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Technology Showcase: Conference-room Telephone Systems

Plain old telephone service gets a boost in conferencing functionality. 4/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Technology Showcase: Conference-room Telephone Systems

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Plain old telephone service gets a boost in conferencing functionality.




Cisco Unified IP Conference Station 7937G

Cisco Unified IP Conference Station 7937G

Even with the wide variety of conference- microphone systems and videoconferencing equipment, the most familiar piece of hardware to be seen in conference rooms large and small sits front and center, right in the middle of the conference table — the telephone conferencing system. Across manufacturers, the triangular shape is typical, and the range of options and accessories available has lately flowered into an array of new widgets offering vastly expanded functionality deserving of the “system” designation. USB connectivity to PCs extends functionality for VoIP, and ISDN ports allow direct digital functionality. External microphones can increase coverage area, and some units can be daisy-chained in a virtually unlimited number. The prices of these systems can range from less than $200 to more than $1,000.

THE FIELD

The Voice conferencing telephone system from Aethra offers analog and digital PBX compatibility, and the main unit comes in eight attractive colors. The main unit has three integral microphones, and it can accommodate two additional cable-connected microphones for larger groups or rooms with L-shaped or T-shaped conference tables. The Voice provides hands-free, full-duplex operation for natural-sounding conversation over a wide range of volume settings from +12dB to -12dB. The dial pad features a menu, a mute button, secondary functions, and a built-in phonebook for storing up to 100 numbers. Also featured are adaptive acoustic and line-echo cancellation, automatic gain control, and noise reduction, along with a line-level auxiliary output connector to record conferences. The unit is available in three versions: The standard configuration runs on PSTN connections; the Voice Plus includes the display and an infrared remote control; and the Voice ISDN works on an ISDN phone line and includes an RS-232 data port. The Voice can be used as an IP phone using the PC Audio Adapter that connects to a computer in the same way a headset would connect. The Voice also has a ringer-tone switch and pulse- or tone-dialing-mode selector. It features software-controlled room-noise and telephone-line-noise monitors. The Voice is available for less than $500.

The Avaya 4690 IP conference telephone provides the standard features of the Avaya line — including 360-degree room coverage, two optional extension microphones to cover rooms measuring up to 20'×30', full-duplex operation, and a digitally tuned loudspeaker with Acoustic Clarity Technology to reduce reiteration requests. It adds simplified LAN wiring on a 10/100 Ethernet port and downloadable software upgrades for the Communication Manager IP telephony application. The unit has a five-line, 248×68-pixel LCD with variable-width fonts, three soft keys for access to common functions such as call transfer, red and green call-status LEDs, menu-navigation keys, mute and volume-control keys, and a hook switch for answering and terminating calls. Among the personalization features are five customizable ring patterns and 15 display-contrast settings. System information can also be displayed on the LCD. Ringer tones signify call forwarding, busy, call-waiting ringback, and other operations. Ethernet-connectivity features include auto-negotiation, 802.3 flow control, support for SNMP version 2, DHCP, and static IP addressing, along with G.711 and G.729A voice coders.


Technology Showcase: Conference-room Telephone Systems

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Plain old telephone service gets a boost in conferencing functionality.




Bogen V-Hub

Bogen V-Hub

The V-Hub conference phone from Bogen provides full-duplex conversation ability through a large central loudspeaker and three integral microphones placed at 120-degree intervals, using DSP-based echo cancellation. Three green LEDs flash when the muting is activated or when there is an incoming call, and they remain active during the call. The controls include mute and flash buttons; on/off; speed dial with a 10-number memory; and an LCD display screen that shows call status, phone number dialed, ringing, and volume level. The bottom of the unit holds a ringer-volume-selector switch, a wire routing channel, and an integrated power and telephone-line connector. The cables supplied includes the power line, a phone line, and an RCA connector for recording conferences with external recording equipment. The V-Hub can be found for less than $300.

A follow-on and upgrade product to the Cisco Unified IP Conference Station 7936, the 7937G carries many teleconferencing features backed by well-established Cisco voice-communication technology. The G.722 codec enables wideband acoustic frequency response. Power options include IEEE 802.3af power over Ethernet (PoE) or the Cisco Power Cube 3. This also requires the use of the 7937G Power Splitter. The external microphones have the same triangular form factor as the main unit, and they provide extended coverage for conference rooms up to 30'×40'. There is also support for a third-party wireless lapel microphone for those needing increased mobility during the conference. The backlit 255×128-pixel LCD has a 32-level grayscale and a directories feature that allows you to easily navigate the menus that categorize incoming calls and allow instant dial-back. The settings key provides a selection of background images, ringer sounds, and adjustments. Configuration can be manually or automatically set up for dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) or trivial file transfer protocol (TFTP) and the Cisco Unified Communications Manager. Users can also access stocks, weather, quote of the day, and other web-based information. The unit also offers a comprehensive online help feature. With its advanced features, the 7937G system retails for around $1,000.

