Expansion of video conference facilities

Project Description

The request was initiated by Gawie le Roux

Request for eCommunication Project Phase 2
Earlier this year IM requested IT to compile a proposal for the expansion of video conference facilities at the NWU. A proposal was submitted and IM recently approved a budget of R 3.3 m to equip a total of 35 venues. The expansion need to be lead by IT as an extension of the Connect@NWU service and a follow-up on the initial 12 venues that was equipped to decommission the Tandberg system. It is requested that the expansion be registered as an IT project to enable the appropriate level of planning, resourcing and execution that is necessary for work of this magnitude. There is great need for the new venues, with priority installations already identified. Therefore, the sooner the project can kick off and installations commence, the better.

Project Progress


Project Timing

  • Start
    Jul 18 2016
  • End
    Nov 30 2017

07/18/2016 11/30/2017


Overall Project Completion

  • 20%
  • 60%


  • 40%
  • 80%

Project Discussion 10 Responses to Expansion of video conference facilities

  1. Presently, in January 2018, this project is not progressing formally while a new mandate is awaited regarding the prioritisation of venue installations, revised requirements and a confirmed budget. In the interim, trials were conducted on alternative audio processing hardware involving programmable digital mixers with the ability to perform automatic microphone mixing. AOS provides hands-on support at Potchefstroom and virtual support to Mafikeng and Vaal Triangle to maintain video conferencing operations for urgent meetings.
    If new priorities are received and a budget is approved, this project may proceed.

    January 24, 2018 at 1:37 pm
  2. As a result of the current restructuring process at NWU, priorities regarding videoconferencing installations are to be reviewed by the NWU Registrar.
    In collaboration with IT Electronic Services, an updated list of installations concluded and in progress is being drafted to be presented to the Registrar.

    October 26, 2017 at 4:44 pm
  3. Progress on new installations have been slow. This is partly due to limited resources on the part of Electronic Services. A meeting was held with BlueTek to explore the possibility of them rendering an installation service in order to improve the delivery of more video conference venues. BlueTek confirmed that they will be able to render such a service. This matter will handled further by Danie Stoop and his team. It should also be mentioned that the need for more venues to be installed has been reconfirmed by various faculties following up on when their venues will be completed. The need for cross-campus virtual collaboration is growing by the day.

    August 30, 2017 at 12:33 pm
  4. The state of the e-Conferencing Project at the end of May 2017:
    Albert Pienaar at NWU Electronic Services has successfully developed a custom built system to interface Shure DIS-CCU 5990 audio conferencing control units with serial-controlled PTZ cameras, enabling automatic camera following active delegate units. This is currently being implemented in two pilot installations receiving Shure DIS equipment:
    1. Shure equipment has been ordered and installed in the venue K23:G06 as a pilot installation for a medium-to-large venue, replacing the temporarily installed DEMO equipment.
    2. Project PIP046/2016PC – REFURBISH SEMINAR ROOM 237 IN G16 FOR VIDEO CONFERENCING by NWU Infrastructure & Planning in collaboration with NWU Electronic Services serves as a pilot installation for a large venue. This installation is due to be finished at the end of June 2017. Equipment has been secured and contractors for physical alterations to the venue will hand over the venue to NWU Electronic Services in the next week to install video conferencing equipment.
    Eight small venue installations using Logitech Group equipment have been successfully concluded. Three additional small venues and two large venue installations are currently being furnished with equipment.
    Installations of large venues at Vaal Triangle Campus and Mafikeng Campus have been earmarked is priority installations as soon as satisfaction with performance of Shure DIS-CCU 5990 and associated delegate units have been confirmed.
    The current progress of the overall project is 40%.

    May 29, 2017 at 5:10 pm
  5. Audio Conferencing Testing for the Expansion of Video Conferencing Venues at NWU
    SHURE DDS 5900 Digital Discussion System
    After the results reported on 2nd February, I upgraded the firmware on the DDS 5905 and tested the Demo system again.
    The audio disturbances encountered before the firmware upgrade were not evident anymore.
    We temporarily installed the Shure DIS Demo system in K23:G06. After the Faculty of Theology tested the Demo system during video conferencing meetings we received the email from Christo Louw (attached), indicating their delight with the quality and usability of the system.

