MARCH 10, 2016 2PM
Yes, the travel budget for most businesses has been cut in these most recent years. In theory air travel can be replaced by phone and video conferences. Although in practice video conferences are a pain in the butt. Often the video isn’t working, Skype needs updating, the quality is terrible and so on. In a lot of situations, it’s just easier to pick up an old-fashioned phone and make the call.
Finally, I’ve found a solution. Grandstream is a brand of business-grade phones and they produce a very clever conferencing device that supports both audio and video conferences.
Its design is awesome, a round unit designed to be at the centre of a meeting or boardroom table.
It has three built-in microphones to capture all of the conversation. Very clear speakers so you can hear what the other end is saying and supports both Microsoft’s Skype platform as well as Google’s Hangouts.
The unit is Android based, which means that its features can be updated and altered over time. You can even install new apps – these are controlled by a crisp 4” LCD touch screen on the front of the unit. There is a software development kit for developing new, custom apps if you so desire.
Usefully it supports Power over Ethernet meaning in some environments you won’t even need its power adapter. Also, Wi-Fi is built in, which is an alternative connection option, although you’d then need the power adapter plugged in.
As well as Skype & Hangouts mentioned above it can also support up to six SIP phone lines. This is useful if you wish to conference a number of different locations or parties into the same call.
It has a Micro-USB port which is used to connect a video conferencing device like a Grandstream GVC32XX series camera.
You can even daisy chain two of these conferencing devices together in a large boardroom situation, so you have microphones and speakers near different ends of a larger table. This is called cascading and a cable is included in the package. It may also be a small thing, but it includes a 5 metre Ethernet cable and 3 metre USB cable – both are likely to be used during setup, which is very useful and could save you a trip.
Bluetooth is also included, which allows syncing of headsets and mobile phones.
For those paranoid about security, there are some serious TLS & SRTP encryption options so that nobody can listen into your calls.
The team at Grandstream have done a superb job with this unit. I literally can’t fault it. The interface is great, setup was easy, the audio is crisp and it’s very competitively priced. A great product for a meeting or boardroom at almost any size of business.