ISE 2020 Roundup (Part 3 of 3)

Company-Specific Updates

During our 4-days in Amsterdam, we participated in > 40 meetings and supported numerous client events.  Once again, please understand that we can’t cover everything we saw. There just isn’t enough room on the page or time in the day.

This ISE coverage note (part 3 of 3) covers vendors from the second part of the alphabet.

Mersive made a name for itself in the wireless presentation system (WPS) world by offering strong performance, a robust feature-set, and deployment flexibility (software-only or appliance options), for a reasonable price.

Unless you’ve been stuck on a desert island for the last few years, you’re probably aware of the strong proliferation of USB audio / video devices within small to medium meeting rooms.  True to their name, these devices require the connection of at least a USB cable to the host PC or laptop.

In recent quarters, we’ve seen increasing interest in wireless conferencing, meaning the ability to host a meeting on a user’s laptop without the need to connect USB (or other) cables.  See our Biamp write-up above for details on this application.

In a soon-to-be released software update, Mersive will make this capability (dubbed Solstice Conference by Mersive) available free to all customers with a Solstice subscription using Gen3 hardware.

In addition, when the system is not supporting a conference, it displays digital signage content and the meeting room’s calendar on the shared display.

As explained in our Biamp / HRT write-up above, Mersive is one of  four players offering this capability. However, only Mersive and Kramer are offering the wireless USB functionality as a feature on their existing devices.  HRT (Biamp) and Barco, on the other hand, are selling devices specifically focused on the wireless USB capability.

According to our friends at Pexip, 2019 was a very good year for the company.  While we can’t release too many specifics, in the last year the company increased its headcount significantly and added a number of key channel partners – including many Google and Microsoft partners.

During our meeting, we discussed a variety of topics including the value Pexip brings to companies that have deployed Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google.  

The key is that while others have shifted over to switching to reduce the cost and processing required for multipoint sessions, Pexip still offers full transcoding power within its platform.  This allows Pexip to bring broad-based interoperability to various environments.

During our booth tour, we especially enjoyed the demo of Pexip’s Adaptive Composition (AC) capabilities.  Essentially, adaptive composition is software-based room framing that happens at a platform-level instead of the device level.

The main benefit of adaptive composition is that it optimizes the use of the on-screen real-estate during meetings.  Instead of depending on the users to adjust their camera properly, AC does it automatically. This is especially useful for rooms not equipped with in-room systems offering speaker tracking or room framing.

The demo we saw of adaptive composition during ISE was quite impressive.  For more information, please watch our video interview with Pexip focused on adaptive composition.

The day before the ISE show opened, Poly announced a leadership change with Bob Hagerty (Chairman of the Board at Poly) taking over the role of interim CEO role following Joe Burton’s decision to step down as President and CEO. 

Technically speaking, this wasn’t ISE-related news, so we’ll cover this news elsewhere.  However, as you can imagine, this was a popular topic of discussion during the event.

The Poly booth at ISE was crowded every time we walked (actually ran) by.  And while the company didn’t make any ground-breaking product announcements at the show (remember, we’re in a business not technology phase as an industry), Poly did introduce its new insights and management tool dubbed “Poly Lens.”  

We spent quite a while playing with Lens on the Poly booth.  First, we liked Lens’ clean and logical UI. Often management systems pummel the user with excessive amounts of data.  Not Lens. You see only what matters.

In addition, we appreciated Lens’ clear menu structure.  Device insights first. Room level insights next. People insights third.  Logical and easy to understand.

Key functions of the system include device management for Studio X and G7500 solutions, intelligent insights to maximize adoption and uptime, and a cloud-based architecture that simplifies and expedites deployments.

Lens is available as a fully-supported commercial preview at no charge for qualified customers.  Hopefully we’ll have the chance to evaluate and write-up Lens soon.

AV and VC monitoring and management was a common theme at this year’s ISE event.  And rightly so in our view! The number of AV and video devices in the field continues to grow, while support staff budgets and headcount continue to decrease.  Intelligent monitoring and management systems are needed to fill in the gap.

At the show, QSC announced that its Q-SYS Reflect Enterprise Manager was officially GA (generally available to customers).  Reflect Enterprise Manager is a cloud-based offering that leverages existing code on Q-SYS Core processors already installed on the customers’ premises.  QSC designed the system to be quick and easy to install, and customers can start seeing information within the portal almost immediately.

QSC also offers third-party device support for devices that are connected to (or visible to) the Q-SYS Ecosystem, and API’s that enable integration with 3rd party systems (e.g. ticketing engines, network monitoring platforms, etc.).

Reflect Enterprise Manager is available on a subscription basis, and QSC also offers a 30-day free trial.

The folks from the “Windy City” made quite a bit of noise just before and during the show.

First, a week before ISE, Shure announced that several of its products, including its MXA910 and MXA310 array microphones and its P300 DSP, are now certified for Microsoft Teams. 

On day 1 of the show, Shure also announced that it joined the Logitech Collaboration Program; a statement that highlights the compatibility of its MXA and P300 products with Logitech’s Room Solutions.

But the most interesting news from Shure was the announcement of IntelliMix Room, audio processing software for Windows PCs that is designed for use with Shure’s networked system mics.

IntelliMix Room is a software-based DSP that runs on a standard PC (e.g. an existing or low-cost PC hosting the collaboration app / software codec used in a meeting room).  

IntelliMix Room offers up to 16 channels of audio processing and includes echo cancellation, noise reduction, automatic mixing, AGC, and secure Dante routing.

In the end, IntelliMix Room provides a single channel of conference-ready audio for use with basically any collaboration app (e.g. Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom Meetings, etc.).

IntelliMix Room is licensed on three-year and five-year options, and the price includes all required Dante licenses.  