For conference rooms with up to eight people, ClearOne Systems offers the Max Wireless, which eliminates wiring and provides mobility and adaptability among conference rooms. The unit has distributed echo cancellation, dynamic noise cancellation, and automatic level control that adjusts to the incoming audio level. The first-mic priority feature selects from the three microphones and activates the one closest to the person speaking to prevent any hollow-room effect. Wireless communication is secure through the use of 64-bit encrypted communication on digital spread-spectrum technology in the 2.4GHz band. The base unit connects to a power source and a phone line for a transmission distance up to 150ft., which allows the phone to be picked up and moved to any nearby conference room. The tabletop telephone unit has a 12-hour battery life to accommodate long conversations without worrying about losing power, and the dual-function power supply allows conferencing while it is charging. When the battery is low or the phone is out of range of the base unit, an audible warning will sound and a paging button on the base unit will locate the telephone. The base unit, with in-use and power LEDs, also has a recording output with a 2.5mm mini jack for external recording equipment. Features include a 10-number speed-dial memory, ringer switch, and manual loudspeaker-volume control. The phone may also be used through a digital adapter for operation on a digital PBX.

For small-and-medium-sized conference rooms, Cortelco offers the CONF410PAK full-duplex conference telephone with RJ-11 PSTN connections. The unit's features include an on/off button with LED indicator, a flash button, a mute button with LED, a redial button, volume controls, pulse and tone dialing, and a three-position ringer-level switch. An optional extension microphone, the CONF410MIC, is available to add greater pickup to a larger conference area. This will pick up conversation from 6ft. or less. A standard handset may be connected to the unit for private conversations, and the conference can be transferred to the handset at any time. Included with the telephone unit are an AC adapter, a phone cord with RJ-11 connectors, and a user guide. The CONF410PAK can be purchased for less than $150.


Technology Showcase: Conference-room Telephone Systems

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Plain old telephone service gets a boost in conferencing functionality.




Konftel 300

Konftel 300

The Konftel 300 conference telephone can be connected to standard PSTN circuits, be connected to wireless DECT/GSM telephones or computers, be switched between multiparty calls, and record calls on an SD memory card. Expansion microphones (to increase coverage by up to 750 square feet), headsets, or even a PA system may be connected. The unit uses patented OmniSound 2 technology in an ultrasensitive, omnidirectional microphone and three built-in surround loudspeakers with noise suppression and 7kHz wideband transmission. Individual contacts may be saved in the integrated phonebook, and the conference guide saves up to 20 groups with as many as six numbers each for rapid conference setup. The unit allows calls to be switched and combined between analog lines, mobile phones, and PCs for VoIP through a USB port. Downloadable software upgrades are also available. When connected to a PC, the unit can be used with Skype or other Internet conference-calling programs. In standby mode, it can be used to play music or other audio. The Konftel 300 also offers a security lock port and a display on which menus can be navigated for feature menu setup and operation. Setup menus enable selection of parameters such as ring selection, equalizer, mobile level, screen text, time and date, contact and group setup, recording, and language selection. The Konftel 300 lists for around $750.

The LifeSize high-definition audio-conference phone uses 16 microphones in a patent-pending circular array to provide complete room coverage, and it is equipped with electronic shielding to eliminate the buzz frequently associated with cellular telephones and PDAs. The unit uses MPEG-4 AAC audio and a special titanium loudspeaker driver to provide frequency response up to 16kHz along with speaker detection and echo cancellation. With the company's LifeSize Room and LifeSize Team, the phone can be integrated into a complete videoconferencing application. The phone can connect simultaneously in VoIP on standard SIP, H.323 IP PBX, or IP service and PSTN, running either by PoE or through a PSTN adapter. A 240×64-pixel monochromatic LCD display shows mute, volume control, and other programming and control options. System management and maintenance may be handled through an IP connection using LifeSize Control management software.


Technology Showcase: Conference-room Telephone Systems

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Plain old telephone service gets a boost in conferencing functionality.




NEC ConferenceMax

NEC ConferenceMax

The NEC ConferenceMax provides full-duplex communication for the smallest to the largest conference areas through its expandable daisy-chain configurability for up to four ConferenceMax units — putting loudspeakers, microphones, and control within easy reach. Multiple units can work as one with distributed echo cancellation, noise cancellation, first-mic priority, and automatic gain and level control. The base unit connects to a standard RJ-11 wall terminal and power outlet, and a Cat-5 cable is run to the Link In terminal on the telephone unit, which houses the dial pad, volume controls, and mute button along with an LCD display for menu setup and features navigation. Each unit has three microphones for 360-degree pickup.

The KX-TS730 conference recording speakerphone system from Panasonic connects to a standard PSTN line through an adapter for full-duplex calling, and it has a microphone on each of its four corners for omnidirectional pickup in rooms measuring up to 360 square feet. Features include automatic microphone selection and a digital echo canceler for good pickup at distances up to 10ft. The backlit LCD display works with three function keys for 120 minutes of recording and playback, menu navigation, and the phonebook. The controls include pulse- and tone-dialing selection, mute, four ringer levels, a flash button for special service features, chain dial for calling while conferencing, and display-flash time adjustment. There is a 16-step digital volume control, 3.5mm audio-out jack for an external recording device, 50-number call waiting/caller ID memory, 10-number history redial, green and red line-status indicator LEDs, and six selectable ringer patterns. Message function includes new and all-message playback with skip and repeat. The KX-TS730 can be purchased for less than $350.

