Multimedia conferencing offers mobile collaboration

Three separate companies looked to speed up collaboration this week, unveiling products here at Demo 2002 for instant video messaging, instant outbound wireless conferencing, and instant, in-house-phone conferencing.

Reality Fusion Inc., based in Santa Cruz, Calif., demonstrated its TeamView Instant Video conferencing system that has the look and feel of instant messaging with the addition of live video.

TeamView's group video conferencing allows as many as six concurrent video images, assuming all participants have a Web camera connected to their desktop, for sharing voice, video as well as views of any application running on any of the participant's desktops. The system can host as many as 250 users collaborating simultaneously with any participant viewing six participants.

Reality Fusion technology does the video processing, as many as 150 frames per second depending on the bandwidth, on the client side rather than using a more expensive central server, called a MCU (Multipoint Control Unit) in the video conferencing industry. To do the local processing, Reality Fusion created its own proprietary imaging protocols to encode and send video images. The TeamView GX [imaging] Protocol is embedded in the video conferencing client software residing on each desktop. Each client sends a video stream to the TeamView server and the server routes the video packets to the other participants.

In addition, while a MCU requires multiple open ports on the network which use a great deal of network resources, the GX Protocol uses a single port, either UDP or TCP, port 443, according to company executives. The TeamView protocol also allows users to view as many as eight images, six Web cam and two applications, on a 17-inch monitor without losing definition or reducing the image to postage stamp size.

Meanwhile, Octave Communications Inc. may find a ready customer for its voice conferencing technology that tracks down participants wherever they are and on whatever device they are connected to. With wireless carriers burdened by a 67 percent Answer Seizure Ratio (the percentage of completed calls verses dropped calls), recouping of lost revenues is Octave's value add to the wireless carriers.

Octave Improv will allow users to create group lists that include 'n' number of phone numbers and instant messaging names from any of the major IM services including AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and ICQ. Users then use the keypad or voice command to invoke a call to all members of the group. If a call is not completed, the system escalates to the next phone number. The Octave Improv system will also send e-mails, pages, or SMS messages or search the IM services to see if the member is online and if he or she is, it will send an instant message requesting the team member's participation in the call.

Octave, based in Nashua, N.H., is leveraging carrier technology that detects both presence and availability with its own hardware platform and applications to track users down.

Sonexis Inc.'s audioCollaborator has yet another take on conference calls and collaboration. Billed as a "plug-and-play" conference device, the audioCollaborator will allow companies to design their own audio conferencing system and to drop the use of expensive carrier-based outside services.

The system plugs into either PBX system or any IP/LAN telephony systems and gives users Web-based registration and administration. Any user with permission to access the system over the Web can set up and host conference calls, according to David Friend, CEO. The system is in trials and will be available in the second quarter.

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