Between its hot-off-the-presses Teams certification and software-based Dante DSP, Shure is making no secret of its plan to expand its presence beyond the highly integrated spaces it frequents today and into smaller, less-expensive software-powered video rooms.

Is it me or is the battle for the huddle room really starting to heat up?

Just before ISE, Starleaf announced a new product dubbed StarLeaf Huddle.  Huddle is an all-in-one video meeting solution including a microphone, a wide-angle camera, a touch screen controller and a Pronto Cable USB device.

[Note – although the StarLeaf Huddle comes with a camera, it also works with Poly Studio, and potentially with any other USB group add-on device.]

StarLeaf Huddle is designed for easy installation by anyone – the end-user customer, a reseller, etc., and sells for an MSRP of US $1,995.

For those who haven’t seen it before, StarLeaf Pronto is a small USB device / cable (see image at left below) that connects between your laptop (image at right below) and either a StarLeaf codec or touch controller.

Once connected, Pronto allows the user to share his screen (securely over the Pronto cable), and also provides one-touch join capabilities.  

Pronto works with Windows and macOS laptops and supports both USB-A and USB-C connectivity.

StarLeaf also announced MultiJoin, the ability to join meetings on different meeting services (e.g. Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Zoom, Webex, BlueJeans, Pexip, and others) at the touch of a button from any StarLeaf room.

Finally, StarLeaf also announced the StarLeaf for Teams app, a plug-in that allows users to create, schedule, and launch StarLeaf meetings directly from the Teams app and Outlook calendar.

While not mentioned in any formal announcement, we witnessed a StarLeaf experience running on a Yealink device in the StarLeaf booth.  This certainly caught my eye.

To date, StarLeaf has made its mark by offering both the video endpoints and back-end service.  This service-attach approach offers many benefits including increased full control of the end-to-end experience.  However, it also requires StarLeaf to be in both the hardware and cloud business.

Based on this demo, it seems reasonable that we’ll eventually see StarLeaf code running on other Android-powered third-party devices (e.g. Poly X30 / X50). Perhaps this paves the way for StarLeaf to add additional room system form factors and options to their existing portfolio. For now, this is just speculation, but remember – you heard it here first!

Despite our best efforts, sometimes we miss significant updates from interesting companies.  That’s what happened with Synergy Sky.

Many people know Synergy Sky as the ex-Cisco folks who focus on making it quick and easy to join meetings, schedule meetings (without needing a plug-in), control meetings (e.g. mute / unmute, add participants, etc.) across different platforms (Cisco Webex, Microsoft SfB and Teams, Pexip, BlueJeans, Polycom, Google, Zoom, etc.).

A few months ago, Synergy Sky released the “Synergy of Things” – a server-based software solution that can be deployed on-premises or hosted (e.g. in Azure, AWS, etc.) that incorporates the power of the company’s prior offerings (JOIN, CONTROL, and ANALYZE), and also collects data from meeting rooms and calendars to optimize utilization and room availability.

Synergy of Things (I’ll call it SoT for short) uses a combination of sensors and capabilities found within video endpoints in meeting rooms and third-party PIR sensors to detect motion in a meeting room.  This information is then captured by the SoT server and analyzed.  

Finally, the system provides system administrators detailed information about no-shows, room bookings and system utilization.  For example, SoT can provide a real-time notification when nobody shows up for a scheduled meeting. Also, SoT can automatically release rooms after a pre-defined amount of time.

The ability to detect no-shows is hardly new to our industry.  However, typically it has been difficult and expensive to implement.  Synergy of Things, however, is easy to deploy, provides a broad range of monitoring, management, and analytics features, and costs ~ $1 per room per day.  Not too shabby.

The team from Urben Tech was on-hand at the Barco booth highlighting their various frames and media wall solutions.

If you haven’t heard of Urben Tech, you’re not alone.  Urben offers a range of solutions revolving around the Urben Frame – a custom designed frame  / enclosure / shell that is floor mounted (avoids need for facilities support), easy to install (saves time and money), and technology agnostic.

Urben offers both turnkey kits including displays, cameras, and video systems (see image above), as well as frame-only solutions, and sells both direct to customers and via a network of partners.

So what’s slowing Urben down?  

  1. Awareness – people just don’t know about Urben.
  2. Channel – some channel partners see Urben’s offerings as competing with their system design expertise.  FWIW – we see their point, but we humbly disagree.

One of the pleasures of being an analyst is being able to watch solutions (and companies) grow and mature over time.  First we’re pre-briefed on a concept. Then we see the alpha. Then the beta. Then version 1. Etc. One of the solutions we’ve watched over time is Utelogy’s platform.

Utelogy used to be all about control.  This company offered one of the first, and frankly one of the most robust, software-based control platforms.  At that time, the Utelogy application ran on a standard Windows PC.

Today, however, the offering has expanded to include cloud-based remote monitoring and management, control, asset management, analytics, and more.  According to the company, Utelogy can now interface with anything that offers an API – of any kind.

The diagram below highlights the Utelogy architecture.  As shown, the platform includes an on-premises element (the u-server application running on one or more servers) and a cloud-element (u-manage).  

A key tenet of the Utelogy platform is that the entire system is provisioned – not programmed.  In other words, for most situations, no programming knowledge is required. The system does, however, support .NET / C# and HTML5 for those with specialized requirements.

Just before the ISE event, the company announced U-Automate – a tool that adds a script builder, script schedule, automated testing, and test logging to the Utelogy environment.

Utelogy is available globally through the company’s network of channel partners.  While pricing depends on volume, a full Utelogy deployment is likely to cost around $35 – $40 / month / room.

This is the third post of a three-part series covering ISE.