One of the best visual illustrations of a typical conference call is depicted in, “A Conference Call in Real Life,” by YouTube sketch comedians Tripp Crosby and Tyler Stanton. In the four-minute video, we see participants losing their connections, experiencing audio dropouts, freezing, and dealing with annoying background sounds ranging from loud cafes to barking dogs. One of the overarching themes so humorously and poignantly portrayed in the skit is how much time is wasted during these “collaboration” sessions. The video concludes with the host asking another attendee to send an email recap “that basically could have taken the place of this whole meeting.”
Cisco Spark was created as an antidote to these frustrations and antics. One of the key differentiators that separates Spark from other options is that it is delivered entirely from the Cisco cloud, which reduces the expense, complexity and limitations of proprietary video systems and platforms. With Cisco Spark, users gain access to the full feature set via computer workstations, tablets or smartphones.
Screen/file sharing is another important collaboration feature that is brought up in the video mentioned earlier. The conference host attempts to share a PowerPoint presentation, but no one else is able to view it for a variety of reasons, ranging from outdated firmware to incompatible platforms. Cisco Spark’s cloud-based platform eliminates these frustrations, allowing users to view participants and content on any device without the hassle of downloading software/firmware.
Another time waster pointed out in the video is users arriving late to meetings. Each time the host starts the presentation, he is interrupted by an announcement that someone “has joined the conference.” Cisco Spark addresses this annoyance on multiple levels. First, it eliminates the need to get to a dedicated conference room. Users can join the session from their desks, a branch office, from home, from a room-based video system or from anywhere else via their mobile device. Additionally, users can easily switch between devices during the conference (e.g. from desktop to mobile or vice versa) without having to log out and back in again — and without disrupting other participants.
Users also can set up collaboration sessions from their smartphones simply by adding their names or email addresses. Thanks to the recent acquisition of unstructured search company Synata, Cisco Spark also is built with the latest advances in artificial intelligence. This enables users to set up videoconferences or join virtual meetings simply by asking questions in natural language. For instance, a user may ask the system, “Where can I find a meeting room with videoconferencing for 15 people that is available tomorrow at 1 p.m.?” Plus, users can work together in unlimited virtual rooms, which are easily accessible through a searchable, sortable list.
Each Cisco Spark meeting is video-centric, so users don’t need to think about what type of conference they need before scheduling. Mobile users get features such as single-number reach, single-voicemail service, video services and the ability to seamlessly move between devices during a call. Plus, every time users log in, Cisco Spark is up to date—there are no disruptive updates or security patches to worry about, ever.
Although previous videoconferencing systems have greatly lowered the bar for conference call expectations, those who try Cisco Spark will quickly find the myriad advantages of being able to see other users on calls, hear everyone clearly, and share schedules, files, and ideas in real time — the way collaboration was always supposed to work.
To learn more about Cisco Spark, check out the Cisco Collaboration Resource Center available from Ingram Micro.