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VoIP At Large: Taking Lessons From The World Around Us

My wife tells me I’m obsessed. In the course of going about our daily lives I notice things that most other people don’t. Given my proclivities, I usually notice interesting telecom equipment in action. Sometimes it’s simply product placement on television and in movies, other times it’s telecom tools in action at real-world installations.

Product placement in the mainstream media happens all the time. Here are just a few examples from recent memory:

HBO made prominent and interesting use of the Polycom HDX6000 video conference system in an episode of True Blood.
Cisco has long worked to place their IP phones on the set of major shows, most notably “24” on the FOX network.
Have you noticed that the CBS show “The Good Wife” features Polycom Soundpoint Series IP phones on the desks at the mythical law firm? The lead characters desk features an IP650.
Also on CBS, NCIS Los Angeles features a Polycom VVX-1500 Business Media Phone in the tech lab, neatly positioned between a pair of HDTVs.

Back in the real world I am constantly reminded that VoIP is all around us, in use every day, sometimes where you least expect it. For example; this past weekend I made a trip to a nearby Kroger supermarket. It’s the recently renovated location on 11th Street here in Houston.

As we were waiting in line to check out I noticed a floor manager giving instructions to some of here staff by cordless phone. The phone in her hand was the unmistakable elliptical shape of a Polycom KIRK DECT handset.

Apparently Kroger uses the DECT handsets to provide cordless mobility to staff while keeping them connected to the stores PBX.

Incidentally, the picture of the handset above left was from a 2009 episode of HBO’s True Blood.

A few weeks ago Stella wanted to visit our local Lowe’s to get a price on some closet ideas for our bedroom. While the staff person was helping her price out the modular cabinets that we would require I noticed that the store was using Polycom Spectralink Wifi handsets.

I wanted to look up the exact model of the handset so I snapped a picture with my Blackberry. This one looks like it’s seen some abuse, but it seems to be surviving.

A few years ago we found ourselves spending a considerable amount of time in a major Houston hospital complex. During that time I noticed the staff were using the very Star Trek-like, Vocera Communicator badges. Combining voice recognition, telephony & wifi networking I was very curious about these devices. Some of the hospital staff were willing to discuss their experience using the system.

While it’s silly to be swayed by product placement in the media, I think that there is some real value in taking note of real-world installations. Why leave it to the manufacturers to offer white papers profiling only their most ideal installations?

By understanding something about the working installations in our immediate surroundings we are in effect performing a casual market survey. If you’re forward enough to ask people about their experience using the technology you can come away from the experience with some good insight into what you may or, more importantly, may not want to try for yourself.

P.S. – I know that I sometimes dwell too much on Polycom. The simple fact is that I know / buy / use and yes….even like their hardware.

This Post Has 8 Comments
    1. Too right. I missed that one. The one or two times that I saw that happening I was left wondering if they manage to get HD video over Skype. I’ve rarely been so lucky.

  1. I saw those Vocera devices in action at the hospital a couple of years ago in the delivery room. Pretty sweet. I’ve been wondering (for about the last 3 years) why there aren’t any Vocera-like devices on the market that can register to any SIP VoIP system. It would be the perfect complement to an Asterisk system with the Schmooze/LumenVox “Magic Button”.

    1. The badge is a pretty simple device. All the smarts, and so the cost, is in the back-end server that handles the voice recognition. Should be a lot easier to do today then it was back when Vocera launched. Open source anyone?

  2. You failed to mention the VVX 500’s in use in White House Down. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

    1. This post predated that movie. I’ve somewhat given up on looking for product placements. They’re now so commonplace.

      I did note something unusual this past week, it was a Konftel conference phone. It was in a company that was supposed to be in Belgium in a movie that my wife was watching.

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