Siemens Adds Desktop Video Conferencing To UC Platform

Video's ease-of-use was a prime consideration for OpenScape, said David Ross, director, enterprise collaboration at Siemens. Customers won't embrace video if it's more cumbersome to set up than a phone call, which is why the experience has to be seamless, he said.

"We've realized that our customers expect very little delineation between what is a voice call, and what is a video call, and what is a web-based conference call," said David Moss, director, enterprise collaboration at Siemens Enterprise Communications. "We think the features should be the exact same set of offerings across our portfolio: the soft capability of multipoint conferencing."

OpenScape is the open-standards UC platform with which Siemens competes against Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft and a host of other unified communications players. Video's role in the UC play has become a central focus for many vendors and solution providers looking to blend video communications into an overall solution instead of provide video as a bolt-on or separate infrastructure.

Siemens' Desktop Videoconferencing software integrates with standards-based SIP endpoints, according to the company. That means customers can use Siemens OpenScape with existing Polycom, Cisco, LifeSize, or Radvision video systems, for example, and there's even an option for OpenScape users to designate those competitive endpoints as their "preferred" devices for use with OpenScape.

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"If you have an existing Polycom, for example, you can take that Polycom and register it with OpenScape so that Polycom now becomes a device within OpenScape, recognized like a Siemens phone would be," Moss said. "OpenScape just sees it as a phone that's been video-enabled. So if I've got that Polycom with a 50-inch monitor in my office that I like to use, that can be my preferred device, and Siemens is my soft client."

Siemens doesn't provide a camera or video endpoint hardware, but anything from a small webcam to a larger desktop system works with the OpenScape software.

"The OpenScape platform has always been about open standards," said Rob Arandjelovic, product marketing manager. "We really don't do anything outside an open standards environment. Video is mature enough both in the SIP world and others that we see this as protection of a customer's investment."

OpenScape Video Conferencing offers H.364 HD codec support, AudioPresence support, 1280x720 resolution at 24 frames per second, frame-rate and resolution transcoding, and video-mixer, playback and recording capabilities. Other ease-of-use options include that if a video call rings and no one answers, it will follow a call-routing pattern in OpenScape that sends the call to voicemail on a desk phone.

When viewing the video conference, OpenScape also offers active speaker identification within a frame as "continuous presence," meaning participants don't drop from the video viewing window if they aren't speaking.

OpenScape currently offers six parties in view at the same time, and more will be visible in the future, Moss said. When a participant is in the conference audio-only, he added, a phone icon is highlighted with the speaker's name on screen when that participant is talking.

It was important to Siemens to ensure the video aspect is fully integrated, Moss said, and as a result, there's no separate video icon in the system's graphical user interface (GUI).

The Desktop Videoconferencing unit is built right into OpenScape and runs about $1,100 per channel per simultaneous user, so a system that could be used with 15 simultaneous users would be about $16,500.

"It's not a separate bolt on that needs a separate management system," Moss said. "It's a standard feature -- another application that the media server runs."

Beyond video, the updated OpenScape platform also includes IPv6 support and SDES, or session description protocol security descriptions, protection, along with additional analog device support for OpenScape Branch and a Skype Connect trunking option for OpenScape's Session Border Controller.