Vidyo brings smartphones into videoconferences

Mobile users can join in on room-based systems with Vidyo's software kit

Videoconferencing company Vidyo has extended its SDK to the Android and Moblin mobile software platforms so users of smartphones and tablets can virtually meet with colleagues who are using PCs and full-room conference systems.

Vidyo specializes in adapting videoconference streams to a variety of endpoints without transcoding, a process that can introduce delays. The VidyoTechnology Software Development Kit, available now, can be used to bring Vidyo's technology to third-party devices.

The kit can already be used for netbooks, PCs and dedicated videoconferencing systems, as well as Internet-based videoconferencing services. Vidyo's technology is used by Shoretel and Hitachi, and in Google's Gmail video chat tool. On Wednesday, the company teamed up with Intel to introduce an updated SDK that can work with smartphones and tablets based on Android and Moblin. It is compatible with both Intel's Atom Processor Z6xx series, previously known as Moorestown, and with Arm chips. The new SDK will also work with the upcoming MeeGo software platform, which will merge Moblin with Nokia's Maemo system.

Videoconferencing, which some have seen as an ideal cell-phone application for users on the go, may be starting to meet mobile reality. Faster mobile networks and processors both are making the practice more feasible. Sprint Nextel's HTC Evo 4G has a front-facing video camera, and the next-generation Apple iPhone reportedly will, too. At least one company now offers a developer tool for integrating video chat into iPhone applications.

Vidyo's software allows users to participate in meetings with multiple participants from a mobile device, by splitting up the screen and playing more than one stream on it. Alternatively, each participant could appear on the full screen, with the display automatically switching between them as each speaks. The phone user, in turn, will be able to appear on a big screen in a videoconferencing room, said Marty Hollander, senior vice president of marketing.

The technology will work today on a mobile device and a 3G network, Hollander said. However, he cautioned that it will take time for phones to reach a level of quality where the video stream from the phone matches the quality of a full high-definition telepresence display. Both mobile processors and networks will have to improve for that to happen, but Atom points toward more capable chips in the future, so Vidyo is putting out the SDK today, Hollander said. That level of quality may come first to tablets, he added.

To implement videoconferencing with Vidyo software on a mobile phone, the Vidyo SDK most likely will be required, Hollander said. Vidyo will work on a room system without the Vidyo SDK, as long as it uses the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) or H.323 signalling protocol and the H.264 or H.263 video codec (encoding and decoding) standards. However, performance may be hampered if the third-party system doesn't use the VidyoTechnology SDK, because the video streams would have to be transcoded, he said.

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