Virtual Spectator founder takes on big boys of video conferencing

Craig Meek, one of the Virtual Spectator guys that brought us all those cool America's Cup graphics way back in the 1990s and 2000s, has embarked on a new (though not quite so sexy) venture: video conferencing 

We all recognise those dulcit phone tones: "Your call may be recorded for training and other purposes." It's been a standard part of the call centre spiel for years.

But what about recording video conferences? Tech entrepreneur Craig Meek, probably best known for his leading part in Virtual Spectator, the (then) cutting-edge animation software that brought the 2000 America’s Cup to life, was surprised to find there didn't seem to be any international system for the recording and sharing of video meetings within a company's customer relationship management (CRM) system. So he set out to build one.

Now his new company, Auckland software development company SuiteBox is leading the way internationally. 

SuiteBox is targeting organisations like real estate agents, lawyers, recruitment companies, health, local government, call centres and media, where phone conversations are often recorded, but where at the moment there isn’t an easy way to record video conferences.

Meek says companies often want to make sure they have an accurate record of what has been said in a meeting so there is no argument later on. At other times organisations want to capture the recording for future playback or to on-send to third parties.

However, “no-one wants a login and yet another system to record content. It all needs to sit in one place. No-one has had the foresight to integrate it into where all your customer information was held.”

He says CRM Video lets the meeting’s initiator record part or all of a video conversation then upload it to a CRM system – all at the touch of an on-screen button. It’s something that no other video conferencing software, including Skype, can do.

The recorded video can be stored in the cloud or shared using the CRM system and then can be viewed using any smart device.

“If you think of the top 40 CRMs in the world, there is no CRM that offers currently video within the CRM – and it does seem kind of logical,” says Meek.

CRM Video meetings are free to participants but subscribers to the service are charged per minute of data and provided a Dropbox-type arrangement for any recordings. A gig of data provides for four hours of HD video, Meek says.

The call initiator can also import documents into a video call, which applications like Skype and FaceTime don’t allow. After being given access, the other party can then pinch, zoom and scroll through the document.

Meek says the ease of use and simple interface was intentional: there are only four buttons to worry about and the meeting initiator can switch from video/audio to audio-only at the touch of a button.

SuiteBox is working on achieving cross-platform functionality so that eventually one participant can be using an iPad while another is using an Android tablet.

“This is the beginning of the journey. We’re just about to introduce sign on-screen. Imagine if I had a sale for purchase agreement and I needed to get your signature. This could really bridge the gap, especially when the buyers and sellers aren’t in the same town."

Meek's other ventures since Virtual Spectator include Futuretech Labs (using data visualisation to turn complex information into colourful visual maps, charts and annotated diagrams) and iVistra (transport tracking, identification and visualisation technologies).