January 11, 2018

Top Three Reasons Against Off Brand Smart Watches

Pebble started the recent trend of smart watches via their $10.3 million crowd funding campaign. Being a fan of watches in general I was immediately intrigued and as soon as I could buy one at retail, I did. Now on my third smart watch, the Apple Watch Series 1, I've learned a few things. The biggest thing I learned is that I won't be buying an off brand watch - ie one without a companion phone. Here is the explanation and the top reasons.

December 29, 2017

Generic Predictions for 2018

Since I kicked last years' ass and went an amazing 10-4-10 in predictions, I deemed it necessary to do it again.

For 2018, this is the top ten predictions for the AV/VC/UCaaS/ETC industry:

1. This is the year of easy

What's easy? A one button (or less) push that everyone wants - controlling massive amounts of gear that no one wants.

2. Everyone will do their best to copy what Cisco did two years ago

Whatever that may have been

3. No product will be native 720p

Yet every single hardware based video call will max out at 720p and software will average 480p

4. Buzzwords, including "easy", will be used frequently.

Game changer will mean "we made one too". Dead will continue to mean "my company doesn't sell that". UI will continue to be confused with UX. Huddle will mean whatever you want it to.

5. IoT will merge with AR and VR and VC and UC.

We'll just call the whole thing TAURIC until Cisco tells us otherwise.

6. The mechanical pan tilt zoom camera will disappear.

One can only hope.

7. Digital whiteboarding will take a huge leap backward.

Because we're going to realize that no one likes to get up during meetings.

8. You're going to end up using Microsoft Teams as your collaboration solution.

Just go with it.

9. Since I promised it last year: A company will take VC funding.

Well, that's a softball.

10. Companies will continue to be unhappy in general with video conferencing.

It's up to all of us to fix that!

Bonus prediction: At most of the lectures throughout the year there will be so many panelists that all the audience will be treated to is an introduction to each of them. How to fix it? I'd like to see some town hall style debates with no more than 4 speakers on whatever topic it may be. That would make for a good show and much more informative than having 12 people in a 45 minute "lecture".

November 30, 2017

Huddly GO Camera

Huddly, a Norwegian start up announced the GO camera in early 2017. To date (November 2017) they are still taking pre-orders for this $500 webcam although it's available as part of Google's new $1,999 Hangouts kit. This article will discuss some features of the Huddly GO without the benefit of a hands on test.

November 21, 2017

Team Messaging and Collaboration Apps Basics

Recently I took a deep dive into several team messaging/collaboration apps. For the most part, they are relatively the same with only minor differences between the ones I tested. Instead of reviewing individual apps, this blog will cover their basics and debate their necessity as part of your organization's unified communication program.

November 14, 2017

So you want to telecommute?

Telecommuting, remote working, or simply "working from home" is becoming mainstream in today's business culture. Businesses are opening up to the idea as a way to keep good employees, reduce stress (mainly in the form of not having to drive to work) and to allow employees more flexibility in their work schedules. Both the employer and employee can benefit from remote working situations.

I've been working from home since 2004 so I've had the chance to figure out what works and what doesn't - for me. Some of these thoughts may help you or your company entertain the idea of telecommuting.

September 27, 2017

Site Surveys

Site surveys are an important part of the process for making a conference room usable but are sometimes overlooked. Here are some best practices for surveys. For purposes of this blog, let's assume we're talking about typical rooms used for video conferencing.

June 27, 2017

I disagree

Read this article on Commercial Integrator and come back.

Point #1
What he saw was most likely booths from companies that had nothing new to offer with no preshow buzz. If there is nothing new to see, there is no need to see the booth. That being said - Cisco's booth is always crowded from open to close and Polycom is rarely as crowded. There are booths that get minimal traffic due to location on the floor as well.

Most small booths are pretty plain to begin with due to:
1. Booth space limitation
2. Cost

In the small booths are small companies with little extra funding to have an impressive booth space. That people disregard these because there aren't flashing lights to catch the moths is appalling to me.

