Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Product Review: Kuando Busylight for Microsoft Lync

Hello readers.  As always I hope this finds you well. Thanks for joining me for the first of, what will eventually be, several product reviews.

The first of which is on the Kuando Busylight for Microsoft Lync.

What is it?
The Kuando Busylight for Microsoft Lync is essentially a presence indicator for Lync.  I know that presence is built right in to the Lync client.  But this kind of product is used as an additional highly visible presence indicator for desk based staff.  I'll explain.

Why do you need one?
Imagine you're walking around the office and want to talk to a colleague.  You can see they are at their desk so you walk up and start talking to them.  Only to get the familiar gesture where they point to their tiny headset, indicating that they are on a call.  Not only have you interrupted your colleague but you feel, and rightly so, embarrassed for having done so.  Turn that around and imagine it is you on a call, you have a tiny headset for Lync, and a colleague walks over and starts talking during your important phone call.

Haven't you ever wished that something on your desk would glow to indicate when you're on a call?

Now you have one
Busylight for Lync is a mostly plug and play USB peripheral which adds that glowing presence indicator to your desk.  
Figure 1: Kuando Busylight for Lync

As with the Lync client itself, Green is available, Yellow is away, Red is busy.  However it doesn't stop there.  Flashing Red indicates that you're on a call and Purple indicates do not disturb.  The colors, if you were wondering, are customizable if you want to play with the registry.  Personally I'm fine leaving it alone since changing the colors could quickly defeat the purpose.  Remember the Jellybean for OCS?

What else can it do?
I'm glad you asked that.  It isn't just a light on a stick.  I was completely surprised to find that Kuando added some very useful additional features to the product.  

I should first explain that to make it workl with Lync you must download, install and run the Busylight Lync Software.  This software essentially pairs the USB device to the Lync client allowing it to see and display the presence.

Once installed you will have a tray app that allows you to make changes to the alert and presence settings.

You can change Sound settings - yes the device has a built in speaker!  You can set ringtones for IM Alerts.  Rather than making a sound on your desktop speakers (if you have any) it uses the built in speaker at the base of the device.  This speaker has an independent volume control through the tray app itself. 
It isn't a Windows Playback device, but that isn't a problem.  

Making the device flash and make a sound is more useful than I imagined.  If you're like me you have dozens of applications open and Lync is minimized.  If you receive an IM and aren't looking at the screen you might miss the toast.  Even with the new Skype for Business UI, where you can choose the toast location, you still might miss it.  If you hear the alert you configured it will draw your attention to it.  

One thing I will say is that where there is some choice for the ringtones, there might not be enough to be truly distinct in a very crowded open plan office.  Being able to customize the ringtone might be useful.  And if you receive a lot of IM's, as I do, you might get fed up with that constant ringtone every few minutes.

Figure 2: Ringtones

Figure 3: Volume

Figure 4: IM Alert
You can change basic Colors
 Figure 5: Busy in a Call

 Figure 6: Do Not Disturb

Additionally there is a Lync tools menu
Figure 7: Menu

Figure 8: Lync Tools

The Lync tools menu is where it gets even more interesting.  Here you have options for Second Call treatment and fast call handling.
Second call treatment
Choose “Suppressed” to redirect a second call to the destination for unanswered calls (as defined in your Lync client).  So rather than hear call waiting and allowing the user to finish one call and answer another, this allows you to immediately offload the call to your chosen unanswered calls destination, such as voicemail.
Figure 9: Suppressed (Calls Forwarded)
Hotkeys for fast call handling
Fast Dialout
Here you can set a configurable function key to copy and dial a phone number using the Lync (Skype for Business) client.  This works in a similar fashion to the Select Dial: Free Microsoft Lync HotKey Contact Dialer App from Matt Landis.  Once you've configured your hot key, select a number and enter your key combination and it will copy the number to the clipboard, paste it into Lync and dial it.  This even works when the Lync client isn't in focus.  In testing I found this took about 5 seconds to actually dial the call.  But it worked nonetheless and is a useful feature.
Figure 10: Fast Dialout settings

Answer Call
This feature allows you to configure a hot key to answer a new Lync call or drop an active call.  If you didn't already know, Microsoft already has keyboard shortcuts built into Lync.  Windows+A will "accept an incoming invite notification".  Or if you're in a conversation window Alt+C will "Accept any of the invite notifications. These include audio, video, call, and sharing requests".  However having a dedicated, configurable key to specifically answer (or drop) a call will be useful for frequent call handlers such as reception.
Figure 11: Answer Call settings

Is it any good?
Short answer is yes.

Long answer is that it feels like a well built, quality bit of kit.  I've read other reviews and I have seen images of brushed aluminum bodies.  The one I received in the UK was black aluminum, although that doesn't detract from the quality.  It still feels solid.

How do I make it work?
As I said above, it is mostly plug and play.  It requires a tray app to be running to pair it with the Lync client.  

And you also need a free USB port.

Whats in the box?
Mine was delivered in a padded envelope.  
  1. Kuando Busylight with around a 2.5m fixed USB cable
  2. Quick Guide with diagrams on how to plug it in and a URL for downloading the application.
  3. Double Sided sticky disk so you can stick it to your monitor, a partition or the top of a hard hat!  Or perhaps the side of your large UC headset if they're big enough.
Anything else I should know?
Initially I couldn't get it to work.  The troubleshooting on the website said that a common problem was having the Lync 2010 and Lync 2013 client installed on the same machine.  I didn't know this was possible and it didn't apply to me, or so I thought.  I had the Lync 2010 Attendant Client installed as well as the Lync 2013 client.  Even though I don't use the Attendant other than in demos, the software didn't like the fact that I had it installed.  The symptom was that the tray app closes shortly after opening it and of course, no lights or sounds.  As soon as I uninstalled the 2010 Attendant I started the tray app, plugged it in again and it worked straight away.

The Kuando website also has a few extra resources to help with implementation.  My favorite is a customizable sign that indicates what the colors mean.
Figure 12: Colors

If you're so inclined, Kuando also provide a link to download the Busylight SDK.  The SDK enables .NET developers to use C++, C#, or Visual Basic to create applications for Busylight UC. The SDK includes a DLL file and documentation. Extract the zip file and run the index.html file. 

All in all, a solid and useful product.  I can see this being very useful for open plan offices where you get a bit of foot traffic.  I got it to put outside the door of my home office so my wife and kids know when I'm on a call.  This same use might apply for an executive in an office environment.  Its also a little more than just a light on a stick with the additional tools built in to the app.

I'll certainly be recommending these to my clients in future.

Where can you get one?
The Kuando website has a link to find local distributors and resellers. 

Thanks for reading!