CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA, April 25, 2019 — Haroon Inam, Chief Technology Officer at Smart Wires, a company that generates advanced technologies to improve the world’s electrical grids, is the definition of a hard worker. Working 14 to 16-hour days to manage the technology that supports hundreds of jobs at the company, he realized long ago that phone calls are inefficient for group meetings, and that every minute spent fidgeting with uncooperative systems — or wondering if participants are truly focused — is time and energy wasted. After mandating that all conference calls include video in 2006, it took Inam just two years to conclude that when people aren’t on the screen, they aren’t engaged.
“I’m on videoconference four to five hours every day,” Inam explained. “By 2008 I decided that we needed better room coverage to engage every participant, so we developed an ad-hoc three-camera system with basic video stitching, based on open-source technology from Carnegie Mellon. Then a few years ago I wanted to upgrade to 4K cameras, and I discovered what I had really been looking for all along — the PanaCast 2 camera, which provides 180-degree coverage in 4K with Intelligent Zoom and plug-and-play usability.”
Since learning about the revolutionary PanaCast technology made by Altia Systems®, Smart Wires hasn’t looked back. The company relies so heavily on videoconferencing, it’s hard to imagine what their meetings were like when a camera could only provide a narrow view, especially for small rooms or full crowds in large rooms. Now, in a large meeting room at their headquarters in California, two PanaCast 2 cameras provide whole-room coverage and zoomed-in motion tracking coverage of the current speaker.
“I even use a PanaCast 2 in my office, which has no desk and is set up like a collaboration area,” Inam extolled. “That way if I have 5 or 6 people in my office on a call with other locations, the remote participants can see all of us and know we are all engaged. By the simple virtue of having every participant on camera, we’ve found our meetings are much more effective and efficient. When you consider how easily a PanaCast can be set up in any room and connected to any display, it really is a game-changing technology.”
Smart Wires’ main large-room collaboration system is quite complex, with each location housing multiple projectors or digital displays to show the speaker’s GoToMeeting feed, a real-time Slack feed, and a third showing meeting minutes, which are recorded at each location. Using the multiple screens and feeds allows participants to engage in supplemental conversations and have access to recent comments to generate questions. What’s more, the company records all the calls so they can be referenced later, exactly as they occurred. Through this system, every meeting participant can follow the speaker as PanaCast’s Intelligent Zoom focuses on the speaker and tracks their movement with up to 6x zoom at HD quality.
According to Inam, the process helps employees be as accurate as possible when working on post-meeting projects, even providing the context of facial expressions and group dynamics when viewing playback. This helps the mid-size company, which Inam describes as a startup, to compete with much larger competitors that employ thousands of workers.
“We are competing with huge conglomerates, so our pace of innovation and development has to be faster than theirs, using far fewer resources,” Inam continued. “But when we host meetings with outside partners, they consistently remark that our teams are highly engaged, often noting that our techniques allow much greater development speed and agility than larger companies.”
All of this would be for naught, Inam says, if the technology wasn’t 100 percent reliable, simple, and ready to use every day. In particular, he noted that the flawless operation on both Windows 10 and Apple’s OSX was absolutely necessary, as the company uses both operating systems across many offices.
“We can host a meeting with 150 people across 12 times zones, and know that every camera will work every time,” Inam explained. “The undetectable video stitching was the first big ‘wow’ moment when I purchased our first PanaCast 2, but since then it has impressed every person who’s used it and has performed without fail across a range of countries and meeting types. Nowadays, a good portion of our external partners end up asking, ‘how are you getting such a wide view?’, because they instantly recognize the difference when the entire room is on camera.
“Our goal at Smart Wires is to reinvent the electrical grid to provide better, more reliable energy transmission across the globe. We make smart devices that can alter the line’s impedance, allowing electric utilities to control where power flows on their grid. We also produce all the associated software and communications infrastructure, providing a true end-to-end system. Finding ways to increase our operational efficiency is as important to our success as increasing the efficiency of our products themselves, and PanaCast has certainly achieved that goal.”
Thanks to its tiny size and fast setup, the PanaCast camera is actually portable as well, effectively turning any room into a full-view conference or huddle room.
After the success of the PanaCast 2, Altia Systems kept pace with emerging video standards and developed the PanaCast 3, which features upgraded cameras, microphones and artificial intelligence software that takes PanaCast performance even further. The small, portable system uses three 13 megapixel cameras and advanced video stitching software to capture a 180-degree field of view, allowing collaborators to share 100 percent video coverage of any size room in a 4K panorama (3840 x 1080), zoom up to 6x at HD quality, and sit as close as 18 inches from the camera.
In addition to intelligent multi-camera and multi-microphone hardware, PanaCast 3 comes equipped with Intelligent Zoom, which enables automated zooming based on who is speaking and room occupancy, and PanaCast Vivid™, which maximizes video performance from dim rooms by simulating studio lighting and automatically making adjustments for rooms with changing brightness. Intelligent Zoom and PanaCast Vivid are part of PanaCast’s Intelligent Vision suite of artificial-intelligence add-ons for the PanaCast line of cameras. Both the PanaCast 2 and PanaCast 3 are compatible with all of today’s leading collaboration software providers, including Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom, Webex, Slack, Google Hangouts, join.me and more.
About Smart Wires
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, with offices in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, Smart Wires is the leader in grid optimization solutions that leverage its patented modular power flow control technology. Driven by a world-class leadership team with extensive experience delivering innovative solutions, Smart Wires partners with utilities around the globe to address the unique challenges of the rapidly evolving electric system. For more information, please visit http://www.smartwires.com.
About Altia Systems
Altia Systems®, a venture-backed company based in Cupertino, CA that was funded by Intel Capital and other leading investors, is the creator of the PanaCast® camera systems and Intelligent Vision software products. The company completed a successful acquisition with GN Jabra in March 2019.
PanaCast solutions deliver real-time 180° Panoramic-4K, Panoramic-5K and 4K 3D video streams from integrated, synchronized and optimized multi-camera arrays. PanaCast systems and Intelligent Vision (artificial intelligence) software products are used by more than 1,600 companies worldwide, including 200+ universities, for video collaboration, education, AR/VR, live broadcasting and machine learning for autonomous systems. PanaCast system devices are designed and assembled in the U.S. and have received prestigious awards such as CES Innovation Awards Honoree designations, Frost & Sullivan New Product Innovation, GOOD DESIGN award, Gartner Cool Vendor in Unified Communications, the peer-reviewed, by-invitation Design Showcase at the 2019 International Solid-State Circuits Conference, and more.
For more information and the latest updates, visit https://www.panacast.com/ and follow @PanaCast1 via Twitter.
Jabra is a leader in engineering communications and sound solutions – innovating to empower both consumers and businesses. Proudly part of the GN Group, we are committed to letting people hear more, do more, and be more than they ever thought possible. Through sound, we help transform lives. Jabra engineering excellence leads the way, building on 150 years of pioneering work. This allows us to create integrated headsets and communications tools that help professionals work more productively; and wireless headphones and earbuds that let consumers better enjoy calls, music, and media. Jabra employs approximately 1,100 people worldwide and reported annual revenue of DKK 4.7bn in 2018. The GN Group, founded in 1869, operates in 100 countries and delivers innovation, reliability, and ease of use. Today, GN employs 6,000 people, and is Nasdaq Copenhagen listed. GN makes life sound better. http://www.jabra.com
Here’s a video of the PanaCast 3 by Altia Systems from ISE 2019: