Article – From the horse’s mouth
Viber – Free calls, Free text messages, photo and location sharing
Previously, we have known of Viber as an “over-the-top” VoIP telephony program that offers a free telephony and SMS path for smartphone users. This has been of strong appeal to overseas travellers who want to escape the horrendous roaming charges that most mobile operators are charging people who use the phone out of their home country.
Now Viber have reached version 3.0 and released a desktop version of the softphone which will run on Windows or Macintosh regular computers. This has provided features like desktop-to-desktop videocalls and the ability to transfer a call between the regular computer and a mobile device. This is a sign that Viber has matured and started to approach Skype.
But for Viber to answer Skype, they have to offer IP-based videocalls on mobile clients. Similarly, they would need to provide the client software “knowhow” to enable the user interface to work on devices other than platform-based regular or mobile computing devices. This is somewhere where Skype has a considerable strength in with the Samsung and Sony smart TVs, the Panasonic Blu-Ray players, the desk phones, and the Logitech TV Cam HD Skype camera.
It can be easy to state that Viber’s free IP telephony model isn’t sustainable but they could offer services like partnership with some of the carriers like the French “n-box” carriers. They can also offer paid-for off-ramp services where a Viber customer could dial a regular phone that isn’t part of the Viber ecosystem. It can extend to a software-based “trunk” or “tie-line” for IP-based business phone systems as a subscription-driven business-to-business service.
Now that Viber has hit the stage of maturity, we could be seeing the opening of lively competition on the “over-the-top” IP-based voice and video telephony front for both consumers and small businesses.
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A common remark that I hear about next-generation broadband is that it is a service we don’t need. Here the image that is underscored is that current-generation broadband services like ADSL2 or cable-modem Internet are good enough for email and Web browsing with a dash of multimedia communication thrown in.
But the next-generation Internet services are providing for newer realities especially as we increasingly do some of our work from home or increase the use of multimedia that is available online.
Video and entertainment applications
A major driver for the next-generation broadband technology is its role in delivering entertainment content to customers. This has been underscored through the availability of network-enabled AV equipment that can also draw down this content from the Internet.
One major application class that I see with next-generation broadband is the distribution of video that has very high resolution. This will become the norm as more display devices will have high pixel-density displays. For example, a device like a 10” tablet to a 21” personal-display screen will acquire something like a 1080p resolution while the 32”-55” group-viewing displays will acquire the resolution for a 4K UHDTV picture.
This year, the 4K ultra-high-definition TV technology is being premiered by the likes of Sony, with the idea of the content currently being delivered on to hard disk media players connected to these displays.
Similarly, more newer video content is being turned out with the 1080p full high definition images. This includes older content, especially the material that was mastered to 16mm or 35mm film being mastered to 1080p full high definition video.
IPTV and video on demand
Another key application is the provision of Internet-based video services. These could be in the form of scheduled IPTV broadcasts or video-on-demand services where you can pull in video content to view. The video-on-demand services could be offered as a streaming service where the server streams down the content as you view it or as a download service where the content is downloaded to local mass-storage for you to view from that location.
The cost of entry is being reduced significantly at both the service provider’s end and the consumer’s end. In the latter case, this is enabled through various smart-TV platforms offering this service through TV sets and video peripherals like Blu-Ray players, games consoles and network media receivers. The former case is underscored by the arrival of an “action sport movie” channel that is running movie and TV content themed around high-action sports and making use of IPTV due to its low cost of entry.
It also appeals to the different business models like advertising-supported, pay-per-view, content rental, time-based subscription and download-to-own, with the operators being able to offer a mix of models to suit the content and the audience.
Telecommuting and small-business enablement
Another key application that the next-generation broadband will provide is various communications and business-enablement services. This can cater for people who telecommute (work from home for an employer) on a full-time or ad-hoc basis, people who maintain a shopfront for their business but do their office work at home or those of us who run professional or other business services from our homes.
