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Radvision Does Big-Time Small-Device Video Conferencing

Ah, the BYOD craze. Users demand to use their own mobile devices for work, network admins fret over what it all means to the network and how to properly manage these odd little gems, and industry players from all niches continue to roll out some pretty amazing mobile capabilities--like Radvision's new SCOPIA Mobile video conferencing application, which extends enterprise-quality conferencing to consumer-grade smart devices.

When video conferencing works well, it is a powerful business tool. Whether enabling the closing of deals from afar, conducting simple staff meetings for far-flung personnel, or delivering interactive educational content, the capability of extending presence over the network can be as critical a service as any. This is why it can also be so maddening when it hiccups or stalls, leaving participants frustrated and business operations interrupted. Worse yet, when doing business with a prospective customer, a botched video meeting can be a relationship-killer.

Radvison’s line of IP-based telepresence solutions is fairly well-entrenched in the business world, but the company’s latest offering puts a slick, contemporary spin on the ability to support video conferencing from virtually anywhere. And in this case, to "support" video conferencing means to own it, to control it, set it up and manage it, and to have almost all of the same functionality you’d get out of a big SCOPIA station. As with Radvision's larger-platform offerings, SCOPIA Mobile boasts interoperability with industry-leading telepresence and unified messaging systems from the likes of Cisco, Polycom and Microsoft.

Right now, SCOPIA Mobile is available for the iPad and iPhone, with Android support on the active roadmap. During a recent demonstration, I was treated to real-world conferencing between desktops and iDevices, and learned all about Radvision's NetSense feature, which intelligently changes the connection characteristics as the size of the pipe to the device changes. Whether on Wi-Fi or 3G, NetSense optimizes the conference session as it monitors the connection quality, dynamically changing from HD video to whatever the connection can support as needed. Watching the screens and participant interplay, it was hard to see much difference in wired connections versus users on mobile data networks.

Taking part in the demo conference, I was impressed with how Radvision packaged all of the knobs and buttons of conference control that are typically available into a pint-sized UI that worked well. Meeting moderation, participant invitation, muting of participant audio and video, and all other relevant control functions are available and easy to manipulate from iPhone or iPad. You can just imagine the power and flexibility this sort of app provides, given that up to 250 participants can be active on a single meeting (with streaming to thousands more) as the session leader works from a taxi via his or her iPhone interacting with the SCOPIA server.

With one analyst after another beating the drum that mobiles will soon outnumber legacy Internet-connected devices, the migration of apps like video conferencing to the mobile space is a given. At the same time, getting telepresence right on highly mobile, variable-bandwidth-connected smaller devices can be at odds with the often rigid network requirements of fixed conferencing solutions. From what I can see so far, Radvision's SCOPIA Mobile shows that not only can mobile video conferencing be done, but it can be done quite impressively. This should be a fun space to watch.