I was one of the first users of Google+ Hangouts on launch day and still use it for personal purposes, but very infrequently for business use. Why primarily for personal use? It’s simple- most of my advisory, research and consulting clients use voice and video conferencing systems from Avaya, Cisco Systems, Lifesize, Polycom, and Vidyo. Vidyo announced today that they worked with Google to solve this problem and launched a cloud offering called “VidyoH2O for Google+ Hangouts”.
I want to tell you more about why this is more than “just another video conferencing launch” and about Vidyo, as they are in more products that you use than you would ever imagine, and based on their deep IP portfolio (47 patents and 67 more pending) technology, could disrupt the industry again. If you want a deeper dive on the technology and Vidyo, we have written a white paper here.
VidyoH2O for Google+ Hangouts
While many elements of technology appear random, some elements of technology are very consistent, like the requirement to speak the same “language” to talk to each other. Today’s corporate video systems from companies like Cisco Systems speak a specific language (or protocol) called “H.323”. Google+ Hangouts is WebRTC-based and speaks its own language. And if you want to dial in from within your company’s phone system, it speaks something called “SIP.” Vidyo created what I like to call a “switchboard” video conferencing service which translates Hangouts language to the language of legacy, corporate systems. Net-net, this enables Google Hangouts users to connect with users of legacy systems, and even lets employees dial in audio-only remotely through their company’s IP-PBX, from their phones.
Enterprise customers can deploy VidyoH2O for Google Hangouts two ways. They can subscribe to the cloud service or they can take an on-premises solution. The great thing about Vidyo’s technology is that it doesn’t require you to upgrade your networking, which will cost a multiple on the video conferencing system.
Vidyo Focused on Solving a Different Problem
Have you noticed that most corporate video services are fronted or partnered by networking companies? There’s a simple reason for that. The legacy way of thinking was that video conferencing was in a huge room, could only talk to like products, cost millions in new room hardware and networking upgrades, hundreds of thousands of annual license fees, and required leased lines. Guido Jouret, CTO of Cisco Systems Emerging Technology Group, said in a Fortune article back in 2011 that ”for every dollar we sell of video endpoints we typically will also sell between $3-$5 of networking.”Networking companies love this. Companies can charge IT big-time cap-ex and have an ongoing annuity to boot. No wonder voice is still used 1,000 times more than video.
Many companies have tried to address this problem by adding HD or slapping a new user interface on older technology. Does this make any sense in a world where workers are spread out all over the place teleworking, smartphones have the processing power of prior generation servers, servers have the processing power of yesterday’s supercomputers, and broadband has sped up exponentially? I didn’t think so.
Vidyo focused its video technology differently by leveraging a given level of bandwidth and delivering the best experience on a PC, Mac, Android, or iOS device. Vidyo solutions don’t require a massive investment in networking or dedicated hardware solutions. Instead, Vidyo runs on standard virtual machines. This allows orders of magnitude more scalability to enterprise and service provider scale.
It’s a different way to slice the video on the network so it can morph to “fit” the internet bandwidth and use a new kind of software-based router technology to effectively replace the traditional clumsy bridge. What is unique about Vidyo is this new VidyoRouter architecture, the VidyoRouter that providesfor boundless, over-the-Internet conferencing. As previously mentioned, Vidyo has now signed a strategic agreement with Google to bring these capabilities to WebRTC and Hangouts, and collaborate with other venders to bring it to another upcoming standard, H.265. 4K displays are also around the corner and were demonstrated recently by Vidyo, further leveraging this platform.
What about the quality? The quality, even on my LTE-enabled iPad Air was astonishing. I have used literally every videoconferencing system on the planet and Vidyo blew me away. Even on LTE, I got full-screen with four equal sized participants, not the shrinking and enlarging head based on who was talking.
Too Good to Be True?
When Vidyo first explained and showed me their technology, I was a bit skeptical. My second job was with AT&T, the videophone inventor, and I helped pioneer point-to-point video calling at Compaq with Intel. I have been underwhelmed ever since (with the exception of the $1M HP Halo rooms). Call me a video skeptic. I was looking for that reason to believe, or as I call it, the “magic blue crystal.” While my colleague has written a deeper dive on the technology nuts and bolts, I want to talk about some of the highlights that lead me to believe in the fundamental promises Vidyo is making.
Strategic Partnership with Google
You have to always take notice when Google works with another technology company. That technology must be pretty good if a company who licenses it also develops autonomous cars, intelligent robots, stealthy scale-out datacenters few have seen, and of course, operating systems. Well, Google has been doing many things with Vidyo, dating back to 2008. Google licensed Vidyo’s technology for the original Google+ Hangouts and Google Talk. The two companies are also collaborating to include Vidyo’s SVC technology in VP9 and client software in Chrome. Yes, every download of Chrome will include Vidyo technology. Finally, per today’s press release, Vidyo is announcing that they are delivering interoperability with Google+ Hangouts and legacy systems with VidyoH2O for Google Hangouts.
While Vidyo says they have more than 2,000 companies using their technology, one sweet spot is healthcare, where Vidyo and partners likePhilips, Mayo Clinic and Optum United Healthcare’s service arm, are really changing the face of healthcare. As a former board chair of a nationally ranked hospital, I saw the challenges of balancing the delivery of amazing patient care, minimizing costs, and dealing with new state and federal regulations. Telemedicine has the potential to fundamentally change the face of healthcare. The telemedicine keys? First, you have to serve patients where they are: on their phones, tablets or computers in their homes, work, in beds or at a remote clinic. That by itself guarantees a heterogeneous environment with different devices via different levels of connectivity. Then there’s cost. Do you think hospitals and doctors can rip and replace current networking with new networking? I hope I don’t have to answer that rhetorical question. Seems to me that adding a few virtual appliances or servers that don’t even need to do massive transcoding is the right answer.
Where to Next?
If it’s not apparent, I like Vidyo’s technology. They woke me from my video conferencing slumber, proved to me it was real and differentiated, and I’m now thinking about the future.
The best could be yet to come. Since this is the first time the price/performance of these capabilities meets user expectations in any use scenario, from the board room to consumers hanging out together. The company has built very a powerful platform with extensive APIs that allow this capability to be embedded in virtually any application; from massive service provider offerings, gaming and entertainment, to massive health care use, and of course enterprise communication on an unprecedented scale. The opportunity is to enable all the “Things” from the Internet of Things, moving from board rooms to desktop and, in the future, to all personal devices. This creates a market that is much bigger than the unified communications market most companies are focused on. Vidyo has something very special here. If you want a deeper, more technical dive, you can find a white paper here.