Videoconferencing and IP communications
With the success of Skype in the consumer space, the concept of IP-based communications is likely to drive the need for next-generation broadband.
For example, the videocalls currently offered through Skype allow for 720p video resolution through the current generation of Webcams in the field. Similarly, HD voice communications which allows one’s voice to come through in FM-radio quality is being supported by Viber and most over-the-top telecommunications services. This latter ability can benefit people who have a distinct accent in that they can be heard easily.
In some cases, this could extend to “real-business” telecommunications like PABX functionality or telepresence / teleconference being made available to the small-business crowd. For example, a small-business owner who sets up shop in another area could benefit from VoIP tie-lines that link both locations or a professional services provider could engage in videocalls with clients using Skype or better services.
Another key driver for next-generation broadband is the idea of “cloud computing”. This can extend from email, social-networks and Internet banking through to file-drop, media-sharing and online-backup services. Even businesses and multiple-premises home networks are or will be implementing “small private cloud” setups which interlink computer systems that are at multiple locations, whether on a remote-access or peer-to-peer basis.
But what is common with these services is that they require the ability to transfer large amounts of data between the home network and the service provider. This will cause a demand for the bandwidth offered by the next-generation broadband services.
Although it is so easy to say that there isn’t a need for next-generation broadband, as the new applications come on to the scene, these applications could ultimately underscore the desire and need for this technology.
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Logitech TV Cam HD brings Skype video calls to your television | TechGuide
From the horse’s mouth – Logitech
An increasing number of newer flatscreen “smart TVs” have Skype capability when equipped with an optional camera. But there are an increasing number of flatscreen TVs and TV-optical-disc-player combos sold at very affordable prices that don’t support this network ability. Add to this the number of flatscreen TVs currently in use that don’t have integrated network functionality.
Logitech have answered this situation by offering the TV Cam HD which is an add-on network videophone that plugs in to a regular flatscreen TV via its HDMI input. This videophone connects to your home network using Ethernet or 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless connection and uses the Skype IP-telephony service.
The camera can work at 720p resolution and uses a noise-cancelling microphone array in order to allow for use in a larger area. It also has a ringer which works whether the TV is on or off so you can quickly turn on the set and select the right input to answer that incoming videocall.
What I personally like of this camera is that there has been a lot of thought going into this product so it can be a videophone even if you focus on your TV’s picture and sound quality when buying that TV or allowing you to enable a cheaper set to work as a Skype video terminal. As well, it would be an ideal Skype solution for older people who need to keep in contact with distant relatives using this medium.
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Feature Article – Videoconferencing on the home network
Some of you may have relatives who are far away or are ill and unable to come out for the Christmas festivities. So you may find that Skype would work as a valuable too for this season.
Skype-enabled video devices
You may have recently purchased a Skype-enabled TV or, if you are in America, had Comcast install one of those new cable-TV set-top boxes. Increasingly, some of the “smart-TV” devices like TV sets, Blu-Ray players or network media adaptors may have Skype functionality on-board, able to work with an optional camera module.
If you are buying a device that you know has Skype integrated, make sure that you buy the Skype camera for this device. You could use this as a deal-maker when you are buying any of these devices. For the abovementioned Comcast subscribers, if you are running with the newer cable-TV boxes, contact your Comcast customer-service line and ask how you can get that Skype camera and whether the Skype facility is running.
Here, you could enable this device to an account primarily used by your household and make sure you have the camera accessory for the video equipment.
Your laptop computer
If you are using your laptop or other computer, you would need to connect it to the main TV screen. Nearly all plasma or LCD flatscreen TVs have a VGA or HDMI connection which can allow you to use it as your computer’s display. If you use a DisplayPort-equipped computer like a MacBook Air, you may need to use a DisplayPort-HDMI adaptor in order to use these connectors.
As well, you may have best results with this setup when you use a USB webcam or a regular video camera or camcorder connected to a USB-based AV capture card. Here, you can have the Webcam fixed at the top of the TV.
