A Stand-out for GROUP Communications

7 Feb 2016

Logitech introduced the GROUP ConferenceCam. It's a revised version of the cc3000e with a slightly less dumb name. First I will briefly introduce GROUP and then I will explain why they make so much sense.

GROUP is a laptop peripheral, or more accurately a room accoutrement. It's intended to live in a conference room to facilitate laptop-powered group conferences. By connecting it to a laptop's USB port, the laptop transforms into a room conferencing system with a 10x optical zoom lens, wireless remote, and high-fidelity acoustics capable of supporting up to 20 participants. Prices start at $999.

Logitech GROUP

Logitech refers to these types of accessories as ConferenceCams, which should not be confused with webcams - a category that Logitech dominates. ConferenceCams include their own audio and video, and are intended to accommodate groups. Webcams sometimes have a mic, and are generally intended for one user.

Logitech makes several ConferenceCam models, and shipped about 100,000 units last year. It is a growing category because more conference rooms are becoming video enabled and ConferenceCams are increasingly viewed as the most flexible approach.

As video becomes more pervasive, so do video services. I utilize about five video services/products in a given week (Zoom, WebEx, Skype4B, Hangouts, Skype, etc.). These are typically easy to join with a click from my laptop, but room systems are tied to specific platforms which forces extra steps with third-party services. Personal laptops are easier with clients or even WebRTC-based browsers. Plus meeting details are typically in the laptop user's personal calendar.

ConferenceCams also accommodate projector replacement. For decades the conference room has been equipped with a projector. As HD televisions replace projectors the video inputs often get hidden making it difficult to share a screen without software. The GROUP solution puts a simple wiring hub on the table - no software or expertise needed.

Logitech did not include a SIP stack on GROUP. This means it's not a stand-alone speakerphone - but it can be used as a full-duplex speaker saucer with a laptop. Logitech determined audio usage is increasingly moving from phones to multiple computer-based services such as Skype, Jabber, and Skype4B. Skipping SIP keeps the GROUP's configuration simple and interoperable without access codes or wall cables - just a USB. It's a powerful audio device with four built-in, beamforming microphones.

The CC3000e was introduced in 2014 and offered a viable alternative to fixed room-based video systems. Key to its success was an HD camera with optical zoom. GROUP is the logical successor with its next-generation audio and more rugged design (metal instead of plastic). The sub $1K price makes it viable for a wide variety of locations including smaller conference rooms, home offices, small businesses, and various verticals such as telehealth and video justice.

Logitech GROUP will be generally available worldwide in early March.

Dave Michels, TalkingPointz.