Revolutionize the way you meet!

One of the main challenges organizations are faced with daily is the ability to have productive meetings.  Disjointed tools and legacy technology create complexity, resulting in decreased productivity and a poor user experience.  Meetings rarely start on time, and for many participants, meetings can be a giant waste of time.

Having just attended my 8th meeting of the day (before 2:00pm), it’s very apparent that productivity is not a singular event.  Productivity happens when people exchange ideas, share and review content, and collaborate over time via numerous interactions.  To put an end to painful meetings, you can’t just add a new device or app.  You have to take a unified approach and design something that is elegant, simple to use, comprehensive and affordable, so that everyone has access to it.

DarlingOn Tuesday (1/24/17), Cisco launched its latest meeting room product and it’s setting the Unified Communications and Collaboration industry on fire.  The device, known as the Spark Board, packs wireless content sharing, ultra-high-definition video conferencing, voice-tracking technology and an advanced interactive whiteboard into a single offering.  When you couple this with Cisco’s Spark Message and Meet platform, you instantly enable dispersed and virtual teams to have a richer collaboration experience; one that is part of a continuous work stream.

The Spark Board is a cloud-based solution that easily connects your digital and physical workspaces.  The reimagined, interactive whiteboard allows anyone with the Cisco Spark app to draw on, mark-up, comment, and collaborate in real-time, regardless of where they are physically. Content is saved instantly, so it can be shared or viewed by anyone that is part of the meeting or space. Once shared, the content and whiteboard are living documents that can be edited at any time.  The entire work stream is persistent.

To satisfy the need for face-to-face communications with those who can’t be in the room, Spark Board comes equipped with twelve microphones and a next-generation 4K camera.  There is no need for a separate voice or video endpoint in the room to make and receive calls. And with the built in voice-tracking technology, the system automatically focuses on the active speaker, even in large rooms.

To round out the board’s capability, it comes native with Cisco’s proximity technology, enabling laptops and mobile devices to pair with the board using high-frequency audio. Seamless pairing happens automatically with any Spark Board – yours or not.  There is no need for cables, Bluetooth, NFC, PIN codes or anything else to connect.  As you walk into a room, the board automatically wakes up.  As you approach the board, the board recognizes and greets you, and then suggests an activity to choose from.  Users can then share and receive content wirelessly, addressing a major pain point that we have all experienced in conference room and huddle spaces for years.  Further, basic endpoint control of the board can be done through your Cisco Spark app-enabled mobile device, allowing you to make and disconnect phone calls.  It’s truly unprecedented.  Cisco is creating a global, worldwide network of workspaces, which can be individually accessed from anywhere.

The Cisco Spark Board is revolutionary in its usability, capability, and design.  Cisco Spark provides a phenomenal end-user experience with a reliable and consistent user interface across all Spark-enabled devices.  Spark is delivered simply and securely through the Cisco cloud and is offered on a subscription basis, allowing organizations to update services automatically or on demand if they desire.

Welcome Spark Board to the collaboration landscape!  And thank you Cisco for continuing to find innovative ways to bring people together in this increasingly connected world.  Let’s make collaboration simple together.  Meet less; meet better.

To learn more about Cisco Spark Board, click on the videos and articles below:

Cisco Spark Board Keynote (Chuck Robbins, Rowan Trollope and Jonathan Rosenberg)

Experience the Cisco Spark Board

Cisco Spark Board Launch

White Boarding in Cisco Spark: Always Yours, Always Live, Always Secure

Cisco Spark Security and Privacy

Introducing the Cisco 8845 and 8865: Affordable HD Video for Every Desk

For those who missed it, Cisco recently released two next generation video phones called the 8845 and 8865.  The phones are richer in features than their 8900 and 9900 predecessors, and while nothing has been officially announced, the writing is on the wall that these new endpoints will phase out both the 8900 and 9900 in the very near future. Combine that with last weeks End of Sale announcement for the legacy 7900 series phones, and Cisco’s personal endpoint portfolio will soon consolidate to only the 7800 and 8800 series phones, along with Cisco’s desktop experience endpoints known as the DX series.

The 8845 and 8865 are orderable now and can be added to any Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) cluster running v8.6.2 and later.  Their value is superior to anything else in Cisco’s endpoint portfolio, with a street price of approximately $300 and $400 respectively.  Both have 720p cameras and 5 inch screens, support Intelligent Proximity and have Bluetooth.  The 8865 adds the ability to use USB headsets and attach up to three expansion modules (sidecars) as well.  Both will support Mobile and Remote access through Cisco Expressway (VPN’less connectivity no matter where you are), providing a secure, seamless experience whether you are in the office or working out of your home.

The 8845 and 8865 communicate natively with Cisco Jabber, 8900/9900 video phones, DX series endpoints, existing TelePresence and Conferencing infrastructure, and support both Business to Business and Consumer to Business video as well.  With the Video Call Back feature being added to WebEx in the very near future, even deeper integration is right around the corner.

If you already have a Cisco Unified Communications platform and are looking to refresh your phones, choosing the Cisco 8845 / 8865 is an economical way to add HD Video Telephony to workspaces where it doesn’t exist today.  If you are looking to replace your telephony platform with something new, this is just one more reason why you should consider selecting Cisco as your vendor of choice.

List pricing and datasheets for both endpoints are below.

CP-8845-K9= / $575 List price

CP-8865-K9= / $795 List price

8845 Charcoal8845 White

NOTE:  The white model won’t be available for a couple of months, but the grey version is orderable now.

If you would like a demonstration of the 8845 or 8865 IP phone (or any Cisco Collaboration endpoint for that matter) please do not hesitate to reach out to the SMP Collaboration Team.

SMP is a Cisco Master Collaboration and Cisco Gold Partner, and we have a state of the art Solutions Center where we can demonstrate the latest and greatest in Cisco technologies in person or remotely.  Please reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you with your IT challenges.  We pride ourselves on enabling our customers so they can keep up with both the speed of business and IT.

Sean Wilson – swilson {at}

The “Network Effect” and its Impact on Collaboration

A successful collaboration strategy promotes the grouping of applications, services, devices and content into “one” unified architecture to improve business processes and boost productivity. Cisco’s Collaboration portfolio has an end to end solution for businesses of all shapes and sizes. However, an organization will not see the impact of their strategy until the user population adopts the technologies and puts the capabilities to use.

Successful collaboration relies on the “network effect”. I am not referring to network design… or how secure a network is… or how much bandwidth it has… or whether or not Quality of Service has been implemented. I am referring to a concept that the “value” of a product or service increases as more and more people use it. A perfect example of a product falling victim to the “network effect” is the telephone. The more people who own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. A user purchasing a telephone may not intend to create value for other users, but they do so regardless.

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