Configuring Skype appropriately
You may have to make sure that if you are using an HDMI connection or an external camera or microphone, you have the video and audio devices setup appropriately. Some HDMI setups may enumerate the audio feed to the HDMI device as a discrete sound device and you may have to select this as your sound output in Skype if you want the correspondent’s voice through the TV or home-theatre.
For the USB Webcam or the USB AV capture device, you would need to set Skype’s video source and microphone to the Webcam or AV capture device.
Quality of service
Skype does perform properly with quality of service for most Internet connections but I would make sure that you use a wired connection to the router or have a strong Wi-Fi connection between the wireless router and the device if you are using a Wi-Fi link.
You may want to do a “dry-run” call with the intended household before the big event so you are sure that it is going to work properly. This may be a limitation if you intend to have the Skype-enabled TV or video peripheral as a Christmas gift.
Another good hint is to make sure that the households are registered on Skype and that each one is part of each other’s Contact List. This could be established by sending each other their Skype name through an email. It could be followed up by arranging a contact time to make this videocall through subsequent emails, taking into account the time differences between the locations.
With Christmas being the time to catch up with family and friends overseas, why not make it the time to do it with pictures the Skype way.
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Articles – From the horse’s mouth
T24 IP Video Door Station – Mobotix Website
The Mobotix T24 video entryphone (door intercom) system piqued my interest with this site because it is a device of its kind that is primarily driven by IP connectivity with access provided through a standard IP-based network.
This has allowed you to “release that door” to a world of innovation as far as these systems are concerned because there is the ability to build out a cost-effective and flexible door intercom setup for that apartment block or gated community.
Standard IP connectivity
Here, the resident or tenant can use an IP-based SIP-compliant hardware or software videophone (or a VoIP telephone for voice only) connected to their Internet service. It can be feasible for the door intercom to be connected to its own Internet service, which may be the case for tenants who want to let in visitors using their smartphone while out at the shops for example; or for use at the entry gates of a larger property or gated community, where you can’t affordably extend the main Internet service to those gates.
What the door intercom offers
Of course, this unit has all the features necessary for a door intercom of its class that would pique the apartment-block / gated-community market. For example, it has its own access control system for the associated door or gate, which can be driven by a PIN number or an RFID (near-field communication) card.
As well, by virtue of innovation, the system has recording abilities for logging what happened as well as a feature not often associated with the door intercom setup. This is a video-mail system that allows visitors to leave “while you were out” messages for tenants.
Questions worth raising
A major reality that will affect the door intercom over its lifetime is how the unit is set up as far as the equipment installed in the resident’s or tenant’s unit is concerned. This is more so as VoIP telephony becomes mainstream with triple-play services, VoIP business telephony and cut-price long-distance VoIP telephone services coming on the scene.
There needs to be knowledge about how this unit can be provisioned in to IP telephony setups especially as different residents or tenants, with differing technology skill levels, move in to and out of the units over the development’s life. It also includes enrolling additional handsets to the intercom so that users can answer the door from the device they feel comfortable with and are near.
Similarly, there needs to be support for a “function key” setup for devices like this when they are integrated with standards-based IP telephony setups so that one can know which button to press to unlock the door for example.
As well, there should be knowledge on how the residents or tenants can get at the messages that are left on the video-mail system while visitor-resident privacy is assured. This also includes support for and integration with standards-based email or unified-communications setups.
The Mobotix T24 IP video door station has set the cat amongst the pigeons as far as IP-telephony is concerned. Here, it has defined a particular device and usage class that will become increasingly real especially as residents or tenants in multiple-tenancy units and gated communities welcome the arrival of IP-based telephony technology.
It also allows further innovation to take place with these devices, such as improved security and aesthetics and the potential to improve the user experience for both the resident and the visitor.
