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Google Meet and Noise Canceling Solution with Artificial Intelligence

Google Meet and Noise Canceling Solution with Artificial Intelligence

Because of the pandemic period, you know that web video conferencing systems have become very popular with working from home. Although Zoom is dominating the market, Google is also one of those who want to increase it’s market share. It aims to add new features to its platform day by day. Thanks to noise canceling feature recently added to Google Meet, Google seems to have made an innovation in this area.

In April 2020, Google announced that Meet’s noise canceling feature is available for G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education. We should also point out that the father of the idea of this feature is G Suite Product Management Director Serge Lachapelle. Serge Lachapelle has worked on video conferencing technologies for 25 years, (13 of which are on Google) and he is quite experienced.

Beginning of the Project

Basically, this project starts with acquisition of Limes Audio in January 2017. The main idea arises from the difficulties experienced in the meetings held with the participants in different time zones (sounds of children and pets of home workers, breakfast sounds, etc.).

How to Prevent Noise in Google Meet?

Maybe there are those who use it, some headphones and smartphones have noise canceling mechanisms that use multiple microphones. This method basically works by extracting the sound signal received from far end microphone than the sound signal received from main microphone. The feature offered in Google Meet is implemented using a completely cloud-based infrastructure and machine learning, independent of user device.

A machine learning model (denoiser) needs to be trained to find out what is speech and what is not speech, to understand the difference between noise and speech, and then to filter only speech. Serge and his team use their own meetings to train the model, then the algorithm is matured by Youtube videos which includes many people and then manual verification methods. Ultimately, the system can intelligently filter background distractions such as dog barking, pen clicking and much more.

As you can see in the video below, while talking, Serge shows how the feature works by making noise with things like a nut bag, a pen and a glass-spoon. Non-routine noises are heard loud as soon as they start, but over time these noises are damped:

Google Meet Noise Cancellation Demo

As you can appreciate, your voice needs to be listened by Google in order to use a noise canceling system with artificial intelligence. The voice encrypted by the user is decoded and analyzed in Google data centers, and the filtered voice is also encrypted and transmitted to the users. Although the analysis of the sound by listening is a question mark on the part of the user, it is stated that this analysis is made only within denoiser. I think that it is very important to realize these transactions in a short time, especially for real-time communications.

To activate this feature, just click the three dots on the bottom right during the meeting and activate Noise cancellation from Settings:

Google Meet Noise Cancellation Settings

Last Words

The method of processing data in the center (in the cloud), which is a method that Google loves, and leaving the user side more lean, has also emerged in another area. For now, this service, which is still limited to G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education customers, will be available to all Google Meet users soon. In the future, I think that Google may offer it to other service providers as a cloud service.

Cisco Webex Room USB Review

Cisco Webex Room USB Review

As you know in video conferencing and collaboration technologies, Cisco is the hardware and software manufacturer with the highest market share. However, as software-based solutions have emerged over the past 1-2 years, there has been an increasing demand for integrated video conferencing devices as well as audio and video transceivers. While Logitech took the lead in this market, there were many innovative products on the market (I also reviewed the most innovative Jabra Panacast in this article). Cisco will also want to take a share in this market that last January it made a serious introduction with its new product, Webex Room USB.

Cisco Webex Room USB is a device that turns any endpoint (Laptop, Desktop, SFF PC etc.) into a video collaboration center. The software you use does not even need to be Cisco, you can use this device with any collaboration platforms (eg. Microsoft Teams, S4B, Zoom, Slack, Jitsi etc.). Let’s examine the features of this device in more detail.

Cisco Webex Room USB Features

Cisco Webex Room USB is an ideal device for meeting rooms with 2-5 participants thanks to its 120 degree view camera. Basically, the device is in the form of a soundbar with embedded camera and placed on top of the screen. Apart from that, it has a remote control and a USB cable. There are also kits for display and wall mounting, a physical privacy cover for the camera, and two cables for HDMI and Ethernet connectivity. The prominent features of the device are as follows:

  • Camera Quality: Cisco Webex Room USB has a 4K UltraHD camera that can shoot video at 60 frames per second. It can automatically adjust the brightness and white balance supported by the 8MP image sensor for maximum clarity. With the artificial intelligence technology it contains, it has the feature to intelligently frame the image and a number of analytical functions for meetings so that everyone can be clearly seen by automatically detecting the meeting participants.
  • Sound Quality: There are integrated microphones and speakers on the device. Thanks to it’s automatic noise reduction feature, it can filter out distracting ambient sounds such as paper rustling and tea sugar mixing sounds. With the speaker design, it offers a more saturated sound experience, especially at low frequencies where human voice is dominant. To listen to the difference in sound with other manufacturers (Logitech), you can check out the video in this link.
  • Digital Signage Display: I think this feature is the most important feature of Cisco Webex Room USB that distinguishes it from other competitors. It can be used to turn connected PC displays into a digital signage when the device is not in use. You can use this feature for sharing corporate news, creating brand awareness, etc.
  • Content Sharing: It supports 4K content sharing as well as wireless content sharing via the web browser. In this way, you can find the opportunity to reflect your content on the screen easily.
You Can Also Use Webex Room USB As A Digital Signage Display

Apart from these, you can access more detailed technical features through the datasheet in this link.

