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Conference Call Conductor

The shift toward voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology as a means of telecommunications led Clear-Com Communications Systems to develop Concert, a software-based VoIP intercom system.

Editor's Note: This article has been edited to reflect the correct per-client pricing of the Concert system.

The shift toward Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology as a means of telecommunications led Clear-Com Communications Systems to develop Concert, asoftware-based VoIP intercom system. Unlike most Internet-based telecom systems, which communicate only on a one-to-one basis, Concert was designed as an ad hoc conferencing resource that maintains its basic one-to-one functionality.

Concert includes a Linux-based server and Windows Vista or XP client software (accordingto product manager Craig Frederickson, a Mac version is in development). Voice travels over either the Internet or a local area network (LAN) for teleconferencing, as within an office directory. Drag-and-drop allows users to move names into a window to invite those people to a teleconference via an optional pop-up alert. The Presence Awareness feature shows a person's availability status. Users can also participate in more than one teleconference at a time through the Listen-Only Mode, which lets them listento one conference while they actively participate in another. Concert also has a chat function, so a user can simultaneously message one or more teleconference participants.

Clear-Com's Voice Routing technology permits scalability up to 200 participants. Accordingto Frederickson, most conferencing systems are limited by a conference bridge. "It merges everybody's call and rebroadcasts the call to everybody on one single call path. It's effective, but it's not scalable," he explains. "Instead of opening everybody and merging atthe server, what we do is route all of the calls to the client and on the client end, that's where we do the merge with the voice." This technique, hesays, eliminates anywhere from 30 to 50 milliseconds of delay that could be introduced by using the bridge system.

Concert's audio quality, Frederickson says, is good on a LAN connection, buthe admits "we don't have much control over the Internet." Theincluded G.722 wideband codec means less compression than most VoIP connections, resulting in better sound quality. For security, Concert uses a 128-bitencryption, and needs only one firewall port.

Frederickson expects Concert to appeal to the broadcast, corporate, and other markets. He also expects Concert will allow users to communicate virtually with any of the company's matrix-type systems. It is available for $1,500 per client.

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