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Parents get children back after testifying via Skype | The Age Technology
The courts of justice are again being used as a proving ground for today’s Internet-driven technology. This time it is the use of Skype in a child-protection case occurring in the USA concerning immigrant parents who were deported back to Mexico. Here, the US-based court had used Skype as a tool for taking the Mexico-based parents’ testimony due to cost and logistical reasons. Video-conferencing has been used in the courtroom for a lot of cases such as high-profile crime trials where it is desireable to keep a high-risk defendant or “supergrass” confined at a secure jail through the hearing. These setups typically use a direct link between known locations like a courthouse and a major prison, or an expensive-to-hire videoconferencing setup for temporary arrangements.
Of course, the Skype-based solution had facilitated the use of cost-effective equipment that didn’t need intense technical help to set up. This has allowed the parents to prove to the court that they were fit and appropriate parents for the children concerned even though they were limited in funds and based in Mexico.
This case could benefit other civil, family and similar cases in most jurisdictions where a key participant or witness is separated from the main court of hearing by significant distance or ill-health. Typically most of these situations would require an expensive video-conferencing setup which may not be feasible in most rural areas and the setups would require a lot of specialist time to set up and run. Or they would require the lawyers representing both sides of the case to travel out to the witness’s location and make a video recording of their testimony which doesn’t have the immediacy and constant judicial oversight of the live testimony.
Here, a Skype setup on an ordinary 15” or 17” laptop, like most of the laptops reviewed on HomeNetworking01.info, connected via a broadband link can be established by most computer-competent people. These same setups could be transported in the typical briefcase, laptop bag or backpack as cabin luggage on a flight or in the boot (trunk) of a typical car.
One step of progress I would like to see for Skype in the courtroom as a remote-testimony tool is for a similar situation to work with a criminal trial, especially one heard by a judge and jury. In this situation, there would be a requirement to test the case beyond reasonable doubt and these cases may be more exacting than the civil case mentioned above.
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Facebook unveils video chatting, thanks to Skype | The Digital Home – CNET News
Facebook intros group chats, new chat tool design | The Digital Home – CNET News
Facebook Reveals Video Chat Powered By Skype | Mashable
Facebook’s chat functionality has now become a mature adult now that it offers group chatting and is about to offer Skype-powered videocall functionality.
What I do like about this is that rather than reinventing the wheel as Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger did to develop their video-chat services, Facebook have taken a sensible path. Here they have implemented Skype technology to power their video chat functionality.
The main reason I see this is going on is because Google are encroaching on Facebook’s territory with their Google+ social network service and Facebook have to provide a reason to keep their userbase loyal to their social network. It may also affect Skype’s native userbase who may use Facebook as a static notification tool while using the Skype client for text, audio and video chatting.
It may require Facebook to provide native support for this new level of chat functionality in their client-side applications. This is especially important for people who have used desktop instant-messaging services like ICQ or Windows Live Messenger and like the ability of these programs to operate in the background while they undertake their main activities.
Similarly, it could support the mobile, VoIP and “big-screen” platforms and take advantage of what each of these platforms can offer, such as “big-screen” video conferencing on larger TV sets for example.
This goal can be achieved more easily through the use of Skype code with Facebook interlinking and could be implemented in devices and platforms that have either of these functions written in to their base, such as the “smart-TV” platforms.
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Skype to bring video chat to Comcast subscribers | Signal Strength – CNET News
Comcast brings Skype calls to TV | Total Telecom
Previously, Samsung, LG and Panasonic have implemented a Skype videoconferencing endpoint in their Internet-enabled TVs for use with an optional Webcam. This was to allow users to have the ability to make videocalls with the ability to hear their correspondent from the TV’s speakers and see them on the TV screen.
Now Comcast, a major US cable-TV provider, has got in on the act by installing Skype on their new set-top boxes. But, typically, what will happen is that customers will have to purchase a special USB webcam through Comcast to enable the service. The backhaul for this service will be the Comcast cable-Internet infrastructure and the service will appeal to people who have Comcast also as their Internet service provider.
