Have you room for a Webex Room Kit !!!

Cisco recently announced two new additions to their in room conferencing portfolio. The first covered here is Webex Room Kit and the Webex Room Kit Plus. These systems are designed to be used in scenarios where you are retrofitting an existing room and already have a screen installed.

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Common features across both platforms include 4K UHD presentation support, H.265 on Main Video Channel. These systems are optimised for LG 4K screens but will work perfectly on all others.

Room kits can be configured to work with both on-prem CUCM deployments and Cisco Spark (not both simultaneously) VCS, Third Party Call Control or as a standalone unit. H.323 is also supported.

On-prem deployments need Cisco Unified Communication Manager ver 9.1(2) or later with a device pack loaded.

The Webex Room kit is optimised for 7 people with a room size up to 6 meters, and the Room Kit plus for a slightly larger room with 14 people, for rooms up to 9 meters.

Both Room Kit and Room Kit Plus use speaker tracking technology. This includes Best Overview and tracking the active speaker. These same features are in SpeakerTrack for SX80 and MX700/800, but the key difference is that the Room Kit cameras have no moving parts – all pan/tilt/zoom is digital as a result, tracking is much faster and more accurate

The kits come with a touch 10 unit and both support WiFi. The small remote control is not supported on Room Kits. Room Kit uses one power supply plus one PoE injector, Room Kit Plus uses two power supplies, one for the Quad Camera unit, and one for the codec, it does not include a PoE injector.

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The Spark Room kit has a single camera, with an 83 degree horizontal field of view this is the same as the HFOV for the SX10 – one of the widest in the industry. In practical terms, this means that the farthest participant from the camera should be 5 meters or less. Digital zoom is maximum 3X.

Picture1The Webex Room Kit plus has four cameras, one with an 83 degree horizontal field of view and is an overview camera that is the same camera as on the Room Kit. The plus includes three additional cameras which deliver speaker tracking and people can be seated as far away as 10 meters and they will be tracked. Digital zoom is effectively about 6X. Each camera can zoom 2.63X.

The room kit and Room kit plus implement people count through an exposed API. This is currently on-prem only, and needs CE9.1 software loaded.

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Integrating Cisco Webex with workflows

Cisco Webex has been designed from the outset with business flow and process integration from the outset. It was quickly realised that a standalone business messaging tool would have zero value if it couldn’t be directly integrated with a business flow.

The term business flow refers to the sequence of steps carried out to complete a defined task. For example and inbound order will trigger a stock check, then stock pick, then invoice and then invoke logistics for delivery. If a issue develops at any stage in the business flow it can impact customer satisfaction and in turn effect sales.

Embedding a collaboration “umbrella” into the flow will greatly increase the speed of resolution at any point within the flow. If there is no stock to fullfill the order then perhaps a messaging session between stock management, purchasing and logistics could quickly identify and resolve the issue as the appropriate people are working the issue.

Cisco Webex has three levels of complexity of integration into business flows. The basic and easiest level to implement is through application integrations and BOT’s. The second is to leverage one of the many API broker services on the market today. The third is to directly embed the extensive array of Cisco Webex API’s into your application.

The first integration level can be done by pretty much anybody who is mildly IT capable. Step 1 is to visit http://apphub.webex.com. Using your Webex account you can directly integrate any of the included applications into a Webex Teams space. You can also add existing Webex BOTS into any of your Webex spaces. From here you can also begin the development of your own BOT.

Examples of API integration or broker services are built.io, zapier.io, API.io, APIANT.com. IFTTT to name but a few. All of these integrators offer the ability for any application that uses an API to communicate, to integrate with Cisco Spark.

The third level and perhaps the most complex is to directly embed the Cisco Webex API calls within your application. A full description of the API’s is provided here: http://developer.webex.com. The documentation is very easy to follow and quite comprehensive.

Deploying Cisco UC in a VDI environment

More and more customers are looking at deploying hosted virtual desktops as a way to manage security and escalating costs of standard thick desktops. Running UC in a virtual environment causes challenges in several ways.

Firstly if the UC client is running in softphone mode on the HVD (Hosted Virtual Desktop) the media will pass between both HVD’s and then down to the local client and be embedded in the display protocol. This is what’s termed the hairpin problem see below

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Some desktop virtualisation vendors have looked at the problem from the perspective of the display protocol and given priority to rich media traffic which goes some way to solve the issue but does not always succeed as it tends to ignore video.

Cisco has a solution which allows users with a Citrix or VMWare HVD infrastructure to run Cisco Collaboration such as Jabber in softphone mode on a local thin client. The client can run SUSE linux, Windows Embedded or eLux Unicon. More client variants to follow.

When implemented as part of Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI), you can provide a superior virtual workspace experience that is collaborative, mobile, and highly secure for all users. The solutions works with Citrix XenDesktop, Citrix XenApp for Published Desktops and VMware View. It will deliver High-definition audio and video using local media processing as the media does not traverse the HVD but passed directly between the two thin clients. As the media is passed between the clients outside of the display protocol we can give improved quality of service (QoS) using QoS marking for voice, video, and data traffic.

The implementation requires three software components:

  • A VXME agent running on the HVD on the data centre
  • A VXME client running on the local thin client
  • Cisco Jabber 10.0 or greater. The versions of VXME agent and client must match the version of Jabber deployed.

Local audio and video can be delivered through USB attached devices such as Logitech or Plantronics devices. Jabber includes the required drivers.

VXME can also run in CTI Deskphone mode allowing Jabber to control a deskphone.

From a licensing perspective, VXME is regarded as an endpoint on Communications manager. Therefore the minimum license required to enable VXME is a UCL Enhanced license. If the user has VXME running Jabber softphone as well as a deskphone the license required is a UCL Enhanced plus.

There is no charge from Cisco for the VXME agent and VXME client software.

Cisco 88XX phone range battlecard

Cisco’s recent rationalisation of the IP Phone models have seen the introduction of two new ranges into the portfolio. The first is the 78XX range which will be covered in another post and the second is the 88XX range. When looking a phone ranges and models it can be difficult to separate the models based on features and capabilities. This may help.

Below is a simple diagram outlining the main difference between the units.

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Firstly all units have 4 lines unlike the 78XX range. These phones are therefore more suited to the Knowledge worker who will have Jabber and perhaps an iPhone or Tablet. All units are GigE. The 8851 and 8861 support Intelligent Proximity (covered in Steve Metcalfe’s blog here), Bluetooth, The ability to add a Key Expansion Module and a powered USB port.

The powered USB outlet on the 8851 enhances the usability of call handling by enabling wired or wireless headsets, as well as provides up to 500-mA power output at 5V or 2.5W for smartphone charging. The 8861 also has this USB port, however it supports a second powered USB port at the back. The back USB port (in yellow) provides 500mA power output and is upgradeable to support up to 2.1A power output at 5V or 10.5W.

The 8861 is the only model in the range that supports IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac WiFi.