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Cisco Spark Announces iOS 10 Integration: What Does It Mean For You?

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) wrapped up this earlier this month, and while most people were justifiably fixated on the nifty bells and whistles Apple will be introducing with iOS 10, what caught our attention was a more under-the-radar revelation: with the rollout of iOS 10 this fall, Cisco Spark’s mobile app will be leveraging iOS 10 to deliver seamless voice and video calling.

But let’s back up a minute. What is Cisco Spark? Well, what ISN’T Cisco Spark. It does pretty much everything. Cisco’s all-in-one collaboration platform bundles messaging, conferencing and voice calling tools in one easy-to-use package.

With 5GB of free content storage per user and the ability to create an unlimited number of rooms, Cisco Spark enables mobile users to juggle intimate 1:1 video and voice calls along with group messaging, content-sharing and video conferences with up to three participants. It’s an ideal collaboration and communication solution for on-the-go team members who excel at multitasking.

And as a bonus, Cisco Spark’s open APIs give developers the power to customize Spark and integrate it into their company’s day-to-day operations in ways that make sense for them.

After Apple unveiled iOS 10, Cisco announced that an updated version of Spark, to be released around the time iOS 10 is finally ready for its public launch, will be even more intuitive and easy to use on iPhones and iPads.

Basically what Spark users will be getting is a collaboration solution that is always just a swipe or click away. With the updated version of Spark, users will be able to make Spark calls in the same way they make plain old cell calls--with iOS contacts, recents and favorites. And users will also be able to receive a call with a swipe on the lock screen. Additionally, Spark calls will come with call waiting, so you can switch from Spark calls to regular cell calls with ease.

And finally, IT departments can set up your organization’s iPhones or iPads to automatically route any calls to people within your organization through Cisco Spark, so you can improve compliance while keeping calling costs down.

Again, there is no firm release date for this update to Spark, but when iOS 10 is unveiled, Spark will be there with it.

For now, feel free to read a bit more about Cisco Spark. And please contact us if you have any questions.

 

 

 

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Incoming Call: Intraoffice Video Conferencing

When we talk about video conferencing, we tend to build on the assumption that people only use video conferencing to communicate and collaborate with colleagues in other locations. That is the most salient feature of a video conferencing solution, after all: the obliteration of distance, the freedom to roam while staying connected to anyone and everyone. And the remote workforce is only expanding, so video conferencing’s primary function as a bridge between far-flung work spaces is not likely to change.
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Polycom’s Solution For Video Conferencing In Prisons

Video conferencing systems are a viable means of replacing or supplementing traditional visitation in jails and prisons. Video conferencing solutions can also expedite such routine legal matters as arraignments and parole hearings by eliminating the logistics involved in transporting prisoners.
 
While the traditional contact visitations are an ideal way for prisoners to stay connected to their loved ones on the outside, there are many people who cannot afford to make regular visits to family members in jail. So while in-person visitations aren’t becoming a thing of the past, prisons that supplement their visitation procedures with a video conferencing option can strengthen connections between prisoners and the lives they have left behind.
 
A video conferencing solution designed for prisons calls for a sturdy and streamlined design and interface. This is not the immersive collaboration solution of the office environment, but a tool with a single purpose: to facilitate conversation. To that end, Polycom has created VideoProtect 500, a safe and secure prison conferencing solution powered by RealPresence Group 500.
 
VideoProtect 500 offers the crisp HD video and EagleEye audio of Polycom’s Group series, but the 22” 1080p LCD monitor has been tricked out for use in an institutional setting. Boasting 14 gauge steel housing, a high impact front panel, tamper-proof volume controls and a 36” armored cable, the VideoProtect 500 is built to last. It might not be the sleek array one finds in an office, but hey, this isn’t an office.
 
And such a product doesn’t just benefit prisoners. The aforementioned University of Vermont study found that video conferencing solutions can not only save money for corrections facilities, but also enhance public safety by limiting prisoner travel and free up law enforcement resources that would otherwise be spent on ensuring safe and efficient movement of prisoners.
 
Check out more information on Polycom’s video conferencing solutions.
 
 
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TOP Telepresence Solutions For Large Rooms

Larger conference rooms and boardrooms present unique telepresence challenges. You can get by with a screen or two and a couple microphones in a huddle room or smaller conference space. But a bigger room offers an opportunity to bring telepresence and video conferencing to the next level, and as these rooms are often the places where you’ll be showing off the best possible version of your organization, you’ll probably want a video conferencing set-up that matches your ambition and vision.
 