    We recommended purchasing Shure DIS audio conferencing equipment for a fixed installation as a pilot project. If positive results are obtained with a pilot installation, we could consider recommending Shure DIS audio conferencing equipment for other venues we have to install at NWU.

    It would be advantageous if NWU Electrical & Electronic Services Department could be classified as an approved purchaser, contractor and guarantee-honouring entity on behalf of Wild & Marr. This will greatly increase the efficiency of obtaining quotes directly from the sole importers of equipment instead of obtaining three quotes from equipment distributers each time an installation is required at NWU. A process to facilitate this has been initiated between NWU EES and Wild & Marr, the importers of Shure and other prominent audio equipment brands.

    Televic Plixus AE & Confidea Audio Conferencing System

    On Monday, 13th February 2017 we finally managed to obtain Televic audio conferencing Demo equipment from Avitel. While testing the Televic Demo system in the presence of the Avitel representatives in D1:305, it was clear that the system also distorted on speaking close to the audio conferencing chairperson and delegate unit microphones. Though the Televic system was the only system which had the feature of adjusting audio gain of microphones via user accessible software interface, the adjustments proved inadequate. The audio performance regarding distortion when speaking close to microphones was similar to that of a Beyer Dynamic audio conferencing system. Avitel took the Demo system back to confer with Televic about the problem.

    Video Conferencing Installations

    While small and medium venue installations are progressing using Logitech Group equipment, large venue installations could only now move forward, after at least one type of audio conferencing system has been obtained which proves technically and functionally appropriate: The Shure DIS system. Other options will still be investigated and integration with automatic camera tracking for extra-large venues must still be confirmed. The first large venue to be installed urgently is the project in conjunction with NWU Building and Infrastructure at the Dean of Health Sciences: PIP046/2016PC: Refurbish Room 237 in G16 for Video Conferencing.

    Hennie Esterhuizen
    16th February 2017

    February 16, 2017 at 4:55 pm
  6. Though we optimistically anticipate that the installation of equipment for expansion of video conferencing facilities would exponentially gain momentum soon, progress has been disappointing so far.

    The next extract of the attached document provides some background to the current situation

    Further to the state of the e-Conferencing Project as outlined on 15th November 2016 below, the following transpired since:

    1. The search for suitable audio conferencing equipment for installation in large and extra-large video conferencing venues continues. Since renewed efforts were initiated at the beginning of 2017, we travelled to Televic in Sandton on 17th January 2017 and a Shure DIS (Danish Interpretation Systems, acquired and now branded by Shure) demonstration set has been delivered at IT on 19th January 2017 and is currently being tested. Scope-of-project documents required by Televic were drafted and provided to them with an urgent request for demonstration equipment to be evaluated by NWU IT.

    2. Gawie and myself are being swamped with requests for temporary installations and continued user support for management-level NWU staff who urgently need to conduct video conferencing meetings. This requires much of our time and effort. We have initiated measures to obtain help with support so that the process of collaborating with NWU Electrical & Electronic Services and NWU Physical Infrastructure & Planning could receive more time, so that installations are not delayed more while as a result of unavailability of equipment while we attempt to speed up the progress on the project.

    The following is an extract from correspondence with audio conferencing suppliers, outlining the requirements and urgency of obtaining suitable equipment for installation:

    Notes to suppliers of audio conferencing equipment:

    In total, 22 Large and Extra-Large venues will need to be equipped with chairperson-delegate type audio conferencing equipment. It is imperative that the supplied audio conferencing control units

    · should be able to provide (through suitable interfacing equipment if necessary) audio feeds to-and-from the web-conferencing computer in each venue through USB audio connection

    · control (through suitable interfacing equipment if necessary) a variety of choices of PTZ cameras capable of providing video through USB to the web-conferencing computer (to allow for choices of competitively prices brands of camera) to enable video-following audio control, especially for extra-large venues

    · accommodate high audio levels at the chairperson and delegate microphones without excessive distortion. Preferably, audio gain of microphone pre-amplifiers should be user-adjustable within a sufficient range to allow for audio levels approaching 120 dBA at the microphones. This will be evaluated by NWU during Proof-Of-Concept stage before pilot installations commence.

