Thousands of businesses enjoy the benefits of video conferencing (VC). It allows them to easily manage and collaborate with teams of professionals from all over the world. It cuts down on travel costs. It even improves internal communication and relationships.
Throughout the years, video conferencing technology has improved by leaps and bounds. VC solutions once plagued by crappy sound and low-quality resolution now offer great audio and crystal clear images. However, it is still hard to find a VC solution that provides flexibility at a low cost. They often require you to pay for new hardware and monthly fees, which can be overwhelming for small businesses or individual professionals. Fortunately, a startup is currently offering low-cost VC hardware, HELLO.
What's Under The Hood?
HELLO is a webcam that can turn any HDMI-enabled TV in your office or at home into a video conferencing solution. It’s equipped with a 4K resolution camera and a 130-degree wide angle lens that can tilt vertically, allowing you to get the perfect viewing angle. It also has 4 smart microphones with voice focusing. This gives HELLO the ability to focus on the person speaking while cancelling out nuisance noise. The microphones can also pick up sound from up to 12 feet away. On top of what I've already mentioned, HELLO runs on a quad-core ARM processor, allowing it to perform complex tasks and launch HELLO apps. It also has an Ethernet port, a USB port, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a built-in accelerometer.
Setting Up HELLO
HELLO is easy to set up. You can mount it on top, at the bottom, or on the side of a TV using the included mount. The video automatically changes orientation with the help of HELLO's accelerometer. After mounting, simply connect it to your TV using an HDMI cable and then plug it into an outlet.
Once connected to your TV, the next step is to download the HELLO smartphone app. You need the app to connect the device to your network via Wi-Fi and customize its settings. The app will generate a QR code after you enter your network's credentials. Simply hold up the QR code to the camera lens to finalize the setup process. HELLO can also be connected to your router using an Ethernet cable. It works with 10/100 BASE-T Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi routers.
Video Conferencing with HELLO
HELLO runs its own VC platform, Solaborate. The platform allows voice calls, video calls, group video conferencing, file sharing, and real-time screen sharing. It runs on Android, iOS, OS X, Windows PC, and web-enabled devices. This means you can video call anyone with a Solaborate account even if they don't have a HELLO device. You can also forward Solaborate video calls from your smartphone to HELLO and vice versa if you have the same Solaborate account logged in on both devices.
Solaborate also allows you to create a personal or company profile and connect with clients and professionals, similar to LinkedIn. There, you can share your ideas, collaborate with potential partners, or contact clients.
Currently, you can use Solaborate for free, and they don't have any plans for paid subscription services yet. But even if they turn to paid services in the future, all HELLO backers are assured they can always use the platform for free.
Aside from Solaborate, you can use HELLO with Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, and Cisco WebEx. They are also looking into adding support for more platforms, like Google Duo and Slack.
Another feature is voice control. At first, the voice control feature only allowed you to ask Hello to accept/decline a call, initiate a call, or mute the conversation. However, Solaborate recently added Alexa Voice Service support, allowing you to speak with Alexa via Hello. This integration also gives you full access to Alexa's features.
Office Security with HELLO
Last but not least, HELLO can help you monitor and secure your home or office with its motion detector. It's not clear, however, if you will be able to access live videos on demand or if you will need someone to accept the video call on HELLO's end. It's also not clear if there will be event recordings for the times when you miss motion events.
All that said, there are better options for office security. Nest Cam, with a paid Nest Aware plan, offers person detection, zone creation, and cloud storage, all essential for office security.
Final Thoughts on HELLO
HELLO is an interesting video conference device. But many notice its striking resemblance to an existing VC camera, Highfive.
I asked Highfive for their thoughts. Specifically, what they felt their advantage is over HELLO, and they gave me the obvious answer—their product is already on the market while HELLO is still under production. While that is valid and logical, HELLO is still a risk worth taking. Why? For one, HELLO allows you to use third-party software for video conferencing, while you can only use Highfive with their software. Another reason is the cost. Highfive offers their device for free, but they charge you high monthly fees starting at $99 per month/per room. The fee is paid annually, so that's almost $1,200 a year for each camera. On the other hand, HELLO only costs $189 ($199 retail price after the pre-order period) each, and there are no monthly fees, at least for now.
You can check out HELLO's IndieGoGo and Kickstarter campaign to pre-order. The device comes in satin black and metallic silver colors. You can order the device individually or in bundles. For small businesses, the starting price is $895, which includes 5 HELLO cameras and free lifetime use.