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Jisc plans for Skype and mobile app in video conferencing



The UK's digital agency for higher education lays ground for hardware replacement, increased capacity and new features for Vscene platform

Plans are being laid to make the video conferencing platform used by the higher and further education sectors interoperable with Skype for Business, and to develop an app to make it available through mobile devices.

They are among a group of new features in the pipeline for the Vscene platform run by Jisc (formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee), the agency that provides digital services for the sector.

It has signed a contract with video and audio solutions company Ajenta for the upgrade of Vscene, previously known as the Janet Video Conferencing Service.

The company will take on the second phase upgrade of Vscene – following an earlier programme in 2014 – replacing the legacy hardware infrastructure and increasing the capacity for the service as it is more heavily used.

This will involve the use of a hybrid hardware and cloud infrastructure, which will enable Jisc to move onto Ajenta's cloud capacity during busy periods on a pay-per-use basis. It reduces the need for more hardware to cover the peaks, and should simplify capacity planning for Jisc.

New features

The contract includes the delivery of new features, including interoperability with Skype for Business. This should make it possible for Vscence users to talk with those of the Microsoft-owned video platform, a move which a spokesperson for Jisc said would increase collaboration.

It also involves the development of a mobile app to make Vscene available on the go without loss of service. This is expected to involve using rate-adaptive codecs – a software that adjusts encoding and decoding of video and audio based on the bandwidth the device is connected to – aimed at improving call quality on limited bandwidth links.

Other new features will be the use of the WebRTC (real time communication) standard for browser based conferencing, which removes the need for a separately installed client or plug-in, and a telephone participation and recording capability for virtual rooms on the platform.

The duration and value of the contract has been withheld, but the spokesperson told UKAuthority that it is intended to be a long term partnership with Ajenta taking a stake in the improvement of its services.

“Longer term, we'll also be working with Ajenta to create new features and capabilities,” she said. “For example, a possible 'Vscene in a box' dedicated to hardware endpoint designs that could simplify service adoption for our customers, responding to customer requests that both Jisc and Ajenta have received.”

Image: Modified from Andy G, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr


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