In short: you want a show-stopper. If the bigwigs are heading into your boardroom for a conference or shareholder presentation or international coffee klatch, you might want to consider an immersive solution like Polycom’s OTX Telepresence, which can accomodate up to three 65” LCD displays, bringing your on-screen audience into the room in full size. You can’t get any closer to actually sharing a room with someone. And with separate content displays, StereoSurround audio and optional lighting add-ons, OTX Telepresence can transform your larger rooms into spaces that boast beauty and functionality in equal measure.
 
Cisco’s similarly impressive TelePresence TX9000 Series offers a three-screen, three-camera array ideal for groups of up to eighteen people--a perfect solution for executive meetings--but for a more streamlined immersive experience, there is Cisco’s TelePresence TX1310 65, which retains the three-camera cluster but pares down the display to a single 65” LCD screen.
 
If you’re into dreaming big, though, Cisco’s TelePresence IX5000 Series is the way to go. With Three 70” LCD screens, the IX5000 Series is the first triple-screen solution to offer support for H.265, and with theater-grade audio and 4K ultra-HD cameras, this supersized telepresence solution is not messing around.
 
For larger conference rooms that will be hosting brainstorming sessions and less formal meetings, a fully integrated collaboration solution like Polycom’s RealPresence Group 700 is worth a look. RealPresence Group 700 can accomodate multiple cameras, content sources and microphones, so everyone in the room can rest assured that their voice will be heard and their face seen.
 
Check out more information about audio visual integrated rooms or view Polycom’s range of solutions, to learn more.
 
 
 
 
 
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The Benefits Of Video Conferencing in correctional facilities

We recently wrote about the many benefits video conferencing can bring to various government agencies, and we touched on the ways video solutions might improve the justice system. Which is why we wanted to zoom in on that particular realm and explore the ways video conferencing can be integrated in prisons to improve the lives of people on the inside (both prisoners and employees) as well as the society beyond the prison gates. The issues confronted by incarcerated people and the system that handles their rehabilitation demand a war fought on many fronts, and video can only be just one small piece of a larger puzzle, but there are many ways in which video conferencing solutions can be implemented to assist with different kinds of reforms.
 
Visitation
Introducing video conferencing visitations can lighten a prison’s budgetary burden, since a video conference doesn’t have to be so closely guarded, but access to video conferencing can also radically redefine the experience of confinement for prisoners and their families. One might argue that spending even one cent on making life easier for prisoners is more than they deserve, but a prisoner given regular contact with loved ones can make for a smoother adjustment to prison life, which in turn makes for a prison population that is easier for guards and administrators to manage.
 
Rehabilitation
A recent study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that approximately two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested within three years of release. This requires a great deal of work on various levels--education, therapy and job training and video conferencing can help, by allowing prisoners to stay connected to family and foster a support system that will be waiting for them on the other side of the prison walls.
 
Health
Another recent Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that nearly half of all state and federal inmates reported a medical problem other than a cold or virus, while more than a third of state inmates and almost a quarter of federal inmates reported having an impairment. It is clear, then, that regular medical treatment is something to which prisons are (or should be) dedicating a good deal of time and money. Telemedicine can both increase prisoner access to doctors while making it more affordable for prisons to provide care.
 
Safety
Implementing a robust video conferencing plan is not only beneficial for the men and women in confinement. It can also make prison a safer place for people to work. Prisoners benefit greatly from in-person meetings, and every effort should be made to allow for more traditional visits, but in cases where prison staff suspects illicit exchanges occurring during visitations, a video conferencing intervention can keep contraband from passing between visitors and prisoners.
 
Explore our video solutions for government here.
 
 
 
 
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Beyond Business: Video Conferencing in the Government

We talk a lot about the innumerable benefits reaped by businesses that implement video conferencing solutions, but the work done by local, state and federal agencies can also be improved and enriched by video conferencing. There is perhaps no field more reliant on dependable connections and effective collaboration than public service. Because we’re not just talking about commerce here--we are dealing with public safety, national security and immense federal budgets, among other things. So here are a few ways government agencies can do better work for the people they serve with the help of video.
 
Citizen Outreach
At the local level especially, citizens should feel like their representatives in government are accessible and responsive. Elected officials and government employees should be able to offer their constituents something more than a form letter or terse email in response to questions and concerns. Now, of course it would be impossible to video conference with everyone who wants something from their city or county, but for citizens with especially dire or persistent issues, a brief video conference could do wonders. People want to be heard. Hear them. People want to feel seen. See them. Plus, offering video meetings to citizens means government agencies can save themselves the tension and escalation of an in-person meeting. Everyone wins.
 