Could this open up the door for pay TV companies to enable their set-top boxes as Skype endpoints especially as they see themselves losing relevance in the Internet age? This is mainly due to the “cord-cutting” trend where people are downscaling or cancelling current pay-TV subscriptions or refusing to subscribe to pay-TV and use “over-the-top” Internet-delivered video-on-demand services.
On the other hand, this step, taken by set-top-box makers and cable-TV companies, could allow people who have existing TV equipment to make or take Skype calls on their favourite big-screen TVs. For satellite-based or terrestrial-based setups, it will require the use of a backhaul via the customer’s Internet service, which wouldn’t be difficult if the operator implements other Internet-based services like catch-up TV or view-on-demand. It will be interesting to see who else will roll this service in to their set-top box platforms even as TV manufacturers enable their sets for Internet TV.
It has therefore become the first time that Skype has become available in a popular set-top-box platform, especially delivered by a pay-TV provider rather than requiring the customer to buy a new set-top box for this function.
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Another step towards easily-configurable IP telephony systems has been taken with the UPnP Forum just releasing the UPnP Telephony Device Control Protocol this week. Here, this provides the management of telephone-related devices that are connected across a small network in a heterogenous manner. This involves the ability for the devices to make or take phone calls, be notified of incoming calls, send and receive text and multimedia messages as well as updating local user-presence status.
It is also intended to be service agnostic so as to cater for phone services based on IP-Telephony (VoIP), cellular wireless or classic landline (ISDN or Plain Old Telephony Service) technology; as well as being device form-factor agnostic.
As with the whole of the UPnP ecosystem, this DCP provides increased room for innovation due to a logical “building-block” approach in designing these systems.
A UPnP Telephony Client is a device that is used by the end-user to interact with the caller at the other end of the line. A multi-handset phone system would have these devices referred to as an “extension”. This could be a device like a VoIP handset, a “softphone” program run on a computer, a TV or set-top box with IP-based video speakerphone function or a “legacy-handset-bridge” like an analogue telephone adaptor or DECT base station.
The UPnP Telephony system allows different clients to be media-specific, thus allowing for situations like an electronic picture frame that has a Webcam to become a videophone adaptor with the voice part of a videocall placed using this device being hosted through a regular VoIP handset.
A UPnP Telephony Server device represents anything that can provide a telephone service to the local IP-based network. This can be in the form of a 3G mobile phone connected to the home network via WiFi, a regular telephone that has integrated PSTN/ISDN – IP bridge functionality, but would typically be in the form of a device that works as an “IP-PBX” with VoIP lines and servicing VoIP handsets.
A physical device can have multiple logical “Telephony Server” devices, with one for each “service” that calls come in on. It doesn’t matter whether the calls come in via VoIP or a classic telephony service like a 3G mobile service or the “Plain Old Telephone Service”. This can cater for the VoIP-enabled router or “IP-PBX” that can handle a few VoIP services as well as a “Plain Old Telephone Service” line; or a mobile phone or “MiFi” router that "front-ends” its 3G/GSM telephony service to the network.
Telephony Control Point
This is effectively the “control surface” for a UPnP Telephony system and can be integrated with a Telephony Client or Telephony Server or be its own device. Typically this would be the buttons and display on a phone but could be a device with its own display or a “widget application” on a computer showing up the incoming call details or incoming text / multimedia messages.
This device class manages the creation, management and conclusion of a voice or video call between UPnP-compliant telephony “hub” devices and endpoint devices.
The technology allows for a call to be set up using multiple devices on the local side. A good example of this would be to instigate a videocall with the video display appearing on a videophone-enabled TV with integrated Webcam and the conversation sound coming through the cordless handset. Of course, it will do the usual call-management features like call transfer are able to be performed across a UPnP Telephony-based phone setup.
As well, there is support for a common address book that is based on vCard standards as well as the management of answering-machine / voice-mail setups in these systems. Of course, a UPnP-based IP telephone system can support sending and receiving of text or multimedia messages. This would mean that, for example, incoming messages could appear on devices like networked TVs or a Wi-Fi-based cordless IP phone could send messages through VoIP SMS services or “landline-SMS” services provided on PSTN or ISDN services.