Comparison With Other Vendors

As I said at the beginning, there are a few players in this market, especially Logitech. In the table below you can find comparison with the two most common devices:

Product /FeatureCisco Webex Room USBLogitech MeetUpPoly Studio
USB Camera, Speakers & microphoneYesYesYes
Intelligent Camera & SoundYesNoNo
Device SettingsYes (via Webex Control Hub)NoNo
Wireless content Sharing Yes (via Webex or a web browserNoNo
Digital Signage Display Yes (via Webex Control Hub) NoNo

In the video below you can see how you can connect Webex Room USB to your computer and use it as an audio and video device:

Cisco Webex Room Kit Mini USB

Cisco Webex Room USB Price

If you have a software solution or a service subscription for your video calls, you can get this device, which provides a Webex Room Kit Mini quality call experience, at a list price of $ 2,750 (of course, this is not the actual sale price). Compared to the Webex Room Kit Mini, the price of Room USB is less than half the price of Mini.

Last Words

For small businesses and organizations that want to switch to video communication, it might be a good idea to start with Cisco Webex Room USB and then turn it into a Room Kit Mini with an upgrade kit. In this way, you can both keep the initial investments very low and have a solution that will provide the highest level of video call experience.

Cisco 730 Series Headset

Cisco 730 Series Headset

Cisco has also introduced 700 series headsets as well as new Webex series collaboration products at 2019 Partner Summit.

As you may know, Cisco has introduced many products and technologies in the field of unified communications and collaboration, and has entered the phone headset market with its 500 series headsets last year. This year at Partner Summit Cisco introduced the 700 series, which targets mobile workers segment.

Cisco Headset 730 Specifications

The 700 series is a series of headsets aimed primarily traveling mobile workers and 730 is the first model of the series. Especially in crowded environments, the noise canceling mechanisms ensure clear communication for both the headset and the called party. Below you will find detailed features of the Cisco 730 headsets:

  • Connectivity via Bluetooth 5.0, USB-A and 3.5mm
  • Premium Codec Support (SBC, AAC, aptX, aptXHD)
  • Active Background Noise Cancellation with 4 Microphones
  • Clear Voice Transmission with 2 Electret Condenser Microphone
  • Intelligent Sensor Technology (Mute on Earphone)
  • Boom-less Microphone
  • On-Ear Controls
  • Voice Activated AI
  • Cisco Headset App for Customized Experience (App Store & Google Play)
  • Automatic Firmware Upgrades

Here is a table that compares the Cisco 700 series headphones to the 500 series:

700 Series500 Series
Suitable For Mobile / Office Workers Office / Call Center Workers
Primary Connection Type Bluetooth 5.0 Wired/DECT Wireless
Talking Time15+ hrs9 hrs
Concurrent Connections 2 BT + 1 USBDepends on Base Station
Wireless Coverage65+ meters90+ meters
Ear Wearing StyleBinaural OnlyMonaural & Binaural
Color OptionsCarbon Black & PlatinumBlack
Active Noise CancellingYesNo
Noise Reduction MicrophoneYesYes
RJ-9 ConnectionNoYes
Cisco 730 Series Headsets Have 2 Color Options

For more information about Cisco 730 series headsets, please refer to the datasheet page.

Price

The price of the newly introduced Cisco 730 series headset has not been set yet, but considering that the list price of the 560 series wireless headphones is around $600, my guess is that the list price will be in the range of $800 – $900.

Last Words

With the 730 series headset, Cisco has provided a professional solution for both the consumer market and business purposes. Cisco 730 headset is a very useful product especially for frequent travelers.

Cisco IP DECT Solutions

Cisco IP DECT Solutions

Cisco has introduced IP DECT Solutions, which have been developed to meet the need for wireless telephony. Until now Cisco didn’t have a DECT phone solution in its product family and this situation being complemented by Wi-Fi or 3rd party DECT products.

Cisco IP DECT products operate in the USA and Canada in the frequency band range of 1920 – 1930 MHz and 1880 – 1900 MHz frequency band in other countries. The IP DECT series currently consists of 210 series base station and the 6825 series handheld terminal.

Let’s take a closer look at these products:

Cisco 6825 IP DECT Handset

Cisco 6825 IP DECT Handset
  • 2 Inches 240 × 320 Pixels 65K Color Display
  • Up to 17 Hours of Talk, 200 Hours of Standby Time
  • 2 Lines Supported
  • Narrow Band (G.726) and Wide Band (G.722) Codec Support
  • Bluetooth and 3.5mm Wired Headset Support
  • Waist Clip
  • Dimensions: 117 mm x 46 mm x 20 mm
  • Weight: 86 gr.

