Bangalore, October 30 2017: The camera on the mobile phone, has whetted the appetite of millions of users for video. Coupled with the availability of free calling apps like Skype Google Duo and Facebook Messenger, it has made it easy-- and affordable -- to ' see as you speak'.
Since so many phone owners are 'prosumers' -- professional consumers -- this has led to a sort of reverse osmosis: instead of professional tools 'trickling down' to lay users, consumer apps like Skype are seeing an upward mobility into corporate corridors and have seen a new wave of attractively priced video conferencing tools. These are aimed at 'huddles': small groups of 3-4 people connecting wirelessly with similar-sized teams at multiple locations, anywhere, anytime.
Indeed, surveys show that over half of all corporate con-calls or conference calls involve such small numbers of participants whose interactions are short-n-sweet, frequent, spontaneous and unstructured. This rules out the old-style, pre-planned video conferences using third party networks, proprietary software, passwords....
Logitech, who many of us may recognize more easily as a maker of keyboard and mouse, has emerged as a leader in this New Age videoconferencing business. Some tools in their video collaboration catalogue can be as simple as a Rs 12,000 table-top speaker phone into which you can stick a mobile phone and get started -- or as elaborate as a Rs 1.2 lakh Group videoconferencing system for mid-to-large rooms. I had occasion to tryout their latest product which is somewhere in between: MeetUp is a ConferenceCam ideal for the huddle room which seems to be a feature of these new style open-plan offices. The main unit is about 40 cms wide and weighs one kg. It incorporates an ultra HD ( 4K) video camera with a 120 degree field of view, which can be panned, tilted or zoomed from a separate remote unit; 3 echo cancelling microphones and a speaker. If the room is bigger you can add more mikes. A 5-metre USB cable connects the main unit to PC, laptop or a Chrome-based device and you can also connect to a large screen via HDMI.
The beauty of a solution like MeetUp is that it works with standard video-calling software like Skype for Business or Cisco Jabber without imposing its own proprietary tool. So you can do a conference with other platforms as long as all use the same software. It needs to be said that none of the currently available software solutions support 4K video. Think of it as future proofing! MeetUp was recently launched in India and costs Rs 99,995, something most small business might consider a good investment.