Apple investigating FaceTime hardware for the enterprise market

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Could Apple be working on a higher-resolution version of FaceTime for use in enterprise?

A new patent published Tuesday suggests that it’s at least something the company is looking at, as it describes a multi-view video conferencing camera system that uses scalable video encoding. The patented device, which was first applied for back in June 2012, could compete with Microsoft’s 360 degrees Roundtable conferencing technology, as shown below.

Given Apple’s recent deal with IBM to make hardware and software for businesses, and its successful focus on enterprise under Tim Cook, this could certainly be a valuable area for Apple to explore — particularly since it could conceivably work with a range of Apple devices, including Macs, iPads and iPhones.

Microsoft's RoundTable video conferencing technology.

Microsoft’s RoundTable video conferencing technology.

The patent describes a device featuring multiple cameras, each of which captures different images from around a table and relays the images — likely using Google Hangouts-style technology, which could intelligently determine which of of the participants was speaking at one time and focus on them.

Apple’s patent notes that the biggest problem for video conferencing at the moment is the amount of bandwidth it requires, which tends to make the images and audio of a low quality – particularly when there are multiple people involved in a conference call. Apple’s technology would claim to change that, by providing higher quality video for the active speaker, and lower quality for the other non-active participants.

As a result, it could solve the video conferencing problem in a neat way that would consume bandwidth in an efficient and effective manner.

A diagram of Apple’s invention can be seen below:

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 15.54.20

Of course, just because Apple has patented this technology doesn’t mean that it will eventually ship as an actual product. But as Apple looks to take over the enterprise market, something along these lines could certainly be useful to businesses.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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