Welcome to the DMS Tech Digest, our opportunity to reflect on news in our sector.
In this digest, we discuss the main stories in the video conferencing space from the first six months of 2021, a period of transition from working from home to returning to the office.
We start our digest with an overview of the video conferencing updates released to support businesses returning to the office. We then run through some of the major software and hardware releases from a mixture of our long-term partners and the sector market leaders…
Returning to the office
Over the last year, the video conferencing sector has experienced exponential growth and transformation. As we entered 2021, the global vaccination rollout was top of the agenda for every developed nation. The early months of 2021 saw video conferencing software providers offer services to support companies with their plans to return to the workplace.
Zoom led the way, releasing Zoom Rooms for the Hybrid Workforce and Office Re-Entry(1), which included:
- The technology to support a virtual receptionist for your office/building via a Zoom Room video call touch device.
- Mobile app control for Zoom Rooms to eliminate the touching of room devices.
- Zoom Room monitoring to make sure social distancing mandates are maintained and to mitigate overcrowding in meeting rooms.
- Air quality monitoring for Zoom meeting rooms using Neat Sense.
- Enhanced sharing functionality designed for office-home collaboration.
Cisco released updates to Cisco DNA with their Spaces Back-to-Business suite of applications providing location analytics and insight into user behavior to support a safe return to offices (2). Features include proximity reporting and real-time and historical density traffic monitoring. Meraki MV and Cisco DNA Spaces enabled building managers to see real-time footfall and presence, along with actionable analytics for safer, more productive spaces. Following Cisco’s update, Meraki MT sensors provide more insight with real-time environmental monitoring of temperature, humidity, leaks, opened/closed doors, and cabinets.
Microsoft released Teams Panels, their connected meeting room technology to support social distancing and responsible working (3). The Teams Panels allow users to book meeting rooms, see available meeting rooms and manage meeting room capacities and usage in one simple user interface.
Google Meet extended their offer of free video calls for all Gmail account users until June 2021 with a capacity of 250 attendees per meeting (4). The free functionality included internal live streaming, call recording saved to Google Drive for calls up to 24 hours in length.
The period has seen many software releases from the video conferencing giants, with the most noteworthy developments in transcription, translation, and information security.
Zoom announced they would be releasing live transcription/automatic closed captioning to all users in the fall of 2021, with early access currently available on request (5). This announcement was followed by Zoom’s acquisition of AI translation startup Kites (6)
Zoom also launched their new Trust Centre, a new customer support portal to house their service, compliance, privacy, safety, and security information (7).
In May, Zoom announced they plan to launch a platform for hosting and managing multi-day summits and events, replacing their OnZoom platform (8).
In March, Cisco launched their real-time translation feature, whilst also impressively expanding their language library from around 10 to more than 100 languages (9).
March also saw Cisco unveil plans for a passwordless future with authentication through Duo (10). Duo is infrastructure agnostic, allowing organizations to protect cloud and on-premise applications without the need for multiple authentication products. Duo is part of Cisco’s zero-trust platform, securing access to any IT application or environment for any user from any device.
Cisco will make Duo available for public preview this summer.
At its Future of Work online event, Cisco announced a range of changes in a bid to reclaim market share from Zoom. These include new audience engagement tools, new audio and camera intelligence, and improved security functionality (11).
Q1 saw Microsoft release several new features in Teams, their video conferencing and collaboration platform (12). Microsoft Teams now supports video conferencing for up to 20,000 view-only attendees, launching a new slide deck presentation experience in PowerPoint Live. PowerPoint Live brings a feature-packed presenting experience to Teams, with audience reactions and WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) functionality.
Similar to Zoom, Microsoft Teams now offers meeting transcription with speaker attribution, as well as a smart post-meeting recap report. Microsoft also made improvements to their meeting experience for Apple and Android mobile and tablet devices.
In June, Microsoft previewed Windows 11 with Microsoft Teams built into the new Windows interface demonstrating their vision for Teams use by consumers as well as professionals (13).
Google announced one of the most exciting projects in the video conferencing space at Google I/O 2021. Project Starline is the name of Google’s 3D video conferencing platform, which uses machine learning, spatial audio, and real-time compression to create a 3D model of video call participants on any screen. This could be a significant development in the adoption of video conferencing outside the professional world (14).
Google also released several Meets updates for Apple and Android devices, including mobile functionality for Q&As and polls, new attendee views, and additional safety controls for education users (15).
Zoom rolled out their Hardware as a Service (HaaS) equipment subscription across Western & Central Europe (16). The solution offers low upfront costs, simple scalability options, and full hardware support from Zoom. Zoom’s HaaS had previously been unavailable outside the US.
Zoom also announced plans to launch a range of branded desk phones with Zoom call capability aimed at the business market (17).
In January, Microsoft launched their 85-inch Surface Hub 2S, designed for large meetings, conferences, board rooms, and huddle spaces (18). The device comes with a 4K PixelSense display with anti-glare and supports up to 20 simultaneous touch points. It is effectively an advanced digital whiteboard and comes with a quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 128 GB SSD.
In January, Biamp launched the Desono EX Series high-performance surface-mount loudspeakers for high-fidelity music and speech reinforcement (19). The device is sleek, high-quality, designed for indoor and outdoor use, and includes 6.5-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch two-way coaxial loudspeakers as well as a 10-inch subwoofer.
January also saw Biamp announce the Devio SCX Series of conference room signal processors (20). Previously designed for huddle rooms and smaller conference spaces, the new Devio SCX uses Biamp’s Devio platform and delivers high-quality audio with simple installation for medium to large conference rooms.
Both Biamp devices are compatible with Zoom, Cisco, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.
In February, Poly announced their latest video equipment for remote workers, the Studio P-Series (210).
The range includes:
- The Studio P5, a small, powerful webcam with 1080p resolution, 4x digital zoom, a directional microphone, and wireless connectivity to Poly headsets or speakerphone.
- The Studio P15, a professional, personal video bar featuring 4K optics, powerful audio, automatic camera framing, and cutting-edge noise-blocking technology.
- The Poly Studio P21, a 21″ display with an HD camera, hi-fidelity speakers, a microphone, and adjustable ambient lighting.
- In April, Poly announced Alexa for Business for Zoom Rooms (22). The addition replaces the need for Alexa devices, as Poly customers will be able to ask Alexa to join meetings, book rooms, and alert participants with end-of-meeting reminders to keep everyone on task.
April also saw Crestron launch their Flex Phones, a new range of Microsoft Teams certified desk phones (23). The Flex Phones have a built-in display and offer high-quality video conferencing capabilities, connectivity, and security, with many additional features to boost productivity.
In February, Extron introduced their DTP3 Series HDMI distributor (24). The DTP3 is the latest 4K/60 HDMI product to join the comprehensive DTP line. The DTP3 T 202 transmitter and DTP3 R 201 receiver provide a long-distance signal extension of HDMI with bidirectional RS-232 signals up to 100 meters with 4:4:4 color sampling whilst complying with HDCP 2.3.
In April, Jabra launched their new PanaCast range, with the PanaCast 20 for personal use and the PanaCast 50 for meeting rooms (25). The PanaCast 50 includes several innovative features and effectively plays the role of meeting director with its wide-angle camera following the action and automatically adjusting the frame according to what is happening in the meeting. With 3x 13 megapixel, 4k resolution, 180-degree field of view cameras, the Jabra PanaCast 50 detects active speakers and follows the conversation providing an immersive experience to all meeting attendees.