Polycom aims browser-based cloud videoconferencing at enterprises, carriers

Polycom plans to break down one more set of barriers to videoconferencing early next year with a cloud-based software platform that can set up sessions with anyone who uses Facebook, Skype, or certain other online services.
The platform, called RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite, can deliver a variety of added features such as whiteboarding within participants’ browsers along with the videoconference. Other participants can be on dedicated videoconferencing systems from Polycom and other vendors, including Cisco, the company says. CloudAXIS is to be announced on Monday and delivered in the first quarter of next year.
The CloudAXIS Suite will allow both large enterprises and service providers to offer what Polycom calls Video Collaboration as a Service (VCaaS) on private or public clouds. Those services can be scaled up to support up to millions of simultaneous participants, said Rick Levenson, Polycom’s group vice president of Unified Communications Endpoints.
CloudAXIS could make it easier to manage videoconferencing and to engage infrequent users and those from outside organizations, said Carlos Carrasco, corporate director of business development and innovation at Orlando Health. The operator of nine hospitals in central Florida uses Polycom video systems now for internal meetings and telemedicine. Those systems rely on native applications, which need to be distributed, managed and updated.
Orlando Health uses video to link doctors with patients when they can’t be at their bedsides, Carrasco said. For example, with an assistant on site, a remote neurologist can run through a series of tests for strokes and watch the patient’s responses. Often the doctor connects in on the spot from a tablet.
“Doing video gives you a better chance of selecting the right patients for further intervention,” Carrasco said. Sometimes the company calls in specialists from other health organizations or doctors who don’t often use videoconferencing.
“Now, we can just push them a link and they can jump in,” Carrasco said. He spoke about CloudAXIS without having used it but said he’s familiar with its features.
Setting up meeting participants with client software is a major hurdle to the use of videoconferencing, analysts say. CloudAXIS is designed to get around that problem by using standard browsers, with only a one-time download of a small plug-in. The user interface that pops up is the same regardless of the browser, the client device or the social network that delivers the invitation. That interface is a new one that Polycom developed to run on all platforms, from room systems down to smartphones, Levenson said.
To organize a video session, the leader can send links to participants through common online channels such as Skype, Facebook and Google Talk. When the users click on the links, the Polycom interface comes up in a browser window along with any other elements used in the session, such as a whiteboard. The back-end systems can adapt the quality of the session to the screen size and power of the user’s device, Polycom says.
Polycom will make CloudAXIS work through social-networking platforms by tapping into open APIs (application programming interfaces), Levenson said.