Public Safety
Mobile video conferencing solutions, when placed in the hands of first responders and their superiors, can improve both the speed and quality of emergency services. In large scale crises, multiple agencies must work together seamlessly and quickly, and video can help everyone stay together in situations where every single second matters.
 
Reduce Travel Expenses
Federal agencies rack up approximately $15 billion in travel expenses annually. It should go without saying that a good chunk of that $15 billion is entirely justified. The U.S. is a world power, and government officials need to put their feet on the ground in the various nations in which we do business. But like their counterparts in the corporate world, federal agencies can and should be able to cut costs by implementing video conferencing solutions whenever a face-to-face meeting is not absolutely necessary.
 
Keeping Military Families Connected
While deployed overseas, military personnel go months without seeing their loved ones. Such separation can take its toll on service members and their family back home. Video conferencing gives soldiers and their families a chance to speak to each other face-to-face across otherwise insurmountable distances. While nothing will ever compare to being home with one’s children, the chance to connect via video on a semi-regular basis can keep that vital connection alive for people who have chosen to do a very difficult job in very dangerous places.
 
Cutting Courtroom Costs
As we discussed in a previous blog post, introducing video conferencing solutions into legal proceedings can reduce travel time for inmates facing trial while increasing access to experts and other witnesses who would otherwise have to travel great distances to testify in a hearing. Additionally, a courtroom equipped with video conferencing capabilities can simplify scheduling and, in cases of increased security risks, guarantee safety for all involved. All of this adds up to considerable savings for all agencies involved.
 
Explore our video conferencing solutions for local, state and federal agencies.
 
 
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Bringing Home Offices Up To Speed

Telecommuters make up nearly three percent of the U.S. workforce. That might not sound like a lot, but that’s over three million people we’re talking about. Technology makes it not only easy for employees to work from home, but desirable for employers to let their staff work from home, at least some of the time. People who work from home tend to be more productive and enjoy more job satisfaction. It’s a win-win situation. But you have to ensure some consistency across remote and on-site work spaces and methods. Your company might be scattered, but the work should be the same no matter where your employees are. Consider the following solutions for keeping remote employees up to speed.
 
Prime Call Cloud MeetMe 2.0
Your first priority should be providing a simple and intuitive way for your remote employees to connect and collaborate. Prime Call Cloud MeetMe 2.0 facilitates quick and easy connections for everyone in your organization, no matter where they are. As long as your remote employees have internet access and a camera, they can join a conference in the cloud. With one simple click on a URL link, participants can enter the virtual conference room and get down to business. And when your remote employees visit the office, they can bring their own device and connect in the ways that have become familiar and productive for them.
 
Cisco TelePresence EX90
Home office spaces will likely not require a giant screen. Odds are pretty good that your remote employees can (and should) have a standard desktop display. But it can (and should) be a display that facilitates video collaboration. Cisco’s TelePresence EX90 fits the bill. The EX90’s 24-inch HD display can be used as a PC monitor and a telepresence system, so remote employees can easily transition from individual work to video calls. And with one-touch sharing and a built-in document camera, the EX90 keeps collaboration flowing smoothly.
 
Polycom RealPresence Desktop
Home offices aren’t always the most quiet places. It’s one of the pitfalls of telecommuting: kids can get noisy; dogs act up; garbage trucks rumble by at inconvenient moments. Polycom RealPresence Desktop removes such annoying distractions with its Acoustic Fence technology, which listens for and then eliminates unwanted audio disruptions while you’re on a video call. It’s an ideal solution for remote workers who can’t always count on peace and quiet.
 
Desktop Audio
No matter how sophisticated your telepresence solution, there is still a time and a place for good old fashioned telephone calls. And your remote employees shouldn’t have to rely on their cell phones for business calls--audio quality just isn’t always up to snuff. Consider the audio conferencing solutions provided by Cisco and Polycom, which ensure peerless audio for calls that can’t risk being dropped.
 
Explore additional home office and desktop video solutions and learn more about Prime Call Cloud MeetMe
 
 
 
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Bring Everyone Together With Polycom RealConnect

When preparing for a video conference, no one wants to waste precious time figuring out how to get participants with different conferencing technology on the same call. It’s not only a logistical headache, but a possible barrier to doing business. If your door isn’t open for everybody, well, some folks aren’t going to want to bother knocking. Scheduling and joining video conferences should be simple for all involved.
 
People want to feel comfortable. Video conferencing can be nerve wracking--because any kind of meeting can be nerve wracking--and there’s no reason to add unneeded stress to the perfectly normal anxiety people feel before any form of public speaking. You don’t make visitors to your office run an obstacle course, do you? As fun as that sounds, no, you don’t. That would be cruel and unusual punishment. So. Long story short: you want to make yourself available to everyone, and you don’t want to torture them before they get a chance to talk. And this is where Polycom RealConnect comes in.
 
