Specialised Video Conference Units are designed specifically for video conferencing and are therefore optimised to deliver the best quality video and audio for the chosen application. As the unit’s resources are not shared they can be easier to use and more reliable than computers and other units which are not specifically designed for this purpose.
Cisco and Polycom are the dominant suppliers of dedicated video conference units within the health sector in New Zealand, although there are many other popular choices such as LifeSize and Vidyo. Each vendor has many different options available but they generally fall into four main categories:
Video Conference Unit - Desktop
Desktop units are designed to be placed on a desk and used by one or two people. They have screens up to 23” in size, and are often touch screen or have a touch panel to control. As they are a dedicated video conference unit, they produce high quality (up to 1080 pixels) calls with excellent audio. They are not good for larger groups as the systems are designed for users sitting approximately 1-2 metres from the screen. Features:
- Generally fixed camera only with some manual tilt. No Zoom.
- Generally no second screen option so video and content displayed on same screen.
- Microphone built into machine so more suited for participants sitting close to the unit.
Video Conference Unit – Room-based
Room-based units are designed to be very flexible. There is a base unit which does all the processing but the camera, screens and microphones are separate units so they can be placed around a room. As they are a dedicated video conference unit, they produce high quality (up to 1080 pixels) calls with excellent audio. All units should be able to have a PC input for sharing content. Some other key features include:
- Cameras Pan-Tilt-Zoom (between 4 and 12 times optical zoom). These features may be able to be controlled by the remote caller depending on the system and how the calls are connected.
- Dual Screen Output - The ability to connect a 2nd output display is strongly recommended. This is especially ideal when content is being shared. Although a single screen can display the same information, the layouts often utilise only 50% of the screen.
- Resolution 720p & 1080p – While most modern units are able to make 1080 pixels calls, some units will have a lower resolution of 720 pixels.
- Internal Bridge – Some units are able to make calls with 3-4 other people without the need for an external bridge or meeting room. This may be of benefit in some applications.
- Accessories- Other accessories such as additional microphones and touch panel controllers are available depending on the model selected.
Video Conference Unit - Specialised
Room based units can be reconfigured for specialist applications. One common example is a medical cart which is used to move the video conference unit around within a building. It may, for example, be used for bedside consultations with a remote specialist.
The medical cart holds the base unit, screen and camera but will also include a number of other equipment including:
- Robust wheels for maneuvering
- Height adjustable mechanism for good eye contact
- Large batteries in the base of the unit so it can operate while not plugged in
- A network switch for connectivity (either wired or wireless)
- Medical and non-medical peripherals can be connected
Video Conference Unit – Immersive
Immersive video environments will frequently utilise custom built rooms with identical chairs, furniture, general décor and lighting to create the impression of one environment. This combined with three or more cameras and screens allow the best possible video conference environment for group meetings.
The rooms are however extremely customized with a large capital outlay required.