Polycom Expands Conferencing

Fusion of video, audio technology allows multimode communication.

In an effort to make videoconferencing as convenient as audio conferencing, Polycom Inc. last week launched a series of products that integrate video and audio technologies to create a unified conferencing system.

Traditionally, video calls require that all participants use video technology, but Polycom is expanding its product line to permit a variety of communication modes. "Its not always convenient for people to be in a location that has video. Its important to be able to connect people anyway they can connect," said Ned Semonite, vice president of product development, in Polycoms Andover, Mass., office. "Were trying to get to where people can use whatever tools fit their needs, regardless of where they are."

W.R. Grace & Co. has been using Polycoms conferencing technology for about five years, with equipment deployed at 37 sites around the world, primarily at large production plants and field offices, according to Guy Welty, manager of global media network and collaborative services, in Columbia, Md.

"This is a way for us to reach out and deal with our clients," Welty said. "Now were beginning to look at it as a marketing tool."

Polycom is rolling out what it calls the industrys first wideband conference phone, the SoundStation VTX 1000, designed to convey high-fidelity voice quality, regardless of how large the conference room is. Participants no longer have to huddle around the speakerphone or strain their necks to talk directly into it because the systems technology picks up voices of people sitting up to 20 feet away and evens out the volume of voices from all distances.

Being There

Polycoms latest videoconferencing tools:
  • SoundStation VTX 1000 Conveys high-fidelity voice quality and filters extraneous noise
  • MGC-25 For small offices or branch offices; combines all calls into one long-distance call
  • Executive Collection Four offerings, combining sound systems and plasma screens
The phone filters out extraneous noise by searching for consistent sounds, such as the hum of a PC fan. When the phone connects with another VTX-1000, it moves into wideband mode, which doubles the bandwidth, officials said. As upgrades are made to the software, users can download them over the phone line.

Polycom, based in Pleasanton, Calif., also upgraded its line of multipoint control units with the latest video compression standard, H.264 video, which enables sharper images at lower bandwidth.

For smaller companies just getting into videoconferencing, Polycom is rolling out an MCU (multipoint conference unit) that integrates audio, video and Web functions. Called the MGC-25, the system allows small offices or branch offices to make local or regional calls, which are then rolled over into one long-distance call.

For the high end of the market, Polycom unveiled an Executive Collection of four systems, combining state-of-the-art sound systems with the most advanced plasma screens, Semonite said.

The H.264 standard is incorporated in Polycoms iPower 9000 series of video collaboration systems, as well as in the MCUs. The new systems range from a wall-mounted system with dual 61-inch, high-resolution plasma monitors to a single 50-inch floor system.