Cisco's central theme from this year’s Enterprise Connect Conference focused on experiences. Cisco's goal is to simplify and enhance the experience for everyone: from the end user to the support staff including management and entire organizations alike. This conference was further proof that the changes we’ve witnessed in the collaboration landscape the past few years are here to stay. The revelations at Cisco’s keynote showed that the company is fully vested in being one of the leaders of this shift. By expanding the reach and capabilities of its cloud collaboration platform, Cisco Spark further cemented itself as a core component of Cisco’s Unified Communications solutions of the future. During the conference, Cisco's SVP and GM of Cloud Collaboration Technologies, Jens Meggers, revealed several new Spark innovations further solidifying Cisco's rank as market leader.
Jens Meggers (pictured above), Cisco SVP and GM Cloud Collaboration Technology, revealed four main items during his keynote: new video devices, additional security features, meeting enhancements and the beginnings of cloud customer care.
One of the announcements Meggers made at the conference revolved around Cisco's Spark Room Kit Series, the latest addition to Cisco’s video endpoint family. The Room Kit Series brings new intelligence while supporting features we’ve become familiar with: proximity for wireless sharing, Touch 10 and Spark app integration and control. The Room Kit, built for smaller rooms of seven people or less, and Room Kit Plus, for larger rooms of up to fifteen attendees, can be run off Cisco Spark in the cloud or Cisco on-premises call control. Both can be connected to typical HD screens and can support standard H.264 at up to 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second.
The Room Kit Series compliments Cisco's Spark Board, a 55” flat panel all-in-one conference, presentation and whiteboard unit that is 100% cloud-based. The Room Kit is an all-in-one device consisting of codec, camera, mic and speaker. The Room Kit Plus is a codec with a separate quad camera bar with optional mics and speakers. Packed with a mean 5K, mega-sensor camera, the Room Kit devices eliminate the motorized cameras of the SX series.
The photo above is a screenshot of the Cisco Spark Room Kit Series system’s diagnostic mode.
Its wide-angle view enables it to gather images of the whole room while the abundance of pixels and speaker tracking technology give it the ability to display on screen only the individuals that are speaking with crystal-clear clarity and precise framing. It can also provide analytics such as the number of people in the room, a feature that may be useful to facilities teams that are monitoring room usage. Additional details can be found here.
One of the top concerns from customers hesitant about going cloud revolves around some form of the question, “How secure is my data?”. Cisco has long said that with Spark, information protection and security has been a top priority. That being said, Meggers announced that the Spark Cloud now provides end-to-end encryption of data that is in-use, in-transit and at rest. The Key Management Server, or KMS, is the component responsible for this function. KMS creates, stores, authorizes and provides access to all the encryption keys that Cisco Spark clients use to encrypt and decrypt communications. Slated to go live next month, Cisco is giving customers the option of owning and managing their own encryption keys by installing a Cisco Spark Key Management Server locally. This gives customers in highly regulated industries advanced protection options and control. Additional information regarding Cisco Spark Security and Privacy can be found here.
KMS lies in its own “Security Realm” separate from the rest of the components that make up the Spark Cloud. It’s this separation that allows for data encryption from end to end while ensuring that none of the core Cisco Spark services can access those encryption keys.
A major downside to the end user experience, with respect to meetings, has always been getting different video systems to talk with ease. Cisco looks to address this further when they highlighted an addition to their Spark Meetings. Now, all Cisco Spark Spaces are provided with a persistent SIP URI, in other words a SIP address/phone number. This grants anybody the ability to dial into a Cisco Spark Meeting from any standards-based SIP device, software client, legacy or third-party endpoint for video conferencing. This capability extends with the use of Hybrid Media Services. Cisco Spark customers with a C1-C3 or M1-M3 subscription can deploy a Spark Hybrid Media Node on-premises. It’s a virtual machine that is installed on a UCS or spec-based hardware and is registered and managed by the Cisco Cloud Collaboration Management portal. It is available now and provides local video bridging for on-premises Cisco Spark registered endpoints, mobile and desktop applications. This can drastically decrease the number of video streams destined for the Internet. It also allows for additional reliability by allowing endpoints to join meetings via the cloud when the Hybrid Media Node is out of resources or is unavailable. The device is updated automatically so customers do not have to worry about maintenance or version control. Learn more about Spark Hybrid Media Services with by clicking here on this data sheet.
Hybrid Media Service Architecture image. This revolutionary technology has the capability that brings the benefits of cloud and on-premises meeting deployments together for Cisco Spark meetings.
Meggers' final announcement at Enterprise Connect this year focused on customer care. Small help desks now have the option to leverage Cisco Spark to provide internal and external customers with support. Promising to add additional features and options down the road, Cisco Spark Care allows for customer support through web chat and callback. Included is a tool that lets companies generate code to customize and design an area of their website for chat. Additionally, customers visiting a company’s website can request a callback. Spark Care provides agents and help desk members with some features such as visibility into the chat and callback queue, customer profiles and previous context and interactions with a customer. The service representative works off an agent desktop workspace while the cloud platform gives them the flexibility to work from home and other remote locations effortlessly. The Cisco Cloud Collaboration Management portal provides administration, easy and quick implementation and various reporting functions. An additional license is required to enable Spark Care and additional information is available here.
Cisco Spark care can quickly be embedded on your website to offer chat and callback services. Cisco Spark care includes a customer care agent workspace and integrated reporting with customer feedback to improve help desk productivity and effectiveness.
When it was all said and done, Cisco had put on an impressive demonstration that received plenty of praise from attendees. They even showcased a neat virtual reality meeting capability that may soon be arriving. Their guided booth tour in the Expo Hall provided further insight into their vast array of products and services and it all seemed to come bundled with the word, “Spark.” It is evident where the unified communications industry is going and it further highlights Cisco’s transition from a primarily hardware-based organization.
Cisco presented with the 2017 Best of Enterprise Connect award for Spark Board (shown in background).
Cisco is continuously enhancing the way that businesses interact with customers with their mainstream enterprise collaboration solutions. They work to ensure that the gap between team chat and unified communications is rapidly disappearing with Spark. For their outstanding efforts innovation collaboration further, Cisco was awarded this year's Best of Enterprise Connect Award for Spark Board, a cloud- and touch-based team collaboration device. This award is given to those companies making significant IT advancements within the enterprise communications and collaboration industry. Jens Meggers , Sr. VP and GM of Cisco's Cloud Collaboration Technology Group stated after receiving the award that, "Cisco is proud to accept this award from Enterprise Connect today. We have received tremendous response for Cisco Spark Board's innovation and design and we are very excited to be honored for our efforts."
Have you experienced Cisco Spark yet? If not, learn more by clicking on the link below.