Cisco 210 IP DECT Base Station

Cisco 210 IP DECT Base Station
  • 30 Handheld Terminal Registration Per Single Base Station
  • 5 Simultaneous Calls With Broadband Codecs and 10 Simultaneous Calls With Narrowband Codecs in Single Base Station
  • Multicell Technology
  • Scalability Up To 254 Base Stations
  • Total 1,000 SIP Device Registrations
  • Total 1,000 Simultaneous Calls with Broadband Codec, 2,000 Simultaneous Calls with Narrow Band Codec
  • G.711 (A-law & mu-law), G.722.2, G.726, G.729 (a & ab) Codec Support
  • PoE Class 2
You Can Use Multiple Cisco 210 Base Stations In Your Network (source cisco.com)

In the Multicell concept, there is no central mechanism to control base stations. When deployed, one base station becomes the master station, and the other stations connect to master with the “Chain ID” defined on the base station and start their data synchronization. Yeah, that’s all.

Supported Platforms

Since the IP DECT series is a multiplatform product, it supports almost all PBXs using the standard SIP protocol. Here are Cisco’s officially supported platforms:

  • Asterisk
  • Cisco BroadSoft BroadWorks
  • Cisco BroadCloud
  • Centile
  • Metaswitch

Even looking at this list, you can actually understand Cisco’s strategy in unified communications solutions. 🙂

Last Words

Although Cisco has always put WiFi phones in the foreground, DECT phones -which have a soft belly in the projects- have started to meet the need. As I wrote in my previous article, we will see if Cisco can surpass its competitors in this field with OpEx oriented solutions such as UCaaS and HaaS.

Cisco Webex Desk Pro Review

Cisco Webex Desk Pro Review

Cisco announced Webex Desk Pro at its 2019 Partner Summit event on November 6th, 2019.

During the event, they announced the collaboration solutions as a solution that can be installed together under a single infrastructure of systems that can be installed both in the cloud and in the organization. The name of this single infrastructure that includes call, messaging, meetings, devices and call center will be called as Webex.

Webex infrastructure, which has become quite flexible in terms of integration, will also be able to work integrated with the business tools such as Microsoft, Google, Slack and Salesforce.

Cisco Webex Desk Pro Introduction

After the launch of the infrastructure, two products, Webex Desk Pro and Webex Panorama, were launched in the device category. (I want to explore Webex Panorama in more detail, so I am saving it for another post)

Cisco Webex Desk Pro Features

Cisco Webex Desk Pro is a personal collaboration device with a structure similar to current DX80. Of course there are new features that distinguish it from the DX80. Let’s summarize them briefly:

  • 27 ″ 4K Touch Screen
  • 71 Degree View Angle HD Camera
  • Advanced Artificial Intelligence and Analytics
  • Microphone Array with Noise Canceling Mechanism
  • Premium Sound System
  • USB-C Connection
  • Support for Web Applications
Webex Desk Pro Has a Touchscreen

Compared to previous models, Webex Desk Pro has new features like face recognition and artificial intelligence. In this way, it knows who is in front of the device and can address the person by it’s name. It can also adjust the camera according to your posture. You can blur the background of the camera image or replace it with another image. I have to add that personal assistant Webex Assistant is also in it.

The Cisco Webex Desk Pro can also be used as a docking station and a touchscreen monitor with a USB-C connection.

Cisco – Microsoft Collaboration

In addition to these innovations and products, Cisco-Microsoft cooperation was also introduced. Microsoft Teams, which initially seemed to be Webex’s competitor, will now be able to work directly with Webex rooms. (hello to those who are trying to integrate Skype for Business with CUCM in the past)

Hardware as a Service (HaaS)

Cisco has also announced the option of Hardware as a Service (HaaS) as a service for IP telephony, desktop and room collaboration devices. In this service, institutions can have the equipments with long turm subscription contracts instead of buying them.

HaaS combined with Flex Plan, turns into a model that can be owned with fully operational costs, with no investment costs for enterprises, which is good news for many businesses from SMEs to large enterprises. Who wouldn’t want to own a Cisco IP phone for $5 or a Webex video conferencing system for $60 a month?

In the HaaS method, if you proceed with a 3-year membership model, at the end of 3 years you can continue the service on an annual basis or if you extend your membership for 3 more years, the devices are replaced with new ones. If the devices have become EoS at the end of 3 years, you can also replace them with new models.

For now, HaaS is only offered in the US, but many countries are considering providing this service in a short time.

Last Words

Cisco, which has developed many pioneering technologies and concepts in the field of collaboration, has produced an exciting product. Webex Desk Pro, a personal collaboration and productivity product, will be available for purchase on February 2020.

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