In the world of unified communication and conferencing, things are complicated. While the world of mobile telephony agrees in worldwide standards that allow anyone to make a voice call to any other person in the world, by simply dialling a phone number, we cannot Skype with another person, unless we send that person an email or message asking to accept our connection. If that persons doesn’t uses Skype and uses another Cisco, Google, Apple or whatever solution, we have a problem. And that’s not even mentioning the other world of variables, like more sophisticated collaboration tools, hardware devices, etc.
Crestron, which until know has remained basically a “well-behaved” company that integrates and controls everyone else’s solutions, decided to take action and create a system that actually “unifies” communications and collaboration, combined with secure cloud deployment and management. When doing it, Crestron also designed an affordable all-in-one solution that simplifies deployment and is even bring-your-own-device (BYOD) friendly. The solution - and device - is called Crestron Mercury CCS-UC-1 and it is a very relevant engineering feat that the company unveiled at the ISE 2017 show in Amsterdam.
First and foremost, the Crestron Mercury is a complete, flexible, and powerful table-top meeting room system - the company assumed that conquering those corporate applications first would be a way to gain critical market share. The sleek, all-in-one console combines all that's needed to transform meeting rooms into effective collaboration spaces, incorporating all the must-have features, along with the fast, secure cloud deployment and management required by IT managers.
But the Mercury starts essentially as a full-featured VoIP conferencing speakerphone that’s fully compatible with major SIP-compliant phone systems. Pairing with any mobile phone using Bluetooth is easy and Bluetooth-enabled phones appear automatically on the capacitive, multi-touch screen. Laptops can be connected via USB and there's an HDMI output to connect an HD display or projector. The built-in AirMedia gateway allows the wireless presentation of content from a laptop, smartphone, or tablet device via the room’s Wi-Fi wireless network, although wired LAN connections are also supported.
“As the leader in meeting room control and automation technology, only Crestron addresses all of the challenges that arise as unified communication and collaboration moves from the desktop to the collaboration space,” says Ted Colton, VP of UC Strategy at Crestron. “Crestron Mercury provides all of the features collaboration spaces need in a single console, while making it easy, secure, and cost effective for businesses to deploy and manage units wherever needed. On top of that, the sound quality of Mercury is truly exceptional and it’s the easiest all-in-one system to use by far.”
Mercury enables users to instantly and securely present content wirelessly on the room display from a laptop, smartphone, or tablet using built-in Crestron AirMedia. And if anyone wants to collaborate with other remote colleagues from a laptop or dedicated in-room PC using any web conferencing or UC application, such as Skype for Business, Cisco WebEx, GotoMeeting, or Slack, the Crestron Mercury console will enable all the necessary connections and conversions.
“The built-in occupancy sensor on the Crestron Mercury allows facility managers to collect usage data to drive efficient room utilization and IT managers can rest easy knowing Crestron Mercury meets the latest enterprise security standards,” Crestron states. “Available Mercury collaboration spaces can be located quickly and easily thanks to the built-in PinPoint proximity beacon on each console. Seamless integration with Microsoft Exchange allows users to reserve a room using Mercury’s onscreen calendar,” they add.
This all-in-one meeting room solution was unveiled and demonstrated effectively at ISE 2017. It was certainly impressive to see how the console allows all the connectivity (wireless or wired) for a person using a Mac laptop to participate in a conference with someone using a smartphone or tablet and a group of people in a meeting room that just used the Mercury and nothing else. The built-in microphones - a 360° quad cardioid electret microphone array - are good enough for anyone in the room to speak freely without leaning on the console, from up to 20 ft (6 m). The high-powered (95 dB SPL at 0.5 m), full-range speaker is good for both voice and program material (90 Hz to 22 kHz), and combines with Limes Audio TrueVoice AEC technology to achieve transparent full-duplex performance free of distracting echo or noise. And there’s a big mute button and light warning on top to allow for a private conversation in the room at any moment. Crestron will be introducing the CCS-UCA-MIC, a low-profile extension microphone “pod” designed exclusively for the Mercury, allowing up to two mic pods to be connected to a single CCS-UC-1 base unit to extend its pickup range to cover large or long tables.
Prices for the Mercury console are still to be confirmed but are expected to be very competitive. Crestron anticipates different Mercury models to accommodate different applications and budgets. The base unit (CCS-UC-1) supports full SIP VoIP speakerphone, Bluetooth, and USB Audio capabilities. The video package (CCS-UC-1-AV KIT) adds capabilities for multimedia presentation and videoconferencing, and includes a USB camera. Both models are powerable using PoE+, and versions of each are also offered with a 100-240V universal power pack included (CCS-UC-1 W/PS KIT & CCS-UC-1-AV W/PS KIT). All models come complete with all required cables.