Innovations from Webex Experts: Making Devices even better
The Webex Ambassadors Program is a global community of Webex loyalists who receive custom Webex learning paths to help further their careers, earn rewards, and influence the future of collaboration. Our Webex Experts are a top-tier group of members who offer thought leadership and act as counsel to our product and customer adoption teams. In this series, we’ll explore their contributions to the Webex ecosystem and hopefully inspire you to do more than you ever imagined possible with Webex.
Webex Expert Bobby McGonigle makes using Devices easy
As an introvert, I never expected to be as active in the Webex Community as I am. Once I got involved, I learned so much from other members, but I also enjoyed addressing challenges, building knowledge of new use cases, and practicing developing in the Macro Editor.
Before I became a Webex Expert, I began my career as a video conferencing service technician in 2017 with a mere three months of IT experience. I worked previously at a local grocery store as a deli clerk for seven years but landed a great internship, which landed me my current role.
At the time, we had approximately 200 Cisco endpoints online, half of which were online at the medical school while the other half were scattered throughout campus. Since then, we have added nearly 200 more Room Devices and within Central IT/Admin, I have personally installed nearly 60 percent of those new systems—jumping from 12 to 130 systems. We also have 13 other schools that are implementing their own projects.
As we continued to grow, my team’s ability to support users became less manageable. We were a small but mighty team of three, but we were never able to get our users to get through training. Instead of scheduling further training, I made it so easy for users to use the rooms that absolutely no training would be required.
Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to overcomes was teaching users the difference between a telephony number and a SIP address in Webex invites. Users thought the call button was for traditional phone numbers (no matter how many times we explained that it was for both). To address this issue, I created a school-wide macro—the Launch Meeting button—that matched the users’ expectations when they entered a room.
When users selected the Launch Meeting button, they were greeted with an option that only required the meeting ID. The @so&so.com was added automatically. Students either had a Webex link or an invite from a different solution, but they were all able to join meetings without issue. After implementing this solution, I shared it with Webex Experts and published my work on Github so anyone could use my code. I even made one that works on 80+ Sx10’s, even though the Macro Editor doesn’t exist on those systems.
Another project I worked on, and one of my favorites, is my Tic Tac Toe game. It shows how you can use macros to change the user interface dynamically to help streamline the user experience. All collaboration doesn’t need to be solely work-related; building relationships with colleagues is just as important, so I wanted to create a game for coworkers to enjoy together in a conference room.
Now that I have a few projects under my belt, I have started working with Cisco’s very own Enrico Condedera on his Project USB. We have learned from fellow experts like Jordan Eliason and his USB Dante project for the Room Kit Mini and John Austin, which has led us to make a few revisions to our own project. I have also been asked by Dustin Baker of the Webex Devices team to contribute a Join Zoom example to Cisco’s Devnet.
I have learned so much as a Webex Expert, but what I really value is the ability to give back. I have been able to do so not only in my professional role, but also in the community I have built with fellow experts, Webex product teams, and everyone else using Webex Devices. It has been such a fulfilling and fun experience.
Enrico Conedera, Webex TME, partners with Bobby to improve products at scale
I couldn’t help but laugh when I learned that Bobby’s work experience was primarily as a deli clerk. My first real job was as a Pest Control Field Representative, also known as an exterminator. I single-handedly fought off all the cockroaches of Santa Monica. Once I got sick of the cockroaches, I began working with Cisco. I came in from the audiovisual side, sneaking in with the Tandberg acquisition. With so many smart network people around, I had to up my game.
As a technical marketing engineer (TME), a big part of my job revolves around ensuring that our products are usable in the field. When COVID-19 hit, video collaboration changed seemingly overnight. Suddenly, every conferencing provider was busy, and everyone needed to collaborate visually. The result? Rapid growth of island technologies that don’t actually talk to each other. For example, Zoom users can’t talk to Microsoft Teams users or BlueJeans users. Pexip and others like it had already specialized in acting as gateways between these islands, but with COVID, Cisco Webex users were getting invited to meetings on other conference services and couldn’t attend.
Until very recently, we existed primarily in a world where we could interoperate with other video conferencing manufacturers like Poly or Lifesize, using standards from the ITU-T and IEEE. The need to be able to meet with customers, partners, and supply chain organizations, became even more critical. Our solutions needed to be easy to meet regardless of the conferencing solution.
To solve for this, Eivind Fiane Christensen and other product managers brought together people from many different disciplines within Cisco to design a new product, the Room Kit Mini. The ability to join any other conferencing provider while using the Room Kit Mini’s intelligent camera and beam-forming mic array was a major requirement for launch. This feature, known as USB Passthrough, was a big step in the right direction.
Existing Room Kits didn’t have the hardware capability for the USB Passthrough, so I looked into the Vaddio AV Bridge product set. I wasn’t too familiar with it, but I was somewhat certain that I could hook it up to a Room Kit Pro and have that same feature: the ability to use your laptop to connect to Zoom while using SpeakerTrack, PresenterTrack, all the microphones and loudspeakers, and the screens that were already part of the Room Kit Pro installation. I then realized that I could do this with all of the Room Kit endpoints. That was a cool moment.
While it took me a while to figure out how to do this, I got it working manually by running API commands one by one to reconfigure the systems to work while I needed it for the USB Passthrough. All I needed was a macro to automate everything. But how? I don’t know how to write macros.
It didn’t take long for us to release a V1 of the macro. It worked remarkably well and has enabled ease of use for third-party USB capture devices for our catalog of video endpoints. This technology even works with some of Cisco’s older products, like the MX700, MX800, and SX80. In our V2, it will include more options for third-party USB capture devices and more documentation on setup and usage.
The most difficult part of the whole process was configuring the software application to use the correct USB camera and microphones but knowing that I have Webex Experts like Bobby eases my mind. Our experts help us solve problems like this so much faster.
Some of our very best ideas come directly from the Webex Community. We evangelize our Webex Ambassadors to crowdsource solutions to common problems and to share use cases and challenges. We cannot overstate the value our Webex Experts (like Bobby McGonigle) provide by creating integrations and co-creating solutions alongside Cisco. Join the USB project with Enrico and Bobby here
If you love finding solutions to problems and want to join an incredible group of talented Webex fanatics, enroll early in our Webex Ambassadors Program. Level up your knowledge. Your network. Your voice.
About the authors
Enrico is a senior engineer in the CTG Business Unit at Cisco Systems.
He has worked in the audio-visual field for over 30 years, for companies such as Electronic Arts, PictureTel, Polycom, MCI, and Tandberg. Having been with Cisco for fifteen years, he concentrates on Cisco Best Practices for Audio Visual Integration.
A former professional musician, he is a singer / songwriter, plays piano, and runs sound for live concerts.
Bobby McGonigle: Bobby has been a Webex Expert since 2019. Find out more about his accomplishments, his experience with the Webex Ambassadors, or his areas of expertise in the Webex Ambassadors directory.
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Apr 07, 2021 — Aruna Ravichandran
Apr 02, 2021 — Aruna Ravichandran