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What’s the difference between certified and compliant hardware?

Unified Communications (UC) describes the interconnection of communication platforms like video conferencing, chat, phone and file sharing.  The UC industry is evolving rapidly. And while this creates excellent opportunities to improve virtual communication across your business, it also presents an overwhelming number of options and choices. What is the best UC Platform for your business? Which brands provide the most flexibility or greatest value? What is the end user experience?

In this blog series, we will demystify some of the UC Platform choices, so you can make the right purchase decision for your business. So far, we’ve explored hardware running Native UC Platforms, as well as Cloud Video Interop (CVI) with Sip-based endpoints. In this blog, we’ll explain the important difference between “Certified” and “Compliant” hardware, such as cameras and microphones. Understanding whether your system features “Certified” or  “Compliant” hardware is important because it will affect your user experience.

Certified vs. Compliant

The hardware selected for your UC system — such as cameras, microphones, and speakers — has a huge impact on the user experience.  As you’re exploring hardware options for your UC Platform, you may notice that some are “Certified” while others are “Compliant.” What’s the difference?

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“Certified” hardware has gone through an official certification process with the UC Provider. For example, there is hardware that is certified for usage with Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTRs). As stated on Microsoft’s website, “Microsoft Teams Certification programs ensure a higher-quality bar with higher performance targets and audio quality metrics.” If your design features Certified hardware, you can have confidence that it will have full functionality with the listed UC provider. Certified hardware tends to have a slightly higher price tag than “compliant” hardware, but it typically requires less labor to make those systems work.

Other hardware may be “compliant with” or will “work with” various UC providers. This usually means that it will function with the listed provider but is not fully integrated. While the hardware will still work with the platform, it lacks the cohesive user experience that the UC providers have designed. You may miss out on a key user experience feature, such as camera control, mute sync, or AEC offboarding.

Compliant hardware is typically cheaper than Certified hardware. The downside is it often requires additional integration to simulate the user experience that you’d get with “certified” devices. The true “final” cost of Compliant hardware is often the same as Certified hardware once you take into account the additional integration time required.

Certified for Rooms vs Certified for Software Clients

If you decide to go with Certified hardware, it’s also important to pay attention to whether it’s certified for Rooms or for software clients. There are key differences in the feature sets and integration abilities, and they are not typically interchangeable.

Hardware certified for a Room system (e.g. Microsoft Teams Rooms and Zoom Rooms)  is meant to support a larger room system where more than one person is engaging with it, such as a conference room or auditorium. The Room system is able to integrate with and control the hardware. Certified UVC pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras allow the Room system to control multiple cameras and configure Presets. Certified audio solutions allow for mute sync between the Room systems, and the hardware allows for AEC offboarding and pre-defined processing. Certified Room solutions offer a consistent user experience at scale, when the system is built properly by a professional integrator.

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Hardware certified for a soft client is different, as these are desk-based solutions intended for individual users. Cameras have a different field of view (FOV) that works better for up-close users. Examples are the USB cameras that you plug into your laptop. Audio hardware includes headsets and small desktop speaker phones. Certified solutions allow for mute sync between headsets/speakerphones and the UC software. Using a Certified camera in a conference room will not provide the same quality of user experience that a Room Certified camera will, since it’s designed to capture video of an individual a foot or two away, not a group of people in a meeting room.

We focus on selecting the correct hardware for the client’s needs, budget and best overall user experience. As a bonus, when we build these systems in a certified way, there’s often more comprehensive support from the UC provider in the event of a user support scenario.

Conclusion

We recommend that you consider hardware that is Room Certified for your desired UC platform, even if it’s a little more expensive. Cutting corners to try to save costs will often cost the same or more in the long run, because it takes a lot more time to integrate a workable system with a like user experience. Treat your UC platform like an ecosystem, where every piece is key to the overall functioning and experience. If your UC platform is easy to use, then your employees will be able to focus on collaborating and thriving, rather than troubleshooting technical issues.

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At Neurilink, our video conference solutions will help your team stay productive while bolstering your company’s professional presence.

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