    Audio and video at the web-conferencing computer should be sufficiently in sync as is the case when using Logitech/Aver equipment, currently being installed in Small and Medium sized venues.

    Hennie Esterhuizen, 25th January 2017

    February 16, 2017 at 4:38 pm
  7. Extensive information gathering initiatives are being utilised to inform large-scale purchasing of audio conferencing equipment, especially for large venues in the project.
    The process of acquiring audio conferencing equipment to be able to perform hands-on testing and possibly implementing proof-of-concept procedures proved disappointing.
    After visiting equipment suppliers and arranging for a week long POC installation of Taiden equipment to be used extensively for videoconferencing meetings in the Campus Rector boardroom at Vaal Triangle Campus, the equipment had to be returned the next day. Some superficial tests were conducted, though authentic use through a number of actual VC meetings had not been possible. This particular brand of VC equipment could not be supplied directly to NWU by the importers. Follow-up meetings from brand distributers representing the importer and proposed pricing had not been forthcoming.
    POC evaluation involving another audio conferencing brand was postponed indefinitely on the morning of the appointment. More than a month later, when Bosch equipment could eventually be evaluated, the audio conferencing controller could only interface with a Bosch camera through an IP switch, not through serial connectivity addressing the pre-set positions for the camera. In terms of video feed, the Bosch camera system could not interface with video conferencing software platforms requiring USB video interface resembling that of web-cameras. Obtaining video through the IP feed available from the Bosch camera resulted in serious video delay synchronisation problems. No practical solution could be found to date.
    Attempts to contact alternative Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) camera brand representatives to investigate possibilities of interfacing their cameras with some of the audio conferencing brand controller were also disappointing. Eventually a number of PTZ cameras could be obtained for testing. None of these had possibilities to easily connect with Bosch, however.
    Eventually, the brand representatives and importers for Beyer Dynamic provided equipment which showed promising possibilities for camera interface. During audio performance testing however, distortion when speaking close to goose-neck microphones provided reason for concern. It appeared that adjustment of audio gain to reduce distortion on high speech levels was not possible with the Beyer system.
    After more research into audio conferencing possibilities, enquiries to Shure and Televic audio conferencing brands were initiated.
    Televic proposed a visit with NWU during the week of 21st November 2016.
    Hennie Esterhuizen

    November 15, 2016 at 6:18 pm
  8. Extensive user interaction and venue analysis are conducted during ad-hoc preliminary investigations of conferencing facilities towards purchasing arrangements. These opportunities enable verification of design requirements and user expectations against equipment feature availability and updated pricing estimates in order to verify essential technical features.
    Proof of concept for two more types of conferencing equipment is being arranged with assistance of EES in large representative venues.
    Preliminary user training videos have been created which will contribute to formal training material.

    August 23, 2016 at 8:58 am
  9. A project planning document is being developed.
    Equipment for three small-room priority installations have been purchased and venue inspections together with Electronic and Electrical Services for these venues have been concluded.
    A Proof of Concept utilizing Taiden conferencing equipment has been undertaken at the Board Room, Vaal Triangle Campus.
    Procedures are being developed for evaluating acoustic properties of conferencing venues, audio equipment and dynamic processing of Web-based video conferencing solutions.

    August 1, 2016 at 2:30 pm
  10. 20 Julie 2016: After a discussion with Pieter Breeschoten regarding the funding of the project:
    Go ahead with the procurement of the equipment from the main account. Please keep record of all the expenses (Finance will require it when they transfer the funds).

    July 21, 2016 at 8:38 am

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