Affordable videoconferencing for SMB

    Videoconferencing (VKS) is a fashionable trend in our time on the IT market. And if earlier videoconferencing was more of a status thing, nowadays it will not surprise anyone - meeting rooms equipped with video conferencing equipment can be found in many companies.

    I will not separately dwell on the description of the advantages that your organization receives, starting to use video conferencing. I will mention only one of them - effective online communication at a distance without the need to spend money, time and effort on a trip. The introduction of video conferencing in large companies in the first year discourages the money spent on it, eliminating the need to send employees on business trips and at the same time bear the associated costs.

    So, we can see video conferencing in most large companies. It was not by chance that I emphasized the word “large”. Because mainly large companies can afford to allocate sufficient budgets for the purchase of video conferencing equipment.

    Let's look at a typical company request for a small or medium sized meeting room. I obviously do not consider large meeting rooms, since the decision on video conferencing is more often integrator for them, which means that we are talking about completely different costs.

    The company has at its disposal an average meeting room and a remote branch or partner with whom you need to organize a video conferencing session.

    There are two main approaches to organizing a meeting room:

    1) Organization of videoconferencing sessions based on software clients installed on personal computers equipped with either built-in or external web-cameras.
    The main advantage of this solution is low cost. Indeed, a good Logitech webcam costs around 9000 rubles, the software for conducting video sessions can be either free (for example, Skype) or purchased for an amount in the region of 100-150 dollars. This refers to software for VKS of various vendors, for example, Polycom Realpresence Desktop, Lifesize Softphone and others.
    The disadvantage of this approach is that software clients, due to the poor optics of built-in or conventional external webcams, are not able to cover the size of meeting rooms, which means they are not suitable for solving this problem. Therefore, when the question arises of equipping the meeting room with VKS facilities, the company comes to the second option, namely:

    2) Communication through specialized video conferencing equipment. This hardware includes a central unit (video codec) for encoding / decoding audio and video signals, a PTZ camera and remote high-sensitivity microphones.

    From the point of view of the end user, an important advantage of hardware solutions is the availability of a high-quality PTZ camera, which ensures the convenience of their use on the scale of meeting rooms. High image quality (FullHD), multiple optical zoom, wide viewing angle, lens rotation along coordinate axes, storing camera positions - all this raises the video conferencing system to a higher level of usability and quality.

    The main disadvantage of hardware solutions is their cost.

    If we consider the mid-budget offers from leading manufacturers of VKS equipment, for example, Cisco and Polycom, then for the Cisco SX20 system you will have to pay about $ 12,000, and for the Polycom Group 300 system - about $ 9,000. And if the company has several meeting rooms, then the amount increases their number.

    So what do we have?
    1) The software client is cheap, but not ergonomic, when it comes to equipping meeting rooms.
    2) A hardware video codec with a PTZ camera and an external microphone is a great solution for meeting rooms, but expensive. There are also difficulties if you need to connect flash web chats, Skype and Lync due to the incompatibility of the vast majority of “classic” video conferencing systems with these products.

    There is no third?

    What to do for those companies that want to equip the meeting room with videoconferencing at an affordable price? This article is an attempt to lift the veil in this matter and find a “middle ground”.
    I work for IP Video Systems , a company that has been involved in video conferencing projects since 2005. During this time, we have developed and implemented more than 400 solutions for videoconferencing.

    I raised the topic of video conferencing for the lower and middle segments for a reason. Years of experience have shown that in the video conferencing market there are noticeably not enough solutions for this segment. Solutions that at a relatively low cost will enable small and medium-sized businesses to experience the benefits of high-quality video conferencing.
    The rapid development of computing platforms for personal computers has led to the fact that today an average and relatively inexpensive PC with an Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processor and video conferencing software has sufficient performance to process audio and video signals. An analogue of a remote microphone can be a high-quality wireless speakerphone, for example, Plantronics Calisto P620, or a USB microphone.

    But what about the most important, from the point of view of the end user, element - the camera? High enough and functional for comfortable work in the meeting room, quick to install and configure, not requiring additional expansion cards and fuss with drivers, and at the same time relatively inexpensive.

    To solve this problem, we suggest usingPrestel USB camera line .

    Prestel line of cameras

    In this article I will talk about two USB cameras included in the Prestel line:
    1) HD-PTZ1
    2) HD-PTZ3

    Both cameras can be connected to a regular personal computer via USB 2.0 (Prestel HD-PTZ1 camera) or USB 3.0 ( Prestel HD-PTZ3 camera). After connecting the camera, the necessary drivers will be automatically installed and it will become available in the operating system as a video image device.
    The following is a list of operating systems that support these cameras (versions 32 and 64 bit):
    • Linux
    • Windows XP
    • Windows Vista
    • Windows 7
    • Windows 8
    • Mac OS
    One of the undoubted advantages of these cameras is the ability to work with any software for VKS of well-known vendors, such as Cisco, Polycom, Lifesize, etc. The list of the most popular software:
    • Cisco Jabber
    • Polycom Realpresence Desktop
    • Lifesize Softphone
    • Microsoft Lync
    • Skype
    Required note that image quality may be limited by the capabilities of the software used. For example, the Lifesize Softphone software client supports 1080p video transmission, while the Polycom Realpresence Desktop software client supports 720p.

    The main characteristics of the cameras:

    Let's look at the composition of a typical videoconferencing solution for a meeting room based on the use of Prestel cameras. The composition includes:
    1) A personal computer with USB connectors. For comfortable work during a videoconferencing session, a configuration based on processors no lower than Intel Core i3 is recommended (the cost of such a system unit will not exceed 25,000 rubles).
    2) The Prestel HD-PTZ1 or Prestel HD-PTZ3 camera connected to the PC via USB interface (the HD-PTZ1 camera costs 35,000 rubles, the HD-PTZ3 camera costs 80,000 rubles).
    3) Wireless speakerphone, for example, Plantronics Calisto P620 (6 000 rubles).
    4) Software client, for example, Polycom Realpresence Desktop (3,500 rubles).
    5) Display device (for example, TV with a diagonal of 46 inches, from 22 000 rubles)
    6) Mount / stand for TV (optional), in the region of 17,000 rubles.
    Thus, the cost of a solution for a meeting room is from 40,000 rubles (provided that a computer and monitor are already available), which is several times less than the cost of hardware video codecs. At the same time, the company gets the opportunity to equip the meeting room while maintaining the advantages of hardware solutions.
    I analyzed the market of USB PTZ cameras for the videoconferencing system, and the data was tabulated.

    Thus, if you are faced with the task of budgetly equipping the meeting room with video conferencing, it makes sense to pay attention to the Prestel line of USB cameras , which will give you the opportunity to experience the benefits of high-quality video conferencing at a relatively low cost.

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