletop Video Conferencing for Agile Collaboration
Read our Crestron Mercury review
It was not all that long ago that video conferencing was considered a luxury. It was something perhaps only seen in the boardroom, delivered by a suite of expensive, specialised equipment that only the IT team knew how to work.
Things have changed, but even now video communication can often feel like it falls frustratingly short of expectations in business use. With practically everyone carrying around devices which are capable of streaming live video feeds to contacts on the move, video conferencing certainly no longer faces issues with flexibility, scalability and cost.
But how often do we still find that one device cannot talk to another because they are not running the same software? Imagine a client turns up to take part in an important teleconference – only your Cisco Spark platform is not compatible with their Skype for Business. What do you do then?
Across unified communications, interoperability and compatibility between platforms has become a major trend. Vendors have started to recognise that the silos created by proprietary solutions annoy and frustrate end users – in the wireless digital world, everyone wants to be able to connect with everyone else. Not only that, but requiring people to download endless apps makes IT infrastructure for enterprises a tangled mess which is hard to maintain or keep secure.
Crestron is one company working hard to break down the barriers in video conferencing technology. It bills its Mercury product as the only software agnostic all-in-one UC and AV hardware solution on the market – a combined SIP conference phone, screen and video codec designed to plug into whatever communication or collaboration software you happen to be running.
In other words, instead of buying a teleconferencing system which locks you into using one brand of software, Mercury allows anyone to connect from any device. Built to be easy to use and cost effective, the intention is to take collaboration from individual devices and share it openly in a multi-user environment.
What does it look like?
Crestron Mercury is a stylish-looking piece of kit roughly the size of a standard conference phone. The wedge-shaped design cleverly packs all of the main operating hardware, including speakers and microphones, underneath the main touchscreen built into one of the faces, which is conveniently tilted so as many participants as possible can see what is going on. Overall, it is a compact, sleek solution suitable for any kind of meeting space.
What can it do?
The Mercury console is designed to simplify video conferencing. It ships with all the equipment you need – network cables, a USB camera and the console itself – to turn any space into a virtual conferencing hub. Once set up, all you have to do is connect your devices and away you go.
Flexibility is another defining feature of the Mercury. Whether you want to use your device screens, the in-built console screen or connect to an external display board, the Mercury allows you to do all three simultaneously. It includes HDMI ports for routing video to a separate display screen, plus RS-232, CEC and IR controls for external TVs. It also includes an AirMedia gateway, allowing users to wirelessly connect their devices to a large screen for presentation purposes.
The Mercury allows users to connect using any softphone, web conferencing or collaboration application on their device. Whether prospective conference participants are using Skype for Business, Slack, GoTo Meeting, Zoom, Google Hangouts or whatever, the Mercury acts as a hub connecting everyone. You can also use the Mercury to run Skype for Business or Zoom native as browser-based applications, without the need to connect an external device.
As well as video and collaboration capabilities, the Mercury is also a fully functioning SIP conference phone. Built according to the same open architecture as the video platform, the Mercury will connect seamlessly to SIP phone servers from Mitel, Cisco, Avaya, OnSIP, ShoreTel and others. It also provides Bluetooth connectivity so mobile phones can plug in and join the conference. The precision engineered speakers and microphones deliver HD quality audio on all video and telephone conferences.
Scheduling is easy, with direct integration to both Microsoft Exchange and Crestron Fusion. Room calendars are displayed on screen, with one-touch booking and meeting launch. A neat touch is the optional PinPoint proximity beacon, which in large offices with several Mercury consoles installed, will scan for one that is free for impromptu meetings.
What do we like?
There is no mystery to what makes the Crestron Mercury an attractive product. In a world where software developers are just catching on to open standards and compatibility, the Mercury offers a convenient way to make video conferencing accessible to all users, no matter what UC or collaboration platform they happen to be using. This is great for encouraging a BYOD culture and for opening up teleconferencing to clients and partners visiting from outside.
Who is it for?
The Crestron Mercury is a very flexible and accessible video conferencing solution suitable for a wide range of uses. Its ease of use affordable price point make it an ideal product for smaller businesses to get started with video conferencing, while its compact size and in-built scheduling support also make it a useful tool for larger businesses looking to roll out several huddle spaces.
What is it compatible with?
The Crestron Mercury is built with an open architecture to be compatible with all softphones, web conferencing, UC and collaboration software platforms. It functions as a SIP conference phone compatible with Mitel, Cisco, Avaya, OnSIP and Shoretel systems and integrates with Microsoft Exchange and Crestron Fusion for calendars and scheduling.
UC Today Opinion
Collaboration is one of the major trends reshaping UC and is much a reflection of changing demands for how people communicate in the workplace as it is the emergence of new technologies. In a world where people want greater flexibility in how they talk, interact and work together, mobility is no longer enough. They want to be able to connect and collaborate from any device, using any software, with seamless compatibility and interoperability.
Crestron’s Mercury console is a timely solution for bringing video conferencing into line with those expectations. Although UC&C vendors are moving towards open standards, it frustrates end users no end that one platform cannot talk directly to another in all circumstances. We all know the complexities involved in delivering high quality video communication, so the Mercury is a very useful tool for bringing that level of interoperability about.