Altia Systems Has a Fix for Low-Cost Video Conferencing

The $600 PanaCast puck may take some of the pain out of video conferencing

1 min read
Altia Systems Has a Fix for Low-Cost Video Conferencing

As a telecommuter, I’m on the far end of a lot of conference calls. Unfortunately, high quality video conferencing hardware is a bit beyond our budget. We’ve tried a staff-built, two-camera contraption, but mostly we rely on voice-only calls. Which, from my end, are really hard to follow.

Altia Systems, a Silicon Valley company that launched at Demo Mobile this week in San Francisco, has organizations like mine squarely in its sights with a US $600 video conferencing "puck" and cloud-based conferencing system that it calls PanaCast. The puck has six cameras in it and audio inputs (BYO microphones). The system collects the video and audio, stitches them into a 250-degree panorama, compresses the data, and transmits it over the Internet, working in real time over Wi-Fi, 4g, or even 3G connections.

The coolest aspect, from my perspective, shows itself on the other end, where the lonely telecommuter (me) is trying to watch, or worse, listen to, her colleagues banter in a crowded conference room. Anyone remotely participating in the video conference can independently pan around the room and zoom in and out. Which means I could finally see who's talking, what’s on the whiteboard, and what snack goodies are being passed around. I plan on reviewing this one, and will let you know if it works as well in real life as it did when the Altia founders demonstrated it to me (see video, above).

Follow me on Twitter @TeklaPerry.

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The Cellular Industry’s Clash Over the Movement to Remake Networks

The wireless industry is divided on Open RAN’s goal to make network components interoperable

13 min read
Photo: George Frey/AFP/Getty Images

We've all been told that 5G wireless is going to deliver amazing capabilities and services. But it won't come cheap. When all is said and done, 5G will cost almost US $1 trillion to deploy over the next half decade. That enormous expense will be borne mostly by network operators, companies like AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and dozens more around the world that provide cellular service to their customers. Facing such an immense cost, these operators asked a very reasonable question: How can we make this cheaper and more flexible?

Their answer: Make it possible to mix and match network components from different companies, with the goal of fostering more competition and driving down prices. At the same time, they sparked a schism within the industry over how wireless networks should be built. Their opponents—and sometimes begrudging partners—are the handful of telecom-equipment vendors capable of providing the hardware the network operators have been buying and deploying for years.

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