Point #2
We're working on it. His one week slice of a trade show isn't a fair cross section of the companies either attending or showing products. At least in the Unified Communication space, it's very incestuous with many people who work for company X having been with Company A, B and possibly C in the past. Sales people who work the booths got hired for their Rolodex and sales history in the space. That means they are typically older men. I've found more women in engineering and marketing and more men in sales and procurement. Which group do you think would be more represented at this type of show? Infocomm isn't an engineering show.

He may not know what a Rolodex is. Sorry. Smart phone contact list.

Point #3
They are trying that too for some reason. I haven't figured out why the need for name changes. Just browse NoJitter for 10 minutes and you'll see new acronyms flying around trying to define Unified Communication.

"Calling a whole industry by a name that young people do not understand cannot be sustainable. "

ok..."Car" is derived from a word meaning "two wheeled cart". But he may call it that (I know I do) and isn't looking to call it something else. AV is audio visual. That sums up a lot of things within the scope of Infocomm.

"there needs to be a greater reach in order to avoid the problem stressed in my second point."

This I agree with. Yet our leaders (business and political are both insanely at fault) dismiss technical/trade school insisting that a college degree, any college degree, is the key to something. Prosperity? Happiness? I don't know. This won't turn into a political post so I'll end it there.

June 26, 2017

Owl Labs and 360 degree cameras

I'm always excited when a new camera with new features hits the market. Owl Labs introduced their new camera apparently in private demos at Infocomm 2017 then for general release the week after.

Personally, I don't agree with the concept of using 360 degree cameras in a standard conference room setup. Putting the camera in the middle of the table, but having displays against a wall (like in a normal room) will end up capturing the side of your head for everyone but those at the opposite end of the table as the displays. See the below schematic:

So what about "intelligent" framing cameras? Yes, they make sense and camera technology has improved to the point where it's no longer a pan/tilt/zoom camera with several seconds of delay, but it's quick digital framing.

No appearance of eye contact though

Where Owl does this framing a little differently than others, it appears to be a smooth and quick transition, leaving the full room view at the top. The guy in the back is really brought forward and you can actually see his face. That's great, but...

Notice the above picture. The method of framing (at least from the product video on Owl's website), it frames a person from left to right without regard for your actual location in the room. These two people are looking in each other's direction, but you couldn't tell that from the framed views of them. Their location in the pop up frames should be reversed.

This can get distracting if you're watching two people in the same room have a debate.

If the framing can be changed where people "pop up" relative to where they actually are in the room, this is a winner and a nice leap forward in camera technology. It may be able to do just that. Without a full test though, I don't know.

June 20, 2017

Open for new projects

As you may or may not know I am a contract designer and some time has opened up for me to take on new projects either long term or short.

Past projects have included:

Product Design in the video conferencing space
Design and development of video conferencing cameras, room environments and other related products. I've also served as project manager for installations and product manager for individual products for the companies I've worked for. Duties also included detailed installation manuals, wiring diagrams and data sheets.

Video conference product testing
I've tested codecs (software and hardware), cameras and other ancillary video conferencing related equipment along with writing detailed results.

Architectural as built drawings
These were mainly for real estate agents needing offices measured and drafted into presentation drawings for potential purchase/lease. Drawing were also done within the scope of creating floor plans and elevations for future video conference product integration.

Commercial and residential floor plans/space planning
This included custom home design, veterinary hospital design and several other commercial interior remodeling projects. Projects have also included residential addition drawings.

Mechanical design/part modeling
3d part design and modeling. Creating assemblies. Designing parts for manufacture. 3d printed many parts in house to test for size and form.

Civil Design (master planning)
This work was done for companies wanting to build commercial, single family or multi-family developments. Duties included site visits to determine view, creating presentation drawings, creating construction drawings, lot/building layouts. Sites have ranged from less than a half acre to over 700 acres.

For design work I use AutoCad 2016 and Inventor Pro 2016
Located in Cincinnati, Ohio
I can be contacted via email at bhellard@gmail.com or via phone at 513-252-8517

I would greatly appreciate it if you shared my contact information with anyone you know who needs a designer.