Early in August and out of the blue, I received a message from another VVX user who was also a new customer of OnSIP. He asked that I try making a test call to his SIP URI. Dialing his SIP URI into my VVX-1500 I made the call and was happy to find that we had a video call, and also outstanding wideband audio. This was my first experience passing a VVX video call to the world beyond my local network.
Once the call was underway, I looked at the management console for my router and found that the VVX phone was passing about 500 Kbps in each direction, although Polycom specifies that video+audio can consume up to 768 Kbps. On screen the video was clear and smooth, showing the full 30 frames/second. And the video quality was surprisingly good. With the help of Chris Veazey from BlinkMind, I recorded the following short video to show how good the call quality is with such little bandwidth.
In the weeks since, a few other people with VVX-1500 phones have called me. Most were just getting the devices set up and needing to test them by calling an out-of-house SIP URI. Fellow VoIP blogger Dave Michels (http://www.pindropsoup.com) called me while in the process of setting up an evaluation of the VVX-1500 with a Mitel IP phone system. At no time in using the VVX-1500, did I ever experience the loss of sync between the audio and video. This is a classic problem that I have often encountered with video capable soft phones.
While a video call is in progress you can toggle video display modes. The remote party's video stream can be displayed in a window on the LCD or zoomed up to almost the entire screen. Your outgoing video always remains in a small window in the upper right corner of the screen.
You can also access the phone's various menus while a video call is active. Your view of the remote party goes away momentarily, but they still see your stream. Hitting the “Home” soft button returns you to the default display with of both video streams.
Dialing By SIP URI
Of course, you’re not usually going to be making wideband or video calls via the normal phone numbers (aka the PSTN.) To ensure a pure IP call path, it’s becoming more common to make calls by way of SIP URI, which look very similar to an email address.
Figure 5: SIP URI
Using a SIP URI implies that, beyond the typical dialpad, you have some way to perform alphanumeric entry into the phone. The Soundpoint series of phones have long had a way of entering SIP URI via the dialpad, but it’s more than a little tedious. Most users get around this by entering the SIP URI that they commonly use into the phone's contact directory. Since the contacts can be provisioned remotely from an XML file, this saves manually entering complex alphanumeric sequences directly on the phone.
In contrast, the VVX-1500 provides nice tools for using SIP URIs. When dialing, you can select either a traditional dialpad display on the LCD or a soft QWERTY keyboard layout. With the dialpad display selected, you can dial using the hard keys or by touching the soft keypad on the touchscreen LCD. Selecting the QWERTY layout on the LCD makes entering SIP URIs trivially easy, not unlike using the virtual keyboard on an iPhone or Blackberry Storm.
Figure 6: On screen keyboard
XML Browser & API
Beyond video calls, the next best use of the LCD display is the built-in XML micro-browser. Polycom has provided this capability in the Soundpoint series phones for some time, but the color touchscreen display makes it a much more attractive tool for corporate developers.
The XML browser can be used to display data relevant to a user's working life. To illustrate the capabilities of the feature, Polycom has provided an online information service that they call “My Info Portal.”, which is accessed through the Applications menu. Once you establish a free login to this service, the VVX can be set to display a variety of data sources including;
- News top stories
- Sports top stories
- Weather conditions & forecast for a specific ZIP code
- Markets & Stock values for up to 5 listings
Figure 7: My Info Portal Stocks
Setting up the portal can be done from any web browser, or the phone itself. This service truly illustrates the potential of the XML micro-browser as a means of displaying live data to the user of the phone. In moving beyond this example I look forward to integrating a live view of a webcam pointed at my front gate.
The VVX-1500 also exposes an API allowing interaction with external systems. The API includes functions for many common call control processes. This allows tight integration of the phone into other corporate systems. For example, integration with a CRM system would allow click-to-dial functionality. In one click of the mouse, an outbound call could be placed and related customer profile data displayed on the VVX screen.
These sorts of features are the raw tools to support custom integration of the VVX-1500s into business processes. This is a phenomenon known as “Communication Enabling Business Processes” or CEBP.