Fully Bluetooth-compatible with mobile phones and PCs, the Conference from Parrot provides full-duplex conversation and echo cancellation. Centered on the unit is an attractive 160×128-pixel TFT screen with 262,144 colors that displays phonebooks, contact numbers, and their identifiers. The user interface includes a 12-button keypad with on/off, call reject, menu navigation, public and private phonebook management with up to 6,000 contacts, volume control, speed dialing, and a soft-touch control knob. The unit features an integrated Skype interface, three micro-phones for 360-degree pickup to a distance of up to 10ft., and a 5W hi-fi loudspeaker. Three high-capacity NiMH batteries provide power for up to 10 hours with a 4-hour recharge time. The phone can operate in normal, standby, or power-save mode.

Phoenix Audio markets the Quattro tabletop conference phone with VoIP, PSTN, SIP, and connectivity for video codecs and Bluetooth. The small unit has four loudspeakers; digital processing, including five echo cancellers; beam-forming microphone algorithms; voice-activity detectors; dereverb; and automatic gain control. The Quattro adjusts the combination of microphones to favor the direction of the person speaking and minimize background noise. On networks that can accept it, the unit can provide frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz. For VoIP application, the unit connects directly to a computer through a USB port, and it provides an audio sampling rate up to 44kHz. It can also connect to a one- or two-line PSTN terminal with the internal PSTN interface module and link up a conference between the computer, the conference-room unit, and the PSTN line. For larger conference rooms, multiple Quattro units can be daisy-chained to cover the wider area. The various connectivity options can be ordered and installed internally for a more convenient and compact appearance. When the unit is connected to a PC, the downloadable audio-setup utility will automatically adjust the audio volume to preset levels — which can be adjusted by clicking and dragging the displayed screen icons. With the USB interface only, the Quattro can be bought for less than $500.

The Polycom SoundStation VTX 1000 uses full-duplex connectivity on a PSTN or analog PBX, and it allows clear pickup of voices up to 20ft. away. When there is a VTX 1000 on each end of the line, the units automatically connect in VTX Wideband mode to provide a frequency response from 80Hz to 7kHz. Software upgrades can be downloaded right into the phone on an ordinary PSTN line along with selectable, downloadable ring tones. Automatic mic selection uses only one microphone at a time, and they work with the dynamic noise-reduction feature to automatically adapt to the particular room acoustics. A subwoofer can provide bass response down to 80Hz, and the two included extension microphones can provide even greater coverage for larger rooms. Treble and bass controls can add or subtract within a 6dB range. The RCA audio input jack can be soft-key programmed to work with a Polycom wireless microphone, an external audio source, or switch off. The RCA output jack can be programmed to function for subwoofer, PA connection, record-out, or off. With some shopping, the VTX 1000 system can be purchased for less than $900.

The 25001RE2 conference phone from RCA features three micro-phones for 360-degree pickup in full-duplex conversation; a backlit LCD display with adjustable contrast and a 100-name directory; seven-level volume control; three-level ringer control; a data port for parallel operation of a phone, fax, modem, or answerer; and one-touch redial. Features also offered are a mute button, a call timer, and all-station page. Prices for the unit start from as little as $167.

The Spracht CP 2012 conference phone has full-duplex communication capability to provide natural-sounding conversation without clipping speech, PBX compatibility, 360-degree pickup coverage from four internal microphones, and expandability to include two additional microphones for larger groups or irregularly shaped conference areas. With the optional Voice Center DT-104 digital adapter, the CP 2012 can connect to multi-line phones and a digital PBX system. The unit also includes an RCA output jack for recording conferences. On the AT-103 analog interface, the power and analog phone connection are supplied through an RJ-45 connection and cable to the unit, and the analog and digital interfaces may be either tabletop or wall-mounted. On the phone, pulse or tone dialing is selectable, and a standard analog handset may be connected to the unit for private conversations. Calls may be easily transferred between the conferencing system and the handset. In addition to the standard 12-button keypad, the CP 2012 includes an on/off button; a flash button for accessing special telephone-company services including three-way calling, redial, and volume controls; and a mute key that turns off all microphones. The CP 2012 retails for $250.


FOR MORE INFORMATION

Aethra
www.aethra.com

Avaya
www.avaya.com

Bogen
www.bogen.com

Cisco Systems
www.cisco.com

ClearOne
www.clearone.com

Cortelco
www.cortelco.com

Konftel
www.konftel.com

LifeSize Communications
www.lifesize.com

NEC
www.necdisplay.com

Panasonic
www.panasonic.com

Parrot
www.parrot.com/usa

Phoenix Audio Technologies
www.phoenixaudio.com

Polycom
www.polycom.com

RCA
www.rca4business.com

Spracht
www.spracht.com


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