Polycom RealConnect seamlessly integrates Skype for Business and existing video conferencing systems so that everyone can join a meeting without being forced through a process they might be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. No new software. No new plug-ins. Just a direct connection to you.
 
With One Touch Dialing and native Microsoft Outlook calendaring, Polycom RealConnect keeps your connections plugged into the workflows that work best for them. Because, again: video conferencing should make things easier, not more difficult. And once they’re in your meeting, Skype for Business users will see a familiar layout on their screen. This is not only a convenient solution, but an effective gesture: you are making things simple and pleasant for them. It’s little things like this that make doing business with you desirable.
 
Video conferencing is about more than seeing eye to eye, though. Video is a great collaboration tool, too, and so sharing content is a huge priority. With ContentConnect, Polycom RealConnect allows Skype for Business users to share content with users on more traditional video systems, and vice versa.
 
And RealConnect won’t only give you a leg up with potential clients. It will improve the internal dynamic of your organization as well. If you employ a large staff of remote workers, integration with Skype for Business makes it easier than ever to join home offices and headquarters in a happy union.
 
Find out more about Polycom RealConnect and feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.
 
 
 
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Video Conferencing and the Millennial Workforce

Millennials now compose the largest share of the American workforce. Within five years, they will make up 50% of the American workforce. By 2030--which isn’t as far away as you’d like to think--they will make up 75% of the global workforce. To recruit and retain the best and brightest among this new generation, it is imperative that companies adopt tech solutions that jibe with millennial needs and expectations. What works for them will work for you. A mobile video conferencing solution is a great way to start. Here’s why.
 
Frequent Feedback and Instant Connection
For better or worse, instant feedback has become something akin to an addiction. The common core in email, social media and text messaging is rapid response. It’s not up to us to say whether this is good or bad. The fact is, for people who have grown up with communication defined by incredible speed, instantly accessible feedback is something they’ll expect from an employer. Using video conferencing for brief check-ins is an effective way to make young employees feel seen, valued and respected.
 
BYOD
The younger the employee, the more ingrained the notion that work and leisure exist on a continuum. Such is the nature of the personal device: it is an all-in-one machine that combines productivity tools and escapist pleasure. It can seem dangerous to invite distraction into the workplace, but by letting employees use their own mobile devices at work, you are not only demonstrating trust, but providing them with the tools they feel most comfortable using. And with a mobile video conferencing solution, your connection to your employees will actually only be strengthened.
 
Flexible Scheduling
We are living in the age of the remote worker, and millennials entering the workforce expect to be able to work from home, at least some of the time. Video conferencing solutions allow for some measure of flexibility in scheduling remote time and in-office time, which gives employees the opportunity to tailor schedules in ways that are most productive for them. Of course, it can’t be a free-for-all--there are still deadlines to meet, clients to greet--but giving young workers some wiggle room can go a long way toward making them happy and productive.
 
More Effective Training
A paper-based training packet will look like an ancient (and exceedingly dull) relic to young employees who are accustomed to acquiring information and skills via video. Look at YouTube. That’s where people learn how to do things now. Let’s face it: no one is ever going to love training in the workplace. But it must be done. Try to speak in a language that your employees will understand. For now, that language is video. So grab attention (and maybe even keep it for a little while) with training sessions that incorporate video elements.
 
Virtual Collaboration
An employer should work extra hard to foster a collaborative environment in the workplace. Great ideas tend to grow when more than one person is tending them. Office-based brainstorming sessions are great, but for a lot of people--especially younger people--virtual spaces are where they do their best thinking. So give your employees access to the modes of communication with which they feel most comfortable interacting with each other, because feelings of comfort and freedom provide a solid foundation for building new things.
 
Explore our range of mobile video conferencing solutions.
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Introducing Polycom RealPresence Medialign

We’re not gonna lie: searching for the right video conferencing solution can be a pretty intimidating process. Even seasoned IT vets do some hand-wringing when it comes time to implement a comprehensive room solution. Of course, we’re always here to help you find just the right custom fit for your organization, but Polycom has recently introduced a new all-in-one video conferencing and collaboration solution that simplifies the purchasing and implementation process without sacrificing the innovation and quality we’ve come to expect from Polycom products.
 
This latest offering from Polycom, which the company unveiled on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, is called RealPresence Medialign, and it is essentially a “greatest hits” package that bundles the best of what Polycom has to offer in one easy-to-use, single solution.
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Topics: Polycom RealPresence Medialign, polycom

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