Issues that need to be looked at
Establishment of IP-telephony services
An issue that needs to be looked at is the setup and management of IP-based telephony services. Here, this may include the addition of a new service or the establishment and modification of outbound and inbound call-management profiles associated with multiple phone services.
This may involve the use of predefined call classes like “local” or “international” with the ability to determine which service is used for a particular class. Similarly, there could be the use of “default” outbound dialling plans such as “VoIP for all calls except emergency or service calls”. As far as the small-business owner is concerned, this issue may encompass the creation of IP-based “tie lines” between business locations or the creation of “virtual extensions” which are phone numbers dialled as if one is calling an extension within a business phone setup.
The solution that can be used to answer the problem regarding establishment of such services could be in the form of a standard “service manifest” file. This could be an XML file that is prepared by the ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) with all of the parameters associated with an IP telephony service including SIP parameters and default call-management plans for that service. The service’s customer would upload the file to their VoIP gateway through a client-side application or the gateway’s Web interface and simply enable the service.
In the same case, another issue that may need to be looked at is the ability for a UPnP-based telephony system to support the placing of calls between Telephony Client devices, as required of a business phone setup.
This question could be answered through the use of a virtual Telephony Server in a gateway device that represents and handles the internal calls. This could have the internal phone book which is simply a user-friendly list of Telephony Client devices on the system as well as handling that traffic.
Now that the UPnP Telephony DCP has been determined as a standard, it now requires industry to set about the task of implementing it in as many IP-Telephony devices and software programs as possible.
This could be made feasible through this standard being part of one or more logo-compliance programs like how the UPnP AV DCPs have become mandatory for devices that are DLNA-compliant or the UPnP Internet Gateway Device standard has become mandatory for various standards encompassing Internet modems and routers.
It can also open up opportunities of innovation for any device that offers some sort of telephony function while facing a small IP network; or any computer program that works as a bridge to a telephony service like Skype or as a telephony endpoint like a “softphone”.
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Skype-Enabled TV Ecosystem Keeps On Growing | EhomeUpgrade
Samsung makes Skype for new LED lit HDTVs official | Engadget
From the horse’s mouth
Get Skype on your TV: Samsung joins the team – Skype Blogs
I have been following the idea of using a common large screen TV with Skype and similar videoconferencing software on a common PC as a cost-effective method to achieve family and small-business group videoconferencing. This was since Channel 7 Australia had run a news item about it being part of linking older people who were confined to a nursing home with their younger family and also myself seeing it in action with some friends establishing a video-conference with relatives in Italy using this tool on their laptop.
When Skype announced that LG and Panasonic were integrating this technology in to their newer large-screen TV models at CES 2010, I was excited about this idea becoming closer for most people. Now, Samsung had announced this week that they were integrating Skype in the LED-backlit 7000 and 8000 series TVs. This has meant that another TV manufacturer has stepped up to the plate as far as Skype integration is concerned.
These implementations typically require a compatible Webcam (which has an integrated microphone) to be connected to the TV’s USB port and the TV to be connected to the home network via its Ethernet port. The user can then associate their Skype account with these TV sets to start videoconferencing.
The only limitation I see about the action so far is that manufacturers who supply TV peripheral devices like PVRs and games consoles aren’t providing the full Skype-based video-conferencing setup as an add-on to their devices. If this happened, especially in the form of a software download for the likes of the TiVo or the PS3, this could please people who own these devices to set themselves up for large-screen group videoconferencing.
It is also worth knowing that all of these implementations can yield a high-resolution picture but only if the computer on the other end is running Skype 4.2 or newer or if the device on the other end supports Skype HD functionality. Also the Internet service must support sufficiently-high bandwidth for the high-quality pictures.
At least this is a step closer to ubiquitous cost-effective group videoconferencing for home and small business. As well, it is one step taken to bring the videoconferencing practice out of the science-fiction novel and 1970s “future tech” book in to common reality.
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