BlueJeans Reinventing the Business Video Conference Experience
When BlueJeans came onto the conferencing scene back in 2011, it offered an ideal solution for a fragmented video communications market – a cloud-based MCU that would bridge the integration gap between different vendors’ systems. The problem was simple: vendors had not understood the value of an agnostic solution; they all wanted to own the world. That was never going to happen, so the BlueJeans solution was a great way to connect the world.
Since then, the company has evolved its focus, still providing the connectivity to pretty much any conferencing solution, but moving from a cloud-based solution that is dropped into the IT infrastructure, to a fully developed solution portfolio with a focus on user experience.
Several variables have contributed to the strategic shift.
- Most companies are laggards, not early adopters, and are only now realizing video should be part of their tech solutions;
- Cisco and Microsoft are forcing changes on their customers, many of which aren’t sure what to do with these mandates; and
- Market need for a security IT-grade solution with the ease of use of non-secure consumer alternatives.
By building a complete videoconferencing platform, BlueJeans allows businesses that have to retrofit their existing communications infrastructure with video capabilities to do so, regardless of their existing vendors. That’s part of the legacy BlueJeans strategy expanded for full deployments.
Mark Strassman, chief product officer at BlueJeans, explains further that there is a lot of confusion in the market over changes Cisco and Microsoft are making: “People aren’t sure if they want to move to Teams, or they don’t really understand what Teams is really going to be.”
The same holds for the changes Cisco is making with its Spark collaboration platform – let alone integration issues between the two. So, a solution that not only provides a great experience, but is able to bridge the gaps between vendors remains an important element in the context of true unified collaboration.
There have been longstanding issues with the video experience, starting from the very beginning, with the time it takes to actually get into a meeting environment. Anyone who has joined WebEx meetings, for instance, knows the time it takes to install or update the software before being able to join, for instance.
“We’re focusing on the end user experience, which has been rather mediocre among most all the solutions on the market,” says Strassman. “With many solutions, it can take as long as 2.5 minutes to get into a meeting; with WebEx, it typically takes 1.5 minutes.”
He adds that, with the new BlueJeans solution, users can join meetings in as little as five seconds from the time they click the meeting link.
Audio quality issues are also rampant, and do more to damage meeting experiences than anything else. One of the problems is most companies use the same audio technologies, driving BlueJeans to partner with noted audio expert Dolby to try to solve the audio challenges.
Nose reduction is a huge problem, and on larger calls, it’s often just a question of proper etiquette. Participants mute themselves, then forget to unmute themselves when they need to speak, creating confusing delays in communication, and often prompting others to jump in due to silence, disrupting the flow of the meeting. Similarly, people often forget to mute themselves when they are done speaking, creating unnecessary background noise and making it hard for others to hear the meeting conversation.
New technology thanks to the Dolby relationship delivers advanced spatial audio to create more effective virtual environments, making it easier to understand who is speaking and what they are saying. Participants feel like they are all seated around a table with the entire team. Enhanced noise identification and reduction technology separates voice from all other sounds, blocking out unwanted distractions. Strassman says it’s good enough to block out a hair dryer while still clearly delivering voice. If you don’t believe it, check out his demo:
There are other ways the new solution seeks to troubleshoot poor experiences before they happen.
Headset and camera hardware for remote participants has long been an opportunity for improvement. Most people have difficulty activating headsets and video devices, and even if they know how to do it, it takes too much time to go into Settings and manually engage the devices. BlueJeans has added a simple pop-up when new audio or video hardware is plugged in to simply ask users if they want to use them. It’s a simple one-click activation process. To be fair, it’s not a unique solution; Skype has enabled this in its consumer product for some time, but it is a time saver nonetheless.
Connectivity is always a question, and one that can’t really be solved by a vendor in the sense they are not managing the network. It requires IT or carrier intervention. With a new bandwidth manager, however, BlueJeans at least hopes to create a better overall experience to allow conversations to continue when latency or bandwidth limitations can’t sustain high quality video. In that case, the system pops up a message saying the system is dropping video, but will retain the audio, so the meeting can continue.
Finally, for sessions that include WebRTC users, meetings can be joined directly through the browser, eliminating the need to download and install the BlueJeans app. Of course, if users already have the app installed, the systems will default to it. This save time and aggravation for external users and allows meetings to commence much more quickly.
Edited by Mandi Nowitz