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When PSTN audio conferencing was first launched, it was based on the fundamental way of transmitting audio that was being received by independent devices — and that’s it.
The need for audio hasn’t changed, but the need for it to be crystal clear and reliable has.
Without high-quality audio, the opportunity for misunderstanding during a conference call – and even irritation or misinterpretation – is substantially increased. And with that, your opportunity for a successful meeting is severely hindered.
Polycom realized this a long time ago and has been leading the charge in high-quality conference calls.
“As more and more businesses became international, you needed the ability to understand different dialects and different accents without the need for people to repeat themselves,” said Mike Moncivais, Director of Solution Architecture, North America and Tier 1, Global Cloud and Service Provider Group at Polycom.
“With those needs, that’s really where the catalyst started the revolution on the audio side and why it’s driven the quality to where it is today.”
Polycom has been involved every step of the way in the development of conference calls, having been part of the standards committee for audio conferencing for more than three decades.
Here are three Polycom technologies that could guarantee your next conference call will have the best audio possible.
Polycom’s NoiseBlock technology works by using an algorithm to identify sounds that are outside of the human voice frequency and block the noise from being sent to your conference call participants.
This algorithm allows for your calls to remain productive and keep participants from having to put their meeting on hold while they wait for these unwanted noises to stop.
But let’s face it, when you’re on a conference call you don’t want to go through the process of muting and unmuting your line every time you want to speak.
You also know it can seem unnatural if all of your participants are muted, as it removes the little sounds that are made when someone is speaking (like agreeing or disagreeing) and increases the opportunity for miscommunication. These verbal cues are often as important as the visual ones.
With NoiseBlock technology, gone are the days where meetings are unproductive due to various day-to-day background noises – typing, dogs barking, car horns honking, coffee shop noise. I’m sure we’ve all been there, right?
“It’s pretty cool and amazing technology that allows you to participate on calls without needing to worry about buttons and having to mute and unmute.”
In many open office environments, your audio conference can be quickly side-tracked by distracting sounds around you. To avoid these interruptions, in enters Polycom’s Acoustic Fence, which creates an invisible sound barrier when walls do not exist.
The Acoustic Fence limits the pickup of audio to specific areas within open environments, ensuring that callers only hear you and your participants’ voices – not any unwanted background voices or noises.
This boundary is created using both a primary microphone and a “fence” microphone. As Polycom explains, “the microphones listen to sounds outside of your meeting space and the Acoustic Fence cancels them out.”
The result? A crystal-clear call that contains solely you and your participants’ voices.
“The system determines the distance between the devices and only allows that sound between them into the call. That builds a fence or a bubble that is heard on the call,” Moncivais adds “Instead of worrying about muting and un-muting yourself when you need to talk, you can participate on the call and no one will hear the exterior noise that is going on around you.”
Did you know that your conference call audio can affect the battery life of your mobile devices?
Or that Polycom’s audio reduces the strain on your CPU, allowing for more processes to run simultaneously?
It might be hard to believe, but using the right audio codec can determine how much bandwidth your call takes up, and therefore how much you have left for video and other components of a call.
So what is a codec?
“It’s basically the compression algorithm that is agreed upon in the standards meeting to communicate from one point to another using a variety of different end points and technology,” Moncivais explains. “This lower bandwidth connection helps with both battery life and CPU usage.”
The other aspect to consider is the bandwidth control that allows you to have the best quality of audio with allowing the least bandwidth required. There is no sacrifice in sound quality.
Polycom compresses the codecs that allow it to be compressed so that it only requires half the bandwidth that a normal 722 standard endpoints would need for the same audio clarity.
“The lower bandwidth allows us to really implement at scale and not affect an environment that already has their networking solution already implemented,” Moncivais says.
“IT infrastructure guys love it.”
Polycom has named their audio technology HD Voice because of the algorithm they “scrub” the signal through. It gives you a different result than the standard HD audio.
So different that Polycom discusses how its technology delivers more than twice the clarity of ordinary phone calls for life-like, vibrant conversations. “It’s like switching from AM radio to CD-quality audio,” Polycom states. “The difference is so astounding, you will never want to go back to regular phone calls.”
But how do they do it?
“High-definition audio is a 722 codec and Polycom takes that 722 codec and scrub it on each one of their endpoints, so it actually makes it much more clear as far as the audio that you perceive from the end point, Moncivais says.”
More than that, Polycom’s technology analyzes the signal as it comes in and fills in any gaps that there may be during the signalling process.
“We take a best guess of what that gap should be and replace that information, and then we broadcast it. In most cases, what it does is it gives you the ability to understand individuals that have either an accent of have a different dialect, and gives you the ability to tell different influences on each syllable a lot better.”
The impact on quality is immediately obvious, though a little hard to describe unless you’ve heard that clearness yourself.
“The best description we’ve had from our users is that it tends to be less echoey, less cavernous. So it sounds more like the person is actually there than actually talking through a mechanism of some sort,” adds Moncivais.
Polycom continues to make iterations to the Siren 22 codec all the time, making it cleaner, clearer and faster to process the signaling.
“Millennials don’t attach technology to a specific location or space. Instead, they feel that technology is just added to wherever you are,” Moncivais explains. “With that requirement, Polycom went back to look at the technology we were developing and made sure it would apply to that user base and the facilities that are supporting that user base.
Another trend influencing Polycom’s pursuit of audio technology is the rise of “huddle rooms” – or, more specifically, the open-concept office spaces for that tech is designed.
“In open environments it’s hard to have conversations without having the audio fence and without high definition audio for understanding the person on the other end,” Moncivais says. “That’s really what our new endpoints were developed for.”
Polycom also adds that the ability to link multiple devices and technologies together for larger implementation has also become increasingly relevant as of late.
Specifically, Moncivais mentioned how the education sphere is looking for larger deployment, but still with the need for HD Audio.
“A lot of teaching environments are looking to leverage the Trio and its ability to clean up the audio […] as well as provide a really good video quality from a device that doesn’t require a large footprint in a classroom or in a lecture hall,” he explains.
“So they are asking for ways to link multiple devices together and then leverage them to get the same type of experience but in a larger deployment.”
In other applications, government bodies and businesses in disaster zones are asking for these technologies to be continually applied more and more to a mobile environment.
“When fast reactionary government forces are being deployed, they aren’t being deployed in an area that has infrastructure so they have to do it over satellite,” says Moncaivais. “Businesses want to know how they can use our technology over cellular on satellite environment and deploy the same technologies in that way.”
As the need for high-quality audio conferencing increases, Polycom continues to lead the charge with user-focused, effective audio technology.
“A lot of what we are developing today is being driven by the requirements of present users and the companies that are changing the way they work on a daily basis,” adds Moncivais.
“It’s very interesting to hear how businesses have deployed our technology and how they are using them and configure them. It never ceases to amaze us the use cases that we get.”