Cisco sharpens its focus on business video lineup

On Tuesday, Cisco Systems will announce two new products and a platform for business video use.

Cisco’s Video Management and Storage System (VMSS) and 16-port Analogue Video Gateway and network modules for Cisco’s Integrated Services Router platform from the company’s Video Surveillance Media Manager line.

Cisco’s Digital Media System (DMS) platform gets new Enterprise TV features and a hardware player for digital signage. Cisco briefed journalists on the announcements in a videoconference last week.

The video surveillance products are “particularly valuable for companies that have a branch environment,” said David Hsieh, market manager for emerging technologies with Cisco. Since the modules plug in to Cisco’s ISR, branches can manage computer networks, unified communications and surveillance on a single network, “instead of having a completely different set of equipment,” Hsieh said.

The VMSS allows local archiving and management of video images from IP cameras and encoders through a single interface. Users can choose the resolution and frame rate to extend the amount of video stored locally. While there isn’t a huge local memory capacity, Hsieh said, the unit is connected to a network and files can be saved to centralized storage.

Because it’s available on the network, surveillance video can be used by departments other than security. For example, the marketing department can access the video to analyze traffic flow “instead of sending someone to the store to stalk you … or making a request for security video, which they’ll never give you,” Hsieh said.

The gateway encodes analogue video at up to 30 frames per second per port and supports Motion JPEG and MPEG-4 formats, remote pan tilt and zoom control and embedded motion detection.

For the DMS, the new Enterprise TV application allows delivery of live and on-demand video over an IP network. A remote control allows users to browse and access content libraries, using the same hardware as Cisco’s digital signage products.

The Cisco Digital Media Player 4400G is “basically a hardware appliance to power digital signage,” said Hsieh. The player has up to 4GB of local storage and supports MPEG-4, Flash 9.0, MPEG-2, RSS and more Web formats.

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Cisco Wide Area Application Services customers can use WAN management products to deliver digital signage to branches from a central location, according to Cisco.

Hsieh called digital signage a “multibillion-dollar emerging market” that has historically been serviced by smaller players cobbling together proprietary solutions. Cisco takes an appliance-based approach to digital signage, he said.

Interactive digital signage would allow a customer at, for example, a home improvement store to view how-to videos, choose materials and get a map to the shelf location of the products, Hsieh said.

“Imagine if we took a Cisco TelePresence unit and made it into a digital sign,” Hsieh said – customers could also reach live experts in an on-demand teleconference.

Hsieh said traffic over Cisco’s internal network is about 50 per cent video now (the company conducts about 10,000 TelePresence meetings a month). That poses significant design and architecture challenges. Cisco is developing what it calls its Media Ready Network strategy, a platform that will accommodate all types of media traffic and offer best practices for building the network. It’s the first time a network company has offered that level of guidance, Hsieh said.

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