Plantronics and Revolabs are looking to address the issues of sound and noise in unified communications.
The two companies separately are rolling out products designed to make it easier for people in collaborative settings to hear each other by making the audio clearer and reducing background noise.
Plantronics on Feb. 5 unveiled four audio devices—from headsets to speakerphones—for unified communications (UC) environments that can be used in the office or on the road. Two days earlier, Revolabs officials said the company is now shipping its new line of Elite Wired Microphones, which offer the same engineering and capabilities found in Revolabs' Elite wireless offerings.
At a time of increasing workforce mobility, employees are demanding tools that enable them to collaborate from anywhere at any time on any device they want, from smartphones to tablets to PCs. The trend in UC is toward software- and cloud-based solutions, and away from large conference rooms and to smaller huddle rooms.
And while such capabilities as video and screen sharing are increasingly important in UC, the growth in the diversity of devices being used in conferences both inside the room and from remote locations puts even more importance not only in the ability for technology to make the speaker's voice clear but to reduce the surrounding noise that might make hearing the speaker more difficult.
Even with the rise of video collaboration, many of the complaints surrounding UC revolve around the quality of the audio, Revolabs CTO Tim Root said in an interview with eWEEK. That sentiment was echoed by Bill Loewenthal, vice president of enterprise product solutions at Plantronics.
"Everywhere is the new workplace," Loewenthal said in a statement. "We know office noise is increasingly becoming a concern due to more open working environments that promote collaboration, but workplace noise isn't just a problem for those in the office. You can't always control your environment and you certainly can't control your caller's environment."
Among Plantronics' new offerings is the Blackwire 725 headset with active noise canceling (ANC) technology that—combined with such capabilities as digital signal processing (DSP) and wideband audio—makes it not only easier to hear the other people on the call, but also for them to hear you, according to company officials. The $179 headset attaches via a USB.
The Voyager Edge UC is a Bluetooth headset designed for mobile workers who need to use their Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a smartphone, notebook or tablet, at the same time. The $199 headset includes Plantonics technology that reduces background noises and enables users to answer incoming calls as they place it on their ears.
The Calisto 610 is a portable $99 corded USB speakerphone that enables users to quickly get conferences up and running quickly for small groups of people. It includes omnidirectional audio that can easily integrate with a softphone, according to officials. The $149 Clarity 340 is a handset-style phone that is designed for workers with vision, hearing or dexterity issues. The device can amplify sounds and includes an easy-to-read screen and large buttons for dialing.
For its part, Revolabs' new Elite Wired Microphones are designed for such workspaces as smaller huddle rooms, board rooms or full conference rooms, with the ability to run with a broad range of UC applications. They come in both omnidirectional and directional models, and include Revolabs' noise reduction technology.
Revolabs' Root told eWEEK that even with the increasingly mobile workforce, wired microphones offer advantages over wireless mics, including providing greater security and less of a chance of becoming lost or stolen. Wireless mics give users a greater range of movement, but require batteries.
The Elite Wired Microphones come less than a year after Revolabs was bought by Yamaha, which Root said wanted to grow its presence in the market for enterprise audio equipment. Since 2013, Revolabs has been expanding its portfolio of products, including adding the FLX family of conference phones and speakers as well as working with Cisco Systems in developing the networking giant's IP 8831 UC phone.
Root said Revolabs expects to expand its lineup of audio products as the UC market continues to grow.
"From our perspective, UC is going to go away," he said. "It’s only going to get more real. We're going after the pieces of it we know we can affect."